It was still there two weeks later, propped against the sugar bowl on the kitchen counter where I habitually kept awkward or obscure items of mail – and this qualified as both. It nagged whenever I glanced at it, shouting at me mutely, in the way that only ink on paper can. A picture postcard of an English seaside resort in all its 1980s colour-saturated glory: tiny, glowing figures crowding the beach, and an improbably blue sea. And on the reverse, just the few words: ‘John, love. Call me. Important. Mum.’ And a telephone number.

I lost my mother to the tuppenny slots when I was 8 years old. A seaside town, in October – out of season for the regular tourists, but the arcades still squawked and flashed at the passers-by, beckoning them in. And in she went, just out of nostalgia, or so she said. The lights, the noise. The reverse alchemy of the change machine, pound coins into 2p pieces. The sliding trays, clink and rattle as the occasional prize fell. Small change, but it was enough. She never looked back.

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