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A mother brick in the wall

A mother brick in the wall

What does your name say about you? I’ve had the polite “could you spell that please?” and the insulting “Blimey – did you ever think of changing it?” Today I found the true meaning of “it’s got your name on it” when I saw my mum’s name on a brick in a wall. Not graffiti, you understand; engraved on a brass plaque attached to one of a hundred bricks to help raise money to maintain the beautiful grounds of a local park. “Margaret Beldom” – just that. Simple, uncomplicated, peaceful amongst other names and bathed in sunlight. When I spotted it I stopped and said out (very) loud, “Aaaah – here you are” and a huge beam spread across my face. Here you are, Mum. Part of me, part of this wall, a name that hundreds of people are going to see and wonder about. The lyrics to Pink Floyd’s song, Another Brick in the Wall, took on totally new meanings. “We don’t need no education.” Mum had very little and ran away from school all the time, but it didn’t stop her being incredibly creative, resourceful, anti-establishment (applause please) and helping other people live meaningful lives. “We don’t need no thought control.” Are you kidding? Mum, having her thinking repressed? I don’t think so. “No dark sarcasm in the classroom.” Well, SHE might not have done, but I did when Mum turned up with jumpers for me to put on despite it being summer, porridge to eat or her version of my homework. “Teachers, leave those kids alone.” Hmmm, yes. Having to stand on the desk while being told that ‘You kids from broken homes with crazy parents are all alike’ didn’t do much for my confidence. It made me an independent thinker though, where creating poems, stories and pictures was far more satisfying than learning my 6 times table or hearing silly nonsense about all-powerful deities forcing fathers to kill their sons or eat their own babies.

One brick above my mum’s was another surprise – one I had engraved for my wonderful step-grandmother and professional pianist, Audrey who used to live in Finchley. Weird, or is it, that they were engraved months apart and end up next to each other? Audrey’s first encounter with my mum was when a flame-haired, screaming banshee turned up on her doorstep with two little children saying “If she wants him, she can have his children.” This was after mum saw a random name on a birthday card, put 6 and 6 together to make 99 and thumbed a lift across London to wreak havoc. I don’t remember it, but it’s etched in my step mum’s brain as you can imagine. Such a dramatic event actually pulled her and my dad together to hatch a survival plan now that there was a real life vigilante on the loose, likely to turn up anywhere, dragging bewildered children along. They were colleagues, nothing had occurred between them, but mum, with her uncanny gift of foresight had predicted the future. With those wonderful hindsight glasses on I can see that this was Mum off-loading her kids onto people she thought had more space, money and sanity than she did. I remember there being an awful lot of arguing, plate throwing and door slamming at the time. Same old, same old. She used to tell me that our (future) step mum liked cuddles and being naked with my father, whereas she didn’t. Talk about a recipe for promiscuity and a deep-rooted confusion between love and sex in a young girl. That’s another story.

Funny that thirty years later I ended up buying a home that was on the same road where Audrey was married and round the corner to the house she was born. Not so random after all, maybe. What do you think? My sister thinks that it would amuse Mum and Audrey and she’s right. They both had a wicked sense of humour, disobeyed convention and made people laugh.

All in all you’re not just another brick in the wall, Mum. You’re my brick and it’s not just any old wall, it’s Grade II listed. Shine on you crazy diamond.

Temple Tantrums

Temple Tantrums

Now that the Christmas decorations are coming down and the New Year is well and truly on its way I’m wondering what 2019 will bring and how it will feel without my beloved Mum. I know she’d be urging me to write our story, get more sleep, turn out the un-necessary lights and eat more sprouts. She absolutely loved them and passed that passion on to me – in fact there are still two bowlfuls of sprout, kale & broccoli soup for anyone brave enough to be within farting distance of loved ones. Mum tinkered with the idea of vegetarianism after my brother announced on Christmas Day 1985 that he wasn’t eating meat anymore. She coaxed him with “Just a little bit of turkey, you won’t notice it” and “I’ll liquidise it into the custard so you can’t taste it.” I kid ye not. Her logic was that custard was sweet so would mask the flavour of turkey, but she never really embraced vegetarianism properly. She tried not eating meat for a while, but the lure of bacon was too much. The closest she ever came to commitment was after a spontaneous visit to the stunning Neasden Temple in the early 90s whilst we were lost on the way to IKEA for some Christmas glasses. It’s one of those incredible buildings that makes you gasp when you first see it. The ornate architecture is so clever that it appears to be an enormous temple miles away, but is in fact just the other side of the wrought iron railings. An optical illusion that bursts against a summer blue sky with its bright white stone and intricate carvings. “Come along, Sonia darling, let’s go in and have a look.”

Right. I’m taking Mum into a sacred holy temple. Well, IKEA would have to wait with its meatballs and smelly candles. We’re going to visit a temple. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Thank goodness the temple is very visitor friendly, so we wandered around the enormous lobby and through the rows of spiritual gifts. I was eyeing up the essential oil burners when Mum picked one up and dropped it on the floor to test its strength. “Yes, that will last you – you’re always dropping things and breaking them!” Blooming cheek. Err … who’s just dropped something deliberately and tried to break it for real? A lovely old man came up and asked Mum if she’d like to buy the burner to which she asked if he’d like to give it to us for free as it was our first visit. He did. He actually wrapped it up in tissue paper, placed it in a beautiful little bag with gold rope handles and gave it to me, placing both his hands around mine and smiling gently towards Mum. I probably did one of those ridiculous I’m-not-like-her-I’m-really-quite-normal-you-know faces to which he patted both my hands and glanced towards the entrance. Now, he was probably hoping that we would take our lovely gift and go. After all, Mum was now striking up conversations with all the volunteers and telling them that the Christian faith was really the only one that made sense. Time to steer her away, especially as she was confusing things by asking if anyone had ever tried to be Jewish or understood why Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t believe in blood transfusions.

“Mum, let’s have a look around, then we really should be going”. We saw signs to an exhibition that showed the incredible build process and were told that we could go in a little later as it was closed for a school visit. Shame as that would have been relatively neutral ground.

Next to the museum space was one of those thick red ropes with a brass hook on each end that attached to big brass loops on the wall implying NO ENTRY. Mum’s eyes lit up. CLANK. “No, Mum, it’s there for a reason”. Stupid thing to say – nobody’s reason was ever the same logic as Mum’s and as far as she was concerned here was an opportunity to take a peak behind a forbidden rope and go on an adventure. A very nice lady reminded us that the rope meant NO ENTRY to which Mum smiled sweetly, took my hand and barged through it. Luckily it only led to a storeroom with boxes of trinkets, so Mum’s adventure was cut short. Then she asked where the main praying place was. “You mean the sanctum, the place were people go to reflect?” asked a charming old man. “No, where people roast chickens you silly, man, where do you think I mean?”. MUM! Don’t be so rude, we’re in someone else’s sacred place of worship, behave yourself. Well, I was saying that inside, outside I was simpering and trying to manhandle Mum to the entrance. She wasn’t having any of it. “I want to pray and I want to pray NOW. And you’re coming with me.” “No I’m not, Mum.” “Excuse me Sir, can you tell my daughter that she needs to come and pray with me. She’s in need of guidance as her life’s out of control.” What the actual proverbial? I’m on my way to IKEA to buy Christmas stuff for our family celebrations, holding down a steady job, paying my bills and feeling very much in control, thank you very much. The little old man pointed to the entrance to the sanctum, but pressed his fingers to his lips to indicate silence, shook his head at our summer garb (short trousers & t-shirts) and waved his finger as if to say “you can’t go in.” I can almost hear the shrieks of “Noooooo”. Did she smile back sweetly, acquiesce and move on? Not on your nelly, she was right up those stairs, dragging me behind her, shouting, “We’re coming in, so stop all your nonsense.” Yes, that’s what she actually said. Stop all your nonsense. I don’t remember much about the sanctum, apart from the fact that it was busy and everybody who was kneeling suddenly stood up and almost everyone looked furious. Yes, there is a point to this story, because I want you to guess what her parting shot was. Go on, have a go. She stood at the entrance to the sanctum once she had whirled round it taking pot shots at anyone within her eye-line, waved at everyone and shouted at the top of her voice, “VEGETARIANS – NO SENSE OF HUMOUR”.

It was at that point that she flew towards the entrance and found the lovely man who had given me the oil burner. “Are you a vegetarian?” He looked a little confused and said he was. She then muttered about how everyone looked so healthy, so she was going to give it a go and did he have any words of advice?

We did eventually get to IKEA and I think I bought glasses, but it was all a bit of a blur as I was still reeling from the temple experience. She absolutely loved it of course and couldn’t stop talking about how gracious, friendly and gentle all the people were who worked there. No concept of how her actions might have insulted their faith or caused huge disruption to an otherwise peaceful and serene scene. But who am I to judge her for that? She certainly wouldn’t have been forgotten and I’m betting that most of the people she encountered on that day had never met anyone quite like her. I asked her once which place of worship she liked best and she told me that it was a synagogue in Hendon where she used to sit with all the men.

She never made it to the Christmas lunch this year, but I know one thing. She’d have overdosed on sprouts and had two helpings of Christmas pudding as she was always hoping to find that magical silver sixpence.

Happy New Year – here’s to 2019 with all its adventures therein.

Driving home at Christmas

Driving home at Christmas

If you’ve never had to yank the handbrake from the passenger’s seat whilst steering away from a Jaguar on a roundabout and sounding the horn, you’ve never lived. We did, luckily. Mum was having driving lessons in the 90s and I’d offered to take her out for a quiet practice drive in my non-dual-control car. She decided that turning left into a side street was far too obvious and told me that she wanted to practice on the roundabout ahead instead. To be fair, she’d been driving quite well up to that point, so I thought what the heck, let’s go for it as long as we do it slowly.

“Mum, let’s approach the roundabout gently and start indicating left now.”

“I want to go right – let’s go into Worthing.”

“No, Mum, let’s just do the simple stu…”

“This is a lovely little car, Sonia darling, what colour would you call this? Purple, lilac, mauve?”

“Mum – start braking – Mum! Put your foot on the brake and squeeze – like NOW!”

Nope. She wasn’t going to do that, she was heading straight for the centre of the roundabout at about 35 miles per hour.

“Mum – BRAKE! BRAKE!” No effect. So the only thing to do was to try and pump the handbrake to slow the car down and bring it to a stop. Hand brakes are, quite frankly, crap aren’t they? At 35mph they’re about as useful as a radio play without words. I thought we were going to come to a halt on the grassy bank of the central reservation until the Jaguar decided to come hurtling round the bend, oblivious to the potential catastrophe ahead. The honking just made him look (and smile) while Mum waved at him. I think he waved back until he caught site of me pumping the handbrake, yelling and leaning over to grab the steering wheel.

“Brake – for Christ’s sake Mum. PUT YOUR FOOT ON THE BRAKE!”

Screech, jolt, slight skid to the side and two cricked necks.

I was imagining the horns, the yelling, and the angry, red faces until I remembered that this was West Sussex, not North London. Out she popped to have a chinwag with the Jaguar driver and back she came to the car, chirping “This nice man is going to give me a lift home – you’re alright to get back on your own aren’t you? This car feels a bit un-safe”

Suffice to say she didn’t ever pass her driving test and I’m pleased about that as Mum’s attention span was never very long. She told me that she’d decided to get lessons as she was always worried about me driving all the time and maybe she’d be able to drive me home sometimes. She did go out and buy a clapped out second hand car soon after the lessons stopped, hoping that I’d replace the purple Corsa with her ancient Rover estate. I gave up trying to explain that my lovely new car was perfectly safe IF IT WAS DRIVEN PROPERLY, whereas her knackered old Rover was sold to her by a charlatan who ran off with £300 cash, no paperwork and a false address. Bless her; they always saw her coming – unlike the Jaguar driver.

Mum once told me that roads were the way out. I asked her if she ever felt that they were also the way in, but she stuck to her first answer. “I always feel that excitement when I see a road ahead of me – it’s about having somewhere else to go and leaving stuff behind”. She was always making her way somewhere else, be it in a conversation, along the M1 on her bicycle, escaping reality, practicing her terrifying driving skills on roundabouts or simply walking down the middle of Oxford Street so she could have a proper view of both sides of the road at the same time. I’d love her to have been with us when we drove away from Arundel last night, seeing all the beautiful Victorian shop fronts, twinkling Christmas trees suspended half way up all the houses and swarms of people celebrating the last day of term before the holidays. She was there though, albeit in an altered reality, because we’d picked up her ashes in the afternoon before fixing up a little brass plaque in her name on the new bench we bought for her care home. So although in one way it felt like a tearful end of an era while travelling back from Arundel to London, it felt like it always did – Mum as a passenger, inspiring conversation and making us all laugh. It’ll be a funny old Christmas without her and I’ve got no idea how I’m going to feel, but as my lovely friends and family say, one day at a time. For now, it’s time to park up, switch off the engine, surround ourselves with precious people and family while raising a glass to beloved mums everywhere.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, bona breaks – whatever you call it.

Surprise, surprise

Surprise, surprise

I love surprises.  Some people hate them and I often wonder why.   I’m still coming down from a week of astounding surprises that have left me, uncharacteristically, speechless.

My precious mum’s funeral was last Thursday (12th November) and the first thing to share with you was the tsunami of love in the room for a woman who, up until eight years ago was shedding friends like winter feathers and alienating everyone around her.  She was adored and supported by the carers and fellow residents at her care home who genuinely adored her difference, personality and sheer energy for life.  When we were welcomed back there for a party in Mum’s honour, the staff surprised us by a huge buffet, hand-made bunting with “Stories of Margaret” and a beautiful collage of pictures and anecdotal notes from everyone who worked and lived with her.  Apart from the beautiful, moving gesture, we were totally gobsmacked by some of the things she’d done.  Yes, she’d rather cutely called people by whichever name she fancied, stolen ice creams and raided the biscuit cupboard, but putting her walking stick through the windows in the front door when she didn’t get her way?  I never got a bill for that one and I probably should have done.  The other surprise of the day was to see a) how my beautiful friend Nicky rocks the black jeans, black jacket look and b) seeing the faces of some wonderful friends who’d come down to Chichester from London without telling me in advance.  Prior to arriving for the service itself, there were hundreds of messages from friends on social media who’d been touched by the shared stories of her antics. “I felt like I knew your mum”, “Thanks for sharing your stories of your wonderful mum”, “I’ve learned so much about my own life through reading about yours” being some of the messages.  Astounding and so wonderful to see.  I could also share the story of how this blog inspired a close family friend to share the story of how my mum danced around the room when a marble popped out of my 4-year old bottom, but I’ve decided to keep that for another time.

It’s the end of a living era and the start of a new one as something even more surprising has started to happen.  People are sharing a completely new concept and it’s making me realise that there’s yet another conversation that we should all be having about mental health.  Three very close friends have confided within the last week that they took huge comfort from reading my stories, because they never felt comfortable in admitting that their own parents had suffered debilitating mental health issues.  They’ve said that they could identify with some of the issues, because their own parents had issues that they could relate to.  I’m lucky, because my mum was so physically obvious with her issues and there was no question that I was the little girl with a crazy, mad mum.  However, what about the kids who I grew up with who never felt that they could admit to a mum, dad, sibling or close friend who was going through similar issues?  They didn’t have my voice and although much of the taunting and bullying from other kids with cries of “Ding dong, Bell dong, your mum’s head’s wrong” was hurtful at the time, I’m starting to realise that I was one of the fortunate ones.  Imagine being caught in the silence of a taboo where admitting that you had a crazy parent was driving you into your own destructive behavioural patterns?  At least I knew where my odd patterns were coming from and my teachers, friends and occasional foster parents understood to a certain extent.  I’m overwhelmed by the honesty of some of my closest friend who, up until my own mum died, have never felt that they too could admit to having mental illness in their own families.

Are we all scared that we’ll turn out like our crazy parents, so keep a lid on it just in case?

Or are we worried that in some way we will be tarred with the same bonkers brush?

My mum would be totally thrilled that her life has generated the confidence in people to open up about the issues that affected their parents, but more importantly about how that impacted on their own lives.  Mum was extraordinarily generous (trying to give her house away at times, or putting all her fivers from her pension into a surprise photo album for me when I went to visit), so the fact that sharing her stories is now helping others would be making her laugh and give her the most enormous sense of achievement.  And there are so many stories out there, I’m tempted to start a podcast and give a voice to people who, like me, loved their parents, but were afraid to admit quite how unwell they were.  Would you listen?

It feels like this is our time.  It’s time to speak out, share and compare.  Because all the strange rules we made for ourselves at the hand of parents with issues can be un-picked and put to rest if we talk it out. Maybe.  And you know me … I love a good talk and speechlessness doesn’t really suit me.

A huge thank you to my wonderful friend Nick who sent me a beautiful condolence card with a message slip inside which is now carried wherever I go – “Be the voice, not the echo”.

Let’s get this out into the open and my goodness, we’ll be laughing by the bucket load and helping so many people who might not be brave enough yet to surprise us all by their own stories.

I’ll tell you another time about how Mum implied that all my friends were planning a surprise party for me, so I shouldn’t make any arrangements.  I deliberately stayed in, chuckling at the thought of having to feign surprise and waiting for the masses to turn up only to realise that at around midnight it wasn’t going to happen as it was one of Mum’s flights of fancy.  We shared a glass of wine together, however and that was enough – especially as it was a bottle of something rather brilliant, rather than her usual bottle of cheap plonk.

Rest in peace and out of pain, you wonderful woman,  I love you and so do hundreds of people who’ve never met you.

 

 

 

 

What would Mum say?

What would Mum say?

Buzzing traffic noise and a softly snoring dog woke me this morning and Mum’s voice was saying “it’s so beautifully sunny, get out there and enjoy it. Do you know that Bognor is the sunniest place in England?”. She also told me that she was peaceful and that tears are a waste of water. She was humming Danny Boy and that twinkle in her eye told me that she was about to start a new adventure somewhere very different, with new friends and out of pain. I know her voice will always be with me and a precious friend told me that it will continue to be with me whenever I think of her and whenever I need to take a new perspective on life. My question will always be from now on “What would Mum do? What would Mum say?” And I know that the answers will always be left-field, incredibly insightful and will make me laugh. I’ll also be giggling through shielded eyes, imagining her fearless pursuit of things she simply wanted to do – no rules, no protocol and no motive apart from love and a fascination with the world around her. It’s what she’s always done and I have no doubt that her wonder-filled wisdom and wacky sense of what’s important will see us through. And I’ll always feel her hand in mine, squeezing me so tight it made her laugh at my comedy pain face.

My precious Mum’s life is going to mean something and my dream of creating a platform for people to discuss growing up with a parent with mental health issues feels closer than ever now. I’ve asked Mum what she thinks about that and her answer is that she finds the whole thing hilarious, because who would take any notice of what she did in life? I’ve told her that over five thousand people are interested and they read about our love story every couple of weeks. She would have found that preposterous and of course she’d admonish me for going on the web – “spiders live in those, Sonia darling” (her actual words about ten years ago). As I was taking my brother back to the station for his return journey to London this morning I asked him what he thought she would be saying to us now. “Have a safe journey and get some proper sleep – I’m alright, my precious children, I’m alright”.

Mum – I’m looking forward to our future conversations and your life will continue to mean a lot to very many people who loved and knew you – and to many who continue to laugh at your antics and share their own stories.

I love you so much – it’s never going to be “loved” it’s always going to be love – the present – existing in the here and now. I know you’ll be keeping an eye on us and I look forward to your answers whenever I ask “What would Mum say?” Right now I reckon it would be “I’ve told you once already – get some sunshine on your skin, Sonia darling”.

Cabbage Water, anyone?

Cabbage Water, anyone?

Mum, Me and hospitals – not often a good mix.

As she’s never had to stay in one for any major medical reason, apart from giving birth twice and terrorising the maternity wards with her undiagnosed, off-the-scale crazy PND, she doesn’t get why anyone needs to go to one, have anything done, or be kept in. It’s just not within her understanding. Her health rules have always been: keep your bottom covered with at least two layers at all times, sleep until you know you’re not tired anymore and drink cabbage water. I used to wish she’d stayed at home whenever she trotted those rules out to my teachers, one of whom asked me if I’d really like cabbage water at lunchtime. Would I like cabbage water at lunchtime? Seriously? Have you ever tasted cabbage water? It’s like, well, it’s like … cabbage water. No thank you, Miss.

Cut to a couple of weeks ago when I told her I was going to the Royal Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital to have an operation to improve my hearing.

“Why are you going there? Can’t you have it done at home in the warm?” Intricate middle-ear stapedectomy in my living room? That would be an interesting thing to organise. She was similarly abrupt when I had to have my gall bladder removed at aged 21. Mum had done her research and challenged the doctors on the classic Fs diagnosis for gall bladder disease: female, fair, forty and fat. “My daughter is not forty, she’s twenty 21, so you can strike that off your records. And she’s definitely not fat, well not at the moment, but she has been. She’s fair enough, but I wouldn’t say she’s a film star”. Thanks Mum. The reason for not being fat at that particular time was that I’d probably not eaten properly for nearly two years as I’d got gall stones which had slowly built up and eventually disintegrated, turning me a lovely shade of orangey yellow. Mum and I were living together in our big Hendon house when I was really ill, but I’d hidden everything from her to save her the worry and also to save myself the earache with all the nonsense she would have been spouting. When she did realise how ill I was, she was on her DIY nurse mission and it took me right back to being a little girl having weird foods thrown down my throat because I’d stopped eating in protest at her crazy antics. This was different and despite the Trumpesque hue, nobody could work out what was wrong with me. The radioactive digestive tract x-rays hadn’t revealed anything and I was questioning my own sanity whilst all around me (including Mum) were implying that I was somehow self-harming and attention seeking. God, I hated her intervention in those days. I can remember clutching my stomach in agony at the hospital when they sent me to another department for some other sort of scan. All I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball and shut the curtains, but all these chirpy bloody women were insisting on chatting and it was a fantastic feat of self-control not to shout SHUT THE HELL UP at the top of my voice. One persistent woman sat next to me and said, sweetly “When is yours?” What? I thought, when is my X-ray? How the hell do I know? “I don’t know – fifteen, twenty minutes?” All the other women stood up and fussed around me. What were they doing? One of them brought me water and another one told me to breathe deeply. There was mounting panic in the pack and I just wanted them to sod off, the pain to go away and to be magically back in my cosy bedroom. “Nurse – this lady says she’s due in fifteen to twenty minutes. Should she be lying down? Could we get her a bed?”. A bed. Oh yes please. A bed would lovely I thought to myself. And then it dawned on me. All the women were pregnant and I was in the ultrasound department. No wonder they were fussing around when I said mine was due in fifteen to twenty minutes. They thought I too was pregnant and having a scan. Nope. My swollen tummy was because I was filling up with bile, not because a new life was emerging. Even in the pain and confusion I could see the funny side of it and started laughing hysterically, tears pouring down my face, belly laughs filling the space. Funny how an unaccompanied woman laughing likes a lunatic can make crowds disperse and an eerie silence develop around the maniacal cackles. Luckily the ultrasound showed the disintegrated gallstones and tattered gall bladder, so Mum had to listen for once that I needed hospitalisation and an operation, not cod liver oil, extra layers and a visit from some random priest.

Mum is terrified that if she’s ever taken to see the men and women in white coats, they are either going to take her away, lock her up or apply EST to her wonderful, weird and wild brain. Now, that goes back to the aforementioned undiagnosed PND when she felt she had to keep quiet about the turmoil inside her head for fear that she’d be strapped down, electrocuted and have her precious babies taken away.

Mum’s got no time, absolutely zilch, for people she thinks are faking. And that’s pretty much everyone in hospital in Mum’s eyes. Even me with my gallstones to a certain extent as she was trying to get me to come home the day after life-saving surgery, because she believed she could do a better job of looking after me. When the hospital refused to give her all the dressings and materials she’d need – and I’d insisted that I wanted to stay – she gave in and let the medical professionals take over. It felt at the time as if she was meddling and not caring, but it was quite the opposite of course. She was trying to care and do it all herself and simply didn’t trust anyone else to look after me properly.

These days, Mum’s immobility prevents her from getting out or visiting anyone. Men’s wards were like a playground to my mum – any man, any state of illness, with or without visitors were there to be kissed to make them better. She once dragged me into a ward and told me to kiss all the men on one side of the ward while she did the same on the opposite side. I didn’t of course and I think I was given sweets in the matron’s room instead. Mum did her rounds, talking briefly to everyone, bending down to kiss them and skipping off to the next bed. Some loved it, others hated it and I’m pretty sure the families were very confused by it all. She grabbed my hand and took me home, telling me that it was God’s wish that she made them all feel loved. It was like a Carry On Film with cross-patch doctors, waggy-finger matrons, chuckling old men and pinched-face wives huffing their shoulders and whacking their husbands when Mum disappeared. The phrase “kiss it better” has always made me cringe. I’d love to know what those chaps actually thought at the time.

So now, I’m waiting for my ear to balance out a bit before going to see Mum again. The day before my operation the care home called me to say that she hadn’t been eating or drinking. Everyone was worried and she was in a very frail state, but we had our usual love-you chats when I rushed down to see her and she told me that “adore” was the best word in the English language. She’s eating and drinking again and giving them all hell. Her new tricks? To hurl cups of coffee across the room if they’re not hot enough, wipe chocolate on her trousers and demand music. She’s a huge fan of scrambled eggs, so she’s getting through lots of them. She’ll always take my hand when I serve eggs up for her and tell me that she will always feel guilty that forcing me to eat so any eggs when I was little was somehow responsible for my gallstones. I told her recently that it was an inherited condition as Dad and paternal Nan had the same operation. I don’t think she believes me though as she has that I-know-you’re-making-it-up-to-make-me-feel-better look when I remind her. Hey ho. I’m doing her a selection of favourite tracks to listen to when I next go down. Any favourites you think I should include? Now, where’s my copy of Peter Sellers doing “Goodness Gracious Me?” Nurse? the screens please. Over and out.

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