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Vesna Pivcevic, 17 Jun '15

“Would you like some more of anything Paul?” asked Mrs Hepner, grunting a
little as she shifted herself forwards on her wooden kitchen chair in preparation
to get up.

No thanks Mum, I am full up. That was a truly delicious lunch. You know that no
one can make a roast dinner as tasty as yours.”

“Thank you my love. You are very sweet to say so. I didn’t think it was one of my
best. I forgot the stuffing for example but I didn’t really feel like making another
trip to the shops, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry Mum. Are your knees playing up again then?”

“Oh yes, they’ve been terrible lately. The doctor says it’s osteoarthritis. I might
even need to get them replaced.”

“Gosh Mum, sorry to hear that. Well you keep me informed on that one. You know
we’ll do everything we can to help. Anna knows some good doctors…” Paul
twisted the silver ring on his linen napkin. It was engraved with his name and his
birthdate in roman numerals. A christening gift from his Godfather. “Actually, I
wanted to talk to you about something that you might find interesting. They’re
building a brand new nursing home just two streets away from our house. You
know Dunstable Road that runs alongside the river?”

“Oh yes, near the little park with swings where I used to take Katie and Felix to
play.”

“That’s the place. It’s a lovely location and as I say, they are building a spanking
new home for the elderly, you know, the type of place where you have your own
room and lots of space but you can all eat together and you have round the clock
nursing care.”

“Yes, Paul, what are you driving at dear? I don’t think I need round the clock care
quite yet.” Mrs Hepner gave him a girlish smile as she began to carefully stack the
willow pattern serving dishes.

“But Mum, wouldn’t it be nice for you to live so close to us rather that all the way
down the motorway.”

“Well it would be lovely to live close together. I have always said that. “ Mrs
Hepner’s voice echoed around her drafty kitchen as she slowly carried the dishes
towards the ancient cast iron sink. “You know how much you hate the commute
in to London. You could sell up in Hertford and buy a smaller place near me in
here in Highgate when the kids go to Uni. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

“Well Anna and I have talked about that actually and I did try to persuade her
but you know, all her clients are in Hertford and she would find it very difficult to
uproot and build a new client base somewhere else. “ Paul gripped the napkin
ring tightly. “Actually Mum, we need to live in a larger place, not a smaller one
really so that Anna can have a therapy room at home. I mean, we can’t use one of
the kid’s old bedrooms for that can we?” Only we can’t afford to upsize right now
of course, what with all the redundancies coming up at work. I’m waiting for
them to tell me my time’s up any moment now!”

“Well love, why do you want me to come and live in Hertford then if you are
thinking of upsizing? If you sell your house you’ll be better off moving out into
one of those pretty villages in the countryside to get more bang for your buck.”

Paul studied his mothers ample behind and thick ankles squeezed into her house
slippers as she busied herself making tea for them both at the counter and
grimaced.

“Mum, all I am saying is that this house is way too big for you to cope with now
and I would…we would feel much happier if you…if you well sold this place and
got yourself somewhere where you’ll be safe. I mean London’s not a safe place
for old pensioners is it now?” The napkin ring suddenly sprang from Paul’s
clammy fingers and landed on the flagstones with a clatter.

Mrs Hepner turned round holding two saucers with cups of tea rattling on them
precariously and shuffled slowly back to the table.

“Sorry Mum, I should have helped you with that.” The blood rushed into Paul’s
face as he bent down from his chair to fish for the napkin ring under the table.

“Darling, I am absolutely fine.” She sat herself down and pushed a cup and saucer
towards him. “I am fully aware of the dangers to pensioners don’t you worry. I
read in your local paper when I came up to visit you just the other day about the
poor eighty four year old lady who was mugged in Hertford town centre. In
broad daylight. “Imagine?”

Paul rolled his eyes.

A little smile played at Mrs Hepner’s lips. “I’ll tell you what my love,” she said.
“Why don’t the kids live with me while they’re at Uni?” “They wouldn’t have to
pay a penny in rent and I’d even cook them an evening meal if they wanted. And
with them both in the house, I’d feel very safe indeed.” Mrs Hepner finished off
triumphantly.

Paul took a deep slurp of his tea and smiled back at his mother. Now wasn’t the
time. Not yet.