Mother hasn’t been the same since the incident. The general manager of the supermarket tried his best to soften the blow but being stung up the soft fruit aisle, as she bagged a dozen ripe plums, by a wasp, on her birthday, was no laughing matter and the offering of a basket of granny smiths, a box of four French fancies and a bottle of Blue Nun just wasn’t going to take the sting out of Mother’s suffering.
She wasn’t an easy woman at the best of times. She was always destined to be on the stage but a chance meeting with a Welsh slate miner at a holiday camp in 1967 had put paid to all that. That’s around the time I came along. Grandma used to say that Mother should have won awards for her performances unlike Aunty Cathy who was much more practical and caring, well she had been a girl guide and worked for a short while at the Red Cross tea bar in the accident and emergency department at the local hospital but was asked to leave when discovered feeding the rats left over scones at the waste disposal unit.
Since the incident, Mother had isolated herself in her bedroom and given strict instructions that she was to be left alone until the swelling had gone down. I’d offered to telephone for Dr McDonald but mother had forbidden it and indicated she’d be better left alone to suffer in silence. She did however issue detailed instructions on meals, tea breaks and household duties in addition to a list of programmes to record as they clashed with Loose Women and Deal or no Deal. NOT THAT I CAN EAT MUCH IN MY STATE, she declared in big bold pencil capitals on the notepad left by the side of her bed.
I’d discussed it with Aunty Cathy and we decided that if Mother hadn’t emerged by Friday’s episode of Coronation Street, I’d phone the National Health Service help line and seek advice. Ever since Uncle Barry’s restless legs kurfuffle and the advice given by a lovely nurse from the Philippines called Kylie, Aunty Cathy now swore by them and used to say they were like angels with telephones.
Aunty Cathy and I were just about to take a bite out of an egg and beetroot sandwich when we heard Mother emerging from her bedroom. “Are you all right Mother?” I enquired.
“ I’m off into town and I doubt I’ll be back before Home and Away so be a love and set the recorder if you will?” Mother muffled as she hurried towards the front door.
Aunty Cathy and I were gob-smacked. The sight of Mother dressed in her best camel-hair coat and court shoes, dark glasses and a scarf obscuring everything but her shades was a shock to say the least.
“Is everything OK Mother, where are you off at this time of the day. There’s a bit of egg left but no beetroot if you want a bite before you go? There might be a bit of cress left”
“Life’s too short for egg and cress” she retorted as the door banged shut. I looked at Aunty Cathy and she looked back at me, both silenced, shocked and stunned by what we’d just seen.
“Aunty Cathy, there’s some tissues at the side of you” I gestured.
“ I’m not upset love, just a bit worried” she replied.
“No I’m not on about that; you’ve got a bit of egg mayonnaise on your chin”. Not a good luck especially since she didn’t depilate regularly.
We went over and over what had just happened and both came to the conclusion that letting Mother play out the drama was the best course of action to take but if she wasn’t home by the six ‘o’ clock news, we’d ring Uncle Barry to drive up and down in the car near the bus station to see if he could spot her.
Aunty Cathy lit a candle and placed on the window sill and announced “It’ll guide her home safely”.
Worried by Mother’s initial trauma, her self-imposed isolation and her sudden Hollywood style exit, Aunty Cathy and I spoke with Uncle Barry who very kindly offered to set-off and trawl the streets near the bus station.
Hugh Edwards was just about to read the closing news item when Mother barged through the front door laden with a whole array of carrier bags and parcels.
“Where on earth have you been Mother?
Mother muttered something inaudible as she swept past, threw her keys on the hall table and promptly hurried upstairs and locked herself in her bedroom.
Feeling a bit shell-shocked by the whole affair, Aunty Cathy poured herself eggnog and I a small glass of whisky and we watched a repeat of supermarket sweep on channel 666. Dale Winton was always easy to listen to when things got a bit fraught.
Well no sooner had it finished when Mother emerged from her room and was heard coming down the stairs. Well you’ve never seen anything like it.
Mother shimmied into the room. Decked out in sparkly copper coloured stilettos, an emerald-green satin cocktail dress, unintentionally heaving bosoms (the dress was a touch on the tight side), bright red trout pout lips, a new strawberry blonde hairpiece and an attitude to rival Madonna’s.
Aunty Cathy froze just as she was drinking the final dregs of her eggnog which wasn’t a pretty sight, head tilted backwards and eggnog trickling slowly down her cheeks.
“Mother” I exclaimed, “what on earth is going on, you’ve not mixed your pills up again have you?”
“Pills love? Who needs pills when there’s a lot of catching up to do?” she proclaimed. “I was sat upstairs feeling sorry for myself watching Lorraine Kelly doing a slot on the power of positive thinking. I went to the dressing table to get a mint imperial and saw what that darned wasp had done. Talk about lips, I haven’t had lips like this since 1968. Blessing in disguise I tell you. Anyway, I can’t stop, there’s a Salsa night down at the community centre, it’s my Birthday and I’m certainly ready to put some sauce in that salsa“.
Looking back, it all turned out OK in the end. Mother went on to have Botox and lip fillers on a regular basis. She ended up joining a silver surfers club and met an ex-Polish submarine captain called Dimitry. They are both travelling around Europe in a Mercedes camper van with a little Shiatsu called Poppy. Mother sent a card saying they’d had a great crossing on the ferry but Dimitry had been sea-sick and took to his bunk. Currently in Alicante and looking forward to the Hotel’s Zumba classes, they were thinking about heading off to Morocco next as Dimitry had always wanted to ride on a Camel. Aunty Cathy is fine now. She has to wear a neck brace from time to time and never mentions Mother much these days. Uncle Bill eventually got bail after he was arrested for Kerb crawling that night he went looking for Mother. Having an axe and a carrier bag full of bones for the dog on the back seat didn’t help. He was found not guilty at the trial. Me? Well as for me, life, as they say, goes on….