(Above: the remaining three ‘golden girls’ today: Mum – left; Doreen – centre, and Mavis – left)

There were four of them: best friends who grew up in the smoky old streets of Bolton, Lancashire, long before the leviathan called ‘Greater Manchester’ gobbled up anything that looked remotely prosperous.

(Above: proud Bolton’s Town Hall… built in better times)

Bolton’s not prospering, now. It’s yet another ‘depressed former mill town’, though that blanket description completely masks the major contributions that Bolton – and many of the large towns near it – made to the development of the Industrial Revolution and the century that followed.

(Above centre: Louise, the 4th ‘golden girl’, centre, sadly passed away. Photo taken in 2011)

My life began in those dark, cobbled streets. So many did.. They were filled with a great number of good people… and a few bad ones. Most had hard lives and warm hearts.

I had some real aunties and uncles on my father’s side, but they were more remote and austere than the group of people who were best friends with mum and dad. These became our day-to-day ‘relatives’. Summer picnics, Christmas parties and Easter trips to the coast were our happy lives together…not to mention weekly Sunday trips to the baths – the name for municipal swimming pools in those days.

“Aunties and uncles’ had children, of course: my brother and I, Doreen’s son, Louise’s son. And, Paul, the son of Mavis, who tragically died in his teens. We didn’t have a ‘gang’ name, just cousins – even though we weren’t… In truth, we were stronger than most cousins by blood.

There are three of the ladies left alive, now – see top photo. Mum – right, Doreen – centre and Mavis, left. They took the name ‘golden girls’ for themselves about twenty years ago: after the American TV series. There were four, but Louise passed away this year.

(Above: Magee Marshall and Co – local brewers of distinction and only a few streets away from my grandparents house, where I was born)

Doreen and mum speak via her mobile phone every day. They take turns to call each other – when she can find the phone, that is; and assuming it’s still charged. Remarkably, this is one aspect that has survived the ravages of her dementia.

Keeping in touch is so very important for our golden girls.

Once in a while, we summon up the courage to get them together. I say courage because the potential for things to go wrong is vast. Mum’s dementia and Doreen’s dogged refusal to compromise are a fearsome combination. Often the whole event would make a hilarious sitcom episode. Mavis is a beacon of reasonableness and sanity, and helps the two of us ‘youngsters’ keep the events on the tracks.

Doreen’s son, Mike, and I usually arrange these things. On Sunday he had offered to bring the two Bolton-based ladies up to Morecambe where mum is in a retirement home – closes enough for me to be there in about 30 mins. But we didn’t learn about this until the middle of our trip to the Scottish Highlands. This meant that our long return car journey would be followed, not by a day of recovery, but by a ‘golden girls outing’…

No matter. We would make it work.

The original plan was to use the Royal Hotel in Heysham Village. It’s dog-friendly, so we could take Tess, our collie, along, too. But they were fully booked. Tables for seven are not always easy to come by at short notice.

Long distance from Scotland, we suggested the Morecambe Hotel, in the old central region of the Morecambe’s original town – Poulton. They had one table left and that would seat six – seven at a push. We’re used to compromise and knew there might well be a reduction in numbers by the time we got there.

We booked it…from somewhere north of Inverness.

Everyone was happy until Mike showed his mother the menu – online. She said there was insufficient veggie choice. We countered that there was a good fish option, but he had tried and it wasn’t enought to placate Doreen.

Knowing that we were still returning from Scotland, Mike said he’d arranged an alternative: the Midland Hotel.

We cancelled the Morecambe Hotel…from somewhere north of Perth.

(Above: the Art Deco Midland Hotel – a reliable friend)

The Midland is a reliable friend, but, outside of the formal restaurant, which was too expensive for our purposes, there were only a few large tables. It’s dog-friendly and we often use it for coffee stops, when we’re taking Tess for a beach walk. We hoped that Mike had secured one of the larger tables. We didn’t voice this, but our view was that the veggie choice was no better than the rejected Morecambe Hotel.

We arrived back home late that night. Tired and wanting nothing more than a gentle day to follow, but knowing that wasn’t going to be the case.

I was early collecting mum on the day of the ‘golden girls’ meal. The journey from the retirement home to the Midland was one of only a few minutes, so we arrived with about twenty minutes to spare… I had a hunch that the extra time would be useful.

Getting mum a glass of Apple juice from the bar, I went to reception to check that we did actually have a booking. They had no record of it… but assured us that one of the large booths in the secondary Rotunda bar would soon be coming free.

I returned to mum to find she had spilled half the fresh glass of apple juice down her coat. Some of the bar staff helped with additional napkins, but she was sticky…

Just then, in the way of such things, Doreen’s party arrived in the bar; protesting that their booking had been lost. I turned around to see one of the larger tables being cleared and immediately walked over to claim it, refusing to budge until the rest of our party, including a sticky mother, crossed the space to join me.

Was it a success? Yes, in the end it was. And what did the veggie golden girls choose from the menu? Why, fish, of course…

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

10 Comments on “Fishing for Golden Girls

  1. Ohh Steve, it’s the way you tell a story. So many layers underneath your words and all full of love and care. It is wonderful that the remaining Golden Girls get together but we have some awareness of what these undertakings involve. Of course, they chose fish! I so hope you both had a gentle day after this one? Hugs and love to you both. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All’s well that ends well, Steve. During my recent visit to Bolton, I have to agree. The civic buildings still look so grand, and speak of former glories, while around is the same sad tale of a seemingly irreversible decline.

    Liked by 1 person

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