I am reliably informed that the wheels on the bus go round and round.
This may be true. I have heard it sung so many times now that the words are carved in solid full caps on my psyche. I can only assume the veracity of the lyric.
The wheels on the bus may act in accordance with the song but not on this baby, not on mum's wheelchair. This 'bus' has cause to groan even if the sun is shining, daffodils are thrusting their heads out of peaty soil and spring is in bloom. Mum sits huddled like a Bavarian bag-lady wrapped in insulated winter coat, hood pulled over head, scarf coiled about neck, woollen mittens clinging on in a white knuckle ride of terror as I steer the blessed contraption over the scenic course of the recently tarmacadamed pavement at minus three miles an hour
It is Saturday, the day I wheel dearest mama around to the local supermarket. It is one of those metro jobbies, you know, the sort set to serve the local community. I know not who the head of this, favoured by Jamie Oliver, chain is but they obviously have a keen sense of comedic irony. This very shop is where I worked when aged fourteen as a paper boy. Back then it was owned by a local chap who ran three shops out of the one building: a newsagent, a grocers and an off license. The big guys arrived late sixties, beat the locals prices forcing them into swift decline only to return years later with exactly the same thing we had forty years ago. That's progress for you!
"Can you go a bit slower son? I think I might fall out if we hit a bump and mind that vehicle."
Said vehicle is parked on the other side of the road so unless mum has an Aston Martin Bond button secreted about her wheelchair, one that has either ejector seat or flame fuelled jet pack, there are two hopes of my hitting anything...Bob and No.
I had a conversation with Thumbscrew recently. Eldest daughter doing fine having just been offered a job in Qatar working as Chief Clinical Cardiac Physiologist. "How much?" I ask being ever the pragmatist. (when the occasion suits). "£135,000," she replies. Blimey, not too shabby then. She wont do it though. Far too much of a home bird and besides, she and Ria want to have a family. (Me a granddad? Now there's a thought!)
How we got onto the subject of Thumbscrew's grandparents having sex is still a mystery.
"Imagine Grammy giving oral sex," says the oldest (relatively speaking) sibling of the brood snorting like a piglet . It is not a thing one often does, think of mum and dad at 'it.'. I mean, the idea of your parents 'doing it' is bad enough but imagining them engaged in fellatio or cunnilingus goes well beyond the pale. My head fills with an obscene image of mum giving dad a blowjob. My brain feels like Hiroshima after the bomb blast - blitzed, fried, eviscerated. People that age simply didn't do that sort of thing did they? If they did then did mum take her dentures out? Dad was always losing his, never remembering where he'd left them. One can only hazard a guess to where they may still be secreted...
We arrive at brightly decorated (orange is such a fetching colour) supermarket. I slam hand brakes on, remove said invalid nonogenarian from much complained about hard seat and assist her to waiting trolley.
The fun begins.
Walking round a supermarket is no longer what it once was. There is no pre-decided imperative, no focused drive to get the things required, in short no shopping list. This expedition, for such is what this is, resembles more a genteel stroll around an art gallery. Mum creaks at a begrudging snails pace of half a foot shuffled in front of the other umming and ahhing over the divine complexities, the incredible colours, the outstanding lines, shapes and contours of the frozen micro-wave meals before, several minutes later, turning her attention to the Daliesque (not forgetting the paranoid critical) packs of Kraft Cheese that sit opposite.
As she studies these wondrous works of pre-packaged objet d'art so I scuttle away collecting milk, beans, bread and all and anything else I can carry in order to get out of this bloody shop before my head implodes from boredom.
Cakes are of particular interest. "Such a variety," Mater enthuses, "We only ever had cake with currants. Your generation doesn't know how lucky it is. Chocolate? We didn't have none of that during the Blitz. We used to paint dog biscuits brown and make believe they were Belgian delicacies."
And so it goes. Finally, having studied various packets of frozen peas, some fish fingers and having been told for the umpteenth trillion time how my being a veggie was such a problem when I was eighteen, we arrive at the magazine/newspaper rack. Mum stands three feet away from periodicals staring mutely as though watching incest through a neighbours window. I pretend to read "Uncut," the music mag as my mind takes wilful flight.
Mum and I are in a queue. Behind us a host of people are waiting to pay. The supermarket has grown disproportionately in size - it has its own horizon with a phalanx of geese flying across its skyline. Mum is talking to the lady at the till. She slips a wad of notes into the woman's palm - a monkey, Mum smiles, her coat billows out at her back, a trolley rolls away, a small child suddenly grabs at her father's arm as her feet are blown from under her. A terrible smell assails the shoppers noses, one old lady passes out, the V shape of birds drop one by one from the sky. Mum is still smiling.
My reverie is cut short as from my peripheral vision I see an aging chap, about seventy I'd guess, push mum's cart roughly aside. Mum apologises which annoys me slightly but being the perpetual coward I say nothing. Said gent then shoulder barges me, leans in front of me and grabs a paper.
"I want to get there," he says eyeing me as though I am the sort of chap who delights in blocking another chaps passage. If there is one passage I'd rather not block it is his.
Feeling my anger grow I remain calm. "It's customary to say 'excuse me." I venture trying to be polite but pointed.
Old man bogey face growls at me, "Get outta my way," pushes past me and grabs another paper.
Now it is handbags at dawn and I am a mean bastard with a handbag. I tug at the paper-snatchers Daily Mail. He tugs back. Two grown men playing tug-o-war with a Fleet Street rag. I win and throw the paper, with as much contempt as I can possibly muster, to the floor. For histrionic displays of machismo I score five point two out of a possible ten.. Suddenly my feeling of having won a small victory is dashed. I am faced with a geriatric pogoing Mickey Rooney with fists raised circling me as though he were a wolverine (with yellowing teeth and dandruff - his cap having fallen off and flaky scalp revealed) and I a bemused Labrador.
Well, I can't hit an old man of seventy can I? Fortunately I don't have to. Two members of staff have watched the whole fiasco on camera. They lead elderly chap away. They later tell me it isn't the first time they have had trouble with him. Apparently he tried to attack a man with a can of soup. Campbell's of course.
I bet this never happens at the Tate.
I wonder if the UK laws on euthanasia will soon change?
Just a thought.
I wonder if the UK laws on euthanasia will soon change?
Just a thought.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.