Phoning my mother is always an interesting experience. We inhabit very different worlds: hers is a quiet, rural existence, free from the internet and any real trouble from the outside world such as all that nonsense about wars, and terrorism and Google Glass.

Mine is in a city where small talk in a coffee shop can very easily turn into a dissertation on metaphysics and the dubious future of social media.

The only thing that tweets in mother’s world are the blue tits in the Honeysuckle.

“DAVID!” she screeched when answering the phone last time I called. “Mum, I…”

“DAVID!” she screamed again, directly into my ear-drum, though it was clearly intended for her partner, Dave, who was apparently in another universe.


“Oh. He’s put this pan onto boil and then he’s – DAVID! – he’s forgotten about it. I’m not on the cordless or I’d…”

We went on like this for a good minute. My hearing diminished considerably and David was still nowhere within shouting distance. Admittedly, shouting distance for David is only two metres, given his terrible hearing. Of course, he wears a hearing aid, which he never quite remembers to switch on.

Mother finally conceded that the pan was still boiling and David was not going to do anything about it and walked the five metres across the kitchen to turn it off. She then marched into the garden, where I could hear her voice growing smaller and smaller as she disappeared after him.

Meanwhile, I dangled patiently at the end of the phone, hoping she’d remember to come back and at least give me the sweet release of replacing the handset.

Even so, I like phone calls with my mother. They tend to be entertaining, and crucially, we tend to get on better when there’s a phone line between us.

But this weekend, I have promised to make my quarterly trip home. I like reappearing in Norfolk – it’s like a magic trick: the locals look shocked by my initial reappearance, wonder for a moment how I got here (very few ever leave Norfolk, let alone return), and then shake their heads incredulously before carrying on about their day. But coming home also entails maintaining peace with mother. It’s not that we argue: we terrorise one another. But this weekend, there’ll be no phone line to save me, I’m face to face with my closest ally and my dearest foe. Wish me well. I’ll let you know how it goes…

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.