Tuesday, 13 May 2008

My mum's bench

It was my mother, the writer, Elizabeth Peplow who inspired the title of this blog. When my son was really small, he came back from staying with his granny with all sorts of mannerisms and sayings he'd picked up - as often happens when children spend time with people they love. However, the one that really made me laugh happened when we were walking along in the park one day and he turned to me and said very solemnly, 'Shall we have a nice quiet sit down now?' I could so hear her voice in his and imagine how he must have tired her out when she said it. So when we wanted a memorial bench for her, it seemed exactly the right thing to put on it.

Somehow, it sums up all I love about memorial benches - the personal phrase that catches the spirit and memory of a person and even if you don't know them at all, you have some picture of who they might have been. Of course, nice and quiet is the opposite of how I remember my mum, although in some ways that was exactly how she was. Like the best people, she was complicated. I wrote this response to Jenny Joseph's famous poem for her recently. Although it's about Mum, I can think of nothing better than turning into my mother!

Response to Jenny Joseph
(in memory of EP)

I shall invite small boys to play ping pong with me
and grumble about their manners if I lose.
I’ll invent complicated games with dominoes
and keep changing the rules, the television
control will get lost when there’s a programme
I don’t want to watch, while for big horse races
I’ll invite the butcher over and we’ll keep the phone
between us on speed dial to the bookies. I’ll throw
lilies out the window because they smell of death,
I’ll pretend my gin is water and that every dress
is this old thing. I’ll never share my sweets.
Each Easter I’ll decorate the same Church window,
in the same way; I’ll get my family to judge
and act surprised when they say mine is best,
I’ll bet on everything and somehow always win.
Although no one knows exactly how, my house
will be filled with people who ‘want to help’,
who clean and organise and dog walk and always
stay for cups of tea after tea after tea until the cards
come out and my pile of loose change grows higher,
and when, at my funeral, they’ll cry and say
‘she was generous, gave us all so much',
despite the evidence, they’ll be right.

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