‘A bomination? That sounds fun!’
‘It isn’t, believe me.’
She tosses the phone back into her bag. We seem to have wandered away from the subject already, which is a little dangerous as far as I’m concerned. This is not because my memory is at fault (it is, as ever, in tip-top condition), but one often loses track when one is in conversation with Daisy, whose young mind darts about all over the place. I return to the topic with haste, before we lose the thread altogether.
‘Penguins,’ I remind her, ‘are not only a source of endless entertainment; they are an example to us all. They are well worth seeking out.’
‘I know,’ she says. ‘Remember the penguins!’
This was the little mantra I often cited to cheer her along when she was undergoing chemotherapy before Christ- mas. Penguins, as well as being quite charming, have for me come to represent bravery, determination and resilience. With their daily challenges of long treks across snowy wasteland, swimming in icy waters and trying to avoid becoming meals for seals, they are paragons of good cheer in the face of hardship. I’m pleased that Daisy has fully grasped this concept.
She scrambles back on to the sofa and kneels up, looking over the arm and out of the bay window, as if she might see one of her favourite birds waddling about on the lawn. The Ballahays garden boasts several sweeping herbaceous borders, a fountain and a fine collection of rhododendron bushes, all lovingly tended by Mr Perkins, but alas, there is a complete dearth of penguins.
‘Perhaps I will commission a penguin statue to be made,’ I muse. ‘It might look rather splendid in the shrubbery.’
Daisy is overexcited at the very idea of it. Her eyes have lit up. They are unusually big and blue. She has a scattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, which, although she is growing at an alarming rate, is still the small, button-ish nose of childhood. Her mouth, when not busy, settles into the shape that is commonly described as ‘rosebud’. She is a pretty girl in spite of her hair loss. The orange scarf wrapped around her head does her no favours, however. I have offered to buy her a wig, but she won’t have it. A very determined young lady is Daisy.
It was, I am proud to relate, her first wish to come and visit as soon as she was out of hospital and well enough to do so. Her parents and brother accompanied her here for the first few days, but they have now returned to Bolton. Although she must still rest every day and take various medications, Daisy asserts that she feels less tired when she is here. I, on the other hand, feel more tired. It is absolutely worth it though.