Man in the Middle – Chapter 10: The Phone

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No. 10: The Phone

Mother is having problems with her new phone. Or rather she is having a problem with the people who phone her.

‘Ever since I moved in, the only people who phone me pretend to have foreign accents. I don’t understand a word they say.’

‘Perhaps it’s your long lost Irish cousins calling? Their Irish brogue is confusing you,’ I say.

‘Don’t be stupid, darling. They’re all dead or beyond caring about me,’ she replies contemptuously.

I can’t work out why anyone calling Mother would put on a pretend to be foreign unless RADA have introduced a new course called ‘English with a Funny Foreign Accent’ and mischievous trainee actors are rehearsing on her. Perhaps she accidentally agreed to be an oral examiner for the course?

‘It’s that new phone you put in my room. It doesn’t work. I told you we should have kept the old one’ she says.

The old one in the flat was 30 years old and a death trap according to the electrician. But rather than debate this, I promise Mother I will launch an investigate into the problem. Investigations are my new, fail safe response to Mother’s queries, which seem to be increasing in number and complexity. Like a politician faced with a tricky problem, investigations allow me to kick the can down the road and hold out the hope that the problem may be forgotten.

‘It’s probably the doctor calling her about an appointment,’ says Wife, later that day in the kitchen.

‘Or Extinction Rebellion asking her to turn her electric heater down,’ says Son.

‘It’s probably is the new Rotary phone I bought her. The reviews on Amazon weren’t very good,’ I say sheepishly.

‘Have you ruled out demonic possession?’ says Son.

‘Of Granny?’

‘No. The phone. In horror movies like ‘The Ring’, phones are conduits for demons to come to earth or threaten people.’

‘I can assure the people of Midsommer that I have ruled demonic activity from my investigation,’ I say in my best DCI Burnaby impersonation.

Wife is clearly irritated by this boyish banter and brings things back to reality. Or in this case, her favourite bug bear – pointless subscriptions.

‘What’s the point of having a subscription to ‘Which?’ if you can’t even be bothered to read it before splashing out on a new phone?’

‘It was only £25. That’s hardly splashing out.’

‘But it doesn’t work, does it?’ says Wife, driving a full stop into the argument.

Sensing which way the conversation is going, son has put in his earplugs and is staring intently at his phone. I am wondering if I can counter-attack or beat a retreat with my dignity intact when Mother appears in the kitchen doorway.

‘All sorted,’ she says triumphantly. ‘I listened to the ansaphone. There were five messages on it from Specsavers about my appointment for a hearing test. They’re so diligent aren’t they?’

‘So, the phone works?’ I ask.

‘Of course, darling. I just needed to turn the volume up. Much better than the old one and reminds me of the one your father and I had in our first flat years ago.’

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Wife reaching for a large frying pan. For a moment, I am not quite sure what she is going to do with it.

‘Anyone fancy an omelette for supper?’ she asks.

First published in Age Space

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 11: Archaeology

Read the previous one – Chapter 9: Mother moves in

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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