You led me to some dark places, Mrs. Most of them between the pages of a book, admittedly but, and let’s not tiptoe around here, there was your addiction to Freddo chocolate frogs. Malteasers were good but I imagine they were like Methadone is to a Heroin addict.
I remember so many afternoons in your front room at the table in the bay window, scoffing Freddos and trying to come up with penetrating critiques of modern art featured in the supplements – whilst simultaneously wondering how pissed the artists were when they painted them. Your daughter, Boggy, would look up from the TV where she was watching DVDs of The Crystal Maze and say, ‘You two are foolish.’
One must never be ‘foolish’ or ‘showy’, and there must never, ever be any ‘slacking.’ These expressions that Boggy had slipped into your family’s vocabulary as she was growing up, you generously shared with me and they have become part of my vocabulary too. As has ‘Terribly heppy.’ According to you, women in old black and white British movies could go from utter desolation to carefree jollity (or terribly heppy) just by applying some vivid red lipstick. You swore blind that your mother was just such a woman. It was how you always remembered her , in my presence. It’s how I remember you – you were never without your lippy when we went out. Though it was rarely bright red.
When my other half was being a …., I lodged with you for six months and painted every wall in your flat in lieu of rent. When I was broke, and you had money, you lent me a grand – just like that. When I moved back to the south-west, you stayed firm to our friendship and when I confessed I’d hit hard times, you were there.
Oh, the times I sent you filthy texts about a certain vertically challenged, older chap of our acquaintance! You always replied in kind. Boggy would not only think us foolish but rude too. She laughed anyway. I think she’s also a bit rude.
The last email I have from you, dated 1st July, is short and to the point but the previous one on the 30th June is long and chatty. I’d been helping you with a project and you ended by telling me not to spend too long on it because ‘life’s too short.’
Ah Mrs, you went to bed three days later and you didn’t wake up. That was way too short a life.
You inspired loyalty and deep friendship in a lot of people – from the people you went to uni with to my sister, who met you in passing, once. And yet, according to you, you bumbled through life humming, ‘de de de dededede’ and wondering where your next Freddo was coming from.
You introduced me to Wallander and Daphne DuMaurier and your ancient coffee percolator that was older than we were. All those times we timed ourselves doing The Times crossword whilst the percolator gently burbled in the hearth. We were crap but we loved the challenge. Life was never boring as long as our minds were able to hop, skip and flip from subject to subject and laugh at the world’s expense while we were at it. You even tried to teach me punctuation! And who’s going to edit my magnum opus now? I haven’t even written it yet and already you’ve bailed?
I miss you. Who will I email with my daft meanderings now?
I am a confirmed atheist but right now my heart and mind are one in picturing you, riding behind ST F’s cat, Rufus and Betty on the tail of a comet singing, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. I hope that it’s true and I hope that as you roar across the galaxy you know there’s a corner of a west country heart that is forever yours.
Have fun, Mrs and be as foolish and showy as you like XXX