Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Picture postcards.

Three keys.

Wednesday. I'm standing in the hall. It's nearly two in the morning. There's a key in the front door. It bursts open and I burst into tears. The person in the doorway stops dead in his tracks. "Er," he says.

"Oh my God," I sob. "I thought you were dead!"

The person in the doorway (who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy) takes two long strides across the hall and throws his arms around me. "I’m here," he says, "I’m not dead."

This makes my sobbing worse. The two of us sit at the bottom of the stairs as I sob into his shoulder. "I could kill you." I say, sobbing.

"It's not my fault," he says. "I didn't have credit on my phone. You never give me any money."

Another key. The front door opens again. It's another of my sons, who shall also remain nameless. "Jesus, mate," he says, addressing his brother. "I’ve come all the way back from my thing because of you."

"I’m sorry," I say, through my tears. "I needn’t have rung you. He’s alive."

"I can see that," he says, closing the door. "Well, that's what really matters, I guess. Just."

Almost immediately, a third key. The door opens again. "Jesus Christ," says Husband, wheeling his bike into the hall, "my hands are frozen."

"It’s okay," I say, "he’s here."

"So I see," he says.

Next day I receive a Facebook message from the son in question, which reads: "This is your daily reminder that I am alive."

A river runs through it.

Road to ruin.

Thursday. I’m on a recce in Richmond, looking for a car park at the end of a long road leading down to the river. "You have arrived at your destination," says the sat nav. But which one? I'm uncertain. It's a dead end, with three private car parks to choose from. I ring the person I've arranged to see. "I’m coming right down," he says.

I wait in the car, the engine idling, staring out of the window, watching three young men walking towards me down the middle of the road.  "Elizabeth?" one of them says, when he reaches the window on the driver's side. 

The glass glides down. "Hello," I say. We all shake hands through the empty space. 

"You just need to park here," he says, pointing at a narrow bay between two concrete posts.

I’m not bad at parking. In fact I’m great at parking, especially parallel parking, even my husband says so. But being watched by three young men as I manoeuvre into a tiny space by a river is nerve-wracking to say the least. Take it slow and steady, I think, and it will be fine. And I do. And it is. Phew.

The recce is great. The people are wonderful. The location is stunning. The sky is blue, and cloudless. As I’m leaving I take one last photograph. "Er," says the receptionist, walking up to me.

"Don't worry," I say, "you're not in it."

"It’s not that," she says. "You didn't put your hand brake on and your car rolled back a bit. A few of our guys went out and put bricks under the wheels. I think you met them before."

Portrait by an artist.

Pictures of people.

Friday. We’re at the National Portrait Gallery to see the Picasso portraits, just me and Eldest. I’ve booked lunch in the restaurant at the very top as a treat, just for me and Eldest. But there’s not much time between our timed slot for the exhibition and the lunch reservation. We end up rushing past the portraits at such speed they look more Jackson Pollock than Pablo Picasso. 

"Maybe we can pop back after lunch?" says Eldest. 

"I doubt it," I say, "they’re pretty strict about that sort of thing."

In the restaurant we’re served by an extremely friendly waitress. "Oh!" she says, as I place my order. "I completely thought you were American!"

"Me?" I say.

"Yeah," she says, "I think it’s the boots."

Small illustration.

When we get back downstairs after our food - which was delicious - I blag us back into the exhibition by saying we're going in the gift shop. After snooping around the portraits a bit longer, we’re approached by two of the staff. "Excuse me, madam," says one of them, "but do you have tickets?"

"Er," I say.

"It’s okay," says the other member of staff, a woman. "Let them stay. They were in here before. I remember the lady's boots."

Love E x


P.S. I bought a postcard in the gift shop because the mugs were twenty quid. Twenty quid!


  1. A few years ago - my stepdaughter was out at a party - but then didn't come home all night - we lay awake waiting for - assuming she was dead in a ditch - "but she is always so sensible" we kept telling ourselves...after a sleepless night she appeared - " my phone was dead plus it was lost down the back of a sofa at Emily's house" - "we thought you were dead!" - ahh - the memories. She is a doctor now... xx

  2. So it was good training for future all-nighters needed in NHS hospitals! E :) x