Mr B has a great smile, one of those which starts with the eyes and spreads across his whole face until he is beaming. His smile is never broader or brighter than when he is welcoming me back from one of my weekend
breaks - there couldn’t be a warmer welcome. His smile grows even broader yesterday, if that were even possible, when I suggest we should order a takeaway curry from our favourite Indian restaurant and share a bottle of wine to celebrate my return.
The Really Rather Wonderful Rosalie, who has been looking after Mr B in my absence, welcomes me back to a spotless house. She has stripped her bed, washed all the bedclothes
and hung them out on the washing line where they are blowing merrily in the breeze on my return. Mr B’s clothes are beautifully arranged in his wardrobe, the kitchen is gleaming, even her charge’s handkerchiefs have been folded into neat triangles.
Her attention to detail puts me to shame - but I am, oh, so very grateful to her.
I have returned home, after my splendid weekend with my Little Sister and her
fella, carrying many gifts. The Three Wise Men have nothing on me. All these gifts were pressed upon me by my Little Sister as I prepared to leave for home yesterday. There was no way she was going to let me leave empty-handed.
First of all, there were several boxes of Christmas presents for my family, together with birthday presents and cards for the Twins whose big day falls at the beginning of December. With Lockdown looming
and no firm information available about visiting our Nearest and Dearest in the festive season, it was well to Be Prepared. Then there was the food...
all, one of the two Christmas puddings which we lovingly prepared to our dear mum’s own, well-tried and tested recipe. Come Christmas Day we may well have to arrange a Zoom Pudding Ceremony when we bring our puddings, decorated with holly, sparklers
or flaming brandy, to our respective tables. Also in my “take home bag”, the satsuma from my Christmas stocking, a small pot containing a variety of sweets for me to suck on my long journey home, two small pots of blackcurrant jam and a larger
jar of home-made blackberry and apple jam. Best of all, a tin containing a rather magnificent boiled fruit cake intended for Mr B’s delight. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters is coming tomorrow to celebrate her belated birthday with her father and
me so I plan to put my sister’s fruit cake to work as a birthday cake. All it needs is a candle or several.
My sister was still trying to tempt me with a
sandwich, or a piece of fruit, or a cereal bar to sustain me on the journey. I told her she reminds me of our Mum and what became known as her “Red Cross parcels.” It was many years ago, when the print works where Mr B worked was involved in a
long and painful industrial dispute. My mum was convinced that we must be on the breadline despite all my reassurances to the contrary. In those days, I was working for the Kent County Council in Maidstone; one day a week I would travel to see my mother in
my lunch hour - twenty minutes drive there, twenty minutes back and a precious twenty minutes to share lunch with her. One day a week, she would repay my visit by travelling into Maidstone by bus to meet me in my lunch hour.
In the beginning, it might be just a few scones she would bring me. Over the weeks, however, her gifts increased till she would alight from the bus laden down with all manner of goodies, many of them
home-cooked, to feed my family. My work colleagues would laugh each week when I returned to the office with all the food she has brought for me. “What’s in the Red Cross parcels today?” they always wanted to know. Shakespeare may have suggested
that music was the food of love - in many a mother’s eyes love is all about the food...
Home I travelled to Mr B with my sister’s Red Cross parcels
packed safely in the boot of my car.
Like mother, like daughter....