It’s time for Sheridan’s early-December luncheon with his mother. It’s a prospect he relishes almost as much as going to the dentist; but like going to the dentist, it had to be done. “And don’t be late, dear,” Mrs. Rock had pleaded. “We have to have a little talk”. He groaned again. He was trying to find the right moment to tell his widowed mother that he was planning to spend Christmas in Sitges and not with her. This was likely to end up being “one of those lunches”.
Regular readers might recall that old Mr Rock had passed on in early 2015. Since then, Mrs Rock has embraced widowhood stoically but time has dragged. Her son thought that she was technologically illiterate so some time ago she had gone alone “to the shop named after a fruit in Irish Town”. She did this after speaking to her best friend Cloti, whose son worked there. “Hello Auntie”, the son had greeted her, rather too jauntily she felt. She was not his auntie. In fact, he was rather unkempt and looked in need of a wash. “Mum says you need a new tablet,” he said loudly.
Mrs Rock seethed. True, she’d had one or two minor medical issues recently but she thought Cloti could have been more discreet. “No dear, that’s my business thank you,” she said brusquely. “What I need is some sort of portable computermabob. Just so I can get on the line and use the interweb. And cheap, dear.” Cloti’s son was a little taken aback by her attitude but thought it best not to correct her and, in no time at all, Mrs Rock was back at home getting familiar with her new acquisition. It really wasn’t as difficult as Sheridan had said.
Lunch. Sheridan made sure he was on time, with everything brushed and in the right place. Mrs Rock was keen on keeping up appearances. They greeted each other and Sheridan noticed immediately that his mother seemed agitated but also strangely happy. Maybe he should tell her immediately about his Christmas plans; after all, Auntie Cloti had told him that his mother could “go round hers for Christmas Day”. But before he could even frame the words, Mrs Rock jumped in.
“Now dear, I don’t want you getting upset,” she said, “but I’m afraid you’ll have to do your own thing this Christmas for I am otherwise tied up”. She giggled. “That isn’t a euphonium though. I mean I’ll be spending the holiday with someone else”. Sheridan couldn’t believe his luck. Good old Cloti; she had obviously spoken to his mother already. “So you’ll be joining Auntie Cloti’s family lunch, right?” he said. “Wrong, dear,” she retorted. “Cloti can be soooooo dull and that son of hers is very scruffy. No, I’ll be with Gerald.”
Sheridan took the bait. “Who is Gerald?” he demanded. It turned out that Mrs Rock had been using her new tablet to log on to a seniors dating site and this Gerald had got in touch. Not just that. They had taken to speaking every day by Skype and he was flying in to Gibraltar from London for Christmas. Depending on how they got on, Mrs Rock conjectured, Gerald was considering a permanent move to the Rock.
Sheridan was nonplussed. “You didn’t tell me you were buying an iPad,” he spluttered, rather missing the more important point. “I mean, what do you know about this man? He could be a dangerous maniac.” He suddenly had a horrible thought. “Or after our money,” he added. “My money, dear,” Mrs Rock corrected him. “And no, I think he’s rather sweet and we haven’t really talked about finances. Yet.” That last word worried Sheridan.
“Well, where’s he from? How old is he? What does he do? I mean … ” Sheridan saw only trouble ahead. “For one thing, is he UK domiciled?” “Of course he is,” said Mrs Rock firmly. “That’s where he lives.” Sheridan could be very silly at times, she thought. “Mother,” said Sheridan, his eyes rolling with exasperation, “Gerald might have lived in England for years without being domiciled. It really could be quite important.” He knew that his mother was confusing “domicile” with the Spanish word “domicilio”.
Mrs Rock was enjoying this. She might be in her twilight years but she could read Sheridan like that Mills & Boon on her bedside table. And she knew all about Sitges – Gibraltar really is a very small place and you could find out anything on these new computermabobs. She thought it was time to put him out of his misery. After all, lunch was going cold. Well, gazpacho does that! She smiled at her own little joke. It was time for her “prepared statement”, a phrase she had read on the BBC website that morning.
“Calm down, dear,” she said, echoing David Cameron on one of his better YouTube performances. “Let me tell you all about Gerald. First of all, he arrives tomorrow”. Sheridan gulped, but kept shtum. “He’s quite well off, I think. He must be into farming because he says he’s going to put one of his pensions into crops. And he must have a large wine collection because he tells me he also needs to be careful about his sips.” In fact, Gerald had actually spelt these as “qrops” and “sipps” on Skype text and Mrs Rock made a mental note to have a word with him about his typing.
Sheridan couldn’t help being distracted by the thought of his mother having an online relationship. Could this “silver surfer” be the same lady who once put the TV remote in the freezer? He struggled to get back to the conversation but his mother was still talking. “And there was a wife. But she died years ago without any children and Gerald is now all alone. He knows all about Gibraltar being caught up in the Brexit thingy but I’ve told him we’ll be fine. Mrs May says so.”
Sheridan started to relax a little. “He fully intends to come to Gibraltar and move in here with me,” she went on. “And don’t worry what people will say, dear. Things are much more relaxed than they used to be. After all, we don’t just have civil partnerships here in Gibraltar, we even have limited liability partnerships according to the Chronicle. And they sound very progressive.” Sheridan smiled inwardly. Bless her, he thought. It reminded him though that soon, he and his mother would need to have another conversation – but not today.
If he was honest, Sheridan was beginning to get a little bored with the subject of Gerald by the end of lunch. Nevertheless, he promised to meet him when he arrived the next day. It had been an illuminating couple of hours and not at all what he had expected. Maybe there was more to his mother than he‘d thought. Perhaps that is where his own intelligence came from, he mused. It certainly hadn’t come from his late father.
Gerald duly flew in the next day and Sheridan was summoned to the big reveal. To his surprise, his mother’s new beau was amusing, very well “turned out” and was clearly doing his best to impress. “Gibraltar is the place for me,” he declared. “No CGT, no VAT and, if I play my cards right, I might mitigate my IHT too.” Sheridan’s ears pricked up at that. “I’ll probably do something with my investments here,” continued Gerald. “Your mother is going to introduce me to that chap in specs who writes all those articles. We are going to discuss my Cat 2 residency application.”
Sheridan was nonplussed for the second time in two days. He hadn’t known that his mother even knew the chap in specs. He felt like a parent suddenly becoming aware that their child had a life of their own. He had that bridge still to cross but, then again, at least he could go to Sitges without feeling guilty.
Sheridan departed eventually; Mrs Rock was very happy with how it had all gone. She took Gerald aside. “Look dear, a message on my computermabob from the chap in specs.” “On behalf of all Sovereign staff in Gibraltar, I wish readers and their families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year,” it read. “Isn’t that nice, Gerald?” said Mrs Rock. “Yes,” he replied. “I’m already beginning to like it here.”