Yesterday, 10 April, was the 22nd anniversary of my mother’s death. I wrote this piece in 2016 about how we usually commemorate the anniversary (“a mass for her intention and a day spent doing very little”) and this follow-up in 2017. Last year I did not write about the anniversary itself, but wrote this piece reflecting on events at her funeral, which took place on 18 April 1997.
This year, as so often before, we had 10 o’clock mass said for her intention and visited the grave. The cut daffodils from Mother’s Day, 10 days ago, still looked good in the flower holder at the base of the gravestone. From there we spent a few minutes working out what to do next. It was too early for lunch and there were no obvious places nearby to have a coffee. We ended up at Dukes Meadows, where my son and I watched the Boat Race last Sunday. The children played on the swings and the witch’s hat, though at 12 and 14 they have pretty much outgrown this kind of play. It was one of those spring mornings when it’s warm in the sunshine and cold in the shade. I can’t remember rainfall on 10 April in any of the last 22 years. In 1997 the weather was unseasonably warm. This year the sun shone most of the day, but there were regular gusts of wind. My scarf, unnecessary at the weekend, was back in use.
As noon approached, we decided to take a walk over Barnes Bridge and find somewhere to have lunch on the other side of the river. There’s always the safe option of Pizza Express if you can’t find something else you like the look of. We continued on past Barnes Pond and headed towards The Olympic Cinema. There’s a restaurant there we have eaten at before.
I have taken to reading the signs placed beside buildings of note, after decades of ignoring them. The one beside the cinema tells us that the building was previously a theatre and cinema before opening as a recording studio in 1966. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix all recorded there. The last act to do so, in 2009, was U2. I always thought it was a shame that the recording studio had been replaced by a cinema, but now I know that it has simply been returned to a previous use. We booked a table for lunch at the restaurant. I wanted a pint of Fuller’s beer beforehand, so we took the short walk to The Red Lion on Castelnau. As you may know, The Red Lion is the most common pub name in the UK. I am inclined to call in at any that cross my path, but it would take a long time to “complete the set”. There are several hundred “Red Lions” left to visit. We sat at a large round table near the window at the front. We could look out at the traffic, a constant feature of that stretch of road, knowing that we didn’t have to be anywhere, at any specific time, for the rest of the day. We decided to eat at the pub rather than the cinema. My wife made the short walk to the Olympic and back to cancel our booking.
We had the meze starter – a new experience for both of the children. We tried to work out what “baba ghanoush” is. (Aubergine, we now know.) Main courses involved fish and chips and “Corporal Jones sausages” and mash. The children had Raspberry Sundaes as dessert, another first. Now they know that a Sundae is heavy on cream rather than ice cream.
Last year, on the same date, our lunch was also a lengthy business at a Fuller’s pub that I had never been to before: The Sanctuary near St James’s Park, one of their Pie and Ale Houses. We did exactly what we did yesterday: we ate, we drank, we talked about my mother’s life. We took a long walk in the spring sunshine. She would have enjoyed it.