Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Return of the Roses

I don't listen to the radio much these days. I wait till Mother's out. She only leaves on pension days or if there's a funeral .

Anyway, here's what happened. I remember it like it was yesterday. Which it was. So, it's pension day and it's the usual rigmarole. Mother's found two reasons to leave the house at once. She's just heard Elsie Blenkinsop is being cremated at St Anne's Friday week. The hallway smells of Mr Sheen and the disability scooter is gleaming.

"Who's Elsie Blenkinsop?" I asked.

"You know Elsie. She lives with her daughter Karen in Rossiter Street. She wears a cagoul all weathers and plays the triangle in the Salvation Army outside Cancer Research."

Still none the wiser. I'm more of a YMCA man myself.

"They're cremating her at St Anne's. I need a new hat. If there's not one in town, I might get the train to Leeds."

I said, 'Leeds. Mother, you've not set foot in Leeds since Dad bought that Millenium Bug book in Waterstones there’

£14.99 it was. My father thought his toaster and microwave would both retire at the century's end. Mother made him take it back. She made quite the scene. I hadn't heard language like that in a shop in all my life. Well, not since Betty Wombwell's colostomy bag had exploded all over the pic and mix in Woolworths.

She said, 'It’s fine. I'll be alright. Maureen Hepplewhite from the Bingo. You know her. I'm meeting her outside TK Maxx. I won't venture into Leeds alone.’

I said, 'Well if Maureen Hepplewhite's going you better zip up your pockets." Maureen had taken to shoplifting like a duck to water since her husband had died plane spotting in Filey.

I kissed Mother on the cheek, as she settled herself down into what I secretly referred to as The Chariot.

A day to myself, how should I spend it? I switched on the radio, the digital one by the condiment rack. I selected 6Music, a little blast of excitement might inspire me. They'd just played a record by the Kaiser Chiefs, whose singer I'd once swam against in a schools gala near Hunslet, when it was announced that this evening there would be an exclusive play of the first Stone Roses single in 22 years.

A modest Proustian rush. 19. Just sacked from the local tailors for poor tie keeping. On my way home I bumped into Michael Simmonite and his sister Paula. Twins. They'd both gone to university that summer. He was doing Geography in Lancaster and she was doing everyone in the UEA.  They were wearing tie dye tshirts and flared jeans. They looked ridiculous.

Anyway, they were keen to tell me all about "uni" and we went to the nearest pub for a pint and a ham roll. It was only half one. I felt decadent. It didnt suit me. Anyway, Paula goes over to the jukebox and puts some money on. First song crackles through The Dusty Farmboy's rickety speakers.

The song was "One Love" by the Stone Roses. I didn't care much for music, I'd been exposed to Showaddywaddy as a young boy and presumed it to be punk rock. Which, to all extents and purposes, I suppose it was. Anyway, what with an undigested ham roll in my system and the best part of a half of mild in me, I got quite carried away and started tapping my foot. One thing led to another and five pints later, I was, well I won't say violated. But there was a distinct lack of consent on my part and Paula was a big girl. She threw shot for West Riding and there had been talk of an appearance on Look North.

Anyway, the years pass and all I have to show for a record collection is a car boot purchase of the best of the Stone Roses. Mother never liked music and she took Dad's Mantovanis to the Harelip Relief shop.

The day passes without incident, Mother was out looking for a hat, and I spent several hours failing to add an extra hole to my brown belt. Suddenly there's a commotion. The doorbell rings and it's Mother, she can't find her key and her face could pass for a strawberry compote.

"What's happened?"

"I tell you what's happened, I have just spent three hours and forty minutes in the police station in Leeds."

"What? Were you mugged?"

"No, but that Maureen Hepplewhite should be strung up. She's only stolen the charity dog off the PDSA counter. Stuffed it in my rear basket."

I felt a shiver.

"I'll put the kettle on, Mother."

As I retreated to the safety of the kitchen I could hear my mother shouting out down the centuries - "Your father's working late", "Your nan's died", "Your tea's gone cold", "The police let her off with a caution." I reached for the tea caddy and spooned three large heaps into the pot. My mother doesn't like tea bags, says they remind her of nappies. The tea caddy's got a picture of Napoli on it for reasons I've never fathomed. Nearest my mother's got to the Bay of Naples was when she won a year's supply of Dolmio in Take A Break.

I switch the radio on and, as luck would have it, the DJ announces the Stone Roses new record is coming on. I fetch Mother's cup from the draining board and a packet of Rich Tea from the cupboard. The music starts and I'm about to lose myself in another slice of what could have been when the moment is broken by Mother's arrival at the serving hatch.

"Turn this shit off Alan."

"Yes, mother."