It's good for me to visit my mum, who lives far from Deepest Hackney in the small west country town where I grew up. It means I get to watch some telly, especially the sorts of programme I never see when I'm at home because I'm too busy cooking, working or supervising homework, or because the kids are in command of the remote. I recommend The One Show: proper, popular magazine journalism co-presented by Adrian Chiles, who I've always liked. And Springwatch: red-clawed nature as reality soap opera, if you can bear an hour of Bill Oddie.
Another benefit is closer acquaintance with the economics of growing old. Since my father's death a year ago, Mum has employed a carer for one hour a day. Every penny is well spent, but it comes to a lot of pennies and Mum is neither poor enough to qualify for benefits nor well-off enough to absorb the expense without anxiety. Any political party that gets to grips with this issue is on to a big vote-winner.
Then there's the local history. This photo is of a long-disused Great Western Railway ticket office. The tiny station it served was used by my father when returning home on leave from RAF duties during the war. The same line also served the local colliery, which closed in the 1960s. I retain childhood memories of decrepit coal trucks and pit head machinery, but stronger ones of the pub the ticket office adjoined, the Miners Arms. I was surprised and intrigued to see that it's become an Indian restaurant.
"We must go there, Mum," I said.
"Oh, I don't know. I don't like anything too spicy."
"Don't worry. I'll choose you something mild."
It turned out they'd only been open for two weeks. Mum had chicken tikka, which was served, sizzling, on an iron skillet. She told the young waiters all about the ticket office, the trains and the mines. They packed up our leftovers in a takeaway carton - Mum reheated them for her lunch the following day - and promised to visit the local museum.