Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 19)

27 08 2012

I’ve never been brilliant at remembering names. It’s always been a weakness. And it doesn’t help much when mother and I get together and start discussing celebrities or places. Mother’s forgetfulness combined with my weakness for names nearly always ends up forcing us into playing a game of charades. ‘Two syllables, second word, rhymes with jar’. ‘Carr?’ ‘Yes Carr, that’s it, did you watch it the other night? He had erm … what’s his name? If nothing else these conversations have developed my acting skills as well as developing mother’s ability to describe things or people, and of course there is always the possibility of a good belly laugh when one of us makes a wrong guess. ‘Big man, funny laugh’. ‘Naughton?’ ‘No erm .. he’s a bit camp.’ ‘Ross?’ ‘No not that camp … errm .. oh yes …. David Walliams.’ All those giggles, distractions, and the whole point of the conversation often lost some where amidst all that laughter. ‘Now what was I saying … Nuisance … oh well… whatever you do don’t get old.’ ‘Alright then I won’t’. Loss of hearing doesn’t help either, mothers little ear piece sometimes emitting a siren like sound which actually ruins my ability to hear anything she says – both of us forced to mime, point, and enhance our wordless conversation with exaggerated eye movements. Anyone passing by would just assume that we were guests invited to an epileptic fit party. But at least I’ve got used to the subtitles flashing across mothers TV screen in a sort of stuttered anxious burst of interpretation, the translation inevitably lagging behind the screenplay dialogue which in some cases can prove quite funny. ‘I love you too.’ (Scene showing a couple cuddling each other) ‘Right then, cup of tea?’ (Scene showing the intensity of their gaze at each other.) But the biggest communications test I’ve been put through recently was when mother returned from the bathroom with a drawn facial expression and sunken cheeks. ‘Are you alright?’ ‘Muddy Woosance’. ‘What’s happened?’ After much slurping and slobbering and an inability on my part to guess what mother was trying to tell me I accompanied her to the bathroom. We did our best to peer beyond the u-bend in the toilet bowl but nowhere beneath the blue bleached water line could we find any trace of mother’s false teeth.

Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 18)

23 08 2012

I was looking for a tiny screw driver for a tiny screw. In mothers side board are three boxes containing all those items that don’t really belong any where else – empty electric air freshener units, pens, playing cards, pins, safety pins and Christmas cracker novelties amongst other things. It’s a gamble which box I’ll find the mini screw driver in so I take the plunge and remove the blue box. The first thing I discover is a miniature violin which as I remember mother had purchased in Venice many years ago. Eventually I find the mini screw driver and delighted that I don’t have to plough through any more boxes I close the lid and try to place the box back where I found it. Mother doesn’t like a mess as I’ve learnt through the years so better to tidy up as I go along. However it turns out to be a lot harder trying to put the box back where I found it than it was removing it. As much as I try it just won’t go back in again, flush with the shelf. If it’s not flush with the shelf the door won’t close and mother will soon notice. Eventually I give up, remove the box again, at which stage mothers cat jumps out with a slightly flatter nose than before and a meow of indignation. Mother’s cat is an opportunist. New clothes immediately become a bed the minute they are removed from the bag, vacant sofa seats must be occupied the minute somebody leaves them – this triumph of occupation celebrated by a totally thorough licking session of all limbs and crevices, fur balls flying in all directions as he completes the exercise. Any food left unguarded will be immediately devoured as was the case when the door bell rang and mother put her dinner plate down in order to answer it. Her return was met with an empty plate and her cat stretching his tongue as far as it would go in order to lick the top of his nose clean. He also has a passion for Swiss Roll! Mother’s cat went missing once, and we searched up and down the road looking for him. Even I began to feel a bit desperate after a good half hour of searching. Tom always responds to a call but didn’t this time. I feared he may have been run over as so many other cats in mothers neighbourhood had been. Anyway we left the front door open, and pretended to watch television whilst I speculated about how mother would cope without a cat. He’d lived in mother’s house for over 18 years after all and would surely be a huge loss if he didn’t come back again. And then I heard a scratching sound from mothers clothes cupboard- opened the doors, and out popped Tom leaving a huge ring of fur behind him on top of mother’s suitcase. He gave an indignant meow, barged through my legs, and went to comfort feed in mothers fitted kitchen. With the panic over I used the mini screw driver to straighten up and tighten the hinges on mother’s doors and satisfied with my endeavours called mother over to come and have a look. Without the merest glance at my handy man work she wailed, ‘Didn’t you see him go in there’?

What I didn’t know about black and white movies.

20 08 2012

I visited London a couple of weeks ago. One of the highlights was to be the South Bank, and in particular the British Film Institute, hidden within a myriad of grey concrete complexes. After a lot of walking, people watching, building watching and coffee, we decided to retreat from the sun and find out what lay within the huge glass door entrance a large party of visitors had just entered through. Inside a 1960’s film poster caught my attention. A brashly coloured image of Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon seemed to jump out from the five or six other film posters lined up across the wall.(Andy Warhol eat your heart out). It portrayed another time, other values and world i felt intrigued by and wanted to learn more about. Seated in the immaculate red velvet seats with gold embossed numbers, black and white images filled out the screen. Initially i felt disappointed. Black and White? But the poster is in colour. Within minutes though I became absorbed by the setting, the characters and the story line. Television it seems just doesn’t do justice to these films, but on the big screen they bounce back to life again. There was so much to take in,so many revelations, so much set detail,and all that 1960’s fashion of course. And as well as being entertained I learned a lot. I hadn’t realised for example that fast food existed back then (Pizza and TV dinners), and that sex was just as much a topic then as it is now, adultery in particular. Also that power corrupted moral’s back then in the same way that it still does. The performances of Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray were magical. Enchanting. Faces lined with all the faults, frailties and emotions I recognised in both myself and the world that surrounds me now. The love affair between two quirky people on the peripherals of society who eventually succeed in being together is a triumph. Its a true tear jerker. A fulfillment of all those hopes and dreams that surely many of us still bear. But the ultimate eye opener for me was just how much colour could spring from a black grey and silver screen.

Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 17)

18 08 2012

Whenever mother has had to go into hospital, which isn’t often thank goodness, it’s always been a case of carry on regardless on her part. As is the fashion now with all those ‘keep calm and carry on’ cards, I have often thought about designing one which reads ‘Keep calm and pretend it isn’t happening.’ Who knows perhaps one exists already, in which case I would present it to mother. Anyway last year mother had to go in for a hip replacement. As is always the case, mother kept calm, unpacked her dressing gown and slippers, and was soon settled into her hospital bed. Not long after a Philippine nurse arrived, drew an arrow pointing upwards on mothers arm, both nodding and smiling at each other as it happened, the nurse then leaving and taking her felt tip pen with her. Subsequent visitors remarked on the arrow, with mother explaining that it was there because she was going to have a head replacement. Someone else suggested that perhaps it was there to inform the surgeons about which way was up. Either way the arrow caused much merriment. Even I smiled, although through gritted teeth as I couldn’t wait to bring the ominous arrow to the attention of a doctor, which I did. It transpired that mother had been mistakenly marked up for a shoulder replacement. Heaven knows what would have happened if I hadn’t mentioned it. But that’s mother for you – trusting both doctors and nurses on the basis that they have trained for many years and know what they are doing. Having disproved mother’s theory another nurse drew a new arrow pointing downwards on mother’s side, and soon after mother had her intended hip replacement operation with out further complications. Her resulting quick recovery meant that she could have visitors again the next day, the first being her best friends, Joan and Eileen. Delighted to see mother sitting up, drinking tea and tut tutting at ‘Loose Women’ again they chuckled, their titters making mother aware of their presence. She turned, spilt her tea, and then burst out laughing. “Whatever? All my gawd”. “We were told we had to wear them”. ‘What a surgeon’s hat, a mask and a gown?” Whatever do they think you are going to catch?” More laughter, this time mutual, followed by a huge collective sigh of relief – relief because despite everything mother had been through she was showing no signs of diminishing eccentricity.

Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 16)

16 08 2012

Communication or rather miscommunication seems to be a running theme between mother and myself and modern technology doesn’t seem to be helping much. In fact it just seems to be making things even more complicated. Only recently I received, to my surprise and delight, a Facebook notification from Mother. There was a picture of her with a message stating ‘A picture of me in Spain’. Delighted that mother was now on Facebook I sent an email message back thanking her for her Facebook message and to let her know that I had left a reply on her wall. Within minutes I received an email reply stating, ’Facebook message? I don’t even know how to use Facebook.’ I then sent a message back saying how concerned I was if mother hadn’t sent the message as it may mean that someone had hacked into her account and that the Facebook notification was possibly a hoax. Mother promptly sent a message back asking me why I would think the message was a hoax. Didn’t I recognise the photograph? After all it was me who had taken it when we went on holiday together last year. When I reminded her that it was her who had stated that she didn’t know how to use Facebook, I received the following reply. ‘Have just cottoned on to what you were saying about the message being a hoax because I said I didn’t know how to log on to Facebook. Believe it or not I got onto Facebook by trial and error, not sure how I did it though Ha ha’. And mother has been at it with the telephones again. She checked her phone messages yesterday and noticed that someone had rung her at 2am, and that the call was from a mobile number. She puzzled for ages about who could have called her so she rang her best friend thinking that she may have been ill during the night, but it wasn’t her. It then dawned on mother that it was herself who had called. She had woken up at 2am, realised that she hadn’t put her portable handset back in its holder, went looking for it, couldn’t find it, and then decided to ring her home number from her mobile phone. Help! I’ve just received another email from mother which reads as follows: ‘Just went down to make my Ovaltine, and had another fit of laughter thinking about all the things I’ve done in the past few days. I had to rest my head on the kitchen cabinet unit as I couldn’t stop. It comes to something when you have to do funny things to make yourself laugh, but at least I can laugh at myself’. Which only goes to prove that the truth really is more hilarious than fiction.


14 08 2012

Inspirational designs. Luv. onestarmoon

Can making your own headboards be easier than this? It seems like of all these headboards were made from unfinished wood. The imperfections make them OH SO PERFECT!

Here are some of my favorites, from my pinterest board, Abode.

Paint positive, inspiring words on your headboard. via

Create a fence like effect with slabs of wood. via

Paint vertical stripes (those actually look like bamboo).

Headboard as a ‘chalkboard’. complete diy headboard tutorial w/ salvaged woodsvia

I LOVE this! Old doors as a headboard. Talk about upcycling! via

Would you create headboards out of wood? Please share!

‘Til next post, Kellie.

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Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 15)

13 08 2012

Mothers house is perfectly placed if you are into people watching. And mother is. And its contagious. At least seven houses are visible from the front room picture window. Five across the road and one to the left and one to the right. Mother decides to give me an update on the occupants. The professional Indian couple always leave the house early – immaculate garden, neat front of house. The young couple next door are never home – uncut grass, random bits of rubble, foot high weeds. The family at the end have more cars than car space. “Perhaps they should demolish the house”. I nod but don’t laugh. Then mother informs me that the neighbour to the left is the most interesting one to watch. He doesn’t look a day over 90 and he likes to jog. It takes him five minutes to pass by mothers window – five seconds to lift a leg up and plant it back down on the ground again, and seven seconds to swing one arm forward and the other one back. He uses them to stagger his body onwards. The only thing he is likely to see on his journey is the ground since the top part of his body is bent almost 90 degrees forward. I nod, and this time I laugh. Mother laughs with me. But mother informs me that she admired him so much that she joined line dancing classes a few weeks back. But mother won’t be going this week. Someone stood on her corn and the only thing she can bear to wear on her feet at the moment are fluffy slippers. Hence the reason why we haven’t gone out, but have chosen instead to sit by the window and drink tea. And right on cue the man with the camouflage back pack, the yellow goggles and a heavy looking metal detector zig zags past our window. Mother strains her neck, watches him turn a corner, and then wonders out loud about whether he could use that contraption to help her find her car keys. I pour another cup of tea.

Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 14)

12 08 2012

Elvis had clearly never left the building. In fact he seemed to be everywhere – in the lift, the dining room and even the pool. Uninfluenced by our surroundings mother and I got off to our usual drama filled start to the holidays with me having to find a handy man who could cut the lock from mothers suitcase. She couldn’t find the key. Once access had been gained to mothers prize floral tops we decided to explore the hotel. Not any hotel mind you but the Heartbreak Hotel no less – 24 hour footage of Elvis on the big screen in the breakfast room, blue suede shoes on sale in the gift shop and Graceland just across the highway. The hotel reception felt humid, stifling even, and all that seemed to be missing to complete the picture were people in straw hats sipping Mint Julep in rocking chairs on the veranda. But Beale street there was, and an old style cinema playing ‘Gone With The Wind’, behind which the mighty Mississippi rolled past the very soul of Memphis city. As tourists we didn’t disappoint, taking a boat trip, a bus tour, then ending the evening chomping on Gumbo. But the highlight of the day had to be the taxi ride back, our driver turning out to be an expert on the main man himself, little known anecdotes relayed to us with almost religious fervor. “… and there’s the hospital he stayed in… the top floor … so where you heading next?” “Vegas”. “The both of you?” “Yes my mother and myself”, my answer inexplicably ending the conversation until he’d edged the taxi back into more familiar territory, at which point he turned, winked at my mother whilst speaking to me. “Your mothers a real trooper you know”. Summoning up my best southern accent I drawled “She sure is”.

Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 13)

10 08 2012

It’s amazing how a simple conversation can lead to a road trip, and to revelations about a person I thought I knew, but obviously didn’t. Well not that well anyway. Out of the blue Mother asked whether Derry was from far from here, here being Drogheda. I asked why and mother responded with a story I’m certain she’d never told me before. Before long I’d learnt that she had been based in Eglington during the second world. She had been desperate to become a Wren, and as she freely admits, it was mostly because of the uniform. ‘It was so smart’. But she also admitted that she needed to get away from the man who was eventually to become her husband – my father. Having applied she was delighted to be accepted and so began her great adventure. Handsome Naval Officers, Benbow’s ballroom, a beautiful view of the coast line, a bicycle, and the beginning of a beautiful and long lasting friendship. Her name was Olive, and she was to become mother’s best friend, adopted sister, and an auntie to me. And it all began at a naval base. So we packed a bag, fuelled up the car and headed off. Mother produced a small square black and white photograph she carried in her handbag. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to find that memorial’? It seemed like a long shot but there was no harm in trying. But in truth we didn’t try that hard. Mother was beginning to feel weary and after so much time spent in Eglington she wasn’t sure she’d be up to traipsing around Derry city. But we did, ear wigging a guide showing tourists around the cities walls. And then out of the blue mother pointed down a road to a memorial. ‘I think that’s it you know’. And so it was. We even identified the step mother and Olive and been photographed on. How uncanny. And what I found to be even more uncanny was the number of times I’d passed that memorial on business trips in recent years with out ever knowing that mother had been there more than 65 years ago, together with auntie Olive.

Things I didn’t know about my mother. (Part 12)

6 08 2012

If anyone should find a cushion on a seat in a restaurant its probably my mothers. Mother has lost countless cushions over the years. The reason she takes them with her? Most seats are too low in relation to the table and a cushion elevates mother to the height she deems necessary if she is to sit and eat correctly. Well that’s her theory any way. The problem is that when it comes to leaving the restaurant we are so busy gathering up walking sticks, spectacles,bags and umbrella’s mothers cushion is often over looked. Calls back to the eating establishment we have just departed from to find out whether they have found a stray cushion are invariably met with a ‘No… sorry’. Either the waiter has assumed the cushion is an odd tipping custom or else the staff just can’t be bothered to look for them. I suspect the latter. On three separate occasions we have revisited restaurants, one after a three month interval, only to find mothers cushions there where she’d left them, a bit flatter maybe but still there for all and sundry to see. We have toyed with the idea of sticking labels onto the cushions ‘If found please return to mother’ along with her telephone number but the idea hasn’t gone down very well. The problem is mother is very sensitive about her ability to remember things and even though I have assured her that we can all forget, she is still not convinced. But what she is convinced about is the fact that she cannot afford to keep on buying cushions. If the day ever comes when restaurants install height adjustable chairs then perhaps she won’t have to.

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