I stopped living with my mother when I was nine. We’re not close. I visit once a year, I call once a month, I send presents for Christmas and birthdays.
The monthly phone call always follows the same script, she starts with the customary ‘How are things? Are you well? How’s the weather in London?’ but doesn’t really listen to the answers.
She talks about her day. She gets up early, she goes to the gym, she watches American soaps religiously, she tries not to eat too much, she tries not to drink too much, she goes for a walk to make sure that she hits 10,000 steps a day on her Fitbit, she spends hours reading her emails, concentrating on flash sales and deals of the week. It’s been the same day ever since she retired a few years ago.
Sometimes she relays what she saw on TV: terrorism, accidents, natural disasters, only the bad news. She has the 24 hour news channel on all day in the kitchen. She also reports on the family, just the bad news of course.
When she runs out of things to say, it’s my turn to speak.
‘I’ve had a great weekend, went camping with S.’
‘That’s good’, she replies in a detached and indifferent tone, unfailingly.
‘We’ve just opened a new exhibition at the gallery, it looks amazing!’
‘That’s good’, like an automated message punctuating each of my sentences, no matter what I say.
I always end the call, ‘I’ve got to go, speak soon, bye’.
She always complains that I don’t call often enough.