Bill Lawless column

Bill Lawless

Bill Lawless

Trouble with Christmas is that oldies like moi tend to spend too much time dwelling on all those Christmases past when we took is for granted that we would celebrate many more.

Now I deal with them one at a time.

One exception to this sometimes-tearful nostalgia was my dear old mum who lived every day for the life that was in it. To her the past was a forgotten country.

She really was the most astonishing old girl this side of the Pyrenees, which was precisely where she spent her last seven years –just on the French side of the Pyrenees.

At the age of 79 she sold her dress shop in Worthing and rasped off in her Alfa Romeo to a village near Perpignon in the far south of France. She sold the Alfa because she said it was too fast to drive on the wrong side of the road with all the French maniacs. She bought a French mini.

She was always unconventional. She drove her dad around in the family Chrysler and collected her first ticket for speeding at the tender age of 15. She was a pianist of great promise and then married my dad, a professional boxer.

During the war with the menfolk away on His Majesty’s Service she kept the family’s building firm ticking over. After the war and a divorce she ran a hotel, then a restaurant, remarried, and produced a son when she was 45. She cooked lunch for 50, went and had the baby and a week later was back in the kitchen.

For more than 20 years she had a dress shop in Worthing from whence she launched some spirited little battles against various officials.

Main adversaries were the income tax and VAT authorities. She appended mysterious initials on official forms, such as UBOS and COY. These meant ‘You Bunch of Swine’ and ‘Curses on You.’ Then she upped and went to France, renting a first floor flat with a balcony and a view across a lake with a backdrop of Mount Canigou. She took on a toy boy, a 70-odd-year-old Catalan kid called Calixte.

She spoke a fluent version of Franglais and was known locally as ‘la petite Anglais. She gave the village a touch of extra style.

She was in the fashion business, remember –and she brought half her stock with her.

We missed the family reunion Christmas in 1998, something I will regret forever. I told her we’d be over in the spring and she said, chillingly, “don’t leave it too long, dear.” Three weeks later she died. Sorry to go all soft on you. Normal outrageous service will be resumed in my next column.




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