It was nine years ago today that my mother died and, looking at my watch, it was probably at about this time of the day that she died although it was many hours before I was told because she wasn't found for a few hours and then it had been difficult to track me down. It seems odd that it was only nine years and not everyone had a mobile phone within arm's reach and could be contacted immediately. Do you remember the announcements that occasionally used to be played on Radio 4 going something like – 'would a Mr and Mrs Smith who are believed to be travelling in Dorset please contact Mrs Smith's brother as a matter of urgency'.? You knew it wouldn't be because their brother wanted to say 'happy birthday – surprise'. J and I were staying with friends in London and should have been travelling to France the following morning but because of a chain of coincidences involving friends staying in our house and me leaving my address book in my house I was able to be contacted. I've always been very grateful for that and grateful that my friend broke the news to J. He said that it's the hardest thing he has ever had to do – that moment of having to tell me that my mother had died.
It's a beautiful sunny day here today and it's that time of year that my mum would have really enjoyed and she'd have irritated me greatly by going on and on about the view I have of the trees and how their colours are so beautiful and how I'm so lucky to have the woods behind the house and still be so close to the town. I'm not really sad for myself anymore, certainly not in a grieving type of way, although I am sad that she isn't here to enjoy the day. I can remember the times when she drove me nuts and her deeply annoying ways and I can also remember her kindnesses and how generous she could be with her time and her patience.
My mother was 71 years old when she died and she had grey hair which she had washed and set once a week. She dressed quite smartly, mostly in trousers that she would call slacks and in summer she wore nice blouses and in winter smart sweaters. Her make-up was face powder and bright lipstick and she had lots of Yardley colognes. She looked very much like any other 71 year-old lady but I think she was just that little bit different. One memory I have is of being at her house with J, some time after my father had had a series of strokes. J and I were in the kitchen washing up and we heard my mother asking my father if he was ready for his cannabis cigarette. We dived into the sitting room to see my mum rolling a small joint for my dad and she explained that she'd got a hold of some cannabis because she'd read an article about how it helped people who had post-stroke muscle spasms. I questioned my mother about where she had got it from and she told me of a family who were 'well known to the police' and that their son was scoring the dope for my mum. Evidently he delivered it to the house for her and refused to take any money. J advised her to be careful that she didn't get into trouble and she was most indignant and told him that if the police dared to interfere she'd fight the courts all the way. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, the cannabis experiment wasn't a success for dad so we didn't have mum and her dealer appearing on a charge together.