Tuesday, 13 September 2011

About a boy

Well I did it - I swapped my 13-year-old son for a Mulberry

handbag! I dropped him off at the boarding school on the Monday

and by the Wednesday I was in the Mulberry shop at Heathrow

Terminal 4 deliberating between the ‘Bayswater’ and the ‘Alexa’. I

had been looking forward to this moment since I don’t know when

but when it came to it; my heart wasn’t really in it. I was a bit sad, a

bit drunk and 10 kg overweight – and so was my luggage!

That morning as I sat in my friend Louise’s flat in Stoke Newington,

we both marveled at how I could get so much stuff into one

suitcase. I had popped to the supermarket and come back with two

bags of meat and dairy products which, between us, we managed to

shoehorn in between all the DVD box sets, books and the yoghurt

maker I bought on a whim at Robert Dyas. Not to mention the

gorgeous cushion I had to have and huge fluffy dressing gown I

bought for my daughter which she doesn’t need. The main worry

was that the fillet steaks would literally bleed into all my lovely new


It was not for the first time in our 28-year-friendship that Louise

saw me off at a bus stop with a massive suitcase.

“Good luck with that!” she chuckled and went off to work.

I was going to meet another friend, Tony, at Finsbury Park for a

quick drink before taking the tube to Heathrow.  He burst out

laughing when he saw me lugging the great suitcase behind me, red

in the face, sweating and panting.

“And what’s the luggage allowance again?” he asked.

I was beginning to wish I hadn’t worn the cashmere sweater and

Ugg boots but I quite literally couldn’t fit them in the suitcase. Tony

took the suitcase from me and dragged it to the World’s End pub

where a Staffordshire bull terrier woke from its slumber as soon as

we sat down and started sniffing excitedly at it.

“I hope he doesn’t work at the airport.” Tony laughed.

Blinking into the sunlight three large white wines later, I didn’t care

about the extra kilos, I developed a nonchalant attitude. If caught

with the meat and dairy, I would just tell customs I was on the

Dukan diet and could only eat protein. What’s the worst they can


By the time the tube stopped at Terminal 4, I was dry-mouthed,

head-achy and desperate for the loo. But the suitcase was weighing

me down mentally and physically. I thought I’d just get rid of it first

then go to the Ladies, get some water, buy the handbag and have a

celebratory glass of Pinot Grigio at ‘The Bridge.’

“The luggage allowance is 28 kilos madam. You are 10 kilos

overweight. I will have to charge you 24 Pounds per kilo, I am

afraid. That’s a total of 240 Pounds. What have you got in there?”

 A yoghurt maker plus yoghurt sachets, six fillet steaks, three large

packets of cheese, 20 CDs, four HBO box sets, all the Sunday

newspapers and supplements, a large cushion, a packet of 3 amp

fuses (impossible to find in Mumbai) trainers and gym kit (unworn

the whole trip) and any number of packets of bacon, ham and

turkey breast.

I didn’t say any of that. I was thinking on my feet.

“Books. I am taking them to India on behalf of a charity” I blurt.

“What charity.”

“Actually it’s called Mumbai Connexions. It’s an excellent

organization which raises money for several charities, partly by

selling second hand books.”

He looks at me for a moment. Does he know I am drunk? Can he

smell the bacon?

“Ok, what you can do is remove 10 kilos of books from your

suitcase and carry them as hand luggage, please repack and then

come back to this desk.”

So, half an hour later I am plonked in front of the Mulberry shop

having gone through customs weighed down by the extra 10 kilos of

hand luggage, plus the cushion. I vow to give Mumbai Connexions

a load of books next time I have a clear out.

Instead of going into the shop, I sit and think about Hugh. I call the

housemaster and leave a message on the answer phone. I haven’t

heard anything since dropping him off two days ago.

As we drove to the school in my mother-in-law’s car on that

Monday afternoon, I reached round the back of the passenger seat

and took his hand. He squeezed my fingers for a minute and then let

go of them one by one. My eyes prickled, for the first time since we

first came up with the boarding school plan. It was only now hitting

home that this was ‘it.’ I blinked away my tears silently and turned

round to look at him.

 “I can’t believe it’s actually happening” he said.

An hour later I was dropped off at the station and headed off to

London when I realized I had left my camera in his room.  I

couldn’t even look at the last snaps I had taken of him all smart in

his black suit and tie.

And so it was I bought the bag. I went for the ‘Bayswater’ as the

assistant thought the ‘Alexa’ might be a bit “young” for me. Ta

very much, b-yatch. Sitting on the plane before takeoff, I tried the

housemaster again and miraculously got though. He called Hugh to

the phone.

“Hello Mum?”

“Hey love, how’s it going? I’ve been thinking of you.”

“It’s great, brilliant, I love it but can you get off the phone because

we’re watching a rugby match on the telly and my hot chocolate

will be getting cold.”

And then I flew back to Mumbai alone.

A week later and I’ve still heard nothing. No emails, no texts,

nothing. It’s funny but walking through Shopper’s Stop in Malad

today I was confronted by a ten foot image of my son looking down

at me from a giant advertising poster. Some months ago he did an

ad campaign for Ruff Clothing’s A/W collection. He is not the

modeling type but wanted the money for an X-box game. I looked

up and felt my heart swell with pride and sadness. Tears were

rolling down my cheeks as a security guard approached me. Where

would I begin to tell him why I was standing in the middle of the

shop staring at a kid’s clothing poster crying my heart out? Do I tell

him that 13 years ago, I had a baby who grew up to be a lovely boy

who now lives 4000 miles away from me yet is standing here, ten

foot tall in a department store in Mumbai? That would be too much


“Hey” I smile “that’s my boy!” and then I walk away.


  1. Hi there beautiful lady! I just read your blog! Wow absolutely love it! You are a very proud mummy who has done a very scary and emotionally trying thing. But you've done it for your sons best- not your own. And "that" makes you a wonderful mum!
    Right I'm off to join this page.

    Btw pink is soooo your colour sexy mama!

    Queenie- "undeniable Queen of the Suburbs"