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By Belinda

"Shopping." The mere word holds a myriad of associations, but today a chance sentence heard, triggered memories of shopping as defined by Mum when I was a child--and I lingered there for a while, enjoying the gift of memory; to live a moment in time again.

Shopping for my mother was a serious affair. I don't remember shopping being a pastime or fun, except for her forays into the ironmongers, or hardware stores as they are known here.

The ironmongers had a distinct smell. It was slightly musty, kind of like a tool shed; faintly oily and papery; a serious smell of work-to-be-done. And the tools of all kinds of household work were sold there.

Mum loved tools. She had an inventive mind on which I could depend for creative solutions to any technical, mathematical or strategic problem. I am sure that is why I have a deep seated belief that there is always an answer for any problem and no knot that cannot be unraveled given patience and persistence!

From the ironmongers came treasures such as new spouts for teapots or taps, or new plastic butter dishes, which, believe it or not, were exciting to Mum, and therefore to me. I learned from her pleasure in small things, to be appreciative of anything and everything. This became a lifelong gift of attitude that neither one of us understood the tremendous value of at the time I was absorbing it.

The weekly grocery shopping was a serious ritual. Mum made a shopping list, which she would drop off at a small corner grocery shop on the way to work in the morning on Friday. That evening the shopping would be delivered to our house in brown, cardboard boxes, by the shop owner, always dressed in a white lab coat, and then unpacked by Mum, each item checked off against her list, which was returned with the shopping. She was meticulous in following this process and checking every detail.

On Saturdays there was more shopping and I often tagged along. In the village the post office would be visited to pay the bill for the weekly newspapers. Mum often stopped at Mrs. Haynes's shoe shop to unburden herself of personal problems. I didn't like hearing our considerable family woes aired so often, but it was one of Mum's coping mechanisms in a marriage that was not easy. Dad had the pub to help him cope; Mum had her friends.

On Saturday afternoons we went on the bus or train to Redditch, the town just 3 miles away from our village. We would visit Rainscourts the butcher's shop on Evesham Street, where Mum would buy sliced ham and tongue and black pudding as well as the salami or wurst. Woolworths was always a wonderful place to wander around too.

The train ride home took all of 5 minutes through sheep dotted fields and hillsides. I remember making Mum laugh once when I studied my face in a mirror on the train and gasped at how "awful" I looked. "It must be the light," I said, not joking. Mum laughed and laughed.

Mum's sense of humour is another of her great gifts passed down to us. Jokes sometimes pass over my head unnoticed, as my friends know, but no subtly ridiculous situation unfolding, passes me by without inner or outer hilarity. To have a mother capable of collapsing into giggles that she attempts to smother by pinching her nose is a delight that I still treasure.

I'm getting ready to pay her a visit very soon. On May 3rd I fly out. She won't be taking me shopping, but you never know, if she consents, I might take her! :)

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