This is a small piece from a life's story
| I am sitting at the new, bright yellow formica table with my sister. Our bare legs stick to the matching plastic seats, our legs are not swinging.
My mother is cooking. At least, there is something under the grill and a saucepan on the gas stove. That is the most cooking she ever does, so my father must be on late turn, as he usually does the cook cooking.
There is no bubble from the saucepan and not a splash on the cream stovetop, yet the carefully diced potatoes will be cooked, though not mashed. I prefer it when my father, whistling all the time, sets the spuds singing and spitting in the pan, then cheerfully mashes them, with butter and milk slurped in generously, the fork whirling a furious dance turning the whole into a delicious creamy froth.
There is a smell from the hip level grill that makes my nose twitch. I recognise it as fish fingers, well done and simultaneously my mother bends gracefully at the waist, her full white cotton skirt brushing the shiny, black lino floor as she reaches for the Bakelite handle of the grill pan. She slides the grill out smoothly, soundlessly on its runners and turns the four long and two round items precisely. As always I watch carefully and I am amazed that they land in exactly the same spot as before. This I know is to minimise marks on the gleaming grill.
I like the squat fish fingers, but I know that I would like round fish cakes better. I know this in exactly the same way that I know that Heinz macaroni cheese on toast is tastier than Beans, coffee nicer than tea, pilchards are better than spam and brown sauce would be far more interesting than tomato ketchup.
I know because my sister, my Dad and I have fish fingers, while my Mother eats delicately her fish cakes, macaroni cheese or pilchards, and sips her strong black coffee, staring out of the window. Absent.