“Now whatever you do, don’t pay full price,” the Mothership lectured as we pulled into the Woolworths petrol station. “You have to haggle.”
“But we’re buying an electric frying pan!”
“You can’t haggle on a frying pan! We’re going to Retravision, not a market in Thailand.”
“Nonsense! Did you know, I got five dollars off my hair straighteners. And the new toaster.”
“I’m not going to haggle.”
“Oh come on, live dangerously.” She switched off the engine. “Can you rummage in my handbag and find me a fuel voucher?” In many respects, The Mothership was still the same old Mothership, generous provider of years of golden blog fodder.
- She still rakes through abandoned shopping trolleys looking for the discount fuel vouchers.
- She still drives like a maniac. But disappointingly, she didn’t once ask me if it was okay for her to merge lanes in her unique way, “Can I blend? Can I blend?”.
- She retains her unique combination of generosity and Buy-Bulk mentality. Every time Gareth so much as glanced at anything in a shop, she’d offer it to buy it for him. In triplicate. Once at Target, Gareth was pointing and laughing at a pair of revolting pyjamas with Victoria Bitter logos splashed all over them. The Mothership swooped at once. “Do you like these? Shall I get them for you? How bout two pairs? One to wear, one in the wash. And look, there’s matching boxer shorts!”
Another time I was showing her my new toasty polar fleece jacket, all the toastier for being 65% off at Kathmandu.”Wow! So why didn’t you buy two?””Because I’ve only got one body!””But 65% off! Are you sure? We can go back! We’ve got time!”
Anyway, we went to Retravision to fetch an electric frying pan. Gareth had never seen one before he went to Australia and thought they were a brilliant invention. And I fell in love with them all over again, the way they heat up instantly, do exactly what you tell them – roast, simmer, fry, boil to oblivion – and remain non-stick and wipe-clean for years on end. Unlike our grotty bastard of an electric stove here in Scotland. It has just two settings: Flames o’ Fire or Cold Indifference, with nothing in between. Even with the postage back to the UK, a good old Aussie frypan was still a bazillion times cheaper than buying a new oven.
We had just settled on the gigantic Sunbeam model when the saleslady approached. “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” I smiled, “I’d like to buy this fry pan please.”
“Sure, if you’ll just come over to the till, I think that one is eighty dollars.”
Mum cleared her throat. “Is that your best price?”
The woman looked puzzled. “Erm. Yes?”
Gareth grinned while I pretended to be fascinated by the display of electric steamers.
“Would there be any discount for paying in cash?”
“Well… I’m pretty sure the price on the sticker is already our best price…”
“Would you mind checking?”
“I suppose I could go out the back and ask the manager?”
“That would be wonderful, thank you.”
“Well! It doesn’t hurt to ask!”
Ten minutes later the lady returned from Out The Back. “The manager says we can’t reduce the price, but I can give you this $10 fuel voucher for any Caltex Petrol Station.”
“Excellent!” said The Mothership.
“Yeah brilliant,” I muttered, “That’ll be just enough fuel to get you to the Woolworths Petrol Station!”
So the lady still loves a bargain. Yet many things have changed since I first left Australia. She has developed an adventurous streak, and always seems to be going on a holiday or to a concert or taking a new class. She is energetic and fun and sparky. You could probably pinpoint it from the moment she hopped on the plane to visit us last year. It was almost like once she saw that Rhi and I were safe and happily living it up in Scotland without too many fire hazards, she just let go of old Mothership worries and focused on getting her own life. I’d never seen her so happy and settled. I had a lot of fun hanging out with her in Goulburn, and bawled on Gareth’s shoulder when we said goodbye at the airport coz I knew I’d miss her more than ever. And would you believe she even makes the tea now and then. Ma, I am so proud of you and everything you have achieved. Love ya heaps.