Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Love, food and pants

My mum's bike. We took it to the funeral. 

This is what I said towards the end of my mum's funeral. I also read Dorothy Parker's Fulfillment at the beginning. I held it together pretty well, if I say so myself.

When I was little, I thought all towns were like Blackpool. I thought everyone had seaside and rollercoasters. I also thought everyone had a mum like mine. There was always love, there was always food, there were always pants. She was always there. It wasn’t really till I grew up that I realised how lucky I was, and how remarkable *she* was.

The love, food and pants were unconditional, but she did have a way of letting you know when you were pushing your luck. In my late 20s, I was on the verge of splitting up with the boyfriend I’d been with since Cambridge. I was worried my parents wouldn’t approve of this decision, and I was pretty confused about it myself. I came to Lytham for the weekend to get some space, and I was watching Trish hang out some washing when she said ‘so are you going to tell me what’s going on or not?’ Several hours later, she said hmm, do you know what I think? I said no, what do you think? She said ‘I think you should stop arsing him around and call Pickfords’.

Her advice, as ever, was sound, and eventually I did. Some time later, about 15 years ago now, I introduced her to Miles for the first time. Afterwards she said to me ‘oh, darling, those teeth.’ But then he turned up on the doorstep that Christmas with a giant jar of cashew nuts, and she began to see the point of him. It made me very happy that they got on so well, and he also now goes to the hygienist regularly.

Practical woman that she was, Trish most often came to stay with me when there was work to be done. When we moved to our house in Oxford she came to help clean the flat Sara and I were moving out of. I went to pick her up from the train station and she alighted carrying a Hoover and a bucket. I protested that as a fully grown woman I *had* a Hoover and a bucket, but the look she gave me made it clear that in the world of Hoovers and buckets, I knew nothing. When, ten years later, she came to help me paint the bedroom of that house in Oxford before we put it on the market, she brought her own overalls and brushes, and I didn’t say a word.

Over the years she taught me a lot of practical things -- how to unblock a toilet, how to prune a rose bush, how to split logs with an axe -- and bought me a lot of practical things as well: a dishwasher, a tumble dryer, a shed, a bicycle, another dishwasher. She was a big fan of dishwashers. When she bought me the first one, she said ‘if you’re going to live with a man, dear, you’re going to need one of these.’

One of the things I admired most about her was that she didn’t pretend to be a fan of things she wasn’t a fan of ... shall we visit an art gallery / cocktail bar / sushi restaurant? I’d say. No thank you, darling, she’d reply ... but there were things we both enjoyed, and things we all enjoyed as a family, and I have so many happy memories of time I spent with her. My first biryanis at the Bengal in Preston when I was little. Picking field mushrooms in Ireland when I was a bit bigger. Going for coffee together like grown ups do when I was a teenager. Smoking cigarettes together not very long after that. Being the only two people swimming before breakfast on holiday in Turkey. Walking a few miles of the South West Coast Path just a few years ago. We enjoyed that a lot, and we talked about doing more walking together in the Lakes once I’d moved north.

Sadly, that was not to be. But she was only very rarely a sentimental person, and again, I have a lot to learn from her here. A couple of years ago, as a thank you for helping me paint that bedroom, I took her to the Sanctuary, the women-only spa in Covent Garden. I thought, this is a meaningful thing to do with one’s mother. I decided to go for a naked swim in the famous Sanctuary pool. When I got in the water, she said ‘well, at least you won't sink with bazookas like those’.

I’m desperately sad that I’ve lost my mum, but I’m glad I did move north - it meant I got to spend a lot of time with her during her last year. And I’m desperately glad that I had the benefit of more than 43 years of her humour, warmth, courage, generosity, and common sense. In my drawer at home is the last pair of pants she ever folded for me. It will be a while before I can bear to wear them.

I owe lots of people messages. I'll get there. In the meantime, thanks for all the love, support, cards, messages and donations. They have all been hugely appreciated, I'm just, you know, a bit behind on my correspondence.




Blogger marieleadbetter said...

Jo, I've been meaning to say how sorry I am about your mum. Your writing is beautiful & paints a great picture of the woman she was and how much she meant to you. Sending a bear hug. Marie Xxx

11:15 pm  

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