Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part Seven).

29 07 2012

Where I live the door to door callers either want to sell cheaper electricity, gas or broadband services, with the occasional person collecting for charity. Where my mother lives most of the callers want to fix her roof, clear her gutters, do her garden or tarmac the driveway. Some even want to clean her house. I have a strict principle never to buy anything from door to door callers, although I will give something to those collecting for charities. I’ve tried to convert my mother to my way of thinking but with various degrees of failure. She employed a cleaner for four hours once, the problem being that she felt compelled to clean the house before the cleaner arrived, and would then spend two hours chatting to her over cups of tea. Then there was the man who came to clear her guttering. Whilst up on the roof he claimed that he had discovered that some of the concrete border had crumbled and offered to re-concrete it. My mother accepted. Within months the new concrete border had crumbled, thereby blocking up the guttering. Chancing his arm the same man came back about a year later offering the same service. My mother remembered him and started to complain, at which point he ran off, but not before snatching the leaflet advertising his services back from my mothers hand. More recently a door to door salesman installed a new door bell as the old one had lost its ring. When visiting my mother recently I had on more than one occasion gone to answer her front door only to find no one outside. When I mentioned this to my mother she casually remarked that there was something wrong with the new door chime. It only rang when some one pressed her neighbours door bell button. Honestly, will she ever learn.

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Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part Eight).

29 07 2012

I’m not sure what it is about Skype but we always end up laughing when we are using it. Just the notification sound indicating that some one is calling me (Usually Mother), is odd. A sort of bloop bloop bloop sound followed by a tremendous sigh if I don’t answer in time. Once connected I usually get a fantastic view of the top of my mothers head, behind which are about 20 handbags hung on a rail attached to a cupboard door. My mothers view of me is a bog standard black and white portrait photograph. I refuse to have a camera. The thought of having to get properly dressed, comb my hair etc before making a call put an end to that idea. Far too much effort. My mother will usually speak first saying ‘Hallo’ about five times before bursting into laughter and declaring that she sounds like a parrot. (Its the feedback). Then I’ll ask her how she is getting on, which is usually echoed back about four times. Then mother will start to answer, lose her voice because she hasn’t spoken to any body for a while, then cough profusely. I’ll suggest she has a sip of water and she’ll reply that she needs something stronger than that, and then we’ll both start laughing.Perhaps its just the circumstances that make the conversations so funny. Both of us sitting at our computers talking into microphones as our voices fade, distort,echo or overlap – the overlapping causing the most confusion as we’ll both ask what the other one has just said at exactly the same time, the same question repeated over and over again until we finally get the timing right and stop interrupting each other. But at least the call is free, and we’ll always end up happier at the end of the call than at the beginning of it. And it sets my mood up for the rest of the day. There is nothing funnier than mother trying to get to grips  with technology, the ensuing confusion, her declaration that it is all a load of rubbish and that she is throwing the computer in the bin tomorrow, and the flashbacks about the different situations that cause me to laugh out loud at the most inappropriate of times.  The dentist surgery, the shopping centre and a wedding ceremony have all borne witness to my rather manic chortles in recent weeks.





Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part Nine).

29 07 2012

The garage isn’t a place I visit too often. It’s cold, damp and no matter how many times I empty it its always full of stuff again when I eventually do- usually at my mothers request. “While you’re here do you think you could tidy it up a bit?” I know I’m going to need a good supply of rubble sacks and plastic crates before I even start. There will be a large stash of discarded flower pots in the middle of the garage floor, piles of Pound Shop peat, enough plastic bags to service Sainsbury’s customers for a year, a massive quantity of bleach, plastic prescription medicine trays, and out of date flavoured water, Sanatogen, Lucozade and Coco Cola. Not to mention odd shoes (Odd shoes?), hand bags, rusted tools and paint tins. There’s never enough room in the boot of the Polo for everything, so a few of the rubble sacks end up staying behind. And by the time I get around to tidying up my mothers garage again there still won’t be enough room to transport everything to the recycling center. So I’ve decided that next time i will have to hire a van.





Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 6).

24 07 2012

The truth is I don’t see my mother often enough, but when I do visit I tend to stay over. Its what I refer to as quality time. Unhurried conversation, a bit of gardening, the car emptied of last weeks shopping,food thrown away that is long past its sell by date. Towards the end of the evening mother will dose, wake up with a start, then pronounce that she is off to bed, her departure allowing me time to explore the unknown territory of late night television. ‘This week’ anybody? Within an hour (mostly due to the heat) I start to feel drowsy myself and decide to follow in my mothers footsteps. The problem is that she has a very noisy house – my attempts not to wake her thwarted by creaking stairs, a whining bannister, and the innocent looking teddy bear slouched on the top landing. Its extremely sensitive, the merest touch prompting it to perform a distorted rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ from the musical ‘Annie’. The problem is I’ve yet to find a way to switch it off. I’ve tried strangulation,choking,shoving it up my shirt, but all to no avail. Somehow it always manages to complete five choruses before gurgling to a halt, by which time a door has groaned open, and my mother has emerged from it, all fluffy slippers and a Marks and Spencer dressing gown. Puffy eyes or not, she still manages to convey scorn in a Hitchcock leading lady kind of way, the power of a prolonged silence exercised to its absolute best effect before she retreats, the ultimate revenge inflicted upon me seconds after she has closed the bedroom door. ‘Talk Back’ radio at full blast.





Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part Five).

22 07 2012

Uncle Harry has always been in my life. He’s my mothers older brother. We knew he was different from other adults but as children we saw him as one of us. Fun silly and prone to breaking into song at any moment. He loved food,lots of it,and would drink scolding hot tea down in one go. Unless my mother gave him one of her sideways glances, in which case he would blow furiously across the top of the cup but still pour the boiling hot tea down in one determined swallow. It was only as we grew up that we began to understand Harry’s predicament. We learnt that he was intellectually disabled, which explained why he was looked after by monks in beautiful surroundings in a place called Potters Bar. As children we just thought he was permanently on holiday in an impressive holiday camp. There were a lot of rumours surrounding Uncle Harry’s condition. The most prevalent one was the story about Harry falling of a balcony as a child, hitting his head on the concrete pavement below, and never being the same since. It seems an unlikely story now, and yet we still don’t know the whole truth about Harry’s condition. No one in the family does, unless of course they are keeping a big dark secret. I’ll probably never know. I just know that Uncle Harry has given us many funny laugh out loud memories and that he still loves to collect double decker buses, none of which I had seen until recently. The entire family were invited down to see Uncle Harry’s new room, a space he seemed to be very proud of judging by his broad smile and the open arm gestures. He showed us the double bed, a TV, some ornaments, a wardrobe and a long shelf crammed full of treasures. Some one had taken the trouble to unpack Harry’s bus collection and put the whole lot on display. All one hundred and sixteen of them.





Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part Four).

22 07 2012

Whenever I visit my mother random photographs appear. She doesn’t present them to me directly. I’ll find them lying on the mantelpiece next to the clock,beside the computer, or on the coffee table next to a coaster. I’ll glance at them briefly, feel a little bit sad, then pretend that I haven’t seen them. Inevitably my mother will ask me whether I’ve seen such and such a photograph. I’ll acknowledge that I have and then change the conversation. I find this habit unnerving.I’m not keen on photographs of myself, although the ones depicting a younger version of me aren’t that bad. The even suntan,the blue eyes,long sandy hair. These diluted colour photographs seem to portray some one reasonably healthy, fairly happy, and more importantly young. The sadness bit comes from having to acknowledge the ravages of time, the wrinkles,thinning hair,bags under the eyes and the wobbly neck. All a far cry from the smooth skinned glowing face smiling out from a a colourful Chinese kite back drop. I wasn’t afraid to show my teeth back then. But perhaps the picture that moved me most was the one my mother had placed on the mantel piece last week. Its a photograph made into a coaster depicting me leaning into my toddler son, his face alive with the child like wonderment of being photographed and having to say ‘Cheese’ to a camera with a noisy zoom lens. I’m still not sure why my mother places old photographs in random places around the house. I just wish she wouldn’t. To me they are just a stark reminder that all things must pass – and do.





Things I didn’t know about my mother (Part Three).

17 07 2012

We went on a nostalgic trip a few years ago, back to where my mothers mother (My Grandmother) used to live – Balham, Cavendish road, a block of flats long since demolished, bringing back memories of her childhood growing up in the area. She told me about her sisters and brothers, and of course herself, and how they were supposed to visit an Auntie and Uncle for Christmas. Before they were due to leave, her mother decided to pop out on an errand. When none of them showed up for the arranged Christmas get together a very concerned uncle went round to the flat to find out what had happened. He found seven children huddled under the kitchen table with no sign of their mother.It transpired that she had decided to go to the pub with a friend and had forgotten to come home again. She also told me about what happened to her during the war. She was evacuated to Wales but missed her mother terribly and couldn’t wait to see her again. Finally it was time to go home and after a long journey from Wales to London the bus finally pulled up on Balham High Street. My mother looked out through the window, and with huge disappointment spotted a friend of her mothers who’d been sent to collect her.’All wrinkly and dressed entirely in black’. She’d clearly never got over the disappointment, but her uncensored recollections of her time growing up offered me a quite shocking insight into a person I’d had, and still have, many fond memories of. In my youth my grandmother and I would spend many a weekend listening to Radio Luxembourg snuggled up beside an open fire, Devonshire toffees scoffed whilst discussing Liz Taylor’s love life over cups of Typhoo tea. Grandmother would always dose off eventually, the opportunity allowing me time to count an ever increasing amount of pennies she’d collected in a huge glass jar – her half choked snores a timely reminder to put them back into the sideboard before she woke up again. At no time did I have any sense that she’d been such a terrible mother.

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