By Joe McConnell
Over the past few years, I have been approached by several editors of the Fitzrovia News to write an article to the tune of my experiences as ‘a live-in carer for a lady of very advanced years’.
I’ve always wanted to comply, but invariably refused. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, I am not a live-in carer. I have the great fortune to share a flat in Fitzrovia with my best mate, an unreconstructed French lady called Adrienne who will be 105 next April. I am 55 years old and we have lived together for the best part of three decades.
I am relatively in good nick at the moment, but I’ve had extended periods of closure for repair up until about 5 years ago. At these times, it has been Adrienne who has come to visit me in the various mental health wards of my – usually voluntary – confinement. Some of these were horrible places. It’s at these moments you really know who your friends are and she always came up trumps.
The second reason is that when I’ve asked Adrienne if she wanted a mini biography in the local paper, she has been horrified. She has always been a very gregarious sociable person. But she is also intensely private.
“What would they want to know about me for? I was just a simple dressmaker for most of my life!”
Well she does have many great stories and can be an inspired story teller when she wants to be. But that is to her small circle of intimate friends who range from newly born to quite old. Unfortunately, she has no surviving friends of her own age. ‘C’est la vie,” as she says.
But she is now adamant about breaking her silence. She has just heard that Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association has suffered reduced funding because of the government’s austerity measures. And she is furious.
A life-long socialist, she wants to tell Fitzrovia News readers how disgusted she is about the ever-growing avarice gripping our city. We have been sold down – here I paraphrase removing some colourful expletives – the river by the City “whizz-kids” who ultimately get rewarded by the system. She was appalled by the recent violent events in August, but her first reaction was ‘what do you expect when we live in a morally bankrupt society, with its senseless hypocritical wars, lust for private property and rampant selfishness?”
Adrienne is a passionate supporter of the Neighbourhood Association. Both of us support it for all the great work it has done for the community. And we will be eternally grateful to the advice workers who helped us out in the nineties when I had serious money worries which were impacting on my mental health. Without the Neighbourhood Association’s advice and support – always freely given but always highly professional – I would have lost my co-tenancy. And Adrienne would probably not have sailed passed the hundred-year mark living at home in the still-throbbing heart of the Fitzrovia which she has loved since the early 1920s.
You can make a donation to the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association here. You can find out more about the appeal for donations here. Or you can show your support by liking the FNA’s Facebook page, and following the pages on Google+ and Linkedin.
I’m a (32 year old) friend of Adrienne’s and have known her for ten years. I just want to say what an amazing woman she is. Her mind is sharp – nothing gets past her! – and her wit is even sharper. She really does care passionately about what’s happening in the world and keeps up to date with current affairs through her radio. She adores animals, hates hypocrites (which pretty much means all politicians) and knows far more about what’s happening in the world and with politics than I do, which really puts me to shame. Long Live Adrienne of Fitzrovia!!!!
Although she probably does know a bit more about politics than you Vicky, she admires you greatly as a writer and original thinker. Especially what you’ve had to say in the past about bullies and how they can be unintentionally ‘good’ for students because you don’t find bullies in libraries. I think you said that on telly (Esther Ranzen?) about 10 years ago and she still remembers that. Both of us count ourselves very privileged to have your friendship and that of your family.
What a wonderful and poignant story. I don’t know Adrienne, but she sounds like great fun and stimulating company. I’m with her: a real Fitzrovia for real people who love and respect both its bohemian and picaresque past, and the real needs of its present cosmopolitan residents. The short funding of the much needed Fitzrovia Neigbourhood Association is just plain bad business, and will cost Camden dear if and when they have to fill the gap it may leave.
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