Sunday, 25 October 2015

For Better or Worse


My daughter, home from drama school for half-term, announced she was bored.
            ‘Fancy watching a DVD together?’ she asked.
            ‘Okay,’ I replied.  ‘What shall we watch?’
            Eleanor opened the drawer under the coffee table and peered within. Inside were a number of DVDs that have been languishing for years.  When I say the Teletubbies are in there, you’ll realise just how many years I’m talking about.  ‘Ooh,’ she grinned.  ‘Your wedding DVD! Come on, Mum.  Make us both a cup of tea and I’ll set it up.’
            I was expecting the next hour to be spent companionably with my daughter as we sipped tea and smiled indulgently.  Instead we alternated between crying a river and doubling over with laughter.  The laughter came first.
            ‘Oh my goodness, the quality is tragic,’ Eleanor announced.  On the screen, colours blurred and bled into each other.
            ‘This was state-of-the-art stuff back then,’ I protested.  As you’ve probably gathered, I got married when cameras contained thirty-six exposure film and a mobile phone was just a mobile phone.  Tell a lie, I do remember one wedding guest proudly holding a mobile phone that actually housed a camera with a ridiculously small amount of pixels.
            ‘Look this way, Debbie!  Smile!  Fantastic. Want to have a look?  See here, this white blob with a smaller blob is you in your wedding dress holding your bouquet. Amazing, eh!’
            ‘Oh my goodness, so it is!  Your camera phone is just…appalling.’
            At least he wasn’t doing the wedding pics.  There was a professional photographer for that, and also a professional videographer.  The latter had a huge camera on his right shoulder.  He was wearing a jacket which appeared to be weighted down with bricks. In fact they were battery packs.
            The film continued to roll.  The television screen was filled with various shots of Rowhill Grange, the glorious hotel where Mr V vowed to take me and my cooking for better or worse.  Then the titles scrolled up.
            Starring the bridesmaids…followed by two posed shots of my daughter and step-daughter.  Eleanor, aged five, was thrilled to be wearing a princess dress and far more interested in whizzing round and round so the skirts spun out.  Rianna, my step-daughter, grinned self-consciously into camera.  She revealed a pair of newly-popped grown-up front teeth too big for her small face.
            Co-starring the pageboy…followed by my son Robbie in the grip of nerves. His smile for the camera was like somebody in intense pain.
            From our vantage point on the sofa, Eleanor and I slapped our thighs and chortled with laughter.  The next title faded in and took our breath away.
            We remember our dear friend, the best man… Eleanor and I burst into tears.  My husband’s closest friend was to have been the best man.  He died in a tragic accident weeks before our wedding.  Nobody could take his place, but we’re pretty sure he came along and we raised a glass to him.
            The camera panned to guests.  My mother, tall and straight, wearing stilettoes and looking incredibly young.  These days she’s eight inches shorter after bungled back surgery, walks on crutches and wears a caliper.  Eleanor and I howled some more.
            And finally, the arrival of the bride and groom – it was a second marriage for me so we arrived together.  The tears turned to laughter again.
            ‘Oh cringe, Mum. Your hair!’  Yes, let’s not forget THAT hairstyle.  I was born with curls and big hair.  Without a doubt my finest decade was the eighties.  Back then, women all over the land were perming their hair and fluffing it out.  Not me.  My hair did it all by itself.  As I exited the limo, I was preceded by a billowing cloud of blonde curls so wide it was a wonder I could walk through doorways.
            As the wedding unfolded, Eleanor burst into tears again.  ‘I looked so carefree,’ she lamented.  She’s had a few troubles recently, bless her.
            All three children were undeniably cute.  A part of me momentarily longed to return to that faraway time where the only thing our kids had worried about was where the next Barbie doll or Action Man was coming from.  These days they have nervous breakdowns about spots, body shape or the dating game where inevitably somebody gets dumped.  On the other hand, I don’t know how we got through those days juggling the jobs we had with small children and very little sleep.  As I watched myself on the screen walking into the hotel followed by three beautifully turned out children, I marveled at what the camera hadn’t caught an hour earlier…a harassed woman helping two little girls into cream tights, frocks and ballet shoes, and a little boy needing assistance with his tie whilst the same harassed woman clock watched and wondered if it was possible to do full bridal make-up in four minutes and thirty-nine seconds before the limo arrived.
            Eleanor and I laughed again as Mr V fluffed his vows.  ‘I take thee to be my awful wedded wife…’
            I’d booked a table magician to entertain throughout the wedding breakfast.  The videographer had captured everybody’s requests for balloon poodles, balloon bicycles, balloon flowers and so on.  It had also captured one guest who fancied himself as a bit of a wag.
            ‘And what would Sir like?’ asked the magician.
            ‘I’ll have a blow-up doll please.’
            To use one of my daughter’s favourite words…CRINGE!
            Following on were the speeches. I made one too.  Trying to ignore the camera, I nervously thanked everybody for coming and turned to Mr V.  ‘I’m delighted to be your husband and honoured you’re now my wife.’
            By the time the DVD came to an end, Eleanor and I had trumpeted our way through half a box of tissues.  When Mr V came home from work, he asked why we had bloodshot eyes.
            ‘We’ve been watching the wedding DVD,’ said Eleanor.
            ‘Put it on again,’ said my husband as he settled himself down on the sofa.  ‘What’s that for?’ he asked as Eleanor placed the remaining tissues next to him.
            ‘You’ll need them.’
            ‘Don’t be daft,’ Mr V laughed.
           
He pulled the first tissue thirty seconds into the film.  Which reminds me.
            A
man placed an advert in the classifieds: Wife wanted.  The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing. You can have mine

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Little Miss Muffet (sat in her car and screamed)


I’m not a fan of spiders, nor are my family.  Last summer the media was full of terrible tales about False Widows.  They’d apparently infiltrated the UK and embarked on a frenzied breeding program.  Newspapers trumpeted stories about horrendous spider bites that put victims in hospital. Photographs of the wounded with swollen limbs were splashed across the pages.  Everyone was terrified!  In fact at the time of writing this there are four False Widows sitting in webs outside my lounge window.  The fact that they remain shows general hysteria has calmed down.  That said, hysterics of the unfunny kind will break out if any one of those Widows dare to enter this house.
            Spider encounters are enough to make the bravest jump.  Earlier this week my mother spotted a huge hairy monster on her bedroom carpet.  She creaked off to get her spider-catcher (she never kills them, unlike her murdering daughter and grand-daughter).  By the time she’d creaked back, the spider had gone.  She found it again at bed time – when she got under the covers.  All together now…ARGH!
            Last weekend my daughter jumped in her car.  Humming absent-mindedly, she set off.  Just as she was gaining speed, in her peripheral vision something moved.  Daring to take her eyes off the road, she saw a spider had parachuted off the door and was dangling across the driver’s window.  Inside, not out.  Eleanor was instantly on red-alert.  A scream rose up but died in her throat.  She didn’t want to do anything to send the spider dropping on her or, even worse, scuttling off into the depths of the car only to re-emerge when on a motorway.
            Leaning away from the driver’s door, my daughter continued to drive with stretched cartoon arms whilst searching for a place to pull over.  To add to her anxiety, the sound of a siren filled the air.  Was it a fire engine?  An ambulance?  Spotting a gap ahead, Eleanor edged towards it.  The siren was gaining momentum.  Every pulse of its screaming wail matched her galloping heartrate.  The spider had started to spin its way over to Eleanor’s shoulder.  Squeaking in terror, she kerbed the car, mounted the pavement and promptly stalled the engine.  The siren was almost upon her.  Ratcheting up the handbrake, she spotted a toilet roll on the open glove shelf.  Yes, this family carry toilet rolls in their vehicles.  I always mean to provide boxes of tissues, but always fail.  Anyway, I digress.  The spider was almost upon Eleanor.  Whimpering, she grabbed the toilet roll and smashed it hard against the spider.  Without losing a beat, she flung the driver’s door wide and tossed the toilet roll just as a police car – siren still blaring – roared past.  The toilet roll sailed through the air, bounced off the police car’s windscreen and, like a party popper, streamed across the road.  Eleanor was horrified.  Visions of a police car screeching to a halt with an angry officer arresting her for assault by toilet roll danced through her brain.  Unable to take any more, Eleanor collapsed weakly over the steering wheel.  The horn promptly beeped making her rocket upright again in shock.  Fortunately the police car had more pressing business than a highly strung teenager chucking toilet rolls about.  Exhaling shakily, Eleanor started the car and drove back home.
            ‘Mum!’ she cried, crashing into the hallway.  ‘Help!’
            ‘What’s happened?’ I asked in alarm.
            Eleanor leant against the wall for support.  ‘Spider,’ she gasped.  ‘I need you to check the car over for me.  I’m scared.’
            Well so was I in all honesty.  But like all Mother Hens, when our chicks need assistance, we get on with it.  ‘I’ll be right with you.’  I squared my shoulders.  This called for my long-handled feather duster.  Thus armed, I marched out to Eleanor’s car.  My daughter trotted after me.
            ‘Eeeeeek,’ she squealed.  ‘There’s one on the boot.  Look!’
            Sure enough, a fat garden spider was dossing about on a web strung between the aerial and the rear wiper blade.  I didn’t hesitate.  The feather duster whipped through the air and hit its target.  I then went over every inch of the car whacking the paintwork like a woman possessed.  Which I was.  Fear drove me.  I was aware of net curtains twitching.  Heaven only knows what the neighbours thought watching a frenzied blonde thrash the living daylights out of a car with a pink feather duster.  The same exercise was carried out internally.  Thankfully no spider was found but I didn’t take any chances and thwack-thwacked a dropped chocolate Minstrel, a chewing gum wrapper and even a lost penny.
            ‘This car,’ I panted as I clambered out of the confined area, ‘is now a spider-free zone.’
            Which reminds me.  What do you call 108 spiders on a car tyre?  A spinning wheel…

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A Bit of an Old Bag


There is a very high shelf in my wardrobe.  Once it contained an organised row of handbags.  From the tiniest purse to the most sensible work bag, the shelf was neat and tidy.  This orderliness lasted, ooh, a couple of weeks.  Like most women, I’m a sucker for a handbag.  In no time at all the organised row descended into a higgledy-piggledy mess.
            Colour, shape, pattern, motifs, pockets, zips, handles, straps, flaps, texture, fabric…to the female brain these things are enthralling.  And let’s not forget size and whether it’s floppy or stiff (no smutty thoughts please, I’m still talking about handbags).
            Things got a bit heated between Mr V and myself when he went into the wardrobe and was assaulted by a rainfall of handbags on his head.
            ‘Isn’t it about time you sorted out this shelf?’ he grumbled.
            Nearly all my bags are designer fakes.  I lurve a good fake!  Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Yves St Lauren – fabulous!  On more than one occasion a friend has said, ‘Wow, look at you with your swanky bag.  That must have cost the earth!’ The only time I didn’t quite pull it off was when, out of price curiosity, I boldly walked into a Louis Vuitton store with a fake tote on my shoulder.  The sales assistant was beyond scathing.  The temptation to bash my credit card just to wipe the contempt from her face was overwhelming.  But the sensible part of me reasoned it would be much better just to bash her with the fake.  No, of course I didn’t.  But I wanted to!
            However, last year when I was in Canada, one of my very dear relatives took me to a designer outlet.  And lo!  There were designer handbags.  I gravitated towards one that was a mix of suede and leather.  The overall colour was nude with panels edged in black.  It had a long strap and short handles, both with brushed gold clasps that matched the designer’s discreet lettering.  And deep joy - there was a matching purse!  When I later showed my purchases to my mother, she nearly had a fit.
            ‘You’re using them!’  She clapped a hand over her mouth in horror.  ‘Aren’t you going to save them for best?’
            ‘For best?  At that price?  No, I’m going to get my money’s worth and use them every day.’
            And I have.  My designer bag and purse go everywhere with me.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to treat them with a bit of reverence.  This usually occurs when my daughter goes into my bag to borrow something but has to fight her way through layers of crumpled tissues, twenty defunct pens, a split bag of mints, four hundred lipsticks, old till receipts, six pairs of sunglasses (yes, all fakes), driving specs, reading specs, and a collection of parking tickets.
            ‘Mum!’ Eleanor scalded.  ‘Your bag is absolutely minging.  Sort it out!’  Eleanor’s own designer handbag is kept in pristine condition.  She uses it on high days and holidays and it mostly resides in a dust cover.  I wish her bedroom was as immaculate, but apparently bedrooms don’t count.
            Which reminds me.  As the bus pulled away, a woman realised she’d left her handbag under the seat.  Later, she called the depot and was relieved her handbag had been found.  When she went to pick it up, several bus drivers gathered around.  One handed her six typewritten pages, the handbag, and a box containing the handbag’s contents.  ‘We made an inventory of everything we found.  It’s all there,’ he explained.  As she started to put everything back into the handbag, he said, ‘May we watch?  We’re rather curious.  You see, we all tried but failed to get everything back inside…’