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Monday, 11 July 2011

I got a message today from the lovely Gillian telling me in the nicest possible way to get orf my lazy arse and start writing again. So I am and thank you Gillian.

I then spent loads of time deliberating what to call my first post in nearly two months. In My Absence? Too pompous. What I've Been Doing? Well frankly who cares? No point in using the 'I've been soooo busy' line. We're all busy. So this is what's been happening.

I've finished teaching at the Open University for the year and am now supposed to be using the time productively to write a play for Radio 4. But something is stopping me. I think it's called Bone Idleness.

The Boy got through his first year of college and was so relieved he decided to buy a suit. I've no idea either.

It's been nearly a year since mum fell down the stairs and died - long enough for me not to choke up when I find old jars of her home made marmalade, and to think instead about her funny little habits. Like the way she would serve up rock hard avocado - I mean you could chip your teeth on them. 'Just let them ripen a bit,' I'd say but she'd have no truck with that. 'I'm writing to the supermarket to complain!' she'd announce like Boudicca, waving her slice of stone hard avocado like a sword. The thing is, she kept on buying rock hard avocados and she kept on writing to the supermarket to complain. Sometimes she got her money back and a whole load more of avocado.

She also wrote to the bank to complain about the location of the cash machine. 'The sunlight shines directly on it' she complained to the hapless spotty eighteen year old cashier. And after she died I found out that she was in the middle of what politicians call a 'frank and fearless' correspondence with Weatherspoons about their crap food. You'd think crap food at Weatherspoons would be a given but mum apparently wasn't taking their deep fried mushrooms lying down. She even put in her will that if we (her family) disobeyed her instructions and bought an expensive coffin she vowed to 'come back and haunt us.'

Dad is recovering from the nightmare revelation that if he wants a woman to continue to clean up and cook for him, he is going to have to pay her. I remember years ago reading Shirley Conran's Superwoman in which she said, if you want a good man grow your own. I wonder if it's a particularly Irish generational thing to have a grown man so utterly domestically incompetent. I know that mum infantilised dad but he went along with it. And even though he knows on one level that my sister and I work for a living and have better things to do than cook and clean for him - on another level that's all he really recognises women as doing. Which is very sad. But also incredibly annoying. When I left dad's house, hours later I would find endless missed calls from him. He was ringing to ask where the washing up liquid was. Or where I kept the milk (?) 'Ok dad - where would the milk be most likely to be? A - in the bathroom cabinet or B - in the fridge? 'Ok'. Five minutes later the phone rings again. 'Where did I leave my glasses?' It's thinking that the womb is a location device. It's not spending five minutes thinking about where the vacuum cleaner bags might be but immediately defaulting to the nearest person with a womb because she'll know. For his entire life dad has never had to consider anything domestic. So we've got hold of a company who are used to dealing with older people who will come and clean for dad and do small errands.

And I really don't want The Boy turning out anything like this. So he's got himself a job and by the end of this summer he's going to be cooking dinner a few days a week. That's The Boy, not dad. He'll be sitting in his chair shouting at the telly while the nice ladies from Home Instead vacuum round his feet. And then expect to be paid for it.

So now that dad has been sorted out, hopefully normal service will resume.


Fran said...

I love the way you write about your mum 'not taking the crap fried mushrooms lying down'. She sounds as though she was a real character. Good luck with writing the play for Radio 4.

Gillian said...

Hmmm, did I say get off your arse? No, not me.

Well you did have a rather up and mostly down year. Was afraid you might have tossed a match to it all and be humming to yourself with a tea cosy on your head.

Dads certainly DO need a boot. Mine is particularly fond of eating old food out of the fridge. "It's still good" he cries as we wrestle the mouldy yoghurt out of his claws "Where do you think CHEESE comes from?" he bleats.

All I can do is shake my head and remind him of the time he thought the organic sausages that smelled "bad" would be fine if he washed them under the tap before cooking them.

Jane said...

@Gillian that's priceless about the sausages! I do think older people share a real horror of food wastage. Mum did have a habit of looking in the fridge to see if she could put a meal together out of what was lying suppurating in the corners. 'Oooh what do we have? A tin of something . . with mould growing on it and a hardened tomato. Oh and that's where my false teeth ended up.'

@Fran - yes she was a character. Only sometimes I think that the endless letter writing was a way of doing something with her creative energies. Ho hum.

Minnie said...

Your dear late mother sounds wonderful, Jane - definitely a GOG rather than a GOT ('grand old gel'; 'ghastly old trout'). Grief is a cunning thug with a way of lying in wait and ambushing one: a stealth bomber from hell.
Irishmen of that generation = indulged? My father (a Dubliner, decades dead) always said that Ireland was 'the land of spoiled men'. So, yes, unsurprising.
Your witty take on what must have been - and doubtless continues to be - a tough time is impressive for its resolute lack of self-pity. And 'yes', to teaching The Boy to cook! Bon appétit for his plat(s) de résistance.