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All about my mother: 'She sounded quiet — even more disturbing in its rarity'

It's not often that i miss a call from my mother. No, wait; I frequently miss her calls deliberately, but with good reason. Usually, it's because I'm in a meeting and know that she's ringing to see if I can check and reserve something in Argos. Or talk at me for 10 minutes without pausing for breath.

On the occasions that I genuinely miss her calls due to my phone being switched off, her voicemails would put the fear of Beelzebub in you. Last week, after a hefty work meeting, I switched my phone back on to find five messages. The one from my mother starts off in a low voice.

"Emer," she quivers. "It's your mother." An even bigger waver.

"Will you ring me as soon as you get this?" I almost fancy I hear a crack in the voice.

If I was anyone else, my heart would immediately start to pound. The tumble-dryer sickness in the stomach would begin while fumbling for her number on the speed dial.

Not me.


I'm well used to these 'someone's died' messages.

It's as if she's got the hump that you haven't been waiting for her call and telling your voicemail her news doesn't have the same reaction factor.

"Hi mam, you rang me?"

"Yes love." She is brighter than a halogen bulb.

"What's wrong?"

"God, nothing. Why?"

"Your voice message. It sounded like you were upset." I don't add that she sounded quiet, which is even more disturbing in its rarity.

"Not at all. I knew you were in town and was just going to ask you to get something for me."

"So everything's okay?"

"Of course. Now if you're passing Argos, will you get me the new catalogue?"