The Little Girl In The Radiator, Martin Slevin’s funny, bittersweet memoir of life with his mum as she descends into the pit of Alzheimer’s, continues to attract great reviews.
This picture tells its own story:
We’ll have some news about the book soon (it’s embargoed for a while) but in the meantime, Christmas arrived and Martin’s mum has been out to get a turkey:
ON THE MONDAY BEFORE that Christmas, I came home from work to find mum sitting in one armchair in the living room watching television, and a great featherless and headless bird sitting in the other armchair, as though watching the box with her.
It had been positioned in the armchair the right way up, so that its enormous, drumstick legs pointed down, and it was resting with its back against a cushion facing the TV screen. It had been placed there while frozen, but it had begun to thaw out and a great wet patch was now spreading out behind and below it across the fabric of the chair.
‘What’s this, mum?’ I asked, expecting her to explain to me how some long-lost relative had come to stay with us for Christmas, or something like that.
‘It’s our Christmas turkey, of course,’ she replied, as though I was an idiot. ‘I got him from the supermarket this morning. I couldn’t resist him. Isn’t he smashing?’
There was a paper tag on one of the creature’s legs which announced proudly:
GIANT CHRISTMAS GOOSE.
WILL FEED TWELVE PEOPLE.
The damned thing was the size of a Rottweiler.
‘How the hell did you get it home?’ I asked, struggling under the weight of the mighty bird as I hauled its frozen carcass off the armchair.
‘A man gave me a lift back,’ she said.
‘What man?’ I asked.
‘He looked like your Uncle Bernard,’ replied mum. ‘Only fatter.’
A feeling of déjà vu swept over me. Her eyes never moved from the television screen.
‘Never mind,’ I sighed. I wasn’t going through all that again.
I hauled the huge goose into the kitchen and threw it onto the floor. It landed with a sloppy splat like some sort of suicidal nudist, with splinters of ice flying up into the air. I looked at our small fridge. Shaking my head, I knelt down and took out most of the contents and two shelves. I could just about get the goose in now, but I couldn’t shut the door. I sat back and sighed. I’d not expected to spend the evening wrestling with a headless 25lb bird. Like I said, it’s amazing what you get used to.
I hauled it out again, put the fridge back together and wondered what to do next. Christmas Day was still nearly a week off, and unless I could cold-store this thing somewhere it wouldn’t be fit to eat. I checked our small freezer: it was also full. (I established this by quickly pulling out the three drawers, one after the other, seeing they were stacked, and shoving them closed again, without examining their contents. Only later did I discover it was actually packed with 50 packets of chocolate biscuits; but that’s another story.)
I thought about the people I knew who might have a fridge large enough to take a giant goose, but I couldn’t think of anyone. I began to walk about the house looking here and there for inspiration, and found myself in the garage. Like so many people, we never put our car in there, even through the harshest winters; instead, we left it sitting all night in the street, and filled the garage instead with a lifetime’s collection of useless junk and worthless memorabilia. My old school reports (must try harder), rolls of carpet (must get this cleaned), a mostly cracked, china dinner service (must glue this all back together one day), my dad’s tools (you never know when you’ll need an Allen key), the lawnmower we no longer needed after dad had paved the lawn…
Dad’s tools! I spun around and spied his old saw; it was a bit rusty now, but if I sawed the goose into quarters, perhaps people would be able to store it for me then? I picked up the rusty saw and waved it about me like it was Excalibur. Then a little voice in my head told me I would probably poison the both of us if used it on the bird. Back to the drawing board.
It was bitterly cold at night that winter…
A few moments later I stood back and admired my ingenuity. The goose was sitting on a wooden garden chair next to a small round garden table. We used to take our meals out there in the summer. It could sit outside, the temperature would be cold enough and the meat wouldn’t go off; it was too big for a stray cat to drag away in the middle of the night. I smiled: another problem solved.