The mother first spotted the advert in the South London Press. It was after the section on stabbings and shootings but before the sport. New Year, New You, it read. Well, I’m mostly happy with the old me, thought the mother, there’s just too much of it.
Excitedly she emailed the college, then wrote down the details on the ‘Kittens from around the world’ calendar. This was a real calendar you understand, not a virtual one, and once something was recorded there, it was basically cast in stone. Even scribbling down the two words, ‘mum,’ and ‘yoga,’ gave her a rush of endorphins, although that soon went, when her daughter pointed out that she’d spelt yoga wrong. This really was appalling even by her standards, and dyslexia aside quite an achievement.
“There’s no er mummy, it ends in an a, even I know that,” Esme pointed out
“It’s actually quite hard to spell the word yoga wrong.”
“Yes, thank you, darling.”
She felt only mildly irritated by her daughter because she was already embracing her new self, her calm, patient, and well hopefully less fat self.
I’m going to arrive at the class early, well on time, and looking fabulous. In her mind, she began to picture her future self. I’ll get my hair cut, probably go for a sleek angled bob, my eyebrows will be threaded. I’ll get myself some trendy urban jogging bottoms, you know like the ones you get in Sainsburys. Christ, those Primark legging size 10 – 18 should have been thrown out years ago. Really, they should have been thrown out the day she’d bought them. One sodding run through Peckham Rye Park and they’d gone all gangster on her. She hadn’t been running there since. And probably, nor had the two unfortunate young ladies who happened to be behind her that day.
Yes, this was it, this was the kickstart she needed. She would give up the booze and replace it with ginseng tea and water, yes lots of water. Next to go would be sugar, pure evil that stuff, shame it tasted so fucking nice, on literally anything. Christ, she’d have sugar on toast if she could, well I suppose she kinda did really, I mean what else was jam.? Then there was bread and pasta of course, and all the other white foods that were spawned by the devil. She’d have to stop eating all that crap. She would transform herself, and she would feel youthful and healthy again.
Saturday the 12th of January 10.15 am
The yoga class was at a college she had attended many, many years ago. She couldn’t remember what she’d studied there, but she’d could remember that the course had been cheap. Thinking about it now, she probably qualified for a reduced rate. That made sense as one way or another she’d spent most of her life being a concession. Was this her cross to bear in life or a blessing? She wasn’t quite sure.
As soon as she set foot inside the college, she forgot all about her life long struggle with financial instability and instead was instantly struck by something else, besides her lateness of course. It’s splendour. The whole building had clearly gone through a massive transformation since her last trip here.
Before her lay a large and lavish reception area. Here two immaculately dressed young women were perched behind a stylish curved black counter. It was the shape of a giant kidney bean. The two receptionists were both wearing well-tailored black suits, had short-cropped dark hair and wore red lipstick., I mean the good stuff, not that Rimmel shit. Did they have to look identical, was it part of the job requirement? Just looking at them reminded her of one of those butterfly paintings you do when you’re a kid. You know where you paint one side and then fold the paper over to create the other symmetrical wing. So, we will call them the butterfly ladies although obviously, they didn’t have wings, at least that she knew of.
Directly behind the reception was an open plan café area. One of only two walls which created a kind of alcove for this eatery was donned with glistening black tiles with tiny coloured flecks in them. The other was being used to showcase the extensive range of coffees they sold. It all looked incredibly pretentious, but that didn’t stop her wanting to rush over and buy an oat milk Capuchino with extra chocolate and a shot of caramel flavouring, well it was only 5.50.
Luckily, she was saved by the bell, of the lift doors opening. She turned and noticed them directly opposite the reception area. The middle lift opened its doors and she caught sight of the inside. The entire lift, bar the floor was mirrored. Christ, it was the sort of lift you might have sex in, I mean if you wanted to.
The whole thing made her feel as though she had stepped into the set for a yoghurt commercial or possibly a Robert Palmer video. And as she stood there, sweaty, makeup-less and hungover, she realised, that on this entire ground floor not one thing was out of place, except her. And things were about to get worse
The brunette beckoned the mother over, quickly found her name and date of birth on the system, and printed out her enrolment number. Amazingly her details were still on the system from her last attendance several thousand years ago
“Now we need to take a few more details…..Are you still at…um Graham Road, Hackney”
“Where? I’ve never lived…..Oh, Christ, that was years ago, I can’t even think how long ago that was now.” She tried to remember something about the place, something about that time in her life. She travelled back through her 30’s, then further still to before she had children. So far back, she could almost hear Primal Scream playing and feel the sensation of amyl nitrate rushing through her brain. She never was much of a drugs conacre.
It must have been more than 25 years since she’d lived at that address. All she could remember about that place now was the threadbare carpets and the smell of fish. It always stank no matter how much she cleaned the place, strange really because she didn’t even eat fish.
“So can I have your new address, please?” said someone in the distance.
“Yeah, sorry, of course,” said the mother, “I live in Peckham now,”
Apparently, that wasn’t enough.
“Yes, but what is your address.”
“Oh yes. Of course,” and the mother reeled of her address like a robot, although a slightly faulty one.
“Now, has your mobile number changed since you last ….oh hang on you don’t seem to have one, let me just check..”
“No, I didn’t have a mobile then,” said the mother flatly.
The girl looked up from her computer, a little confused.
The Mother automatically began to explain, to clarify the point she’d made, you do that when you are a mother, endlessly.
“I mean, no one had a mobile phone back then….well, there was this one guy I knew Larry, well we all called him Larry, I don’t know if that was his real name, he had one but that was because he was a….well never mind. Anyway, it was massive and cost about a pound a second to call someone. The mother stopped herself. She was talking shit, she did when she was nervous, and this whole situation was making her feel more and more awkward. The receptionist was looking up at the mother properly now, when not looking, more starring.
A time before mobile phones, before text messages, before snap chat. What did people do if they wanted to meet up? How did people take photographs and what did you do when you were bored, I mean what did you even look at? Were people even alive them?
There was a brief, interlude, while the mother gave the poor girl an informative, patronizing but ultimately futile lesson on information technology before they returned to enrolment.
“Now I just need your email.. oh, you don’t seem to have one of……Oh, I suppose you didn’t have an email address back then either,” said the lady, laughing, well, she almost laughed but caught sight of the mothers tired, jowly face just in time.
The last few stages of the enrolment were carried out quickly, for the benefit of both parties. Finally came to the matter of money.
“Right, if you would just like to pay the 23 pounds, for the 6 weeks and then you go up to the class.”
“23 pounds?” said the mother slightly confused. She didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth but at the same time. it would be nice to know where the horse came from.
The receptionist sensed the mother’s confusion and clarified it, with the magical words
“You’re a concession……. you know because of your disability and also because you’re a widow.
Now the mother’s life, as I am sure I have told you has not always been an easy one. But it had been an eventful one. The event in her life had equipped her with many skills, one talent, in particular, was being able to fake or suppress certain emotions including surprise. It was, dare I say surprising how many times she needed to use this somewhat dishonest talent.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe this inspector, but I think I’ve lost my ticket!”
“This is lovely, this is exactly what I wanted for my birthday,”
“Head lice, you’re kidding, I’d hadn’t noticed.
You get the picture,
Because your disabled and a widow, class, talk about getting lucky! Thank God for hidden disabilities and computer glitches for that matter.
“Now would you still like to pay in instalments?”
Well, that would just be taking the piss thought the mother.
“No, it’s ok, I’ll just take it out of my widows’ pension thank you!”