Back in London now, drowning in paperwork and a feeling paper thin.
I’m positively glad to escape to my mother’s and show her photos she pretends to be interested in.
Riding my scooter fast through London I challenge death to come for me, can cry freely as I ride, on my odyssey from our neighbourhood of shabby kebab shops and graffitied shutters, pound shops and bookies, down the hill past the café-loads of young mums and the half recognised out of bit parts in soap operas, then sweep up leafy avenues to the school I so loathed and the boys school beside it whose inmates we were intended to breed with, two cages of privileged rodents in the social laboratory. Now I zim past the heath on my beautiful, shiny, pearlised white Vespa resplendent and howling. This machine is like those hovering things that science fiction films imagined we’d be riding about in, except it has wheels. So much of this city changed so utterly, and meanwhile the heath is exactly the same as it was when I lost myself here as a girl.
Mum is sharp as a knife much of the time but her memory is threadbare in some places and other stories get repeated and repeated. Time bends around her a little. But what’s the point of leading a life if you can’t savour it sometimes, replay the good bits, try to edit out the bad?
Maybe if I’d always lived here it wouldn’t be like this, the whole city would have matured with me, but I find myself turning a corner and I’m in a street from my teens, or in a queue for a museum I remember I last visited at the height of 2 foot, my sweaty little hand in my mother’s serene grip.
Mother doesn’t talk much about the past, and never about mine; it’s her own childhood that’s most on her mind. When I recall a family holiday from my childhood, she’s vague.
“I must have been such a pain. I was so bloody self-righteous. Do you remember how cross I got when you told me to cover my head in cathedrals?
“Oh, yes dear.”
“Us in that campsite with you in your homemade trendy shifts, Dad driving that cool white mini. Looking back on it now you were ever so chic.”
“Oh heavens – was I?”
Was she? A mystery to oneself, an intriguing stranger. All that effort we put into stockpiling wealth and experiences to find our minds burgled – a gap in the room where our memories ought to be.