My mother tells a tale of her first expedition as a newly-wed to buy groceries at The Oval, the little parade of shops in our home town of Sidcup, Kent.
It was the 1950s, still about a decade before the newfangled concept of supermarket shopping shook up Sidcup with the arrival of a tiny Safeway complete with – wait for it – an on-site milk bar, which seemed the height of sophistication at the time. At The Oval, by contrast, the shops and their clientele were small enough for every customer to be known individually and to be greeted formally by the shopkeeper.
So on entering the butcher’s shop that morning, my mother was not surprised to hear the butcher call out a cheery greeting to her mother-in-law. She turned around, expecting to see her new husband’s mother standing behind her. But of course, my grandmother wasn’t there: my mother had just forgotten for a moment that now she was married, they’d both be answering to the same name. She’d been promoted; she was a grown-up.
I had a similar butchers’-shop moment myself this afternoon. I was sitting at my computer, typing away, when I became aware of a rustling at my shoulder. My daughter’s playdate was standing behind me, quietly surveying my muddly desk. She’s a sweet girl, cheerful and well-behaved, so I didn’t mind stopping work for a chat.
“Well, here’s something that’s cool!” she said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I’m the friend of someone whose mother writes books,” she said brightly.
I sat back in my chair.
“Oh, that’s nice!” I said. “Do I know her? What sort of books does she write?”
She fixed me with an old-fashioned look, the sort that says “adults aren’t always as smart as they’re cracked up to be.”
Then I followed her pointed gaze to my own book, published last month, a copy of which is now propped up on display at the edge of my desk. For a moment I’d forgotten I was an author. My goodness, I’ve been promoted too. Happy days!
If you liked this post inspired by my hometown, you might also like this one:
And in case you missed it, here’s more about my new book: