I went to see my Mum yesterday. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can calibrate the extent of her muddle-headedness by the number of clips she’s got in her hair. She never used to wear any, or not of the plainly-visible silvery variety anyway, but in the last couple of years they’ve started to appear, and it’s noticeable that when she’s in a state of confusion she forgets to wash or brush her hair, and tries to make up for it by putting hairclips in. If she gets up to five or six hairclips, she’s in a bad way. Unless I’m getting it the wrong way round, of course, and it’s actually the hairclips that are causing the confusion.  Anyway, she only had the one clip in yesterday: not too bad, but the occasional long struggle to find the right word. I found her making some stewed apple for her lunch, and she told me that I could make the tea, because she didn’t want to take her eyes off the pan of simmering apple-slices, which she kept poking with the point of a little black-handled knife to see whether they were getting tender or not. Later on she confessed to me that she’d got to buy two new saucepans, because she’d left a couple of other things cooking on the hob and forgotten all about them, so two of her old saucepans now needed replacing. “Would you like some spare lids?” she said, only half-joking. She can’t bring herself to throw anything as useful-looking as a saucepan-lid away, but on the other hand she doesn’t want an orphaned saucepan-lid cluttering up her house without its parent saucepan, so the best solution she can think of is to try to give the spare lid to me; and if I’d engaged her in conversation about it, she would have started inventing all sorts of reasons why it would be a good idea for me to take it, each reason more far-fetched than the last but each one backed up by a stronger force of insistence. Luckily I managed to change the subject before she got started. My sister’s coming to stay with her next weekend, and I got the impression that she thought she’d better get her new saucepans in place before the visit began, so as to cover her tracks.

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