My mother, aged 71, finally has an email account. Last night while she was on the phone, I set one up for her. The reason she got one is so I could email her the UK and US draft covers of my book. I sent an email and attempted to explain how the next day when she went to the library to use a computer, she could log in. It wasn’t easy on the phone.
Today she went to the library and she phoned me up to let me know how it had gone.
She approached a librarian to ask if she could use a computer (my mother has never used a computer).
‘Yes,’ the librarian said. ‘You can sit anywhere.’
‘And how do I get the internet?’ asked my mother. The librarian logged her on. I think my mother did type the correct url into the correct box, and then her email address, but I had failed to tell her that the password would appear only as dots.
‘Why aren’t the keys working?’ she wondered, before going to get the librarian again, who explained.
My mother’s password ends in an exclamation mark. She couldn’t find the shift key. In about 1982 my mother had worked as a secretary, on a typewriter. 1982 is a long time ago. She went to ask the librarian. And then when she typed too many dots she had to ask again ‘how to wipe them out’.
Finally, she logged into her account and found the email. I’m sure she would have squealed with excitement – my mother likes to squeal. And then she went to get the librarian to help her print out the UK cover, and told the librarian all about how her daughter has written a book. I’m sure the librarian smiled politely. In her excitement my mother forgot to look at my US cover.
She asked the librarian how much all this help would cost.
‘Just one pound,’ said the librarian.
‘Are you sure I couldn’t give you some more,’ said my mother. ‘As a tip.’
‘No, I was happy to help,’ said the librarian.
Afterwards my mother walked to a fancy food shop, thinking she would buy something for the librarian to say thank you. ‘Chocolates?’ my mother thought. ‘No, the librarian might have to share them. Cake, perhaps?’ And here, I love her reasoning: ‘the librarian was, ahem, about my size,’ my mother said to me on the phone. ‘I thought there would be too many calories in cake, so I bought her a pudding, because it might have had yogurt in it.’ On further questioning it turned out to be tiramisu.
Then my lovely mother walked back to the library, and gave the pudding to the wonderful librarian who had helped her to see my UK cover for the first time.
On the phone tonight I said to her, ‘I’m so proud of you, Mum, for getting onto the Internet and reading my email.’
‘Are you?’ she said, sounding surprised. ‘And I’m proud of you.’
Tomorrow she’s going back to the library to look at my US cover. She’d better take more pudding.