Drinking and Driving is So Much Fun

Sunday, 15 March 2015

If you're a user of social networking sites like Facebook you would have seen it today.

Every single person who acknowledges being brought into the world through a woman's birth canal wishing their mother, aunt, gran, wife, neighbour and, in one case I saw, some Z-list celebrity, a happy Mothering Sunday.

I avoid such frippery, preferring to look on from afar with snooty, snobbish disdain. Mainly because much of it is just stomach-churning, chintzy nonsense.

But also because my old ma died 21 years ago.

I used to get a bit upset at this time of year because my mum, Val checked out shortly after Mother's Day 1994. But they say time's a healer and it's true that the feelings of loss and sadness fade as the years pass. She's never forgotten, of course but memories of seaside trips to Southend and fishing with a net for sticklebacks in Keston ponds kinda replace the reminiscence of that night 21 years ago.

I'd been to see my mum during the day. It was an 18 mile trip from my house in Surrey to my parents' gaff in Camberwell made easy by journeying on my motorbike. When I walked into the sitting room my brother, John followed in behind me.

Mum was lying on the sofa, her 54 year old body ravaged by chemotherapy and looking like she'd been the victim of a concentration camp. She never carried too much weight anyway...I remember as kids we'd sit down to a meal on Sunday and she'd have a bowl of Brussels sprouts because there wasn't enough to go round.

'Hello, David,' she said (I was always called by my birth name rather than the more common, Dave).

She looked at my brother John and said, 'Who's your friend? Tell him to sit down and go and make him a cup of tea.'

We knew then that things weren't looking good but the quacks reckoned we had another couple of months with her.

We spent a nice day together watching the telly and chatting, my other siblings popping in through the afternoon. When I left I made mum promise me that she'd drink this highly calorific meal replacement shake that she'd been prescribed.

'David,' she said. 'I promise that if I can take it I will.'

I left, jumped on my motorbike and fucked off home. No kiss for mum, no 'I love you', no nothing. We'd been raised to not indulge in such endearing behaviour...I can't recall ever being kissed by my dad in 48 years.

I got home and slammed into a bottle of Scotch. Mum hadn't even recognised my brother, there was no way she was gonna be here in a couple of months. As I sat in my chair pouring drink after drink I promised myself that next time I saw my mum I would kiss her and tell her I love her.

It was 02:30 when the landline next to my bed rang. I picked the receiver up and groggily croaked, 'Hello?'

'David, it's Dad,' came the reply. 'I think your mum's dead. She's lying next to me not moving. I don't know what to do.'

Immediately everything came into focus.

'Dad, what's her temperature like? Have you checked for a pulse?'

'She's cold, son. I don't know how to check her pulse...' then he started sobbing.

'I'm on my way, Dad,' I said and jumped out of bed.

I made my way toward the pile of clothes on the dressing table and stumbled, almost falling over. 'Shit!' I thought. 'That bottle of whisky has properly fucked me up.'

Never mind, it was 02:30 and adrenalin was driving me on. Clothes on, boots on, jacket and crash helmet on and I'm roaring through the streets on my motorbike heading into town.

I got as far as Clapham before a police car pulled up alongside me at the traffic lights that control the junction into Brixton.

I stared ahead, not looking at the car; a sure sign that the motorist in question is panicking. In my peripheral vision I saw the police car's passenger window open.

'Oi,' I heard. 'Look at me.'

I turned my head to see two uniformed coppers in their motor. The one in the passenger seat was young with an Elvis type quiff.

'Pull up the other side of these lights, son,' ordered Elvis.

I did as instructed and waited for the inevitable. There was absolutely no chance of passing a breath test and any romantic notion of outrunning the Old Bill in a haze of burning rubber and a flipped middle finger was dashed by my motorbike being registered to Yours Truly.

Elvis made his way toward me and instructed: 'Take your helmet off.'

I did as ordered and then decided to throw myself at the feet of human kindness and understanding.

'Listen, officer,' I said. 'My mum's just died and I need to get to her house. Do me a favour and let me go.'

I remember the following exchange like it was spoken yesterday.

'You're joking?'

'No, I'm not.'

'How far have you come and where are you going?'

'I left Ashtead about 30 minutes ago and I'm going to Camberwell.'

'Right, if you've got this far in your state I think you'll make it. Tuck in behind us and we'll take you there.'

Ten minutes later I was outside my mum's house shaking Elvis's hand.

'Next time you'll get nicked,' he said as he climbed back into the police car.

I climbed the steps to the first floor landing of the block of flats where my parents lived. I walked along the landing and knocked the door.

My old man answered and just said: 'She's upstairs.'

My youngest brother who still lived at home was sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea. As I made my way up the stairs I looked at him and saw his eyes red and raw.

For some ridiculous reason that I'm fucked if I understand now, I knocked on my mum's bedroom door.


I walked in.

Mum was lying there with her mouth agape. She was nothing more than a husk.

I knew she was dead.

'Mum,' I said. not expecting a response, although I've always been an unwavering optimist.



I left the room and closed the door.

Too fucking late to tell her I loved her.

Too fucking late to kiss her.

If you take one thing from this story let it be that you indulge in endearing behaviour...


I saw my mum two years later.

I'll explain......


Fiona Rennie said...

What can I say... I'm not going to try to find words, just sending you my love xx

Fiona Rennie said...

What can I say... I'm not going to try to find words, just sending you my love xx

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