Friday 4 November
Arrive at Ma’s early evening after a long journey and some pretty hazardous driving conditions on the M4. Ma mentions that she feels lucky to have escaped with just a sore toe after tripping over her Henry vacuum cleaner earlier in the day. Her injury is soon forgotten though as we catch up with each other’s news over dinner which includes a ‘fecking eppel teyrt’ that Ma has served up in honour of our recent trip to Ireland.
Saturday 5 November
The afternoon sees us at a family party to celebrate Stepson One and his new bride’s recent wedding in Grenada. I’m always a little apprehensive about Tom’s family gatherings, since, despite nearly thirteen years of marriage, there are times when I still feel like a ‘blow in’. The past is a strange country with shifting borders, strong defences and prone to outbreaks of brief territorial disputes. Today, though, a whole new side to the family has entered the equation.
The new Mrs H, who is of Afro-Caribbean heritage, is a long way from her parents in Quebec, where she grew up, but her aunt, uncle and cousins are here today, along with a big group of friends. At first, both sets of families sit a little awkwardly in their separate groups, but Stepson One and Young Mrs H have done their utmost to recreate the spirit of their wedding day and soon all of us chatting and caught up in the event. There’s a slideshow of sunny wedding photographs, music from the day and wonderful Caribbean cuisine. I watch the new couple and their obvious happiness and ponder the nature of families; here’s my stepson and his wife – does that make Young Mrs H, my stepdaughter-in-law? Who knows? What does it matter? ‘I’ll see you again,’ smiles Young Mrs H’s uncle when we say goodbye, ‘now that we’re family.’
Families, I suppose, are what we make them, but what matters most today are the new bride and groom setting out at the start of their shared journey. Here’s wishing them many happy years together.
Back at Ma’s, Ma announces that her injured big toe is feeling ‘very hot’ and I don’t need to take a close look at it to see that she’s in pain. Ma agrees that if it doesn’t get better overnight (some hope!) she’ll think about going to hospital.
Sunday 6 November
I pop into Ma’s room to see how she’s doing to find her fully dressed and looking very smart.
‘Still hurting then?’ I say.
‘Probably a fuss about nothing,’ says Ma, showing me a black, hugely-swollen toe.
In A&E there is a mass outbreak of foot injuries, but Ma is shuffled through the system in record time, emerging with her big toe strapped up like a sausage plait (which we promise not to bite) and an appointment for the fracture clinic.
Tom points out that it was after last year’s trip to Ireland that Ma fell and fractured her shoulder and arm so badly. Indeed, she’ll be celebrating the anniversary with her latest fracture.
‘Next year,’ Tom says, mildly, ‘we’ll go somewhere different.’
Painting is ‘Coast near Dinas’ by Tom Tomos