We had an instant friendship. I remember how incredibly independent she appeared to be, as if she’d learnt how to let people wash over her, and I was a little intimidated by that at first. I learnt quite quickly how warm and beautifully insightful she could be.
Eileen has a niece, who lives in the Midlands, but she has no other living family; she never married or had children because the only man she ever loved got killed during World War II.
We used to go for a walk around the block once a week, or out for tea, and once to church. Sometimes we’d sit in her bedroom and watch the same ballet video that she watches every evening, or we’d sit together in the lounge with a book and the TV.
I started to realise that her life had become increasingly about repetition and routine, and I thought about that a lot. I also found out recently that her name is Florence, but she calls herself by her middle name, and despite our relationship it made me wonder how much I’d ever really know about her, or her about me.
Not long after we’d started making pictures together, Eileen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I never intended for this project to be about that, but I think it’s such a part of her now that I find it difficult to look at her and not see it to the extent that I do.
We don’t walk together anymore because Eileen has difficulty in moving her legs and keeping balance, and our communication is becoming a little bit less each time I see her. I’m often surprised by the look she has in her eyes now, and sometimes I’m not sure that I recognise her. But she still has a mischievous and infectious sense of humour, and occasionally she’s just how I remember her at her best while I’ve known her, and I have to say that I love those moments.