At the weekend I happened to mention to my mother - who was, as usual, having Sunday lunch with us - that I was hoping to buy a new coat with money received at Christmas. 'I could do with a new coat too,' she said. So today, having some spare hours, I took her to a local shopping centre. We decided to take her wheelchair because, although she can walk perfectly well with a stick, it would be tiring and progress would be slow. Fairly soon we found something suitable in the sales, but it was too small. So I pushed her to the other end of the shops, but we found nothing: too big, too dull, too bright. 'There was another coat like the one you tried on,' I said. 'Only two sizes bigger. How about you try that one, then we'll know your size for certain, and if necessary I can order it on the internet.' She agreed, and back we went. I turned away from her for a few seconds, trying to find the coat on the rail. There came a strangled squeak. I turned back and saw her almost on the floor, hanging on to the wheelchair's arm-rest, having somehow slithered off the seat. 'What are you doing down there?' I said. 'I don't know.' I hauled her back onto the seat and she said she was unhurt. The story ends well: the bigger coat fitted, and we bought it, at sale price. My mother is the most generous of souls, but she was raised in a frugal generation and likes a bargain, so she was happy. In a few weeks' time we are having a party to celebrate her birthday. She will be 95. Every outing's an unknown quantity. Oh yes, and she managed to lose a glove.
Talking of losing things, I also had to telephone an old people's home where mother thought she might have left her glasses while visiting an old friend before Christmas. They weren't there; where they are, nobody knows. In her friend's car? In the street? In the sock drawer where she once came across her missing hearing-aid? But the loss of her spectacles is not a problem. 'I found some others around the house,' she said blithely. 'I don't know whose they are, but they'll do.'
Could it be her attitude to life that has given her such longevity?