Graham is 40, single, and lives with his mother. They have a very close relationship, almost like a married couple. In this speech Graham describes what happens when he goes to a cafe with his mother and they bump into her old flame, Mr Turnball…
Now the café we generally patronise is just that bit different. It’s plain but it’s classy, no cloths on the tables, the menu comes on a little slate and the waitresses wear their own clothes and look as if they’re doing it just for the fun of it. The stuff’s all home-made and we’re both big fans of the date and walnut bread. I said, ‘This is the place.’ Mr Turnbull goes straight past. ‘No,’ he says, ‘I know somewhere, just opened. Press on.’
Now, if there’s one thing Mother and me are agreed on it’s that red is a common colour. And the whole place is done out in red. Lampshades red. Waitresses in red. Plates red, and on the tables those plastic sauce things got up to look like tomatoes. Also red. And when I look there’s a chip in the sugar. I thought, ‘Mother won’t like this.’ ‘Oh’, she says, ‘this looks cheerful, doesn’t it, Graham?’ I said, ‘There’s a chip in the sugar.’ ‘A detail,’ he says, ‘they’re still having their teething troubles. Is it three coffees?’ I said, ‘We like tea,’ only Mother says, ‘No. I feel like an adventure. I’ll have coffee.’ He gets hold of the menu and puts his hand on hers. ‘Might I suggest,’ he says, ‘a cheeseburger?’ She said, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ He said, ‘It’s fresh country beef, mingled with golden-fried onions, topped off with toasted cheese served with french fries and lemon wedge.’ ‘Oh, lemon wedge,’ said Mother. ‘That sounds nice.’ I thought, ‘Well, I hope you can keep it down.’ Because it’ll be the pizza story all over again. One mouthful and at four o’clock in the morning I was still stuck at her bedside with a bucket. She said, ‘I like new experiences in eating. I had a pizza once, didn’t I , Graham?’ I didn’t say anything.
They fetch the food and she’s wiring in. He said, ‘Are you enjoying your cheeseburger?’ She said, ‘I am. Would I be mistaken in thinking that’s tomatoe sauce?’ He said, ‘It is.’ She says, ‘Give us a squirt.’ They both burst out laughing. He said, ‘Glass cups, Graham. Be careful or we’ll see up your nose.’ More laughter. She said, ‘Graham’s quite refined. He often has a dry sherry.’
Well, he could do with smartening up a bit’, Mr Turnbull said. ‘Plastic mac. He wants one of those quilted jobs, I’ve shifted a lot of those.’ ‘I don’t like those quilted jobs,’ I said. ‘He sweats,’ Mother said. ‘There’s no excuse for that in this day and age,’ Mr Turnball said, ‘the range of preparations there are on the market. You want to invest in some roll-on deodorant.’ Everybody could hear. ‘And flares are anathema even in Bradford.’
‘Graham doesn’t care, do you, Graham?’ Mother said. ‘He reads a lot.’ ‘So what?’ Mr Turnball said. ‘I know several big readers who still manage to be men about town. Lovad green’s a nice shade. I tell you this, Graham, if I were squiring a young lady like this around town, I wouldn’t do it in grey socks and sandals. These shoes are Italian – feel.’ ‘I always think Graham would have made a good parson,’ Mother said, feeling his foot, ‘only he doesn’t believe in God.’ ‘That’s no handicap these days Mr Turnball said. ‘What do you do?’
‘He’s between jobs at present, Mother said. He used to do soft toys for handicapped children. Then he was making paper flowers at one stage.’ I went to the toilet.