‘Why are you out here gardening on your own, Mum?’
‘I thought I’d get started. I’ve only fallen over once.’
It’s a freezing cold morning, full of grey dampness. Mum already has dirty trousers from falling over, and looks like a small child whose been caught out. I usher her inside to warm up and she starts talking about the blackbird that’s been helping her.
Inside Mum’s head must be like an Aladdin’s cave. All sorts happens in there and there seems to be no distinction between reality and fiction. So, while a friendly blackbird seems lovely, I’ve no idea if it’s just the sort that flits around inside her head.
Smile and nod, smile and nod…
With Mum warmed up after her gardening and me after a cold drive down, we bundle ourselves back up and outside to tackle Mum’s leaf collecting plans. I stop counting after emptying ten wheelie bin loads of wet leaves back into the woods that blew them into the hedgerow a few months ago, wondering what the likelihood is that next week they will have just blown straight back and we’ll have some sort of ground hog day.
Wet leaves are heavy. The quiet of working alongside Mum who doesn’t have the puff to chat and sweep is light.
A strange whistling sound seeps into my head. I look around for it and realise it’s coming from Mum, and she is staring intently at the ground, a few feet from her feet. Mum has always been terrible at whistling, and I’m torn between laughing and tears at the earnestness involved – she’s slightly bent over, forehead wrinkled in concentration. Then I see it. Mr Blackbird is hopping around in from of mum. The whistling is Mums attempt at communication.
‘Can you see him?’ she stage whispers as he flies off back under the hedge.
‘I can see him Mum.’ I smile.
Mr Blackbird came back to work with us for the hour we were out there and then for the hour I carried on alone after making Mum go and rest.
He’s a happy presence and I’m pleased he was with Mum earlier. He’s completely rubbish at helping her up when she falls though, so I made Mum promise (again) only to garden when someone else is at home, just in case. Tears plopped down her face but she agreed.
It must be shit when the only creature not judging you and your ability to stay vertical is a blackbird. But he makes Mum smile. And try to whistle…. What a lovely blackbird he is.