The Long Goodbye – Part 1

Up in smoke

The miracle that is you, is down to your mum.  She carries you through thin, then thick, for nine and a bit months and then has to go through hard labour and literally bring you into this world. Sorry Dads, you do run a close second, but your input at this stage has so far been very brief indeed!  My mum was the best mum in the world. Perfect? YES! Flawed? Sure. Low self-esteem, insecure and increasingly agoraphobic. Smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish (sometimes). I used to tease her that I never made it to 6’ tall due to her smoking. She would close her eyes, shake her head and cringe. But I can see her now. As soon as I came home in the afternoon from school, and later college, I would sit down for my main hot (re-heated) meal of the day. (The rest of the family ate theirs at lunchtime). As soon as I was tucking in she would sit down across the kitchen table with a Marlboro permanently on the go throughout the meal, catching up with my day. I guess growing up in a smoker’s home you just get used to the smell; impervious to the dangers of the air you are breathing in day after night after day. The thought of putting your own children in that kind of chemical warzone today seems impossible to most of us, but back then it was quite normal. Even more so in the 50s where in photos she looks impossibly glamorous, all dressed up for a night on the town with a cigarette held aloft. Hers was a generation where “nearly everyone” smoked and it was almost inevitable that I would also eventually take up the habit as had my sister before me. A habit that in my case would take 30 years to break…..  Anyway, back to my mum. We were very close and even when I left home at 19 we would be in very regular contact. I first went to live in France for 6 months. Mum was so worried about this that after not sleeping for what must have been 4 weeks, my dad ended up driving her the 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) to Rheims just to make sure all was well, which of course it was. Two days later they set out on the 2,000 kilometre return journey….

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