CH TWO 10
Mavis cannot wait to share what little bit of gossip she has managed to pick up from her visit to the launderette and hurries back to her daughter’s house with the sheets, freshly cleaned and still warm from the dryer. Dawn is sitting in the kitchen trying to liven up the coal fire which is smouldering reluctantly in the grate. It never burns very well when the weather is damp. She looks up as her mother bustles in, depositing her bags on the table before removing her coat and hat and draping them over a chair. ‘Thanks for doing that for me,’ says Dawn, getting to her feet with a grunt of effort, ‘I’ll get the kettle on for a cuppa.’ Mavis urges her to sit back down and she will do the honours. With only four weeks to go Dawn is carrying an extra three stone in weight and finding it harder to get about. She eases her bulk into the chair, lifting her swollen feet onto a stool. ‘I can’t even reach to give them a rub,’ she moans, ‘will you have a go at them for me mum?’ Mavis says of course she will, after they’ve had their tea.
‘You’ll never guess,’ begins Mavis as she dunks a gypsy cream biscuit in her tea and half of it breaks off. ‘Sod it,’ she groans as she fishes out the sodden mess with a teaspoon and shovels it into her mouth. ‘That little Sally, you know, the girl Kenny Chapman was sweet on, well she’s in the family way and I reckon it’s Kenny’s baby because she was having a right go at Pam when I arrived. They didn’t even see me come in.’ Dawn is all ears; she puts a fourth biscuit back on her plate and urges her mother on. ‘Well after she left the shop Pam collapsed in tears; I made her a cuppa and asked if she wanted to talk about it but she wouldn’t say anything. She looked a right mess underneath all that slap she wears. I gave her a hanky; you know, one of those with the lace trim your boys gave me at Christmas, and she got Pan Stick all over it. I told her she can keep it of course. Her eyeliner and mascara were running down her face and she was dabbing away at her eyes trying to patch up the damage. I think she’s heading for a nervous breakdown the way she’s going.’
Dawn sympathises with the poor woman; she would die if anything happened to any of her children. ‘I feel sorry for her other boy, Patrick,’ she says, ‘he’s in Janet’s class and she said he’s having a real hard time of it. She wants to go on a school trip next month to Stratford for some Shakespeare thing but it’s too expensive. I feel awful about her not being able to go but where can I find that sort of money and it means staying overnight too with all the worry of what high jinks kids get up to at that age.’ Mavis asks how much the trip costs, which Dawn has been hoping she would do. She points to a sheet of paper propped behind the mantle clock and Mavis takes a look. ‘I’ll give her the money,’ she smiles, ‘I’ll even throw in a bit of pocket money. We can’t have her losing out when she’s doing so well with her studies. You never know: we might have a budding genius in our midst.’ Dawn thanks her profusely and dabs at a crocodile tear. Mavis can’t resist indulging the children, especially as it gets up her son-in-law’s nose that he can’t afford it and she can. Her latest bingo win will cover it with plenty left over to buy something extravagant for the new babies.
They finish their tea and biscuits and go upstairs to the bedroom where Dawn lays flat on her back with her legs in the air. Mavis massages each one at a time, squeezing the fluid which has collected overnight, starting at the toes and working downwards with firm pressure right to the groin. ‘Hang on a minute,’ says Dawn, ‘I need the loo,’ and she rushes to the bathroom to relieve herself, the fluid having swiftly made its way through her lymph system and out via her kidneys. ‘That’s better,’ she says, resuming her position on the bed, ‘look at the difference between the two.’ The left leg is back to its normal size and Mavis repeats the process with the right. ‘I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this,’ she says, ‘I do it whenever my feet swell up and it works a treat. Don’t want you being uncomfortable do we?’ Dawn has been carrying out the routine for herself until recently when she has found it increasingly difficult to reach effectively. She is grateful having a mother who is always willing to help and suddenly a real tear stings her eye. She blinks it away before having to rush to the bathroom again to expel the rest of the excess fluid. ‘What would I do without you?’ she asks as she kisses her mother on the cheek and follows her down to the kitchen where they start work on preparing vegetables for the evening meal.
Scotty arrives home after a long night followed by four hours at the docks loading for the next trip. ‘Good morning ladies,’ he greets mother and daughter, ‘Make us a cuppa will you?’ I’ll have a bite to eat then get off to bed.’ Mavis does the honours, presenting the mug of tea and cheese sandwich before a dozing Scotty. He manages to stay awake long enough to polish them off then he gives his wife a kiss on the cheek and plods upstairs, undresses and falls into bed, unwashed, asleep as soon as he closes his weary eyes. He has left instructions for someone to wake him at five o’clock so he can take a bath, have a shave and eat his dinner before setting off for Gateshead wholesale fruit and vegetable market, a long hard drive and many hours away. The only good thing about delivering in Gateshead is the knowledge he will be bringing back a big box of fruit and veg for the family. The men there always make him up a good selection of treats and basics for fifty pence. Dawn is very appreciative when he brings home the likes of pineapples, grapes, raspberries and dates which are too expensive to buy at the shops.
Through the fog of his exhausted sleep comes a small child, shaking his shoulder and urging that his dad get up. Scotty’s eyes are glued shut and he rubs them to open the lids, focusing on the beaming face of young Robbie. ‘Mum says I can come with you,’ he says, excitedly. Scotty mumbles something which he hopes sounds encouraging and hauls himself to his feet. ‘Give us a chance to get ready then,’ he grins, seeing that his boy is standing before him in his cut-down boiler suit all eager to go.’ ‘Dinner in twenty minutes,’ Dawn shouts from the kitchen. Scotty scrubs off yesterday’s grime, scrapes most of the stubble from his face and pulls on his clean clothes, noting that the rip in the knee of his boiler suit has been patched over with a bright orange patch. Oh well, they’ll last a bit longer. His boots have been lovingly polished and dried on the radiator. He pulls them on and arrives at the kitchen table just as Dawn is placing a plate of pie and vegetables in front of him. He pours half a pint of gravy on the food and eats it quickly, mopping up every trace of the gravy with a piece of bread and pushing it into his mouth. ‘That was champion,’ he says.
Dawn has made sandwiches and cakes for the trip and she places them into a large plastic container and then into a bag along with a flask of coffee and some tins of fizzy pop. There is no time for conversation so they kiss goodbye and the men get off to their work. Heather and Janet offer to do the washing up, which Dawn happily accepts. It’s been a tiring day and she is keen to get her feet up and watch Coronation Street.