We are off to the hospital again and Mum is grumbling. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” she says and, keying into my anxieties, “I bet you can’t spare the time.” But this visit is important because we are supposed to be getting the results from scans conducted after the suspected mini-stroke. “I don’t mind,” I say. “Anyway, it’s our favourite doctor.” She cheers up at the prospect. “He came to visit me you know.”
I open Mum’s bag to check she has enough money. “Wow,” I say as I encounter an amazing stash of little packets. There are 14 salad creams, 11 tomato ketchups, three tartar sauces and six twists of sugar. Even for Mum this is an impressive haul.
My niece phones to say she has found Mum in a worrying state. Mum had been stumbling and tripped over. It’s possible she’s broken her ankle. I suggest taking her to minor injuries at the nearby hospital, but as soon as I’ve put the phone down I wonder if it could be a stroke. Minor injuries conclude the same and send her by ambulance to Kingston.
It’s chilly and getting dark when I arrive at my mother’s. Her door, as often, is “on the latch”, even though it was at least an hour ago that I rang to say I was on my way over. But she’s in good spirits and fusses over me a bit. “Why do they keep you so late?” she demands. “Don’t they think you’ve got a home to go to? I’ll get you a cup of tea.”
My mother has been summoned to a new department of the NHS. Orthotics is so new to me I don’t know what it is or why she’s been summoned. But it is obviously important. I’ve had to move the appointment twice and they swiftly pursue me with alternative dates. My guess is that it’s something to do with her knees, which have become increasingly creaky. She’s always shocked when they crack as she gets up and down. “Did you hear that!” she says indignantly. “My bones!”
I welcome the inquest into Diana’s death. Hopefully we’ll finally be able to tie up some still-dangling threads.
Most people I know affect a fashionable ennui around Diana these days. The line is that the mourning of Diana was mass hysteria, interest in her life unhealthy and, in particular, any interest in the details of her death the morbid obsessions of conspiracy theorists. In relation to the inquest in to her death, which opens today, the general line is what on earth more could we ever find out about a drunken car crash? So am I the only person left in the UK who thinks that an inquest into the death of Princess Diana, might, if done properly, actually be quite useful?
The moment of truth has come. How will my mother react to the new house? When I had first mentioned moving she had become extremely alarmed: “What do you want to move for? The only way anyone will get me out of my place is feet first.” Her agitation made me agitated. And during our period of exile, the five weeks between selling the old house and getting the new house, she’s been very confused. “How will I ever find you?” she said plaintively.
I arrive at my mother’s in the afternoon and find her sitting quietly. The television is off and there are a row of mugs along the windowsill. I take a sniff at one and it’s not tea. “I don’t know why I’m sitting here thinking about Auntie Annie,” she says, “but I’m just thinking it all over about when I was young. I’m really deep into it.” She’s sitting with one of those “Your Memories” albums, which she had been given several years ago.
My mother has been selected to be part of her council’s experiment with Telecare. All over the country, councils and private companies are pioneering the use of technologies to help vulnerable people remain in their own homes. The equipment includes sensors fitted near stoves to detect overheating, carbon monoxide detectors and alarm necklaces to mobilise help if my mother falls in her home. All these alarms are connected to the telephone through which wardens can first try to talk to Mum, then ring designated contacts.
A visit from social services overruns and it is already lunch time. My mother seems tired, and I guess she hasn’t had breakfast so I hurry to the shop. I avoid packaged sandwiches, worrying that if they were made up days before, they might make her ill, hunting instead for something healthy. But the choice is limited and unappetising. I settle for bread, hummus and some rather dodgy-looking guacamole.