‘A fire on them.’
‘I wouldn’t give him the snot out of my nose.’
Two choice phrases from my well educated mother. She got a scholarship to Raines’ girls school in the East End of London. I still have her gym slip and cloth badge. She was well clever my muvver, but like a lot of women of her generation she neither owned it or celebrated it.
She did crosswords easily, was fantastic at anagrams and had she known about ‘8 out of 10 cats do Countdown.’ she would have spent every night watching Jimmy Carr and his panel of witty wordsmiths.
I mention my mother because she would have been in the very high risk category. This year she would have been 99, not an unfeasible age, but she died aged 90 years and three months in a Jewish care home in Brighton. She’d asked me to give up work and look after her but it wasn’t an option. Well of course it was but I didn’t know it at the time.
I’d flown out to Ibiza to run a quiz show for Groucho’s, the actors club in Dean Street. ‘The Prince of Soho.’ Bernie Katz, had requested I officiated for him and what Bernie wants Bernie gets, well he did from me anyway. When Bernie died in 2017, the shock waves reverberated around Soho. Mourners came from far and wide. I still miss him hugely.
In 2012 I was on my way to Ibiza, “Look for a man in a vest.” said Bernie. I waited in the airport lounge, in the searing sunshine, eyeing up every geezer wearing a singlet. Talk abut listening to your intuition, I followed my heart, sauntered through the building and stopped dead. A young man wearing a red vest looked at me, I to him, and fuck my arse and call me Wendy if it wasn’t the very boy Bernie had sent. Bernie was not a man of many words, well he was a loud, shouty kind of bloke, but he never talked in sequence, not to my ears anyway. I intuited what he wanted and somehow we worked it out.
The Spanish boy drove us to a luxury village of pools and beds, tents and suites. He spoke no English, I had nula words of Spanish. But we made it. The drink flowed, the
highfalutin banter wafted up through the warm air plaiting with the fog of cigar and ganja smoke. I stayed up listening to the moneyed, titled and successful inmates. I fell into my huge bed at 3.00a.m. and was woken four hours later by the noisy clang of my mobile telephone.
The carer, looking after my mother, was sobbing on the end of the line. My mother had died, cup of coffee in hand, the carer had turned away – “for one second’ – when she turned back my mother had left the room to be with the mewing children she had spoken of hearing.
The moneyed, titled, successful inmates showed up. I was caught in a quandary what to do, I had never reneged on a professional assignment before. Bernie said ‘It’s your mother for God’s sake.’ So I accepted the generosity of the high born who pulled strings, arranged flights, paid for the singlet to drive me back to the airport, supplied cars to collect me from Heathrow, and organised my final train journey back to the cottage.
I don’t remember the journey, only that I made it back to Sussex without a hitch. It took me three days to organise the funeral. Somebody told me the portals open and there’s a sense of euphoria after a death. All I know is that everything fell into place, from the funeral director to the flowers. People came from all over to the little chapel. Lots of my friends who had grown up alongside her generosity , some relatives, poetry from my Irish poet, speeches from the extended family, boxes of sunflowers open for people to take and lay a bloom on top of her coffin. The old git made a slide show, the three daughters sung ‘April Showers.’ the number one hit of 1922 when she was born. Stevie Wonder sung her out and we cried a lot of tears, and then we all retired to ‘The Setting Sun’ pub in Hanover.
What she would have made of Myley Cyrus is anyones guess, but I can hear her calling out these Tory bastards. I can hear her shouting at the selfish swine who run the country for them not for her. I can hear her cursing them, crying for the young ones, I can hear her bemoaning the fact that she worked all her life for a fairer society and what have we got now.
‘A fire on them.’ She would have said. ‘This plague is the making of those greedy self entitled Schmocks.’
She would have railed at them and apologised to anybody younger than 35 who was living in such an uncertain world.
She’s been dead for eight years, her ashes scattered from behind ‘The Waltzer’ on Brighton Pier. Her chocolate teapot urn – courtesy of Paul Young superlative chocolatier – following her into the grey, cold sea.
Had she been buried she would, undoubtedly be turning in her grave at the duplicitous, careless opportunists who are running this country, she would still be writing her letters of complaint to any newspaper that would publish her. She would say how happy she was that she was at the end of her life as the world she was born into is being shredded like the end of a frayed Fair isle sweater.
Had she been alive now, and had she asked me to give up my job to look after her, I would say a resounding YES.
My mother would have been one of the vulnerable ones, she would not have walked round her garden 100 times as she wasn’t up to it. She would, however, encourage all of us to get out there and make a noise, to fight and to silence the mad idiots. As for the likes of Trump she wouldn’t have given him the snot out of her nose.
‘A fire on them.’