Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

How a stingy grocer repaid my mum’s lifelong loyalty

With both Mother's Day and International Womens' Day happening at once, this really is a weekend to celebrate all things female and rejoice in the matriarchs who made us who we are.

Although my mum has been sorely missed for seven years, I still think of her every day and |marvel at what an amazing job she did bringing up not one, not two, but eight kids in very quick succession. That in itself has taught me never, ever to complain about how hard life can be for a mum in modern society. Because when times get tough, I just think of the stresses and strains I've experienced bringing up two kids ... then quadruple it. And even then it doesn't come close to the twenty-odd years of hard labour she must have gone through, ever smiling and never complaining.

It may only be one generation, but the differences between then and now are truly immense. Every time I sit in the comfort of my living room with a nice cup of coffee and leisurely flip open my laptop to do my online grocery shopping, it unlocks |distant memories of my mum and how hard things were for her in the early days.

Her hectic heyday was in the mid-Seventies when I was around 12 years old, now with four older siblings and three younger ones, including a new baby. The first big Asda had just opened in my hometown and my mum (who hadn’t yet passed her driving test) was tempted to start shopping there like everybody else because it was just a short bus journey away.

However, out of loyalty to a family friend called Bob who had a grocery shop in the local village, she continued doing her weekly shopping for our family of 10 there even though it was a mile and a half away on foot. Week in, week out, come rain or shine, she trekked there and back, pushing a pram con

taining one baby, one toddler and a mountain of shopping bags, stopping only to wave at her friends on the bus coming back from their pleasantly |effortless trip to the new mall.

She never complained, she just got on with it |because loyalty was important to her and my dad, decades before loyalty cards were even thought of.

I remember one Mother's Day in particular. Dad took us all out for Sunday dinner to a hotel in town to give mum a break for once. As we were there who should we bump into but Bob the grocer who was there doing the same for his family as a treat.

Upon seeing them, my ever-generous dad bought them all a drink from the bar as well as our own long list of requests. Of course, when it was his turn to reciprocate Bob then came over to our table and asked what we would all like to drink.

Lemonade, lemonade, Coke, Coke, orange juice, pineapple juice, soda water, lemonade ... ‘He's bound to forget someone’, I thought. However, when he returned from the bar he was carrying one large jug of water.

“Much simpler and a heck of a lot cheaper!” he quipped as he plonked it down on the table in front of us with eight glasses.

Mum simply smiled and said nothing but I could see her mind ticking over and I knew exactly what she was thinking. The next day she went to Asda like everyone else and never set foot in his shop again. Let's just say that from that day on things did get a lot simpler and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Now, of course, things have changed a lot. Supermarkets have sold horsemeat instead of beef and the only sure way of getting what you pay for is going back to basics and shopping the old-fashioned way in butchers and greengrocers.

But I love that story because it says so much about my own mum and her resourceful approach to parenting. High five, mum! You were the best. And a very Happy Mother's Day to you all! XXX

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