Saturday, 1 February 2014

10--Mother

As the Rolling Stones released their new album and the Beatles toured America, I played kick-the-can, cricket, football and got up to a multitude of mischief with my neighbourhood friends. I was as happy as a 7-year-old boy can get, roaming free through the gardens and fields of my domain. No computer games back then, no nothing really. Just some sticks that magically became swords and some pieces of wood and cardboard that could be leaned into a tree and fashioned into a den. I remember still the names and faces of my compadres from that time.

My father had been a professional footballer of some note and my mum and dad were a glamorous couple in their heyday. I have photographs of  him being carried shoulder-high by hundreds of  fans round the city square of Dundee on their wedding day. The provincial Posh and Becks of their time. We lived in a decent-sized house with my older sister and for a time, my grandfather, my mum's dad. I believe my dad eventually asked him to leave as he didn't like the dynamics. I remember being pretty upset to see him go. My mum didn't seem to be the happiest person though, and tutted at me a lot; she always seemed to have a headache and there were usually a lot of Askit Powders lying around. I guess she suffered from migraine. However, I was a mummy's boy for sure and sometimes while watching TV we would take it in turns to tickle each others' feet.

So, one sunny lunch-time that summer I was out playing with pals when I coincidentally bumped into my mum. I'm a bit hazy about where exactly that was but she must have been at lunch break from her work as a secretary. I took the opportunity to excitedly ask her for some money for sweets. She tutted and made a bit of a fuss but handed over a threepeny bit, or thruppence as older readers will know. My friends and I scampered off eager to spend our fortune. I had no reason to think anything was wrong. I doubt I'd have recognised the signs at that age even if there were any.

Clearly, something was very, very wrong because I never saw her again.


Well, not until my 17th birthday, 10 years later.

I didn't know she'd gone right away of course. When I asked where she was my dad would make excuses and say she was with friends or on holiday. I guess he was holding off telling me the truth in case he somehow managed to persuade her to come back. Well that didn't happen and after some weeks he eventually sat me down and told me she had left us. It transpired she and her boss had stolen the office car and abandoned it a few days later in Glasgow. I worried if maybe I'd asked her once too often for money for sweets. I cried for my mum and my dad cuddled me. I don't remember him cuddling me before or since.

Some weeks later my dad took me and not my sister to a tenement block in Glasgow. I was told to wait in the car. He didn't explain what was happening but I knew. I was there as bait to lure my mum. It didn't work. I sat for an anxious eternity until my dad exited the close visually upset but empty-handed. We drove home in silence.

My mum had been a Sunday-School teacher and I'd been forced to go along every Sunday morning to be indoctrinated so every night after getting into my pyjamas, I would go down on my knees at the side of my bed, eyes tightly closed and hands clasped in prayer and asked God to bring my mother back to the family. I don't know how long I continued with this ritual, but I think years passed before I gave up.

Now I said I didn't see her for 10 years. That's not strictly true. Around 3 years after my mum had left I was in the backseat of a car driven by a friend of the family. I guess he had business in Aberdeen and took me along for the ride. We were driving along one of the main streets of Aberdeen when the unmistakable figure of my mum appeared, hurrying along the pavement in the same direction as we were going. She pushed back her glasses up her nose in a gesture I'd seen a thousand times before and recognised instantly. I screamed at the driver "That's my mum, stop the car I need to see her." I banged on the window, I slapped frantically at the window with the palms of my hands and shouted after my mum. The car speeded up.

Cut to the lady on the pavement rushing along as she does every day, trying to get lunch and back to the office in time for another dreary afternoon of typing, what tales she could tell in this innocent age, this age yet to experience footballers and wags, infidelity and divorce, these things were confined to film stars, not ordinary people. Did she think of me and my sister often? Ever? Now she was oblivious to the hysterics of her own little boy in the back of a car, only ten feet from her, desperately but vainly trying to get her attention above the hustle and bustle of the city streets, his silent screaming behind misted glass slipped away, ever more faint until enveloped entirely by the teeming metropolis.

I watched for a long while after she had disappeared into the throng. Then I defeatedly slumped back into my seat; but I didn't cry. My wall was already thick and high.

My crying days were over for a very long time.

And so, in the same weekend as I met my future wife Liza, my mum and I were reunited. You can imagine my confusion. It was the weekend of my 17th birthday and my friend Ally and I took a anxious and almost silent train journey to Aberdeen to meet her. I was terrified.

As I stepped off the train at Aberdeen station I must have presented a ridiculous sight, I had a wine-coloured braided jacket, flares and purple platform shoes. My hair was halfway down my back. Well I was a hippy and it was the 70's. My mum's first words to me after 10 years was "Why are you limping?" I wasn't limping, I have a natural bounce and coupled with the platform shoes I suppose I walked awkwardly.

God works in mysterious ways it's said. After 10 years the prayers of a lonely little boy were eventually heard and answered. Mother and son reunited at last.

It's a pity it was just too late.

You were too fucking late God.




















3 comments:

  1. I sat down (after our meeting this morning) intending to read one part of this for now, and follow it up later.

    I've read it all.

    Firstly, I suppose, because it is beautifully written... incredibly beautifully written. You should write more. And secondly, because the subject matter is so compelling, interesting, informative and for me… completely new.

    You think you know someone, as they say... and we worked together for years and studied together too and a bit of socialising with Kenny, Véronique and some others. But I knew nothing about you really, nor you about me. It's the way of things, and I suspect that most of the people I’ve known in my life are the same.

    Maybe I know you a bit better now.

    You wrote somewhere that someone said, ‘we all do things that are wrong...but most of us don’t get caught’. True. Show me someone who says he hasn't broken the law and I'll show you a liar. I can’t comment on your moment of madness, except to say that anyone could have done it. Me, or anyone else I know. And that’s an end to it.

    But there is so much here ...so many things that you've said that I agree with.

    You probably know that I spent 15 years working with people from "quartiers déshérités", and I have seen so much that could, with some care, some love and some money, be ...if not put right... then at least repaired a little to make people's lives a bit better.

    You description of how you and your fellow "cons" were treated is at least in part the reason for the recidivism. And I like your vision of finding some way to merge the punishment with some sort of experience that puts something into their lives.

    You’re right of course. The Daily Mail, Sun, Express and for that matter the Courier, would be appalled if we spent some money trying to improve the lot of people who have the shittiest of deals in their lives. Never mind that it might very well work, and not only make their lives better, but also the lives of their potential victims. They would surely rant at length on how more money is spent on criminals than on OAPs (a group they fail to champion at any other time).

    It would be interesting to discuss these things.

    Are you going to write more?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dave, thanks so much for your kind comments. I do want to write more, I have, actually, written more but it's just not hitting the spot for me now. I've come through the worst of times and now I'm out the other end I seem to have lost my zing. I do mean to carry on, I just don't know when.

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    2. Fair enough, Larry... It has done what it was meant to do, and that is good.

      But your style is very readable, witty and engaging, despite the blackness of the subject matter and you clearly feel strongly about social justice, and if the impetus of your own misery has, at least to a certain extent, gone (and heaven knows, that's for the good) maybe your passion for that would drive your writing...

      It's all down to how you feel. You can't force that kind of thing.

      Bonne chance

      Amicalement

      D

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