Microdiary: Friday – slightly tense about buying my mother the right birthday present, I begin to wonder whether I’ll have time to get anything other than the clip-on book light that I picked up in Borders. Arriving at the train with twenty minutes to spare, I buy a trashy magazine, board the train where they try to pass off a piece of industrial effluent as a ‘thai prawn sandwich’. Arrive Norwich 8.20pm to be met by brother and father. Brother is now absurdly tall. Family dog greets me with tail wagging manically. Neither brother nor father have the slightest idea what to do about mother’s birthday. Salt Beef for dinner, get a bit over-excited. Stay up watching MTV2 until early the following morning. Fall asleep with bad book.
Saturday – Stealing some of my mother’s breakfast cereal sets me up for a day of adventure. Brother and I wander into Norwich playing Tom Petty very loudly in my mother’s Golf. We wander through a thousand shops trying to find something nice for her. “Vase?” I say. “Mm” says my brother. “Is that a yes” I ask. “Dunno” says brother. Habitat is a dead loss. They have small sticks of Yucca like substance that you can buy and put in vases and water and they last 70 years. Which is likely to be longer than I’ll live, let alone my mother. We ask a passing woman if she thinks they’re nice. She kind of laughs and walks off. We take that as a yes, but then decide that mother would kill the Yucca plant things because she is the Angel of Death for all plant-life. We lie on a bed with a fake sheepskin thing on top of it for a while and complain about having to walk so much. I suggest “Glasses”. My brother says “Mm”.
We go see a movie – Legally Blonde. I tell brother that the film reminds me of my friend Pippa. He laughs. I fail to see what’s so funny. He doesn’t seem to enjoy the film too much, but doesn’t say so exactly. I embarrass myself in front of him by not having any access to cash, while he has stored up vast amounts of money in the bank by being very very very responsible. I am the family flake.
We get mother chocolate covered coffee beans and book tokens to go with the light. Later that evening she opens them with a kind of controlled hysteria that I’m convinced is completely faked. I explain that the point was that she could eat the beans, be unable to sleep, and then read a book in the dark with the clip-on light. My brother thinks this is cool. He and I are impressed by our choice of gift.
We go to a restaurant in Horning that’s been made out of the front room of a semi-detached house that escaped from the seventies. We’re seated next to a cupboard and a bank of light-switches. My mother says again that I was an experiment in child-rearing and that they seem to have got it right with my brother. I increasingly find this very very funny. The food is amazingly good and served by a muppet with fazzled hair. I duck out for a cigarette and make my brother come with me. My mother looks horrified until I reassure her that he’s coming out to smoke his crack pipe and that I don’t have enough cigarettes to give him one.
Sunday – Upset by the prospect of going back to living hell of London I whine a bit to anyone who’ll listen, then get on train and come back to London. Late night screening of “The Man Who Wasn’t There” including exciting travel to and from with the masterful Danny M-K’s off-road urban driving.
Other things happened, but my hands now hurt from typing and I think I need a cigarette.