Saturday, 5 September 2015

Over to mum's for tea, cake and a chat...

I'm sitting in the conservatory. It's 0636hrs and it's dark outside. Dark and raining. I can hear it. Lifting the blind reveals raindrops hitting the birdbath. It's now a case of sending an abort text to Andy. He's probably thinking the same thing. Perhaps if we leave it half an hour things might improve. The text sent, I await a response.

Winter is coming. I felt it this morning when I woke up. First it's that feeling of not wanting to get out of bed; then it's that cosy feeling of being in the house, it's early in the morning and there's time to sit and write the blog as everybody else is asleep. The early morning is a great time of day, even in the winter, possibly more so in the winter. But no, I'll take that back, the winter months are terrible, even the threat of Christmas and all it brings us – greed mainly, although not on my part, I hasten to add, but just watching it all unfold on the television and in the newspapers. Advertisements. Shopping days to Christmas. You soon realise that any true meaning the festive season might have enjoyed many, many years ago, has long since left the building and all we're left with is extreme commercialism and bad television.

It's 0645hrs and the rain has virtually stopped. Or so says my birdbath. It's not raining in Caterham so it looks as if a ride is on, even if it is gloomy outside.

Everything looked fine. I prepared the tea and headed to the garage to blow up my front tyre. Phil, who was en route to Hull for the weekend to see his daughter, dropped over to say 'respect is due' – it's a phrase we use if somebody hits the road in conditions that are beyond the call of duty (in this case it was the rain). It had started to drizzle, but nothing serious. Earlier, Andy had responded to my text suggesting a quick ride to Botley Hill, but things were about to change.

My mobile hummed. It was Andy. "It's raining over here now," he said. We aborted and I went back in to the house, but when I looked out the rain had stopped. We could have riden to Botley Hill or even the trusty Tatsfield bus stop, but instead we'd aborted. There was something wasteful about our decision. This could mean no cycling all weekend as I must attend a speeding course on Sunday morning. I was nicked by a speed camera near East Grinstead doing 36mph in a 30mph zone. I've got to pay £85, but if I attend the course I don't get any points on my licence. To be totally honest I don't care if they ban me, I only drive at weekends.

Tomorrow morning at 0745hrs I'll be registering at the Holiday Inn, Gibson Road, Sutton. Very annoying and, what's more, I now find that whenever I'm driving the car I no longer look at the road ahead of me – or behind; instead I look at the speedometer through the steering wheel to check I'm doing 30 mph or whatever the speed limit is supposed to be. One day I'll have an accident, somebody might get killed, but at least I won't get a fine or points or have to attend a course. Perhaps I'll have to serve time for causing death by dangerous driving, but I could always write a book about my time in jail.

Purley Way Playing Fields – I often wondered what they were called!
After wandering around the house – everybody else was still in bed asleep – I decided that I'd head over to mum's for tea and cake. The rain had stopped so off I went with a flask of hot water, a mug,  milk and the teabags still in my rucksack. I rode down West Hill, into Essenden Road, right on to Carlton Road and then across Pampisford Road heading towards Rockingham's garden centre, the industrial estate and eventually Wallington followed by Carshalton and mum's house. I rang the doorbell – the dulcet tones of Old MacDonald Had a Farm reminded me of an ice cream van. I peered through the frosted glass window of the front door and saw mum's shape making its way towards me.

As always, all was calm. One of the gas rings was on – why she does that I'll never know, but she always has; it's to warm things up a bit, she'll say, and who am I to argue? Tea is offered, but I reveal my flask and teabags that I hadn't bothered to take out of my rucksack earlier. Why waste perfectly decent hot water? Fruit cake was offered and I accepted, eventually having a second slice, and I also accepted a banana, which was still a little on the hard side, but I said nothing.

We sat and chatted. Mum's breakfast consisted of a Weetabix, a chopped orange and a sliced banana in a bowl with a Ryvita biscuit on the side and a cup of tea; mine was just tea and cake.

"My fence is finished, Math," she said. Mum and Dad have always called me 'Math' and not Matt.
"I'll have a look later," I said.
"And the crazy paving," she added.
"I'll look at that too," I said, munching into my fruit cake.
"What are you up to today?" asked Mum.
"Not sure yet, probably not much. I might cut the lawn," I said, realising immediately what a boring life I tend to lead.
"I must mow my lawn too," she said.
"It's too wet out there now," I added, not really in the mood for lawn mowing.
"Did you have your meeting in Dusseldorf?" she asked.
"Yes, I told you, that was last Wednesday," I replied.
"Is it nice there?"
"I love it. I went to my favourite Italian restaurant, but it was a whistle stop trip, I was only there for one night," I said, reaching for my phone to show her some pictures.
"What's that?"
"A telephone," I said referring to a photograph of a 'Diamond Geezer' skull that turned out to be a telephone. That's the only problem with 'boutique' hotels, they're often a little too quirky for their own good.
We went into the living room to check out the fence.
"They're going to build an extension next door," she said. "See that garage? It's all coming down."
The 'garage' in question had been there for decades and should have been pulled down ages ago. It had always looked decidedly ropey, but mum's new neighbour has plans and they don't involve the old garage that I remember looking down upon from my bedroom window throughout my childhood.
"It's always been a bit of an eyesore, hasn't it?" I said. Mum agreed.
"I need to get out in the garden. I didn't want to do any gardening while the men were here," she said, referring to the people who fixed the fence. "Do you get worms?"
"In your lawn?"
"No, none at all, but we've got squirrels making plenty of holes," I said.

Mum with yours truly in the 'new room', Saturday 5th September 2015
I went back into the 'new room', which has been called that now for over 30 years.

"Have you still got the picture?" asked Mum as I sat down. "The one with all the colours? That was really good, you should frame it," she said.
"I think the school has it," I replied.
"Oh, you should get that back and put it in your living room," she said.
"We will," I said.
"I love that flask," said mum, changing the subject.
"I've had it for ages," I said, handling it like an antique vase. "There's no glass in it."
"It's really good, isn't it?
"Yes, I use it every week. Andy and I sit in the middle of nowhere drinking tea," I said.
Mum laughed.
"Is there milk in it?"
"No, just hot water. I've got teabags and milk in separate containers."
"Oh, you are funny," said mum as I put the flask back on the table.

I brought my own milk and tea...
Dotted around the house are a number of cheap electric alarm clocks from Ryness. There's one in the new room, one in the lounge and one upstairs on the window sill in the bathroom. There's probably one in my old bedroom too and they all have buttons that illuminate the dial in the dead of night.

"I sit on that chair and drink my tea in the morning," said Mum, pointing to a nicely upholstered chair. "You can have that one day," she added and I knew what she meant but decided to say nothing as she turns 86 in November. "I'm going to give Jon that trolley," she said, pointing towards a brassy trolley on casters that goes back many years and played a central role in mum's 'evenings' back in the seventies when she used to wear what we called her 'Twiglet' dress. It often carried cheese footballs, crisps and squares of cheese on cocktail sticks back in the days when 'uncle' Brian and 'auntie' Yvonne came round and we were hurried up to bed. They weren't really related to us, just neighbours, but they were great fun and we used to go on holiday with them and their son Tim. Happy days. I looked at the trolley and the memories came flooding back. I always remember how, the following morning, the trolley contained a few stale crisps and some cheese footballs and there was always the smell of stale cigarette smoke. Invariably uncle Brian, a Rizla salesman, had left his cigarette lighter behind, giving me, my brother and sister an opportunity to mess around with it until Dad discovered us and took it away.

It was time to go. I packed everything away, including a bottle of ale, and after briefly inspecting the crazy paving out front, I cycled down the road. My slow puncture – which I'd been pumping up for the last three or four weeks – was beginning to speed up, but I figured I'd get home on it. The rain had started again, but it was only drizzle and when I reached home I was still dry.

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