We don't have ceiling tiles otherwise I'd have been lying there working out the area in square feet, which always proves a problem when there are halves or quarter tiles involved. When I was an unruly teenager I spent many an early hour trying to work out the area of the ceiling tiles that dad had spent long hours sticking to the ceiling back in the 70s, but last night my ceiling was giving nothing away.
|Mum's living room...|
But it was not to be. Andy sent a text message aborting. He had a migraine. And with Phil not available all weekend it was down to me to motivate myself. I strongly considered not going out, but having aborted yesterday's ride due to an early Saturday morning commitment, I felt I had to get out there. The choice was simple: Tatsfield Bus Stop or mum's house. I opted for the latter and headed down West Hill towards the Upper Selsdon Road, hanging a left and riding the usual route, down Jarvis Road, across the Brighton Road, up the hill towards Pampisford Road, across the mini roundabout and then skirting around the housing estate with Purley Playing Fields on my left. I crossed the A23, cut left behind a few warehouses, emerged on the Stafford Road and then continued west towards mum's. I arrived around 0730hrs. The roads were deserted. There wasn't a soul around apart from a couple of people walking dogs.
The weather was fairly mild, but I was equipped for the cold and was wearing my green balaclava and beanie hat. I hate that phrase, 'beanie hat'. My hatred – although that's miles too strong a word – dates back to a woman from Norwich called Lindy who is probably dead now – she was a heroin addict. I have distant memories of her talking about a beanie hat in a strong Norfolk accent in a house in Thorp Road, Norwich, many years ago. In fact, my memory deceives me as she referred to the beanie hat as a 'Benny hat' after the famous Crossroads soap star of the time (the actor Paul Henry).
Mum answered the door and offered me breakfast, but I declined having already eaten Weetabix and toast – albeit at 0500hrs – but I did have a banana and opened up my own flask to make tea. Why waste perfectly decent hot water? I also opened a sachet of Duchy Original Organic tea, which I don't think is THAT good, but others like it so who am I to argue? It comes in boxes of 25 tagged teabags and I just know that we'll run-out in the middle of the week. Still, there you have it. In fact, talking about tea reminds me that there might be a digestive biscuit in the cupboard back home, but even if there is one, I shouldn't be considering it. And besides, where biscuits and chocolate and cake are concerned, I was at mum's. I could indulge at any time!
"I thought you were Jon," said mum.
"Does he come round early?" I asked.
"Sometimes, yes," she said, as I took my seat at the round pine table in what we've always referred to as 'the new room'. It's not new at all, it's been there for years and years.
Mum made her breakfast. Special K, sliced banana, sliced and peeled orange, but no milk, and sat there crunching away as I made short work of the banana.
We talked about all sorts of things, one subject being babies. Mum likes to talk about babies.
"You and Jon were very easy babies," she said, having swapped seats.
"What about Criss?" I enquired.
"Oh, no, she was difficult," said mum, referring to the birth.
"I wanted to have all my babies close together," she said, explaining how she once had three children under three on her hands.
"I remember when I brought Jon home. You and Criss were in the front room and Jon had toys for you both under his shawl," said mum with a smile.
"That was my first ever memory," I told her. Jon had brought me a toy train, a steam locomotive. I was three years old.
It's Jon's birthday next week on 1st March. At the moment he's four years my junior but on Tuesday it narrows down to three years. I'm the oldest.
"How old is Jon?" asked mum.
"Fifty five," I said.
"I got married in 1955."
"And three years later I came along."
We laughed at the thought.
"You were a very good baby," mum told me and I smiled. There was a moment of silence.
"Women have babies much later these days," I said, but mum had moved on to discuss her 'courting' days and how she and dad both worked in Croydon at one point.
"He used to come into Kennards to buy a tie – it was just an excuse to see me," said mum, warming to the memory. "He had quite a few ties," she added with a giggle.
Mum recently had a cataract removed from her left eye and will be going back soon to have the other one done. Like most things, she took it in her stride. It all went smoothly and now she simply has to put drops in for a while. She claims she can now read 'her book' without the need for glasses, which is good news. We talked for a bit about the pills she is taking, nothing too major, and moved on to the health benefits of cider vinegar. "It unclogs the arteries," she said. "Get some, Math."
My mum calls me 'Math' and so did my dad. Oddly I was never any good at maths.
"I used to take a lot of vitamins: zinc, selenium and cod liver oil with multi-vitamins," I said.
"Well, that's good, Math; you should get some more."
"I might," I said.
I haven't taken any vitamins for about three or four years and I can't say I feel any different. That said, I used to feel so alive whereas these days I'm always a little weary. Perhaps I'll start taking them again and see if I perk up.
"Can I use the facilities?" I asked mum. The 'facilities' being the bathroom. I didn't need to ask.
When I reached the bathroom, which has changed since I last lived there, I was reminded of my adolescent years when regular visits to this space were often accompanied by many a Skipper's Tablecloth. Looking at the airing cupboard door, which has remained in the same place, I wondered whether my copy of Susan Strong's Exclusive was still wedged behind the lagged copper cylinder. I wonder, I thought, rubbing my stubbly chin with cosy apprehension. But of course it wasn't there and I didn't bother looking, although the thought of finding it was quite funny. I might well have knocked one out just for the sheer fucky offiness of it.
"What are your plans for the day?" she asked.
"Er, not sure," I said. I always say that because in truth we don't often do a great deal. "Might take a drive later on." And we did, to Westerham.
"Where's that place you used to go to. Petersham?"
"You mean Petworth?"
"Yes, that's it, Petworth."
"We went there a few weeks ago. You'd like it, lots of antique shops," I said.
"Sounds lovely," she replied.
There was a moment's silence, which was broken by yours truly.
"Right, well, I'd better be going," I said, looking at the clock on the wall and then standing up and readying myself to leave.
For old time's sake, I rode down to the bottom of the cul-de-sac where my old pals Nigel and Tim used to live and then, as I rode past mum's house I waved to her. The ride back was roughly the same as the ride out. The traffic had picked up slightly, but was still relatively sparse and soon I was home and ready to face the rest of the day.
* Sign in Warden Newton's office in the Shawshank Redemption.