My mother is a fastidious, ever-busy little body, neatly suited and booted with hair like the Queen. She smells of Chanel No 5 and floral perfumes that carry jasmine notes. Not yesterday though. When I arrived, her hair was spread across the pillow in an iron-grey frizz and she was lying still and sad. Loudly, I said: "Mum, mum, it's me" and I placed my hand against her cheek as I do with my own children and I bent to kiss her. "Is it you?" she grasped my wrist and pulled me closer into her and hung from me like an eight-year-old daughter would and cried into my neck, sobbing at the latest pain to strike. Sickness is a heartless robber, preying on the old. It carries a rubber cosh and a cold barrelled gun that it holds smack against an old lady's wrinkles while it shouts into her face: "I want your dignity, right now. Hand it over, you old bat." The Daily Mail should run a campaign.
She told me the nurse was going to give her an anemone. I thought this unlikely. The bustling Scottish nurse arrived, not with flowers but with rubber gloves. Mother mine, teeth biting into the cotton pillow and tears falling onto my hand shrieked in silence as the nurse got on with it. Old age smells of shit and shame not Chanel. Do not go there. Find another route into the hereafter. Old age is not the way to go. People are not nice to you. They do not bring you flowers. Instead they carry rubber gloves and make you cry and bite the pillow.
My mother is the best reason I know for living a life of decadence and debauchery. No cigarillo smoke, gin slings or mistakes between the sheets. Instead, a life of heroic virtue, good deeds and care - her own aged and bone-tiny mother, an early husband who coughed blood and died, arthritic sister, small pupil-children taught to bake, cancer patients, the list drones on, and me, ofcourse. The parish council, the school governing body, the catholic educational board. Her reward for all that goodness? An invitation to a garden party - too sick to attend, sorry - and an old age of broken health. Well poo and phooey! Her goodness did not keep her well. She still got old and sick and I will learn by her mistakes. I will inhale smoke from pink cigarettes, drink absinthe and have unrepentant sex with strangers in dark places. I will buy my sons a kitten, call it "Trixabelle" and torture it.