Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mum's gone off her trolley

Let me create a delightful family tableau for you.

I am sitting on the bog. I've been constipated for a while, but I can feel that things are beginning to move in a very slow and creaky fashion. I am in full concentration. A slight sheen is appearing on my top lip. My knees are trembling.

Suddenly, my teen bursts in and shouts, "BOO!"

Concurrently, my heart stops, puppy's nose backs off back to his basket and I let out a whopping, "WHAT THE FU...BLOODY HELL ARE YOU DOING?"

This is a short sentence but let me assure you that the full wrath of my monstrous feeling was felt, as my teen physically baulked and then ran for his life.

Once I had calmed down and I'd actually found that this surprise had done the world of good for my bowels, I thought about the times that my own mother had flown off the handle at me when I was a child. There weren't that many - fewer than ten - but I remember them all as if they were yesterday. They are pinned inside my head and, I'm sure, are the cause of one or two of my slightly odd adult behaviours.

Here are just a few.

1. Knitting needles.

It was evening. Mum was knitting and I was practising backwards gambols in the sitting room. She asked where I'd been that afternoon. "To see Robert O'Riordan", said I. "Hasn't he got chicken pox?" she asked. I looked at her, blankly. "Yes - and he's all spotty." Smile. Silence from mum. I go into backwards gambol routine and suddenly "WHACK!" - a pair of knitting needles are thrashed across the backs of my thighs.

It bloody stung.

"YOU IDIOT!" There was much screeching. I was blank - I'd heard chicken pox wasn't that bad, and surely I was going to get it sometime, so it might as well be now? But no. I hadn't thought. My brother was about to do his 'O' levels, and he'd never had The Pox. Bugger.

And lo! The pox rained down on me, and lo! I was shut in my bedroom for 10 days, with trays of food left by my door (literally) until the pox receded and I was pronounced clean.  And more to the point, my brother remained un-poxed, and went on to study at Cambridge.

He owes me one, that boy.

2. Spaghetti Bolognaise

This is probably the most clearly remembered incident. It's a simple tale of being allowed to take tea - a nice heap of spaghetti bolognaise - into the sitting room to eat in front of the telly. Being told to be very careful. And then tipping it, by mistake, all over the (thankfully pale orange) carpet. Watching it slip off that plate in slow-mo, knowing that I. Was. For. It.

I remember going back into the kitchen, legs shaking and voice wavering, telling mum what I had done. I remember her face. I cried. She shouted. She wailed. She scrubbed with a green kitchen cloth. The cloth disintegrated.  There was stainage. It was awful.

3. Kate Bush

Mum loved Kate Bush. She had her first album, Lionheart (vinyl of course) and played it regularly. I think she considered herself an ethereal Legs and Co type, eternally on the lookout for her Heathcliff.

One day, out of the blue, she called me and my brother into the sitting room (it's that room again - the room of doom). Her face was grey with anger. Through clenched teeth and tight lips, she hissed, "Who...has...scratched......KATE?"

My brother and I looked at each other, panicked. All I knew was, it wasn't me. We both shouted out, "It wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me!" - both thinking: well if it wasn't me, it had to be him (her). Neither of us admitted to it, and mum was apoplectic. Her anger had raged to new Wuthering Heights.  "It's not just the scratch - IT'S THE LYING!" We were sent to our rooms for what seemed like weeks (probably just til tea time).

To this day, we both still deny it.

We think it was Dad.

4. Uncle B on the phone

Mum called Uncle B, her brother, on the trim phone. My brother and I thought it would be great larks to pick up the extension in mum and dad's bedroom and make farting noises down the phone. Hearing Mum say to Uncle B, "Oh dear, it sounds like we've got a crossed line," made us dissolve into fits of hysterical giggling. Sadly, we were so busy having a fabulous time that we didn't notice that mum had hung up and was making her way, with elephant footsteps, up the stairs.  Suddenly we realised that we were doomed, and that there was no escape. I clearly remember her bursting through the door and looking like a character from a Roald Dahl illustration - one of James's wicked aunts, perhaps, in James and the Giant Peach, all thin and stringy and deranged.

My brother got pretty much all the blame for that one. I'm not really sure why, but it must have been because a) he was (is) the oldest, and b) my mum and dad thought that little girls couldn't make farting noises, as only petals came out of their mouths.

5. Eggs

Of all of my mum's rages, this is the one that I thought most unfair.

I was helping her bake a cake, aged about eight. She asked me to separate four eggs.

Now. As we all know as adults, separating a yolk from an egg white can be seriously difficult. If it's important to the success of the project (ie, you don't have spare eggs) - you do not give this job to an eight year old who has never done it before.

I made a hash of the first egg. Mum didn't notice, so I thought I'd try again. Bound to have more success, I thought. Sadly, a stubby finger in the yolk meant disaster number two. And a further two eggy messes later and suddenly, the eggs were none eggsistant.

Mum, who had been busy mixing, suddenly noticed that the eggs were mushed, and went ballistic. I can't remember exactly what was said, but let me tell you this - I am now the best bloody egg splitter this side of Bristol. You will not find a more competent separater than me.

As I mentioned before, I feel particularly aggrieved about this egg episode because I feel I didn't have adequate training to do the job in hand.  Thinking about it, this may have been a key factor in my decision to pursue a career in Personnel.

I told myself then that, when I was a parent, I wouldn't take things like egg squishing too seriously. That I would let my children make a mess, make mistakes, waste things whilst learning. And laugh it off with a simpering and slightly 1950's "Oh darling, you are funny, and haven't you done well? Let me clean that up fo r you."  Of course, I don't manage to do this, but I give it a go, and generally manage to catch myself before turning into the Hulk and strangling one or other of my kids.

So. If this was a moral tale, what would the final words be? Something like this: Try not to fly into a rage at your children. It might not be their fault (though it probably is). New eggs can be bought from the shop. Spag bol is the same colour as an orange carpet. People generally recover from chicken pox. And even another Kate Bush can be sourced - probably in the bargain bin.

Worse things happen at sea.


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