The first big shock was when our car pulled up outside my father's house in Shipston. Up ambled by step brother T who greeted us warmly and then up strode a rather sexy looking woman who I did not recognise at all. Had T found a new wife and not told us? The old rogue. These teachers: we know what they get up to in all their vast amounts of spare time and holidays. Reading weeks my arse. So who was this stranger?
It was only when she started speaking that I realised it was my step sister L. Shockingly she has not only cut her long hair but also stopped dying it brown and is now - like her mother and brother completely grey. It is odd how that change of hair colour and style acts as a total disguise. I must remember that, the next time the FCA tries to stitch me up and forces me to go on the run.
The was not the real shock though. It was just over three weeks ago that my father and step mother were with me in Greece. He is pretty immobile and so my step mother was the driver and his carer. But during that trip her illness worsened and she was barely able to keep any food down. Things have now deteriorated to the extent that last week she moved into a hospice just down the road from my old school in Warwick.
We visited yesterday with my father and a woman who'd been walking, swimming, drivimng and chatting three weeks ago was thin, quiet and visibly tired huddled under a blanket staring out onto a communal lawn. Everything has changed.
Today she is coming back to Shipston for a few hours to, in her words, say goodbye to friends, the garden and the vile cat Obie who hates everyone in the world bar my father and step mother. Pro tem I will stay up here with my father and the miserable Obie until the weekend. Though siblings and step siblings communicate constsantly by email it is rather hard to plan more than a few days ahead.
The Guardian has just dropped through the front door. My father makes a point of taking the loathsome rag in for my step mother to read. I ask is she not suffering enough? My father, of course, needs to get a balanced view so - as has been the case for years - will have to go to the pub just to read the Telegraph in the interests of balance.
It is not as if he wants to go to the pub you understand, it is all about balance. That daily ritual is not something that changes although with his stroller it takes an eternity for him to walk to and from the White Bear.