Mrs Sylvia Johnson always knew what to do. She carried a clean hankie, a pound coin and a safety pin in her coat pocket, and always kept a cloth bag for yellow-stickered offerings in Marks and Spencer.

In her youth, she travelled extensively, and kept one hundred dollars folded and stitched into the lining of her bra.

She moved her savings off-shore years before the crash and opened a Post Office account– unbeknown to Mr Johnson.

There were barley sugars in the glove box of her well-kept Volkswagon and Smarties in the pantry.

Mrs Sylvia Johnson always announced her age as five years older than her passport stated, and people remarked on her youthful looks.

She would neither lend nor borrow, not even during that unfortunate episode between her neighbour and that dreadful man.

Mrs Sylvia Johnson kept her vest on until May and ensured her children did the same, even though they were fully-grown.

She filled her prescriptions long before they ran out but kept a bottle of Navy Rum for the more trivial complaints one occasionally encountered.

Mrs Sylvia Johnson could always be relied upon to hold stock of palest lemon wool for surprising arrivals. She learned book-keeping as well as shorthand.

She tested the smoke alarm every month and paid off the mortgage with the divorce settlement.

So, when they told her it was back and there was no more of her they could cut out, Mrs Sylvia Johnson selected fine but inexpensive stationary to pen succinct lists and reminders for the coming weeks. In her bedroom, she picked out the most flattering shades of navy and lilac, added just the right chiffon scarf.

Suitably attired, Mrs Sylvia Johnson took the box of pills from their home in the back of the wardrobe. She swallowed them, one at a time with the nice bottle of Rhone she’d been saving.

My mother always did know best.

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