Wimbledon’t

Wimbledon’t

It’s tennis season and memories of being turned away at the Wimbledon turnstiles still haunt me. Not even a frilly white frock, pretend tennis racquet and packet of strawberries was going to convince the security guards to let us in. I was probably 8 or 9 and Mum normally managed to blag her way in anywhere. Not this time, despite the flirting, protests and pushing me forward and ordering me to smile nicely. I knew at the time that my outfit was ridiculous. Tennis players wore short, simple tunics and not frilly bridal dresses. Nobody was going to be convinced by a pink plastic toy tennis racquet and as for the strawberries … mushy and inedible. Years later I was able to sneak in with my BBC ID pass and watch from the commentary boxes, As always, looking back, this was Mum at her most creative; trying to make a dream come true and cementing future memories. Cemented they were, but maybe not for the right reasons.

Barnet Council has brought back a Summer Festival and is putting on outdoor cinema events for us all to enjoy for free. Walking past the giant screen earlier with my little dog I heard the familiar plock, plock of the match and no doubt all eyes will be glued to Emma Raducanu as she slams her way into tennis history later today. I did start tennis lessons (in protest) at senior school, but was soon excused after messing around and not taking it seriously. Our tennis coach, the formidable Miss Harris, taught us how to serve … “ball UP, look UP, racquet back, watch ball and THROW the racquet over”. Yes, of course I knew that what she meant was to keep hold of the racquet while making a throwing motion to contact the ball and send it over the net. My first attempt was a disaster as I missed the ball. “You’re supposed to hit the ball, Sonia, not watch it drop to the ground.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Second attempt. Right – up, look, racquet back, watch and throw. Clatter, clatter, clatter. “You’re not supposed to actually throw the racquet across the court, Sonia.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was much happier running around the square, making faces at the tennis students who probably wished they’d had the balls to risk the wrath of Harris. The only competitive sport she ever convinced me to take part in was hockey which I also loathed. All that knocking of sticks, whacking shins and getting up at dawn for hockey matches. I made myself very good at defending the goal which meant that not only did I have shin pads, I didn’t have to do all that running up and down the pitch. Netball was OK as I was tall and was often made goalie. Again, lots of knocking the ball back and not having to run around too much.

So now we’re approaching a life after lockdown with more time to actually go to things I’m going to apply for tickets for Wimbledon next year – and in my precious mum’s honour I’m going to try and find a white frilly frock to wear. Looking back, I’m pleased we didn’t get in because she would have been heckling the players no doubt, gate-crashing VIP areas, digging up bits of grass for me to take home as a souvenir (I’ll tell you that story another time) and hoovering up the spare strawberries left by the posh people who bought them inside the club grounds. She came to the Finchley Festival once – the yearly event with dozens of highly decorated floats, Carnival Queens, displays, events and a huge fairground. There was so much noise around that nobody really noticed her loud singing and she even managed to get herself a ride on a police horse by flirting with the mounted policeman who wasn’t laughing at first when she stood on a chair and tried to mount his horse to sit behind him. Advantage Margaret.

Here’s to Summer freedom. Here’s to my marvellous mum. Love all.

When Mums Go Without

When Mums Go Without

Mum bought me a gold ring with diamonds in an S-shape when I was 40.  It was a bit too small, so I never really wore it.  She remembered something about a ring this morning when I told her it was ready to pick up from the jewellers … “I think I remember the ring. … Sonia darling, I didn’t give you a ring yesterday did I?”  No Mum, you didn’t ring me, you bought me a ring.  Do you remember it? “Well, I’m ringing you now aren’t I?”  No Mum, I rang you, but I’m talking about a little gold ring with diamondy stones in it.  “I  like the Rolling Stones”. I assumed it was cubic zirconia, but no, the jeweller told me it was antique gold with real diamonds and would have cost her a fortune.  Bang !  Heart thump ! I remembered Mum taking on extra cleaning shifts at the time.

I was listening to a wonderful interview this morning on Radio 4 with the mum and son who inspired the musical “Everybody’s Talking about JAMIE”.  He broke down in tears when his mum revealed how she’d gone short and was happy to do it, to make sure he got everything he needed to make his teenage drag queen life possible.  This beautiful woman with her soft County Donegal accent got me thinking … do we ever really appreciate what our parents have done for us when it comes to going without things themselves to give us what we need?  Probably not, after all they are parents, it’s what parents do.  I’ve never had the joy of having my own children, so I don’t have first hand experience, but I know that I’d give my precious sister everything I had if she really needed it.  In a heartbeat.  Does that count?

Mum was never able to hold a real job down as her attention span is, let’s put it kindly, short.  It always has been.  And she was never going to get the Employee of the Month badge as she was constantly confusing her bosses.  I remember my Dad telling me that she was cleaning for a local family who’s patriarchal figurehead knelt down to prey at least three times a day.  Mum was sacked when she rammed her Hoover into him, telling him to “get up off your knees with all the preying nonsense – you’re in my way!”  Not the cleverest way of ensuring long-term employment.  When she moved to the coast and took a job in a local care home she raided the kitchen kitty and shared it out with all the residents, telling them to buy sensible biscuits as she didn’t like the digestives.  The Scratchwood Services boss let her go when she kept banging on the doors of the hotel rooms when businessmen were “having a rest” with women in tow … she took offence to the “easyshags” (her term) and often chased them out of their rooms early with an admonishment and waggy finger.  I know that waggy finger – it’s terrifying – I used it once recently myself – never again !  Somewhere there may still be footage of Mum cycling to Scratchwood Services from Hendon – up the M1.  yes, the M1.  She got very fed up with the police pulling her over all the time.  ALL THE TIME ??? She told me that lorry drivers were the worst … hotting and honking, flashing their lights, stressing her out.  My little 5’1″ mum with her flowing red hair, cycling on her battered old bicycle on the motorway.  To make it even more perilous, she got so fed up with the lorries that she rode in the middle of the lane so they couldn’t keep pushing her onto the hard shoulder and yelled at them as they sped by.  The lovely part of all of this – apart from her not being killed – was that she had a huge amount of affection for the police officers who knew her name and were always giving her a lift to the services with her bike in the back of their car with fruitless requests that she promised not to cycle back again.  She promised. She didn’t keep her promises of course.  If anyone ever remembers a friend, family member or fellow police colleague recalling these incidents I want to shake their hand and say thank you.  It always amuses me to think that maybe, just maybe, a car driver who passed her on his way to a secret assignation at the Scratchwood Services hotel would end his liaison with a loud knock on the door and a muffled “GET OUT!”.

She was never afraid of work – and worked constantly.  I can remember wondering why I was often at some weird person’s house after school, but got used to it .  Now I realise it was Mum going out to save up for special birthday parties, or a fancy dolly,  a dinghy for my brother, lean cuts of meat (that she’d often combine with very odd ingredients, but that’s another story), or a new pair of shiny shoes.  And this one that slays people when I tell it.  In the television industry we’re nearly all freelancers and when a contract falls down it’s the usual game of chess to get other work in.  On this occasion three things fell down at once and I was worrying about the bills and mortgage.  I called mum to say that I’d wait for a week or so until coming down to see her as I needed to conserve my money. She, of course, was fine with that as she’s never, ever been one of those mums who gives you hassle for not visiting.  The next morning the postman arrived with a little parcel – Mum’s writing on the packet and a roll of sellotape used to wrap it up.  Inside was her little silver leather purse with £3.84 in it.  I called her to thank her and her words were, and I’ll never forget them … “Well Sonia darling, my pension comes on Monday and I can do until then and I thought you’d need this more than me”.  That purse is one of the things I’d rescue if I ever had to leave the house in an emergency.  That £3.84 would have bought her 2 Salvation Army breakfast bacon sandwiches – her favourite brekkie as she refused to use her gas cooker.  And as always, for my sake, Mum went without.

I’ll never be able to repay her “withouts” but I can always give her respect and love, drive down to the coast whenever I can and have wonderful conversations with her. She’s never asked for anything in return – her only recent demand is for chocolate toffees and to sit calmly with her to hold her hand.  That’s whenever she’s not flinging food or sweets at other residents or wagging her finger at Carol who keeps trying to Nick her biscuits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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