A number of years ago, I was running a pub in Brighton. To describe the situation as chaotic would have been an understatement. For the whole time we were there, we never got up and went to sleep on the same day. At one point, I was working around 90 hours a week, because I would do the banking and the food in the morning, then the 5pm to close shift behind the bar.
It was not surprising, then, when things began to spiral somewhat towards out of contol. This general feeling of events and normally passive objects begining to work against me was brought in to sharp focus one day when I realised the lino tiles in the small, galley kitchen seemed to have begun lifting up.
Naturally I blamed myself, as I was the person who used the kitchen the most. I thought perhaps that my washing up had become sloppy and too much water had spilled on the floor. I did not think any more of it, but made a mental note to speak to one of the many tradesmen who used the pub for some advice and maybe getting a quote to get them reglued down.
Then one morning there was a knock at the door to the flat (part of which was this kitchen and which was over the pub). It was James, our cleaner, who let himself in every morning before we were down, to clean the place before we opened the doors.
‘Babes,’ he said, when I opened the door. ‘You need to come downstairs.’
I followed him down into the lounge area of the pub. The pub itself was tiny, and the lounge area was underneath the kitchen and main bedroom, where my husband was asleep.
James pointed at the ceiling.
The ceiling had a tumour.
There was a huge area, bowed out, distorting the ceiling completely like a massive inverse dome. From its epicenter, water was dripping.
‘Christ,’ I squinted. ‘What the hell is that?’
‘You got a leak, babes,’ explained James. ‘Probably a slow leak that has been building up for a while.’
Early though it was, I made the connection. The tiles have been lifting off the floor – that must have been why.
‘How has this happened to the ceiling, James?’ I asked stupidly
‘Water, Babes,’ he replied, ‘Will always find a way.’
Some men were called, buckets assembled and we stood around watching while someone qualified to make decisions in this area stuck a screwdriver into the massive water blister and the water poured our through three puncture holes. In no time, the ceiling was patched, painted over and the leak upstairs under my kitchen sink was repaired.
My mother has been less communicative recently. I suspect that it is because I bought her a smart phone a couple of months ago and she is finding the new technology a little tough to navigate. As it was a birthday present, perhaps she does not want to tell me that she is not liking this new phone as much. As with anyone trying to navigate new systems, and doing so infrequently, it is difficult at first and quite often she will find a way that works, even if it is not the most logical.
On her old non-smart phone, for example, she would send me a text message by finding an old one I had sent and replying to it, sometimes before she had written anything, which made me the winner of the ‘most blank messages received’ award in 2014 and 1015. She has certainly been quieter lately, although she did ring me to express her frustration at not being able to log in to online banking, because (and I quote), ‘The number came and I put it in but it said it was wrong and then the man said I might not have the button on the left pressed.’ (I won’t trouble you with the translation, the bottom line is that she could not log in).
Still, lack of success does not deter her, and that is to be admired. When I set up her smart phone, I did not connect it to email, because I thought it would be a little time before she felt that she was across texting and phone calls with the new system, which although simpler in theory, is still a new skill set to learn. Her default method of bridging these knowledge gaps is just to keep pressing things until the thing does what she wants.
So it was not not surprising, really, that when I was checking her iPad on Friday to reset the online banking, that she had somehow managed to activate the accessibility tools and it was talking to her.
‘How did you do this?’ I asked.
‘I didn’t do anything!’ she protested.
‘You know,’ I replied, ‘I was at work on Tuesday and I got an email from you.’
‘Did you?’ She asked.
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘The weird thing was, that it was sent not from your email account, but from your mobile phone.’
‘What did it say?’ she asked.
‘It was just a comma,’ I answered.
My mother, like water, will always find a way.