Mum wants to buy a million-pound flat - that's not fair, right?
Alice O'Keefe's "Squeezed Middle" column.
Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column appears weekly in the New Statesman.
‘‘Darling, I just had to tell you.” Mum sounds slightly breathless. “The Old Flat is for sale!” “Oh yeah?” For a moment I fail to register the symbolic importance of the words.
The Old Flat is where my family lived until I was 15. Funnily enough, it was slightly too small for two kids – oh, how history repeats itself – and eventually Mum sold it and moved around the corner. With its prime central location and its big windows looking out over the park, it is a lovely place, imbued with many cherished memories.
“What, are you thinking of buying it back?”
“I am considering it seriously, yes.”
I haven’t heard Mum sound this excited about anything for ages. She became a Buddhist a few years ago, and it’s really calmed her down. She meditates every morning, and once a week she goes to sweep the floor of the Buddhist centre. My mum is big on becoming a better person. I think that’s where I get it from – but she’s way further along the road than me. I feel tired just thinking about all the meditation and sweeping I would have to do to become as calm as her.
But right now she sounds stoked, like Larry does when he talks about opening his Christmas presents. “Well, that’s exciting!”
It’s only after I hang up that I realise it is not exciting. I hate the thought of it. For a start, the past is the past. We moved on. Trying to turn back the clock is never a good idea.
But there is another reason, too, one so shameful that I can barely acknowledge it to myself. I had always assumed that once Mum sold her current house – central London, four bedrooms, worth a fortune – she would move somewhere smaller and cheaper, freeing up some cash for us.
It’s not as if she hasn’t helped us out already. We could never have bought our slightlytoo- small flat without an unspeakably generous donation from her.
Nevertheless, our only real hope of ever being able to afford somewhere family-sized and not in Hull resides in the sale of her house. That or a Lottery win, which Curly confidently predicts will happen within months, if not weeks.
To buy back The Old Flat, Mum will need every penny of her money. Of course I want her to be happy. I want her to have everything she could possibly wish for. But . . .
I phone Curly at work to let off steam.
“Hello, Domino’s Pizza.”
“Only joking. Worthy Causes ‘R’ Us.”
“Curly, it’s me.”
“Mum wants to buy a million-pound flat.”
“Great. Good for her.”
“Don’t you think it’s a little bit unfair?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, I mean what about us?”
Silence on the line.
“Curly, are you still there?”
“What do you think?”
“What do you mean what do I think?”
“Don’t you think it’s unfair?”
“I think it’s her money and it’s her life. And anyway, I think we are doing fine.”
God damn Curly and the way he makes me feel like a selfish cow. It’s out of order.