Mother. (Episode 32)

6 09 2016

Just recently Mother and I went on a nostalgic trip back to Balham, London. It had been my mothers childhood home but also a place I visited on my own as a child almost every single weekend – to see my grandmother. I loved it. I would catch the bus from Camberwell, alight at Clapham North, then walk the entire length of the Cavendish road, and there, just around the corner, stood her apartment.  She’d always seem surprised to see me even though these visits had been prearranged, but after the initial shock, I would be ushered into the living room – Radio Luxembourg fading in and out on her radio, “mentholatum” dominating the air, and a roaring open fire threatening to burn the chimney down. The Devonshire toffees on her side table were nearly always sticky because of it, although we used to think as kids that she had sucked them, decided that she didn’t want them, and then put them back in their wrappers again. (Childrens imaginations, honestly!). We’d then discuss Elizabeth Taylor’s love life, well she did, study the form for the Epsom races, again, she did, until inevitably she’d doze off.

I can still recall her half choked snores as I took this opportunity to count the number of pennies she had saved in a biscuit tin. There were so many of them. Think of all the toys I could buy with them I would dream, one final snore, a smack of the lips, a mumble, my prompt to scoop all the coins back where I’d found them, plonk my self into the chair facing her again, and contemplate eating one of  her half chewed toffees. ‘I suppose you want some tea?’

Grandma’s bedroom was always dark, but the bed was fabulous – it was like sleeping on a giant marshmallow. But before I lay down on it I would always explore her dressing room table – fascinated by her hairnets, strewn around it like reinforced cobwebs -and the hat pins, so many types, my favourite being the one with a pear shaped pearl handle. It became my weapon for scaring off ghosts and things that went bump in the night. Usually granny crashing into things as she headed for the bathroom.

Next day, after door step slices of toast and Typhoo tea, a quick wash with sunlight soap, we’d head off to the Odeon cinema. All so exciting, although every film seemed to be a story from the Bible, and in truth I didn’t understand any of it. But the intermission ice creams were a treat, a visit to the Westbury next door to buy sliced ham for dinner an appetite enhancer, and the Lyons Victoria sponges in a box, a trip to taste heaven and back. But I was only ever allowed one slice.

Then mother would arrive to collect me, discussions about mother never having any luck just as long as she drove a green car, rumbling behind me as I caught up on the latest Liz Taylor scandal in grandmothers “Tit bits” magasine.

‘I suppose you would like some pocket money?’. Her knowing smile meeting with my excited grin as she plucked small brown envelopes from a box and handed then to me. ‘Now don’t go mad. Save some of it’. (Winnings from the Epsom races mother later told me). I’d be full of anticipation because I’d never know how much money was inside each little envelope until I got home. I don’t think grandmother did either. All that had been written on the front of them was “L Lucky”. But lets be upfront and admit that I never saved any of it – couldn’t wait to get down to “Meccano’s” to buy a sword or a cross bow or something else with grandmothers ill gotten gains. ‘Look what I’ve bought’.

We are back home now after an emotional but rewarding journey, emotional because I was a young boy when I first walked up Balham High Street, and mother because  she was a young girl when she first walked up the very same street. And because, now at different stages in our of lives, we’d walked up the very same street together.

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One response

19 09 2016
alienatednation - the silent majority.

Yes oh yes!

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