"Bye, Mum"

Where would we be without our mums? I don't know about yours but mine is a down-to-earth woman of Finnish descent.

She doesn't talk much. If a conversation goes on for too long, she has a habit of sliding silently out of the room. One moment she's there, the next moment she's not. In our family, we call her "The Grey Ghost."

But when she speaks, you better listen. She can put more punch into a sentence than most. I and many others value her opinion.

I put in my weekly call yesterday on Skype and broke the news.

"Hi, mum. How are you?"

"Oh, fine!" she said, wheezing lightly as she inhaled on a cigarette. She'd given me a smack last year when I suggested she stop smoking.

I told her my plan to walk 3000 kilometres.

She was silent as she puffed again.

"Well," she said thoughtfully. "It could be worse."

I didn't ask how.