I took a trip back home on Thursday to spend the day with my mum. I miss hanging out with her and enjoying her everyday idiosyncrasies. She’s a lot of fun.
Isn’t it funny how you still refer to the family homestead as ‘home’? Even though I haven’t lived at my parents’ home for 16 years and they’ve since moved house from our childhood domicile, I still have their number programmed in my phone as ‘Home’. I suppose it always will be home to me.
Pulling up on the driveway, I ventured round to the back garden to find 67-year-old mother slide-tackling her grandson in a competitive game of football. When I said I was spending the day with my mum, I actually meant my mother and her little partner in crime aka my four-year-old nephew Max. As my mum loves to say, there’s no show without Punch.
‘You’re back!’ cried my mother, clutching hold of the garden bench to regain her breath. ‘We’re just having a quick kick around.’
My mother is the most virile 67-year-old you’ll meet. Having never learnt to drive (despite a top qualification in backseat driving), she still cycles everywhere on her trusty bicycle; her day is just one long list of energetic escapades.
In fact, nephew Max complained to my sister that after a day with my mother, he is absolutely exhausted. His favourite phrase at bed time is, ‘I’m so tired. Nanny’s worn me out – again!’
Inside the house, my father’s original inflatable boat ‘Chrismick’ was laid on the floor of the kitchen, sad and deflated.
‘Your dad’s been trying to pump it up but it keeps going down,’ said my mother. (I hope she was referring to the boat!). The parents seem oblivious to the fact that they bought the dinghy in 1976 and it would struggle to stay afloat in a swimming pool, let alone the sea. Even Max looked sceptical.
Despite replacing it with Chrismick II in the early 90s (more on that here), my father seems unable to discard his original Chrismick (pictured in its heyday below), preferring to carry on adding more and more puncture patches, in the hope it will once again make a glorious return to sail the River Fowey (and stalk Dawn French).
Over lunch, I made enquiries as to the welfare of my mother’s best friend Val. Every other Friday, Val and my mother head out to the local bingo hall (they’ve been meeting on alternate Fridays for the last 40 years). Unbelievably, they manage to play two hours of bingo without spending a penny.
I’ve never really got to the bottom of how this is possible but I think it is something to do with bingo hall offering free games of bingo, thinking that they will make money on drinks at the bar.
However, they’ve clearly underestimated my frugal mother, who doesn’t drink and gets by on glasses of tap water. Sometimes, they actually win at bingo so end up coming back in profit. This is my mum and Val having a boogie at my wedding (Val on left; mother on right).
The trips to bingo have been a little few and far between recently after a terrible incident befell Val on her annual holiday to Benidorm. On the second day of the holiday, her husband Laurence took a tumble and took all the skin off his shin. He had to have a skin graft and was admitted to hospital for week.
During Val’s visit, a patient in the bed next to Laurence asked if Val would be so kind as to lift his suitcase down from the cupboard above. Unfortunately for Val, this particular patient appeared to be harbouring several slabs of concrete in his case. As Val struggled under its immense weight, her kind deed ended up giving her a hernia!
Poor Val was instantly admitted to hospital herself and found herself laid up in the hospital bed next to her husband. She went from hospital visitor to fellow patient within an hour. It was the holiday from hell.
Val now does all the driving in the family, my mother went on. But for inexplicable reasons, she is only able to turn left in the vehicle, being too fearful of right turns. This means that every journey she takes has to be meticulously planned so that the car only travels in an anti-clockwise direction.
In other news, the days of riding the Blackpool tram using a pensioner’s bus pass have come to a sad end. My mother, father and Uncle Stephen (pictured) used to regularly ride along the promenade for free, using their bus pass.
They weren’t the only ones; scores of grey-haired pensioners would clamber aboard and ride up and down all day at tax payer’s expense. At the end stop, they were forced to alight the tram for 10 minutes for the driver to take a toilet break, where they would stand grumbling and shivering until the tram re-opened in order for them to repeat the journey all over again.
Naturally, Uncle Stephen drove up to Blackpool the day before the new ‘no bus passes’ rule came into force, and went up and down a few times on his own: one final free hurrah.
After watching one episode too many of Homes Under The Hammer, my family have recently invested in a bungalow and is in the process of doing it up. My mother was keen to show me how it was coming along.
We pulled up outside and my mother and Max tiptoed out of the car in an exaggerated fashion, like two pantomime characters.
‘What are you doing?’ I hissed.
‘Trying not to alert the neighbour that we’re here,’ said my mother in hushed tones. ‘She’s a bit S.I.M.P.L.E.’
Max nodded sagely, in agreement.
As I’ve mentioned before, the number of simple people my mother encounters on a weekly basis is disproportionately high.
‘What do you mean?’ I whispered back.
‘She not quite all there,’ said my mother, reciting another of her favourite phrases. ‘She keep asking me if I’m a farmer!”
Driving home from the bungalow, we hit rush hour traffic and I suddenly realised I was going to be late to meet my friend at Starbucks.
My mother foraged feverishly in her pocket. ‘Don’t worry,’ she cried triumphantly. ‘I’ve got my bus pass!’
‘Just drop us off here and they you can get to Stardrops!’ she continued, leaping out of the car.
‘Stardrops is what you use to clean the carpet with!’ I called out of the window. ‘It’s STARBUCKS!’
But she didn’t hear me; she was already marching purposefully in the direction of the bus stop, Max trotting obediently at her side.
With a free bus pass in her hand and an open road ahead, it was anybody’s guess where she might end up.