My Mum Revisited!
Mum was special but as I have said before she was not really made from appropriate Mum material. She did her best but child rearing was not really within her realm of capabilities although we never doubted she loved us. For example, as protector, she was like a lioness guarding her young…none more so than when my quiet, music loving, brother was being set on by the street bully. As the boy laid into my brother, suddenly there was a roar “Aye, aye, aye, boy Jones!” Boy Jones looked up in startled terror as he saw Mum hurtling furiously towards him. He took to his heels as if the very devil himself was behind him, Mum’s fearsome reputation lending wings to his flight. I fear Mum would not have survived this era of political correctness without landing herself in very deep mire because if she had caught him, boy Jones would have got his ear well and truly clipped.
I only ever saw my Mum cry once and that was because, poor as we were, we had been burgled and the thief had emptied the gas meter and taken Mum’s emergency money (thirty bob = £1.50). Her sobs came in great, heaving, gut-wrenching gasps and the sight of it terrified me as I had never seen her beaten before. I had always thought of my Mum as invincible.
However, Mum’s idea of mothering whilst being utterly commendable, was, nevertheless, totally off the wall as she was under the impression that she was a cordon bleu cook in the true Lyons Corner House tradition, (she had been a nippy in her younger days) often telling us that an army could march on her pastry – we not daring to tell her that indeed they could if they soled their boots with it. And her sausage stew, as she euphemistically liked to call it, was to die for. Well, we came pretty close more than once or twice. The ‘stew’ consisted of sausages cooking in tomato soup which as the sausages shed parts of their skin and got broken up they took on the appearance of what I now might describe as vasectomy trimmings gently simmering in some kind of weak blood coloured sauce. It is probably superfluous to mention that we were not considered big children for our respective ages!
Mum was also under the misapprehension that she was a seamstress of the very highest order. If only that were true then perhaps I might have been spared the embarrassment of appearing in public in a donkey brown home made coat complete with Florence Nightingale bonnet that tied under the chin with what can only be described as something akin to parachute webbing as the straps were at least 8 inches wide and reached full down to my feet. The resulting bow carried the potential to take out the eye of any casual passer-by on the opposite side of the road.
A further indignity heaped upon me was, I remember, in school, as a teenager, when we got undressed for P.E. my classmates stripped off to reveal lovely feminine pink or white nylon petticoats purchased probably from the Coop. To this day, however, when Dolly Parton sings about her Coat of Many Colours I break out in a cold sweat as I remember, without the same affection, my petticoat of many colours knitted with all the odd bits of wool that Mum could lay hands to and which consisted of such a wonderful kaleidoscope of colour combinations as Mustard, Mauve, Green, Khaki and Orange which might still have held out the possibility of proving acceptable had they not all made their debut in the one garment! All of which helped to convince me that I was suffering from some contagious affliction, which, in the interests of humanity, would necessitate me writing a letter, on behalf of my Mother, to my teacher, to the effect that I must reluctantly be excused from doing P.E.
The school had by now got used to my letters, supposedly written by my Mum as every September I had to write explaining that once again I was suffering from a rare form of blood poisoning and that medical opinion favoured a recovery period of exactly six weeks. Blood poisoning was the euphemism for Hop Picking or as Chas and Dave like to sing ‘Opping down in Kent!’ which, by happy coincidence, lasted exactly six weeks
If I delve even further back I have other memories that never fail to induce a sense of incredulity that we survived beyond our childhood yet we did and we are the stronger for it! However, I am not sure anyone reading this will survive such an ordeal so I bid farewell to any person who takes the trouble to read this. I think manageable chunks might be the order of the day here!