Next week it will be 29 years since I lost my Mum. Actually, I hate that phrase. It sounds like I lost her in John Lewis and never found her again. She lost me once, at Brent Cross shopping centre. She told me to ‘stay there’ sitting on the fountain ledge outside M&S. So, of course I wandered off. A little girl found me and took me to the information booth where they made an announcement over the tannoy system. My mum bought the little girl an ice cream to say thank you for finding me. I howled and sobbed all the way home because I wanted an ice cream!
29 years is a very long time. It’s a lifetime really. I have a bit of a problem piecing large chunks of time together in my memory. I’m not sure if that is something that has happened as a result of things that have happened in my life. Or perhaps that is just what I’m like. I’d love to know if anyone else out there has a problem remembering stuff and putting it all in the right order.
But occasionally something will bubble up to the surface and explode in my head and it’s like I’m watching a silent, technicolour movie.
It’s the FA Cup final this weekend. I’m not really interested in the outcome this time – Crystal Palace v Man Utd – May the best team win and all that, just so long as it’s not Man Utd. No, only joking!
Strangely though, The FA cup final is one event that always brings back a strong memory of my Mum. The technicolour film plays out in my head. She is of indeterminate age in these memories – she’s a mummy age, which now I realise, is rather young. She was in her mid 30s – hard to compute now. I can’t really relate to her as a woman of a definite age, as she is just a mummy to me, the way my kids see me now I imagine.
I grew up in a suburb of North London called Stanmore, right at the end of the Jubilee line, 4 stops from Wembley. When there was a big match, people would often park down our road and get the tube from Stanmore. It annoyed the pants off my Dad. You know the stuff that annoys me now if I’m being honest – driveway being blocked, people dropping litter everywhere, someone peed in our front garden once! But my Mum, she just took it in her stride. Her attitude was very much one of, hey, it happens rarely, just ignore it for a few hours and they’ll be gone. Basically, suck it up!
So, I’m hazy on the year and the teams involved – it was probably early 80’s, and therefore some combination of Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton. You choose. There was definitely a blue team!
It was a warm, sunny day. My Mum was outside doing some gardening (she loved gardening). All the cars had parked and people had gone off to the pubs for the build up before the game. About an hour later, a lonely figure in a blue and white t-shirt came weaving slightly unevenly back up our road. He looked incredibly dejected and a little the worse for wear. I’m not sure if he had a ticket for the football, maybe he’d lost it, or maybe he had been in the pub too long and had got to the stadium too late to get in. But, for whatever reason, he had not made it to the match.
My Mum took pity on him. On that May afternoon, this disheveled football supporter lay on the grass verge outside our house in the sunshine, listening to the game on my Mum’s radio. I have a feeling she made him a mug of tea and a sandwich too, but this might be me romanticising the memory a bit (allow me a bit of artistic license here, it’s my way of saying she was a bit of a dude really).
She was a country girl who grew up in a one-horse town in rural Denmark. It would seem that she did not listen to the cynical and dis-trustful voice in her head, the one that so many of us (me included) cultivate over the years. On that particular day, she was not suspicious or scared. She just felt sad for this man who had travelled a long way and who had been so disappointed.
I don’t know if his team won. When the match finished, he got up, left the radio on the doorstep and went away. I’m guessing he waited for his lift, or perhaps he drove off (what was the legal alcohol limit back then?). I’m not even sure if he thanked my Mum. But that doesn’t really matter does it? She did something for this man that hopefully made the whole sorry experience a bit better. She touched this stranger’s life. That was her in a nutshell really.