We got back from the funeral at about three o’clock and Mother went straight to the kitchen. I went up to change. On the way down I glanced into Emmie’s room. The two chairs were as we had left them, facing each other, a coffin’s length apart. I set them back against the wall and went down to tea.

[Liverpool, July 2013]


I thought of my mother today. She died in hospital a few years ago, and I visited her at night not long before she died. Our last conversation (she never lost her lucidity) was about her days as a trainee nurse and her fear of the Matron finding her without her cuffs on. Last year, as a writing exercise, I incorporated the memory (with embellishment) in this short piece.  I found the photo in an old album of hers some time later, wearing [spotlessly clean] cuffs.


Damian likes his new car, pokey little Japanese thing, white and chrome, faux leather. Pa had a proper car, dignified, Austin Westminster. Black like cars should be, shiny shabby leather seats, proper leather, dividing arm in the back with the ashtray where Doug and I used to …

“You finished you drink, now, Mrs Elliot?”

Me, Molly. In hospital. Born in one, gave birth in one, shall die in one, not today I hope, though I don’t mind. I’m ready. Met Phil in hospital too, at the Molyneux, he wanted to drive ambulances. Day war was declared. Drove me home. Shock for Pa and Mom. Morris Ten, was it? Green? Or was that the one he did up for me when he went to the States? Don’t know any more. Small car, that one, double declutch, double declutch, Damian doesn’t double declutch, no one does now …

Yes, dear, thanks, I’ve had my Ovaltine. Was an Ovaltiney once, got the badge somewhere, Radio Luxembourg was it, or was it SNOL, don’t know any more …

“You sleep well then, you hear. I’se back in the morning”

Good night, Deirdre, sleep well too. Slip of a thing. Jamaican, is she, Trinidad? One of those islands. Family came for the buses probably. Windrush, was it? Not like my day at Molyneux. We worked hard then. In the sluices, all of a lather, cuffs at hand in case Sister or Matron came in. Mustn’t be caught without cuffs. Worse, with dirty cuffs. Everything’s changed. Used to be order, uniforms, coloured belts, knew who was who then. Don’t know any more.

Damian will be home now. Sleep well, Damian, Julie, the kids, the dog, what’s her name.? We had a dog at Budock Vean, Nigger, can’t say that now, no one does now. Everything’s changed. The world’s gone, and I’m going too.  I’m tired, that Ovaltine had something in it. Silly idea, Molly. Silly Billy, silly Molly. Used to be jolly Molly once. Just tired Molly now. Sleep well, Molly …