Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I grew up in a small town where there were two small supermarkets. Tesco was on the main high street and felt cosy and warm. The cashiers wore pink dotted tabards that looked like they should be hanging off a peg in a farmer’s house. The other supermarket was Safeway tucked away in an arcade of covered shops so dark it felt you were going underground.S afeway’s was a lot slicker than Tesco’s. Bigger and fancier – it had a large mural of fruits and vegetables looking down on you in colours so bright that they would you make you sweat. My mum and I would court the shops, walking up and down the aisles, looking for 'something for tea’, and ‘something for lunch’. I liked being close to my mum. I would sit in the trolley, my piggy legs bursting through the leg holes and I would feel safe as we collected food. I would be so close to her that I could smell the softness of her skin, a mix of a French perfume and her hot metallic smell. She would wear a dress that was covered in yellow flowers and I would want to snuggle in close to this meadow of my mother.

However, the first time my mother lost me was in a supermarket. There was a sale on of plates in Safeway. A mini stand had been erected selling beige plates with a dark brown plant growing its own indentations as it stretched across the plate. They were popular. Groups of women were standing round collecting them off the stall. My mother left me with a shop assistant. She had big hands with knuckles like the lamb joints she sold. I could smell dried blood off her. Deserted by my mother, I began to cry, my cheeks burning as if they had been pinched, the shop assistant’s large hands tried to comfort me but still I yowled. Finally my mother came back with a plate in her hand. It was the first time I did not receive sympathy for crying.

The second time my mother left me I was two years older. I was beginning to read so. My Mum would leave me in the small book section of Safeway, there were only four rows but to me it was a library of beginnings. Dahl and Enid Blyton were well represented. I was left to read. I managed to read about five pages more than normal. Something was wrong. I had been by myself for a long time.

Slowly a strange noise came round me, a pounding in my ears that sounded like a giant’s footsteps. I heard this before at night in my bed – the same giant’s footsteps that got louder and louder that went away when my Mum would tuck me in. I felt a strange taste in my mouth, a dirty taste of sweat. Once I had had a toothache and my father has placed his hand in my mouth to soothe it. His hand left a sooty sweaty taste in my mouth and later I vomited in the car on the way to the Barber’s.

I felt sick, but the books were still there. The covers shone and looked happy, but I could feel the need to cry. Suddenly I saw a neighbour head towards me. Sharon. Sharon lived across the road and would stand in her window on a CB radio all day talking to people. She had long blond hair that immediately attracted me to her. When I was five I loved women with long hair. So much so that I would fling myself at unsuspecting women and hug them tight. Sharon's long hair looked as blond as ever. It was probably dyed but it looked like gold.

‘Are you alright Edward?’
‘I can’t find my Mummy, I’m lost’

Or perhaps more worryingly my mother had got lost. She wasn’t in the shop, Sharon looked. She finally left me in the shop with an assistant. Five minutes later my mother came back embarrassed and slightly annoyed.

‘I forgot I had you’

She had disappeared into the arcade to her favourite shop – a chandeliers that sold gifts and toys.

I couldn’t be forgotten. And again my cheeks hurt as if bees had wrenched themselves on me. I can’t remember if my mother said sorry but I kept an even firmer grip on her. Years later she would tell me that around the time I was five ‘her nerves has been bad’. My father risked unemployment. He had been asked to write an article for a newspaper that was against his morals. He then staged a one man strike in his office in protest. This worry was not good for my mother. She wouldn’t answer the phone, or the door, but she would clean her new kitchen bar everyday. Finally she went to the doctors who gave her some tablets and everything was alright again. She also told me how Sharon had had an affair with my best’s friend’s father, my mum best friend’s husband, and how nobody in the street spoke to Sharon again. When Sharon found me it was the rare occurrence in which my mother did speak to her. Even now twenty four years later, there seems to be a no man’s lands around Sharon’s house.

But finally I felt found again by my Mum. She, for her part, didn’t let me cross the road until I was 11. But that day changed something. I remember a strange conversation at primary school that explains it well. George Booker, a boy with a piggy nose and curled hair like snappy pig tails, who smelt damp, and had unusually small handwriting was showing off about his mum.

‘You think your Mum knows everything don’t you? But she doesn’t’ said Shona Moore. Shona lived in a big house and unlike George’smother did know everything.

George's face looked smashed as the words fell into his brains like shards of broken glass. And I too felt a change – a movement of my heart down into my stomach as a truth was uttered and once again that strange taste in my mouth appeared.