I take off my walking boots and sweaty socks in the porch of the cottage and hobble bare foot to the kitchen mantel piece, where my mobile phone is charging below a map of the Brecon Beacons.
The family and I have been out walking along the River Usk for over four hours and we left our phones behind to see if we have the willpower to detach ourselves from the mobile phone network, if only for a few hours.
‘Why bother?’ asked my son, when my wife first proposed a dose of phone-free rambling.
Life was mobile free in the 1980s
‘It’s a chance for you to understand what life was like living in the 1980s before the internet,’ replied my wife. ‘And it’s good to get away from all the poison on social media.’
‘You’re not going to try to make us talk to each other instead, are you?’ asked my son.
‘No. It’s a just a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery without being annoyed by the latest idiocies of Kayne West or Donald Trump,’ said my wife.
‘I’ll come. But only if Dad promises not to repeat his story about his geography field trip. You know, the one where he got stuck on the mountainside with the other fat boy and had to be rescued by helicopter,’ said my daughter, condemning one of my favourite school stories to the archives forever.
Calves as taut as violin strings
As it turns out, the phone fast has only affected one of us. Me. I haven’t been able to keep up with the score in the second Test Match and as the game was turning into a chiller thriller when we left the cottage, I am now desperate to know what cricket magic has been performed since this morning. Which is why I am dragging myself as fast as I can towards my phone, though my calves are as taut as violin strings after the walk and could snap at any moment.
I pick up my phone and see that I have five voicemails: three from Mother’s doctor and two from my brother, who is house sitting my mother while we are away. The messages have all arrived in the last three hours. They say: ‘Please call when you get this’.
Why would my Mother’s doctor call me three times the same afternoon? It doesn’t take a PhD in Rambling to know she’s not asking me out to a barn dance.
Is Mother ill or dead?
Immediately, my anxiety to know the cricket score is replaced by the need to know what has happened to Mother. I call the doctor. Engaged. I call my brother. Engaged. I call Mother’s landline but her phone just rings and rings, which could mean nothing because her hearing is so poor, but could also mean so much.
I wait a few moments before calling again to run through the possible scenarios. Has she fallen down the stairs? Maybe she’s burnt herself filling up a hot water bottle. Has she lost the TV remote?
Or is she dead?
Is this my JFK moment?
The thought she may have died is unavoidable and irrepressible. It’s a nagging neurosis everyone with a parent her age lives with. People say they remember where they were when JFK died and I think everyone has a similar JFK moment, remembering forever where they were or what they were doing when their parent’s die. Is this my JFK moment?
My phone rings. It’s my brother.
‘All right, pal?’ he booms down the phone.
‘Nothing much,’ he shouts.
‘Why has the doctor called me three times then?’ I ask my nervousness rising.
‘Oh, that. Her ankles have swollen up. Thick as an elephant’s trunk, actually. Nothing to worry about, though. I booked her an appointment with the doc. They’re just confirming it.’
Her ankles are like elephant trunks
Elephant ankles sounds pretty good compared to what I was imagining a few moments ago. I relax. Anything else I should know, I ask.
‘Yeah. All she’s eaten all week is boiled eggs and cake. And chocolate biscuits. Is that normal?’
‘It’s not unusual, if you get my drift.’ I can’t ask for better evidence that Mother is still very much alive and kicking than her insatiable appetite for cakes and biscuits.
My daughter’s boyfriend appears in the kitchen and mouths: ‘we won the test’. I look at my watch. It’s coming up seven o’clock – time for test match highlights.
‘I’ve got to go, now,’ I say rudely closing my brother down. ‘Test Match highlights on any moment now. Let me know how it goes with the doctor.’