Mother – 42

18 09 2016

telephone

I’m having an out-of-body experience. I’m looking down at two people who are on their knees beneath a computer desk and trying to find out where 20 metres of optic cable will lead them.

One of those people is me. The other one is my mother.

Nothing is working in the house. The land line is down, the iPad is down, and I’ve forgotten to bring my mobile. But no worry as mother has one. If only we can find it.

We can’t ring it because as said none of the phones are working, and after a really thorough search we still haven’t located it.

So now we are down on our hands and knees hoping to find Mother’s modem.

The last time I saw mother’s modem it had half a cup of tea in a bone china cup resting on it.

Eventually I spot a small tea stain, then a bigger tea stain, and yes, hurray, an even bigger tea stain which has dried up on mothers modem. We check the cable and it appears to be connected properly.

We now speculate about whether the world has come to an end but can’t check because mother’s television isn’t working either.

I step outside the house, look up and down the road, and it does all feel a bit too quiet for a Thursday. But I’m relieved to say that I didn’t spot any tumble weed or nuclear waste blowing my way so I step back inside the house again.

Mother is now in the kitchen with her head underneath the stairs and she is rummaging.

I hold my breath and wait, hoping that she has remembered where she has put her mobile phone.

When she emerges, red faced, her fist is clutching a long strip of paper. It’s the receipt for the land line phones that aren’t working.

On with our coats and shoes, we are about to head out of the door when I hear a faint buzzing sound. It’s coming from mothers coat pocket, and yes it is her mobile phone.

The text message is from my sister and it informs mother that there has been a network failure in her area and it won’t be fixed until Monday.

Relieved we continue on our journey down to the news agents to buy 20 pounds of credit for mother’s mobile.

All I have to do now is teach mother how to use it.

‘Please God grant me patience,’ I mumble as mother drops the phone and the battery falls out.

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Mother – episode 41

16 09 2016

scissors

Mother is amazing. She has embraced modern technology with gusto.
Her iPad is a blessing and she uses it for everything. “Searches” especially. Whether looking up the side effects of medication (All medications seem to cause a rash), reviews of films and plays, recipes, or family history, she has embraced the iPad’s attributes and cannot imagine life without it.

But I wish I could say the same about mothers approach to modern packaging.
It is supposedly designed for ease of use, to keep products fresh, and to enable the user to open and re-close the packaging again in order to keep the contents within it well-preserved.

There are the milk cartons – squeeze the flaps, pull them back, press them forward and an opening appears. Then there are the frozen peas – cut above the dotted line, slide the little plastic square back, and like an open zip, the peas are accessible. Or, pull the collar on the drinks bottle outwards and it will slowly uncoil, allowing the user to turn the cap and access its contents.

What innovative inventions. Yes, but totally ignored by mother who sees every form of packaging as an opportunity to use a large pair of kitchen scissors.

There are gaping wide open milk cartons, loose peas all over the freezer compartment, and headless washing up and bleach bottles in the cleaning cupboard.

And her medicine bottles are not only child proof but adult proof too – the process of pushing the cap down and turning it, all at the same time, a very strenuous exercise.

Even I limber up and blow into my hands, legs astride, before trying to open one, and when I’m not there, mother just keeps the caps off.

Which probably explains why mother is now attending keep fit classes again – her stated aim to be able to pull the lids from cans without the little tab coming away in her fingers. (I’ve found a hammer and a chisel quite useful at these times – it’s such a shame to waste food and drink).

As mother says ‘”Electric can openers are a great help – but don’t get her started on those little sardine tins with a key”.

I’d nodded in agreement, but inwardly I was thinking about a jar of jam, a door frame, the door I’m going to have to clamp onto the neck of it, and whether or not I should be turning the jam jar clockwise or anti-clockwise in order to get the darn lid off.

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Mother. (Episode 36)

9 09 2016

light-bulbSure enough just as the evenings become darker all the light bulbs begin to go. Turn on, “Ping”, light bulb blown. Then we have to rummage in the garage with a torch for replacements. Inevitably the light bulbs we find are the wrong ones. Screw turn instead of bayonet or vice versa. And if we do find one it has been tried before and doesn’t work.

I’ve advised mother to throw things away if they aren’t of use anymore, but I suspect this is easier said than done. Mother is from the “Make do and mend”, generation. But how do you mend a light bulb?

Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity of searching I finally find another bayonet bulb. ‘Hurray. Found one’.

However, trying to change the blown light bulb was easier said than done. It appears to be welded to the lamp and after an impatient struggle, shatters.

With dust pan and broom in hand I clear up the glass fragments and head back to the garage for a pair of pliers. ‘Hurray, found some’.

On my knees I try applying the pliers to the remaining bit of light bulb stem. I’m perspiring profusely at this stage and mother asks if I shouldn’t take my jumper off.
I don’t answer, but through greeted teeth finally wrench the remaining piece of light bulb stem away from the lamp stand. ‘Phew’.

With the replacement light bulb in hand I ever so carefully push it down, turn it like a criminal trying to crack a bank safes code, then stand back to admire my handy work. ‘You can switch on the electricity now’.

And mother does, only to reveal a new light bulb shining a rather draining red glow across her living room.

‘You’d better draw the curtains before unwanted male callers start knocking at your door’.

Mother looks puzzled, squints at the red light and announces that she will buy some more light bulbs tomorrow. ‘But thank you for your help. It always looks so much easier when you do it’.

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Mother. (Episode 31)

5 09 2016

The garage isn’t a place I often visit. It’s cold, damp and there is no car parked in it. But it is full of stuff and no matter how many times I empty it its always full of stuff again when I visit next time – usually at my mothers request. “I’m running out of space. Could you come over and tidy it up a bit?’

I arrive, a bit down trodden.  I know I’m going to need a good supply of rubble sacks and plastic crates before I start. I also know that there will be a large stash of discarded flower pots in the middle of the garage floor, piles of Pound Shop peat, enough plastic bags to service Sainsbury’s customers for a year, a massive quantity of bleach, prescription medicine trays, and out of date flavoured water, Sanatogen, Lucozade and Coco Cola. Not to mention the odd shoes (Odd shoes?), hand bags, rusted tools and paint tins.

There’s never enough room in the boot of the Polo for everything, so a few of the rubble sacks end up staying behind. And by the time I get around to tidying up mothers garage again there still won’t be enough room to transport everything to the recycling center.  Next time I will have to hire a van I vow.

But the most stressful day for mother is a Thursday. Bin day. She has black crates, green crates, blue crates and a grey wheelie bin. Oh yes and a black compost bag.

The problem is that she never knows what is going to be collected on any particular Thursday and the schedule does vary. So I usually find mother sitting on the stairs in the hallway with the front door wide open waiting for the refuse collectors to arrive so that she can ask them what they are collecting today. Its always a mystery to mother.

I am sure there must be a leaflet explaining the schedule  somewhere in mothers house but I have yet to find it. (Its probably in the garage :0)).

Anyway last Thursday was such a lovely day I suggested that mother sit outside and wait for the refuge collectors to which she’d replied. ‘But I might fall asleep and wake up at the rubbish dump’.

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Falling backwards…..

5 09 2016

Desert Pyriamid

Walls of Turquoise cast illusions of coolness onto two tired travellers’ faces – our tired faces now drinking a third mint tea and debating whether or not to have a fourth when the waiter launched a question at us. ‘Where are you from?’
Ignoring Sherry’s Mickey Mouse T-shirt I tried to guess the right answer. ‘Err Switzerland?’
‘Switzerland?’
‘Err Europe?’
‘Is he your husband?’
‘No, boyfriend’, her answer morphing his brown eyes red. He was now looking at her through flared nostrils.
‘Why did you come here?’.
‘We are exploring the Middle East. Do you travel much?’
Silence before the waiter turned a slapped cheek expression towards the doorway. ‘A man was shot dead … there… yesterday’.

I waited in vain for Sherry to respond, huge myopic eyes now scouring the floor for evidence.
‘Did you know him?’
‘Yes of course.’
‘So sorry for you loss but we have to leave now. Bus.’

We bowed our way backwards towards the exit, ‘al salamu alaykum’, legs two feet in front of torso’s as we scooted up the road and around the corner – an out door stock exchange thwarting an attempt to move further – desperation mobilising an idea – my camera, focussed on no one in particular, parting the crowds like a  scene from a biblical movie.

But dogs still assessed us for meaty tenderness as we went, young boys begging us for cigarettes along the way, the young girl offering us flower petals handed  a coin or two before we’d emerge from the mayhem.

We reached the junction, a bus shelter just ahead, a water pump to our left, and to the right a rumbling noise… a screech… a tank – the officer sitting on the very rim of it aiming a gun at my forehead. ‘You cannot stay… you must leave. It’s too dangerous’, his outstretched hand yanking Sherry up before she’d uttered a single sound – me close behind, complaining, settling beside her, right next to the gun turret.

We couldn’t have looked more conspicuous if we’d tried, and I was already regretting the yellow shirt. Were there snipers on the roof tops? If someone threw a grenade at me should I throw it back or just say a hurried prayer? Was “Swiss” the correct answer?

Taking a wide turn right, the tank trundled through compound gates, hundreds of soldiers within it busy training for … they looked resolute.

Now in the officers mess room, and forced, against my instincts, to move away from Sherry in order to accommodate the number of soldiers surrounding her, I recalled the times Sherry’s’ flirting had dug us out of a hole. I didn’t intervene. But a Chief Officer did. ‘We are driving you to Jaffa. You can go anywhere from there but do not come back.’

Exhausted from the efforts of trying to pull our shoes off we fell backwards onto the bed. It was more of an imperial relic than a hotel but at least it had a jug of water, a bowl and a foreign smelling towel – and a hole in the ceiling disclosing an eerily black sky.

I squeezed Sherry’s hand. If flirting with danger, and surviving it, could heighten my senses this much, make me feel this much alive, then I’d begun to understand why people bungee jumped and skydived.

Recollections of yesterday still electrified us this morning, but enough was enough.  We’d take a flight back to London within the hour, and as advised by our military escort, wouldn’t be coming back.

 

Jet Plan

 

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Falling Backwards.

4 09 2016

Desert Pyriamid

Walls of Turquoise cast illusions of coolness onto two tired travellers’ faces.
We were now drinking our third mint tea and debating whether or not to have a fourth when the waiter launched a question in our direction. ‘Where are you from?’
Ignoring Sherry’s Mickey Mouse T-shirt I tried to think of the right answer. ‘Err Switzerland?’
‘Switzerland?’
‘Yes Europe’.
‘Is he your husband?’
‘No, boyfriend’, Sherry’s answer icing up the waiters eyes balls, but it didn’t matter anyway as he was now looking at her through his nostrils.
‘And why did you come here?’.
‘We are exploring the Middle East. Do you travel much?’
Silence before the waiter turned a slapped face expression towards the doorway. ‘A man was shot dead … there… yesterday’.

I waited in vain for Sherry to respond, her large myopic eyes now scouring the floor for evidence.
‘Did you know him?’
‘Yes of course.’
‘So sorry for you loss but we have to leave now’.

We bowed our way backwards to the exit, ‘al-salāmu alaykum’, legs two feet in front of our torso’s as we scooted up the road and around the corner, an open air stock exchange thwarting any attempts to move much further. But desperation nurtured an idea. I found my camera, focussed it on no one in particular, and like a scene from a biblical movie crowds parted. Dogs assessed us for meaty tenderness as we made slow progress, young boys begging us for cigarettes all the way, a young girl offering flower petals handed a few coins before we finally emerged from the mayhem.

We’d reached the junction, a bus shelter just ahead, a water pump to our left and to the right a … what… a tank. An officer sat on the very rim of it, a gun aimed at my forehead. ‘You cannot stay… you must leave. It’s too dangerous’, his outstretched hand yanking Sherry up the side of the tank before she’d uttered a sound. I soon followed, sat beside her at the front, and right next to the gun turret.

We couldn’t have been more conspicuous if we’d tried and I was already regretting the yellow shirt. Were there snipers on the roofs? If someone threw a grenade at me should I throw it back or just say a hurried prayer?

The tank took a wide turn right, through compound gates, the hundreds of soldiers within it busy training for … what?
Now in the mess and forced, against my instincts, to move away from Sherry in order to accommodate the number of soldiers surrounding her, I recalled the numerous times Sherry’s’ flirting had dug us out of a hole. I didn’t intervene. But a Chief Officer did. ‘We are driving you to Jaffa. You can go anywhere from there but do not come back.’

Exhausted from the efforts of trying to pull our shoes off we fell backwards onto the bed. It was more of an imperial relic than a hotel but it did at least have a jug of water and a bowl – and a hole in the ceiling. It revealed an unusually black sky.

I squeezed Sherry’s hand. If flirting with danger, and surviving it, can make me feel this much alive I mused, then I would do it all again tomorrow.

But I didn’t. We didn’t.

The very next day we took a long haul flight home to London, and as advised by our military escort didn’t come back.

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Mother. (Episode 27)

1 09 2016
 Things I didn't know about my mother. (Part 20)

I always know when mother is in a bad mood. Like the time when I stood beside the open car door in order to let her in and mother walked around to the other side, struggled to pull the car door open and then plonked herself right in the middle of the rear seat with her handbag occupying the space where I intended to sit. Then there was the time when I received a text from mother asking me to send on her mobile number. No niceties, just a text stating, “Send me my mobile phone number”. I did in haste. Back came the reply “Txs”,  again with no niceties.

But what can sometimes annoy mother is when we are out walking. I’ll surge ahead just to make sure we are heading in the right direction, and also to save mother from any wasted footsteps if we are not. And as a form of protest at leaving her alone, (even though I have explained what I am doing) mother will have inevitably disappeared by the time I come back for her. I then end up wasting a load of footsteps trying to find her. I swear she is hiding.

Once she emerged from an alley way accompanied by six beer swilling alcoholics. I’d only left her for half a minute! Another time she emerged from a police car accompanied by a police officer wearing a frown of ‘How could you desert your mother?’ She had apparently got lost about ten feet from where I was standing and they had picked her up.

Often Mother will say hello to somebody on the street, I’ll ask who it is she is smiling at, and she’ll reply that she doesn’t know as she has never seen them before.

But what I really do find odd is when I turn around just to make sure that mother is keeping up with me and then she  will turn around, either to check that her imaginary friend is still following her, or perhaps to ensure that she is not being followed by alcoholics or police officers.

There have even been times when I’ve turned around, mother has turned around, the person behind her has turned around, and so on and so forth all the way down the street.

But out walking with mother is never dull. I’ve witnessed mother waving at people that were waving at somebody else, and just last week I saw mother turn to talk to someone who she thought was talking to her, but was in fact chatting to someone else on their iPhone. Oblivious mother continued the conversation until, frustrated by the intrusion; the iPhone user wrenched the phone from her ear and said. ’I wasn’t talking to you’, to which mother replied ‘Charming I’m sure’.

I didn’t look back this time, just looked up, said a prayer and tried to pretend that all this wasn’t happening.

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Mother. (Episode 24)

30 08 2016

Although mother’s car is over eight years old she still takes a pride in its appearance. It’s an Audi Green VW Polo complete with radio, air vents and a nodding dog on the back window shelf. Just a shame that when ever mother parks the car some where, someone decides to put a dent in it – or scrape the bumper or scratch the paint work. A couple of times mother has returned to find a note lodged between the wind screen wiper and the wind screen informing her that some one has seen some one else damage her car. They just never leave any information or details that could be of any use to an insurance company. But as mother says ‘At least some one saw it happen’.

Just recently mother zipped into a space in a supermarket car park only to be shunted not once, but three times by a big black 4X4 that was busy reversing. A rather puzzled woman stepped out of the jeep only to ask mother where she’d come from. Mother replied, “From a place where you obviously haven’t been yet.” “And where is that?” “Specsavers.” Eventually insurance details were exchanged but mother decided not to pursue the claim as she couldn’t be bothered with all the fuss. She wouldn’t allow us to pursue it either so we didn’t.

Talking about being bothered I remember another time when mother parked her car around the back of a cinema in Bromley, oblivious to the ‘Authorised parking with permits only’ sign. When she returned she found her car wedged between two metal street bollards, one at the front and one at the back. Feeling flustered mother looked around, and then looked up to see four construction workers grinning like Cheshire cats. They did at least lift mothers car back out from between the metal bollards again.

Mother now has a rusting hole in her rear bumper, a rippled effect on the passenger and driver’s door, and a bent car radio antenna which only receives Radio Pakistan or extended versions of Church of England sermons. Oh yes and the nodding dog has long since lost its head. But at least mother has managed to keep hers, and the absolute maximum no claims bonus. We are certain of this because we found the documents in the airing cupboard last week. And whilst cleaning out the fridge yesterday we found the missing nodding dogs head under the peas in the freezer compartment. I know. Don’t ask!

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Mother. (Episode 21)

27 08 2016

According to mother her Sainsbury’s Nectar loyalty card looks very similar to her pension ID card. (I’ve checked and it does, if you are not wearing spectacles). In fact she’s even tried to use it to collect her pension in the past. And likewise she has handed her pension card in to the girl at the Sainsbury’s check out in order to have her loyalty points credited to it. But unlike the post office assistant the check out girl in Sainsbury’s always reminds mother to remove her bank card at the end of any transaction. If they’d done that at the post office mother wouldn’t have had to go without her pension for three weeks.

Mother did check to see whether her pension I.D card had been found but it hadn’t, so she ordered a new one, and after an anxious wait it eventually arrived with a “Rattle” and a “Plop” three days later. ‘Thank goodness’.

And so we headed off to collect mothers now accumulating pension pot.

I waited in the car, a tiny ball of anxiety bouncing around my stomach until Mother returned, rolling her eyes and clutching a fistful of notes- a look of relief smoothed across her once blotchy forehead. ‘Well thank god for that’.

Back home, and to celebrate, we transported tea to a sunny spot in mothers garden, dunked Rich Teas into the poppy decorated mugs, eventually leaning back into our candy striped sun chairs. All is right with the world I sighed as honey coloured sun beams seeped into my sinuses – birds in the back ground twittering around mothers fat balls, hanging precariously from a “Red Robin” bush branch. At some point I must have dozed off.

 “I don’t believe it’, a “Victor Meldrew” voice forcing me to squint sideways at mother attempting to bolt upright in a half collapsing sun lounger. ‘I’ve gone and left my pension card in the post office again’

We hurried back to reclaim it before it fell into less than honest hands – but alas the Post Office  had closed for lunch. Or so we thought. When we tried again later we discovered that they had closed for the rest of the day as well, leaving mother to worry about her lost pension card until the very next morning.

But as a good friend of mine once said, ‘Never be in a hurry to get rid of the worries you know because they will only be replaced by worries you are not yet familiar with’.

So true, I reflected, as Mother gave up trying to start her car and I scoured the “Yellow Pages” for a local car mechanic.

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