- Maureen won't be able to go to Janet and Ken's for Christmas. She's having a tube fitted.
- Doris didn't send a card this year. I wonder if the ulcer's come back. Her cat died last year.
- Irene wants to come for tea, but she can't swallow any more. I'll make a milk jelly.
- He was about your age and he just dropped dead. Nobody expected it. He was coloured.
- Vera was going to go back to Florida to die, but they don't have a Tesco there.
- I've told Jean that I'm diabetic. She says that I can have Rich Tea biscuits.
- That woman in the hairdresser who has a funny friendship with Lynn - she's been very ill.
- Norman has a pacemaker, but it's not working. He collapsed during Strictly.
I thought I'd heard all of my mother's anecdotes about the War, but the other day she told me a new one.
It was 1940 and my mother was reaching the end of a piano lesson. Her teacher had just rapped her on the knuckles for making a mistake when suddenly, an air raid siren sounded.
"You need to leave now. I have another girl waiting in the hall."
"But my mum says I have to stay where I am when a raid's on."
"No! You must go home now. Come along."
As the front door of the piano teacher's house slammed shut, the bombs started to fall and my mother ran through the streets, weeping. Behind her, a terraced house took a direct hit, creating a sudden gap in the neat, Victorian row. My mother ran on, wondering if she would ever reach home. She never had another piano lesson after that incident.
I often ask my mother to repeat the same stories about her childhood, so that I can remember them well enough to pass them on. They are nearly always interesting, even when the subject matter is mundane, simply because they are eye witness accounts of a period that is long gone. I also enjoy the obsolete slang and the way that most of my mother's sentences begin with "Any rate..."
One of the most magical things I saw recently was a clip posted by a Facebook friend, featuring two Devonshire women of my mother's age:
This generation, made up of people whose formative years were in a world without television, won't be around for much longer. Their memories of horse-drawn carts, Sunday best and mangles will disappear into the ether unless we talk to them now. Even if I am losing the will to live tomorrow, assailed by gloomy tales of gammy legs and failing pacemakers, I will remember to be grateful that my mother is still here. I'll miss her when she's gone.
P.S. - Christmas Day was a success. The issue of Vera's leg was never raised and the only revelation from my mother concerned the entertainer, Anita Harris (link provided for those who have never heard of her):
"My brother was obsessed with Anita Harris. If she ever appeared on the telly, he'd be in a bad mood for the rest of the day."