Sunday, 30 March 2014

Mothering Sunday

According to Wikipedia, Mother’s Day is a celebration honouring mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.  The reality is that there are many women out there who might not have physically given birth to a child, but are still in a mothering role. For example, the childless woman who, in later life finds herself in a role reversal situation nurturing the frail old lady who once nurtured her.  There are also childless women who foster kids, and some adopt.  One of the most famous mothers of all was a convent school headmistress.  She experienced a ‘call within a call’ to leave the convent and help the poor whilst living among them.  Somewhere in that moment, Sister Teresa became Mother Teresa.  And there are other women still whose pet becomes their baby.  I know numerous women who are ‘Mum’ to budgies, rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, hamsters and horses.  The bottom line is…mothering is knowing how to love and nurture.  I am blessed with a son, a daughter, a dog and a cat and am ‘Mum’ to them all.
            On days like today I love looking back at the whole mothering concept and how, when you enter that point of life, your world is turned upside down.  There can be joyful moments, tearful moments, and tear-your-hair-out moments, but above all else we love to love – no matter what.
            Earlier this week I had to catch a train to London.  A harassed mother puffed her way onto the train with a little boy on her hip.  She plonked him down opposite me and then slumped, exhausted, on the seat next to him.  The little boy gazed at me enquiringly and asked a question.  As it has been a great many years since I was fluent in baby babble, I hadn’t a clue what the little chap asked, so was unable to answer.  Instead I smiled.  Instantly bored, the tot stood up on the seat and looked out of the window.
            ‘Duck,’ he said.
            My eyes
sideways searching for a duck.  In fact we’d gone into a tunnel.  Ah!  Not duck, but dark.  I closed my eyes and relaxed back against the seat, listening to the little boy’s babble and trying to work out what he was saying, with the occasional helpful prompt from his weary mother.  The years peeled away and suddenly I could understand him.  Dwink was drink, twee was tree, seep was sheep, and so on.  Finally he said the magic word that every mummy understands and really doesn’t want to hear on a packed train to London.
            Well we won’t go into what happened next, but let’s just say that every parent has been there, done it, and ‘bought the t-shirt’ as they say.  And no I won’t tell you about the time my young daughter uttered the same magic word just as the aircraft we were on charged down a runway and flung itself into the sky.
            So whatever you are doing today, whether it is blowing a kiss to the heavens for a beloved mother no longer with you, or letting your children kiss you, or your precious pet slobber all over you, make sure you have a Happy Mother’s Day – and that the husband spoils you too.  Which reminds me.
            Fred was thirty-two years old but still single.  One day a friend asked, ‘Why aren’t you married?  Can’t you find a woman who will be a good wife?’  Fred replied, ‘Actually, I’ve found many women I’ve wanted to marry, but whenever I’ve brought them home to meet my parents, my mother didn’t like them.’  His friend thought for a moment before saying, ‘I have a perfect solution. Find a girl who is just like your mother.’  A few months later they met again, and Fred’s friend said, ‘Did you find the perfect girl?  Did your mother like her?’  Fred frowned and answered, ‘Yes, I found the perfect girl.  She was just like my mother.  And you were right!  My mother liked her very much.’  The friend said, ‘So what’s the problem?’  And Fred replied, ‘My father didn’t like her…’

Sunday, 23 March 2014

It's a Bread Thing

In my quest to be fitter and slimmer, yesterday I once again ventured to Greenwich Park.
            ‘Don’t expect me to jog with you,’ said Mr V, ‘I’ve only just got over my bad back.’
            ‘That’s fine,’ I said, ‘I shall do on-the-spot jogging keeping pace with your strolling, and also jog ahead of you, and then jog back.’
            ‘Are we taking a picnic?’
            ‘Good idea.  The weather looks perfect.’
            So we set off, picnic wrapped and packed, and it immediately poured with rain.  Fortunately, by the time we arrived at Greenwich, the sun had chased away the dark clouds and a pale blue sky was bravely doing its best to stay put.
            ‘I’m starving,’ said Mr V.
            ‘Me too.’
            We found ourselves in the Flower Garden.  In all the years we’ve visited Greenwich Park, never before have we set foot in this absolutely beautiful area.  This is because, many summers ago, our children were riding the obligatory bicycles on stabilisers or, later, hurtling along on scooters or, later still, there was a pooch barking hysterically in our wake.  So today, we opened the wooden gate bearing the sign: No dogs, no radios, no bicycles, no scooters, no wheelies, no heelies…no anything in fact other than yourself and peacefulness.  Oh, and your picnic.  So, clutching our tuna baguettes, we stepped through the gate into this fragrantly blooming wonderland.
            ‘Ooh, isn’t this lovely!’ I peered around admiring the beautifully landscaped parkland and taking mental notes.  Would a circle of hyacinth bulbs interspersed with nodding daffodils work in my postage stamp of a garden?
            ‘Look,’ Mr V pointed, ‘a bench.  Let’s sit down and eat our picnic.’
            So we sat.  Unwrapping the foil from my baguette, I gazed at the impressive pine tree to our left.  ‘What a majestic tree.  Look at those huge branches and the way they almost bow to the ground as if in worship.  Oh, and see there!  A dear little squirrel…and he seems quite tame…look how close he is to us.’
            ‘Mmm,’ said my husband, mouth full of tuna and bread.
            ‘In fact, I can’t believe how daring the little fella is.  How charming.  And endearing.  And–’
            I broke off.  Because actually, this charming and endearing squirrel was starting to look like he was on a mission.  If he’d been human, he’d have been rolling up his sleeves as he strode purposefully towards me, eyes fixed firmly on my lunch.  I clasped my baguette protectively to my chest.
            ‘Evacuate,’ I squeaked.
            ‘What?’  Mr V paused mid-munch.
            ‘Evacuate the Flower Garden.’
            ‘No, that song was called Evacuate the Dance Floor.’
             I stood up.  ‘Forthwith.’
            ‘Forthwith?  Sit down, you daft mare.’
            By this point the squirrel had a ‘hand’ on one hiking boot and was all set to do his squiggly walk up my leg.  I hastily pulled off a bit of bread and lobbed it.  Exhaling with relief, I watched as the squirrel shot off after the bread, looking for all the world like a dog after a rubber ball.
            ‘You shouldn’t have done that,’ my husband shook his head.
            ‘Why not?’
            I didn’t have long to find out.  Within a nano-second another squirrel had appeared and he was bringing reinforcements.  A pigeon landed at my feet.
            Coo, coo,’ said the pigeon.
            You didn’t need to speak pigeon to understand what it was saying.  Hand over the baguette, dude.
            ‘Now look what you’ve done,’ moaned Mr V as five more pigeons landed at our feet.  It’s quite astonishing how much racket half a dozen birds can make.  And then, like something out of a Hitchcock movie, the sky was filled with pigeons all circling above my baguette.
            ‘I’m off,’ I told my husband.  For some strange reason the pigeons and squirrels were leaving him alone, instead focusing their attention on just me.  I took off at a sprint with a stream of pigeons and squirrels trailing in my wake.  At that moment I can honestly say I know how Snow White felt when she made friends with all the woodland animals and they followed her everywhere.  Perhaps I should have turned around and sung to them?
            Which reminds me.  Why does Snow White always treat each of the seven dwarfs equally?  Because she’s the fairest of them all…


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Road Rage (in a car park)

First thing yesterday morning I had to take my daughter to Blackheath Hospital for a consultancy appointment (nothing serious, I hasten to add!).  We arrived with twenty minutes to spare and I mentally rubbed my hands with glee.
            ‘There’s a lovely little café around the corner,’ I said to Eleanor, ‘we’ll go and grab a cappuccino before your appointment.’
            ‘And a nice fat slice of cake?’
            ‘Of course!  I’ll just park the car and we’ll be on our way.’
            Easier said than done.  And, as it happened, the only cake we ended up encountering was the bun fight in the hospital car park.  As I crawled through the narrow entrance, it was immediately apparent that the place was full.  I scanned the choc-a-bloc parking bays, and offered up a few silent prayers.  Hurrah!  Straight in front of me was a woman reversing out of a space.  Except she appeared to have a particularly diddy car.  And mine was, like my derriere, a little on the ample side.  Still, if bottoms can squish into chairs, then cars can squash into parking bays.  All it took was a bit of maneuvering.
            ‘I don’t think you’re going to get into it, Mum.’
            ‘Nonsense.  If I squeeze myself into this alleyway to the side, I can then reverse back and…oh!’
            Some dear kind sweet thoughtful soul had taken advantage of my sideways manoeuvre and zoomed into my space.
            I buzzed the window down.  ‘Excuse me!’ I called politely to the dear kind sweet thoughtful soul, ‘but that was my space.  I was just preparing to reverse into it.’
            The dear kind sweet thoughtful soul gave me a steely glare.
            ‘It’s my space now.’
            Well there was no arguing with that, was there!  I gave the dear kind sweet thoughtful soul one of my ‘looks’ whilst taking ten seconds out to sit firmly on my hands lest they do the sort of hand signals that aren’t part of the Highway Code.
            ‘What a flaming cheek,’ said Eleanor.
            ‘Never mind, I’ve spotted another one.’
            ‘Over there.  Somebody is leaving.’
            ‘On it.’
            I rammed the car into gear and shot forward.  YESSSSSS!  A stream of cars were coming into the car park, bunging up the aisles, causing chaos, drivers’ heads rotating three-hundred-and-sixty degrees in an effort to seek out an elusive space – but I had it covered and my imminent space was secure.  Except…what was that driver over there doing?  A swish BMW had stopped and was signalling, indicating that he was after my imminent space.  More buzzing down of windows took place.
            ‘Excuse me?’ I smiled pleasantly.
            The man blanked me.
            ‘He’s going to nick your parking space, Mum.’
            ‘Oh no he’s not.’
            ‘He is.’
            He was.  I jumped out of my car and marched over to the BMW.
            ‘Hi.’  My next attempt at a polite smile probably looked more like how the Joker greeted Batman.  ‘This space that you’re waiting for…well I saw it first…so it’s mine.’
            ‘But I’m closest to it.’
            ‘I don’t care.  I was here before you and good manners dictate you acknowledge that and let me park my car here.’
            ‘You ain’t parking your car here, lady.’
            ‘Oh yes I am.  Watch me.’
            ‘It will be my pleasure.’
            ‘Good.  Have fun watching.’
            ‘Are you a magician or something?’
            ‘What sort of daft question is that?’
            ‘Because while you’ve been telling me that you’re parking in this space, the original car has left and a Mini has parked there instead.  So are you going to somehow magically park your car on top of that Mini?’
            ‘Hurry up, lady.  I’m waiting to be entertained.’
            Muttering oaths under my breath, I returned to my car.
            ‘Mum, we’re going to miss our appointment at this rate.’
            ‘The next space is ours,’ I snarled.  ‘And if anybody tries to stop me I’ll–’
            ‘Look!  He’s leaving!’

            ‘Oh dear God and Mother Mary and anybody else up there listening, just get me into that parking space!’
            A van was moving out of a sideways bay.  This meant having to do what nearly every woman dreads.  Parallel parking.  I zipped over, put my hazards on, slammed the car into reverse, lined up my passenger door with the car to the side’s rear door, swung the steering wheel hard left ninety degrees and prayed very hard that my car would go in first time and…yes…yes…it was happening…absolutely fantastic…what a sensational bit of parallel parking…someone should film this and use it to demonstrate to Learner drivers all over the world exactly how you should parallel park because this was beyond brilliant…except…what the hell was that?
            Behind me a horn had sounded long, loud, and protesting.  I craned my neck to see a little old lady in a Micra beeping me and halfway into my parking space.
            ‘I don’t sodding believe this!’ I fumed.  ‘Well two can play that game.’  So I hit my horn too.  For a while we duetted.  After thirty seconds a cacophony of horns joined in because, of course, this stand-off over a parking space was causing major havoc with the other circling predators.  And then the little old lady began edging forwards.  Good heavens!  She was calling my bluff and going for it!  Ten out of ten to her for sheer bloody-minded courage.  I instantly wimped out and drove forward again.
            ‘What a nerve!’ Eleanor said.  ‘And she’s got to be at least eighty.  You’d have thought the older generation had manners.’
            ‘Unfortunately there are some members of the older generation who think that just because they are Golden Oldies, they have the right to be rude.  Look at Victor Meldrew.’
            ‘Ah, never mind.’
            And then a miracle occurred.  A man knocked on my window.
            ‘Do you want my parking space, love, only I saw what happened there and I’m just about to go.  And the wife is with me, so she’ll make sure nobody barges in.’
            You see!  There is a God!
            ‘Oh thank you, thank you, thank you,’ I said to the nice man, and God, and Mother Mary, and anybody else who cared to listen.
            And so it came to pass that the sun shone down, birds tweeted, flowers bloomed and I parked my car with no mishaps, while a huge thunderbolt burst out from nowhere and turned the little old lady’s Micra to marshmallow.  Well, actually, that last part didn’t happen, I made it up, although I can’t deny the thought didn’t enter my head.  Which reminds me.
            A group of pensioners were discussing their medical problems at the Day Centre’s coffee morning.  ‘Do you realize,’ said one, ‘that my arm is so weak I can hardly hold this coffee cup?’  ‘Yes, I know,’ replied the second, ‘and my cataracts are so bad I can’t see to pour the coffee.’  ‘I can’t turn my head,’ said the third, ‘because of the arthritis in my neck.’  ‘My blood pressure pills make me dizzy,’ lamented the fourth, ‘but I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old.’  ‘Well, it’s not all bad,’ piped up the first, ‘we should be thankful that we can all still drive…’


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Happy Imminent Birthday To Me

Apparently I have a birthday occurring at any moment.  I can honestly say that I’d completely forgotten about this annual event.  It seems as though only five minutes ago we celebrated Christmas.  Hot on the heels of the festive season was my mother’s 81st, and then my son’s 21st.  If I were a cosmic policeman I’d flag down 2014 and say, ‘Do you know what speed you’re travelling at?  A hefty fine for you, and three points on your calendar.’
            ‘Can we celebrate your birthday at our favourite restaurant?’ asked my daughter.
            I did a rough head count which included those who are very good at ordering extra bottles of champagne without offering to pay for it.  This was followed by a cartoon gulp.
            ‘I think a birthday buffet at home would be better.’
            ‘Oh, how disappointing,’ said my daughter, ‘not to mention boring.’  She stuck out her bottom lip, seconds away from a full-blown sulk.
            But the truth of the matter is money doesn’t grow on trees.  There are those who are invited but seem to think this means they can, in turn, go on to invite the entirety of their own families.  I’ve only just recovered from paying for my son’s 21st. I wouldn’t mind if some of the guests were a little more giving of themselves, but one turned up and didn’t even have the generosity to give my son a birthday card!
            ‘What would you like for your birthday?’ my son asked during one late night telephone call.
            ‘Your company,’ I replied.
            ‘Okay, I’ll pop down for the weekend.’
            ‘Can we celebrate your birthday at our favourite restaurant?
            I experienced a moment of déjà vu.
            ‘I need to save a few pennies.  I’m doing a birthday buffet instead.’
            ‘Oh, how disappointing.’
            Another moment of déjà vu.
            ‘I know!’ said Rob.  ‘What about we go somewhere cheaper?’
            ‘Like where?’
            ‘What about pub grub?’
            ‘Yes that would be fine if W didn’t drink like a fish, and X didn’t order the most expensive things on the menu twice over because of his huge appetite, and Y didn’t want half a dozen shorts – and I don’t mean trousers that end at the knee.  Not forgetting Z who is so stingy he even likes to have a laugh at my expense.’
            It would seem that there are two ‘gifts’ for being the age I now am.  The first is cynicism and a touch of the Victor Meldrews. The second is
no longer caring about whether I’m displaying
cynicism and a touch of the Victor Meldrews.  Perhaps I should just blow a small fortune and be done with it.  Which reminds me.
            It’s a hot day and there’s a travelling salesman passing through a small town in Texas when he sees a little old man sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of a house.  So he stops and says to the little old man, ‘You look as if you don’t have a care in the world.  What’s your formula for a long and happy life?’   And the little old man replied, ‘Well, I smoke six packs of cigarettes a day, I drink a quart of bourbon every four hours, and six cases of beer a week.  I never wash and I go out every night.  Oh, and I don’t get to bed until four in the morning.’  And the guy says, ‘Wow, that’s just great.  How old are you?’  And the little old man says, ‘Twenty-two…’

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Good Heavens

The sun is shining, the daffs are out, and it is officially Spring.  Hurrah!  After one of the wettest winters in two-hundred-and-fifty years, it is almost a novelty to look to the skies and see a golden circle languishing amongst some truculent looking clouds.
            The weather has been all over the place.  It seems as though the ‘four seasons’ have been more akin to ‘no rhyme or reason’.  After a mad concerto of storms, endless rain, terrible flooding, and freaky sink holes, everything came to a crescendo with the amazing aurora borealis.  Usually this remarkable light show is seen in the polar regions, but this week the UK held its breath as a rare and spectacular display took part from Scotland to as far south as Jersey.  And did anybody see the image of a face on top of a spectacular ‘garment’ of lime green and strawberry pink?  Apparently I’m not the only one to have spotted it.
            If you are given to fancy (and I most certainly am!), you could ask what on earth is going on?  Whizz back in time a few thousand years and we would have muttered that God was angry in his heavens.  The light show and ‘face’ would have either sent our ancestors running for cover, or falling to the ground in worship.  There are many legends from North America and Scandinavia about how dangerous it can be to not show respect for the northern lights.  They are even mentioned in the Bible, in the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament.  Two-thousand-six-hundred years ago, the description says, ‘I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light.’
            Facebook abounded with ‘prophecy’ pictures, like the wooden ark you could buy flat packed from Ikea.  Given that the Thames Barrier was closed for a record twenty occasions last month alone, it almost seemed that those prophecy pictures weren’t such a laughing matter.  Certainly the many people whose homes were evacuated and ruined due to their roads being turned into rivers, were not laughing.  Indeed, their misery must have been as deep as the water whooshing through their local high streets.
            But for now the rain has stopped, the light show is over, and God is calm in his heaven.  I’m going to take advantage of the sunny spell to wash my car.  At least the Government can’t impose a hosepipe ban at the moment.  Which reminds me.  What did one raindrop say to the other?  Two’s company, three’s a cloud…