Ma’s Wild Weekend

Ma has always said she only wants to live till she’s 70. Her reasons? Getting old is crap, and the old must make way for the young (I agree that getting old looks to be on the crappy side of the human experience but I doubt the young have their sights set on living with Dad and doing jigsaws if only Ma would get out of the way). Well, Ma turned 70 in October, and guess what? She’s still here! As the big day approached, Ma gave no sign of shuffling off, so my sister Angela and I thought we’d take her on holiday, to get her bonus years off to a good start.

Of all Ma’s 3 children, Angela is the most successful (by successful I mean rich). Mathew could’ve been successful, but he had children and insisted on feeding them. As for me, I’m as close to successful as a wooden bead is to the Hope diamond (still, I get to sit around painting all day, so it could be I’m the most clever). Lucky for us, Angela’s success is our success, so when she announced she and her husband Neil had bought a holiday home near the Norfolk coast, we were all thrilled to bits and looked forward to receiving our respective invitations.

A little slice of paradise.

As the months wore on, our invitations failed to arrive. Angela made vague references to how lovely it was and how much we’d like it; but as for a nailed-down “you can come on these dates” …nada! So, with Ma’s sep-birthday looming, what better time to invite ourselves. Worried inviting the whole family might be pushing it, I suggested a girl’s weekend for Ma, Angela and me. Angela thought it was a fabulous idea, as did our brother Mathew, who did a great job hiding his disappointment that he wouldn’t be coming with us. Of course, we had to break the news to Dad that he would be left at home for whole weekend without his beloved. He took the news well, as this photo of him at the moment of Ma’s departure can attest.

His sorrow was palpable!

Ma didn’t seem too enthused when I told her Angela and I would be taking her on holiday. Her chief concerns were that we’d all end up fighting and I’d make her run through the airport. We didn’t run through the airport as it happens, instead, we sat around eating the chocolate Ma had intended to give to Angela. Naturally, we felt guilty for eating it, but it neither stopped us, nor ruined the taste, in fact, if anything, it made it taste better.

The sweet taste of ill-gotten gains!

The Chateau

Angela’s holiday home is situated in Kelling Heath – a camping and caravan park for posh folk. While some would call it a static caravan, we call it The Chateau. The Chateau is nestled in the woods and comes complete with mod-cons, lush furnishings and Wi-Fi, as well as an impressive supply of toilet paper, brought in especially for yours truly. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of toilet paper, and while The Chateau supply was up to scratch in terms of volume, I’m sad to say, it lacked in terms of quality, as it wasn’t 3ply quilted.

Naturally, I wrote a note expressing my disappointment.

Kelling Heath itself is breath-taking, and even though it was miserable and raining while we were there, it was hard not be astonished by its beauty. Towering trees huddle together, creating a sense of otherworldliness, not alike the magical woods of European fairy-tales. It was love at first sight for me, as it was for Angela and her husband when they first visited 20 years ago, and why they have returned every year since, and why they decided to buy a holiday home there.

Holiday Highlights

As with all septuagenarian birthday holidays, the evenings were action packed.

The fun never ends!

Ma likes a good jigsaw. To be honest, I do too. In fact, you could say we are a jigsawing family. Which is probably a good thing, because you tend to find, when it comes to families (esp. boozy ones like ours), the more jigsawing, the less bludgeoning. Being the matriarch, Ma can be dictatorial when there’s a jigsaw on the go. Preferring to put in all the pieces herself, we, her subjects, are usually relegated to such tasks as finding the end-pieces and re-filling her wine glass.

Along with our jolly jigsawing evenings, we visited nearby towns during the day, one of which we went to by train, an experience which plunged one back into post-war Britain when everything was bunting and crustless sandwiches.

North Norfolk’s Poppy Line train.

The beautiful town of Sheringham.

Two little waifs enjoying the view of Cromer’s historic pier.

We also visited a stately home. To be more accurate, we visited a stately home’s gardens. They were beautiful, especially all the hens that were roaming about. We were meant to go into the house too, but it was expensive, plus, earlier in the year, I had a nosy around Buckingham Palace (which, if you ask me, looked a bit tatty), so I was thinking anything else would be a step down, plus, Ma had somewhere she wanted to be.

Ma strolling in the stately gardens of Holkham Hall.

The Carvery

Ma’s of that age where she eats lunch at 11am, her evening meal at 4pm, shouts at the telly, and goes to church on Sunday, church being a local pub where Ma is none too stingy with the wine.  Her fellow congregants are Da and their good friends Daphne and Ian. The four of them put the world to rights and afterwards go to a carvery (aka a self-serve Sunday roast) at another pub down the road. Ma loves a good roast, especially the tatties, gravy and a big fat Yorkshire pud. Ma’s also of that age where she likes to do the same things on a given day. As such, a Sunday is not a Sunday unless it involves wine and a roast (actually, the other days of the week involve wine too, but you didn’t hear that from me).

So it was, when Ma arrived at Kelling Heath and saw a sign for a Sunday carvery, she set her heart on attending; and although Angela told her (on several occasions) that the Kelling Heath carvery was not very good, Ma would not be dissuaded. By the time Sunday rolled around, Ma, using her impressive powers of passive-insistence (what nice people do when they want their own way, while pretending it’s neither here nor there if they get it), made it abundantly clear that she was going to attend the Kelling Heath carvery (crappy though Angela assured her it was) whether we liked it or not.

Actually, she almost didn’t get her own way, because when she asked Angela and I if we wanted to go to the carvery, we both said no (Angela on account of she knew it was crappy, and me because I too knew it was crappy, because Angela told me so). So, it was decided that we would go to the pub instead (which happened to be next door to the carvery). I’m not as in-chargey as Angela, so when Angela popped to the loo on the way to the pub, Ma took the opportunity to boss me about, so that when Angela re-joined us, we were not in the pub but in the carvery room. Of course, Ma made it seem we were in there by accident, but I think you’ll agree, the photo below shows Ma knew exactly what she was doing!

The face of triumph!

Needless to say, the carvery was crappy…not that Ma would admit it!

Ma and I are a lot alike, something Ma finds very annoying. It’s no picnic for me either, but I’d rather be like Ma than, say, Hitler. Our main similarities are we’re both fussy eaters, we both hate rubber bands (they are disgusting and made by the devil), and we both blow our noses…a lot! I’m not sure where the nose blowing thing comes from. According to google it can be anything from a spinal fluid leak to pregnancy, or even a foreign object. I did once stick a small pink sweet up my nose to see what happens when you stick a sweet up your nose (it turns out a trip to the doctor and a pair of pillars), but I was 4 years old and the sweet is long gone. Personally, my money is on a mild allergy of some sort, probably to housework or, in Ma’s case, idiots. Whatever it is, we’ve both got it. What does our nose blowing have to do with a trip to Norfolk? Nothing, except that I caught a cold on my way there (probably from the EasyJet air-conditioning), so my nose blowing reached fever-pitch.

Despite being a fellow blower, Ma didn’t have much sympathy for me, rather she kept telling me off for blowing mine so hard, warning me I’d blow my brains out and end up a dullard like my brother (ok, I made up the bit about my brother) if I didn’t stop. Well, I didn’t stop blowing it, hard as it happens, and, despite ma’s warning, my brains seem to have stayed put.

Another thing Ma and I have in common is a lousy sense of direction. When I say lousy, I mean non-existent. I’m not kidding, the pair of us couldn’t find our way out of a circular room with a flashing sign over the door saying EXIT. Where Ma’s non-existent sense of direction comes from, I have no idea (mine, of course, comes from her); no one else in the family has such an affliction, and therefore lack both understanding and sympathy as to what it is like to be so afflicted. As such, it is always a relief when Ma and I get lost and it is only us in the car, so there’s no one to tut and sigh at our silliness. However, just like Ma had no sympathy for my nose blowing in Norfolk (on account of its brain-dislodging intensity), I found myself unsympathetic when, on our way back from the carvery, Ma got lost. You see, we stopped at the Kelling Heath general store, to get ice cream and nose-blowing supplies, during the buying of which Ma got impatient and wandered outside and into the pitch-black woods.

Naturally, Ma headed off in the opposite direction of The Chateau, leaving Angela and I to wander about in the dark, shouting “Ma!!!” like two lost orphans. Normally we would’ve called her mobile, but prior to the trip Ma had swapped her iPhone for a Dorro – an old folks’ phone that she didn’t (and still doesn’t) know how to answer. Just as we were starting to get genuinely worried that we’d have to call out a search party and be on the telly looking all mournful that we’d lost our Mother, Ma appeared, not the least bit sorry she’d wandered off, rather, assuring us she knew where she was going all along.

I’m pleased to say we all survived Ma’s wild weekend, with our sanity mostly intact. It was great to spend time together, and, despite Ma’s reservations, no fights broke out. Unfortunately for Angela, she caught my cold and spent the next few days in bed. I felt crusty as well, but Ma arrived home fit as a fiddle, so much so, I doubt she’ll be shuffling off anytime soon, though, if she does, at least we’ll have this selfie she took to remind us of our wonderful wild weekend together.

Clearly Ma’s selfie skills are on par with her sense of direction!

The Horrors of Narrow Boating

Ma recently had a traumatic experience which challenged her physically and psychologically. No, she wasn’t caught in a great flood, nor was the town pillaged by marauding Vikings. Rather, she went on a narrow boat holiday.

Trauma is not something one usually associates with Narrow Boating; indeed, it is normally perceived as a leisurely tootle along idyllic waterways. Not so, according to Ma. Rather, in her mind, it is an experience that should strike fear in even the most intrepid of travellers. To understand what made Ma’s narrow boat holiday so harrowing, it is necessary to examine all the contributing factors.

1. Ma Herself

Ma is great fun. When you spend time with her, 9 times out 10 you’ll have a good laugh. However, in later years, she has developed a condition which affects 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 (numbers in the Isle of Man are much higher) and is the outer manifestation of an underlying ailment called lifeisabitcrapitis (Latin for I haven’t won the Lotto). The condition is called moaning.

Moaning initially presents as a mild irritation with the way of the world, then steadily progresses until it becomes full-blown, usually when one retires and has the opportunity to sit around and think of lots of things to…well…moan about. It’s easy to tell when someone has Moaning, both by the discussion of their favourite topics – the weather and their various physical ailments – and their frequent use of the adverb too (i.e. it’s too hot; it’s too cold; I’m too old; I’m too fat…etc. etc.). And, of course, there is the most recognisable symptom: frequent sighing.

Fellow moaning sufferer, Victor Meldrew

NB: It is important not to confuse Moaning with another more serious condition – i.e. Evil Cow Disorder (or the male variant, Miserable Git Syndrome). People afflicted with Moaning are generally good-hearted realists who are merely fed-up with the injustices of life and the inconvenience of growing old. Whereas, People with Evil Cow or Miserable Git, poison neighbourhood cats, scare little children and spread bitterness and dissension wherever they go, and should be avoided at all costs.

And so, it was, Ma went on her narrow boat holiday with a particularly bad case of Moaning. According to my sister Angela, who had the good fortune to be on the same trip, Ma’s chief gripe was the fact that she doesn’t have a hat head. Apparently, Angela looked very pretty in her bobble hat but Ma’s bobble hat, in Ma’s opinion, looked rubbish on her non-hat head.

Ma wearing her bobble hat on her non-hat head

2. Crew Dynamic

Da and Ma recently bought a share in a beautiful Narrow Boat, called Dawn Chorus. The holiday under discussion was their maiden voyage, and crewing were Da, Ma and my Sister, Angela. Da was Captain, Ma was First Mate, and Angela was Deckhand. Sound simple enough? Well, it would’ve been, were it not for the fact that Ma was also Admiral.

Captain and Admiral of the Dawn Chorus

As such, Da gave orders to Ma, who gave orders to Da, who didn’t want to take orders from the First Mate but had no choice but to take them from the Admiral, who, incidentally, moaned about having to give orders, but, being genetically predisposed to give orders, given that she issues from a long-line of stalwart Matriarchs, moaned more about taking them, but who shouldn’t have given orders to the Captain, but who had to, cause Da, whose peripheral vision is on the wane, crashed if he didn’t lookout, when Ma shouted lookout. Added to this, Ma tends to mutter and Da’s as deaf as a door post, so any orders that were given were not usually received. Angela just did what she was told.

My lovely sister and deckhand, Angela

Now, I should explain how Angela ended up on Ma and Da’s maiden voyage. Firstly, the invitation was presented as a once in a life-time experience, which, though it surely was that, it was not quite the restful sojourn through the tranquil Shropshire countryside she imagined it to be. Further, she was promised plush sleeping quarters, exciting excursions (see further ahead for just how exciting they were), relaxation and reverie. Who could refuse?

Angela’s plush sleeping quarters

Secondly, Angela’s husband and I were meant to go too. Unfortunately, Angela’s husband had a last-minute work emergency, and had to forgo joining his in-laws on their floating Winnebago (I believe he was devastated). I too had the great misfortune of not being able to attend. Though, to be fair, my invitation did not include the promised luxury which lured Angela; rather, I was offered the kitchen as my sleeping quarters and the role of Galley Wench.

Not so plush!

3. The Rigours of Narrow Boating

Narrow Boating may look easy but, according to Ma, it is not. Rather, it is a perilous way to travel, fraught with dangers. After all, you must float in a straight line, on smooth waters, at speeds of up to 4 miles an hour.

Clearly not for the faint hearted!

Then, of course, you must forage for your food at local, waterside public houses, and, in Ma’s case, find the nearest hoedown.

And let’s not forget the fact that you are in the wilderness, with only a bit of painted tin between you and the elements, and are, therefore, exposed to all manner of feral plants and animals.

Indeed, Australia might have its river crocs, but England has ferocious canal fowl:

And while Amazon river travellers have carnivorous plants to content with, the wayfarers of the British canal system must put up with these menaces.

Despite such deprivations and life-threatening dangers, you’ll be pleased to know that the Dawn Chorus cut a safe passage through the countryside and, all on board, arrived at the Nantwich Basin, well-nourished and unharmed.

4. The Perils of Excursions

Day excursions are an important part of Narrow Boating; they offer the crew the opportunity to relax and take a break from the rigours of floating, and experience some of the wonderful attractions England has to offer.

Now, it is not often that one of us kids end up on holiday alone with our parents. However, it is interesting to note where they take us when we are. For instance, the last time my brother Mathew was on holiday with them, they took him to Disneyland. Where did they take Angela?

She could barely contain her excitement!

It may surprise you to know that the Hack Green Bunker was not built for Royalty, or the Business elite; rather, it was built for Civil Servants. It is strange to envision post-apocalyptic England with nothing but civil servants running about, especially as there’ll be no one left to fill out their forms. Obviously, the Government thought it was a great idea, and spent oodles of Tax Payer’s money on the project.

Despite not having a log flume or magic mountain, Angela said her visit to the Bunker was very interesting.

Barely contained!

The crew also went on a day trip to Chester. For the most part, the outing went well. They visited all the local sights, then Ma and Angela did a spot of shopping.

Late in the afternoon, the crew returned to the boat, tired but happy. That is, until Ma realised she had lost her purse. Panic descended and everyone sprang into action. Angela and Da were dispatched back to Chester to scour the city’s ramparts, and Ma had a glass of wine to settle her nerves. Unfortunately, their efforts proved fruitless and the purse remained lost. After cancelling all her Bank Cards, Ma spent a sleepless night worrying that she had ruined their holiday and, by logical extension, the balance of the Universe.

She needn’t have worried though; when they went to the Police Station the next day, to request a television reconstruction of events and a countywide purse-hunt, there was her purse, safe and sound. Apparently, a lady had found it on a park bench Ma had sat on. Ma left the kind stranger a reward, and returned to the boat happy that both her faith in humanity and the balance of the Universe had been restored.

So, there we have it, all the shocking details of Ma’s traumatic journey. While these details provide us with a good idea of what Ma had to endure, nothing conveys the raw nature of an experience like a photograph. Indeed, a closer examination of one photo in particular, shows the true extent of Ma’s ordeal.

Oh, dear God, the horror! How did she survive!!!

The Bobbseys Go Pet Minding

What do you get when you cross a ‘how much? I’m not paying that!’ skinflint with an itchy-footed pensioner? My Mother on a budget holiday!

Nothing about such trips give her greater joy than getting a bargain; to which end she will literally spend days, tirelessly figuring out the cheapest possible way to get from A to Z – which invariably involves detours to G, K and T along the way. Her latest venture, a return trip to Cowplain to see her friend Carol, was no exception. She spent the obligatory computer-bound days haggling with all major transport providers and surfaced, victorious, with a round-trip costing a mere £109.08 – which included plane, bus and train travel. Her greatest triumph was a train ticket from Cowplain to London for £5.00; assailed by a vision of her atop a pile of coal in a freight-car, I suggested she check she was definitely booked on a passenger train. It turned out she was…a bargain indeed!

The Why of the Trip

Many of Ma’s sentences start with “My friend Carol……” – indeed, regardless of the topic of conversation, Ma is somehow able to link it to her friend Carol – most often in reference to red wine, jigsaws or women named Jan (Carol has three friends, all named Jan – they are referred to as Jan no.1, Jan no.2 and Jan no.3 – not the most sophisticated differential, but it does save confusion).

Ma and Carol met on a boat, travelling from New Zealand to England, some 40 years ago. They talk on the phone most days, visit each other regularly and go on trips together. Their last such trip was a Narrow Boat holiday; during which, despite them both packing enough clothes to stock a Hospice Shop, they decided to buy matching fleeces – thereby becoming the Bobbsey Twins. Concerned that people might have trouble telling them apart, they decided on the qualifiers, relative to their size, of Big Bobbsey and Little Bobbsey.

Big Bobbsey & Little Bobbsey

Big Bobbsey & Little Bobbsey

Now, Big Bobbsey and Little Bobbsey are prone to hilarious mishaps, and together have about as much common-sense as a small parrot; so it was somewhat surprising to discover that their mutual friends, Linda and King (whom they also met on the boat going from New Zealand to London some 40 years ago), asked the Bobbseys to do a spot of Pet-minding for them. The Bobbseys agreed, hence the trip to Cowplain.

The Northern Star - where the 4 friends met.

The Northern Star – where the 4 friends met.

Knowing what the Bobbseys are like together, and already amused by Big Bobbsey’s convoluted trip to get to Cowplain, I decided to employ her services as a Roving Reporter. She wasn’t too keen at first, but I assured her that all she had to do was take a few photos, then regale me with stories when she got back. After some convincing, she agreed.

The Trip

The first part of the trip was a plane ride from the Isle of Man to Liverpool; after which she had to get from the airport to the bus station in the city centre. She had two hours to get there and, being el-cheap-o, decided she would get a local bus and then walk the rest of the way. I suggested she get a taxi, pointing out that 2 hours might be cutting it fine – as, with her sense of direction, it would more likely take 2 days. Thankfully, she saw the merits of my argument, caught a taxi and arrived in time for the next leg of the journey – a bus ride from Liverpool to London. She said she saw lots of wonderful sights on the way, and decided to share them with us:

The sights Big Bobbsey saw.

The sights Big Bobbsey saw.

Once in London she had a bus change and short wait, which turned into a long wait, which turned into an indefinite wait. It transpired that the National Express driver had better things to do than drive Big Bobbsey to Cowplain, and had failed to turn up to work; as such, the bus was cancelled. So there she was, all alone in a big city, wondering what to do; when, all of a sudden, two angels appeared – Cyril and Mavis – who were due to catch the same bus. Bob Bobbsey described her angels elderly; so, as she is heading that way herself, they must have been positively ancient.

Now, given that between the three of them – what with their pensioner discounts and all – their tickets probably cost less than wiper fluid needed for the journey, National Express decided it wasn’t cost effective to schedule another bus, bought them all train tickets and sent them on their way. They made their own way to the train station on foot; and Cyril, the consummate gentleman, offered to carry Big Bobbsey’s bag – Big Bobbsey, not wanting Mavis to think she was a young floosy out to steal her husband, declined the offer. Once at the station, the newly acquainted OAP’s parted company – but not before Big Bobsy, as Roving Reporter, thought a picture of Cyril and Mavis might be nice.


So where are Cyril and Mavis? Good question! One can only assume, by the time Big Bobbsey rummaged in her bag for the camera and fiddled with the buttons, Cyril and Mavis had caught their train, travelled home and were sitting down to a nice cup of tea.

Eventually, after a gruelling – but remarkably cheap – day, Big Bobbsey arrived at little Bobbsey’s. The following morning they rose early so they could drive to Linda and King’s to begin the pet-minding portion of the holiday. On the way they passed a herd of Wild Ponies – enthralled by the sight, Big Bobbsey took a photo for posterity.

The Wild Ponies

The Wild Ponies

On reaching their destination, the four friends had time for a quick catch up, and for Bobbseys to receive a pet-minding tutorial; after which, Linda and King set off on their weekend getaway.

The Bobbseys, left to their own devices, began pet-minding – losing one of the cats in the first 2hrs. It was eventually found shut in the garage; with neither Bobbsey wanting to take the blame, suspicion for the oversight fell on King.  Thereafter, they performed regular head counts to make sure all pets – which included a dog and two cats – were present and correct.

To fulfil her duties as Roving Reporter, Big Bobbsey thought it fitting to take some photos of their surrounds, so one might get a feel of their pet-minding experience.

Table edge, cage and blurry object.

Table edge, cage and blurry object.

Array of things on the bench.

Array of things on the bench.

Both Big Bobbsey’s photos and the stories of their adventure had an uncanny absence of pets; rather, the highlights included:

A pub excursion…

The Public House - conveniently located across the road.

The Public House – conveniently located across the road.

…red wine and jigsaw sessions…

Little Bobbsey working hard.

Little Bobbsey working hard.

…and Big Bobbsey’s astonishment at Little Bobbsey’s – can you tell my husband works away at sea – night attire.

The sights you see...

The sights you see…

Naturally they had a wonderful time and, thankfully, all pets were sentient upon Linda and King’s return. The Bobbsey’s stayed a couple of nights with their dear friends, then returned to Cowplain and spent some time with Jan no.1. Two days later they said their good byes as Big Bobbsey caught her £5 train to Gatwick; where she flew home to the Isle of Man, arriving safe and sound.

As far as Ma’s inaugural assignment as Roving Reporter is concerned: I doubt Time Magazine will be headhunting her any time soon.

The Misconceptions of My Youth

When I was 8, I wanted to be a prostitute when I grew up. I was watching a television programme: there was a nice lady and there was a soldier. They climbed into bed together – which seemed to make the solider very happy – cut to the morning (it was the 80’s) and the lady was alone and there was a wad of cash on the bedside table. Gees, I thought. What just happened there? Luckily, someone was on hand to enlighten me – I can’t remember what they said, but what I heard was: She is a prostitute – her job is to go to sleep with men. Easy peasy thought I, that’s the job for me! Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my sister of my intended vocation and she spent the next 7 years calling me Prossy.

My other nickname as a kid was Dumb-Beck – a title I received from my favourite Uncle. It wasn’t that I was thick – I did ok at school; mainly, I just didn’t listen. I was too busy day dreaming – dwelling more in the realms of the imagination than in factual reality. As a result, I frequently misunderstood incoming information, which made me prone to wild misconceptions.


By the time I was 10, my dream of hooking had fizzled out; I decided instead that my life would be better spent fixing the famine in Ethiopia. Extremely upset by the evening news reports, I lay awake at night wondering what could be done, and eventually decided that 100 boxes of Belgium Biscuits should do the trick – I’d bake them myself, take them to Ethiopia and hand them out to everyone. Of course, Bob came up with Live Aid before I had a chance go into production, so my dream of feeding the starving jam filled, cinnamon flavoured biscuits with pink icing came to nought.


My favourite person as a kid was my Nana – the following photo, with Angela sitting on her knee, shows just how much I adored her…


My second favourite person was my cousin Steve. Awesome fun and a hit with the ladies, I decided when I was 5 that Steve and I would marry – unfortunately, we didn’t grow up in the hills of West Virginia, so, to this day, we remain unwed.


Not to worry, by the time I was 6 I had moved on to greener pastures. My new love was Lee Mason – he was good at drawing, had jet-black hair and reminded me of Poncho from CHiPs. Although not as cool as Cousin Steve, Lee Mason did to have excellent prospects, as his folks owned a Dairy (Kiwi for corner shop/store); which, in my mind, meant an unlimited supply of lollies (Kiwi for sweets/candy). Sadly, I was torn away from my true love when my family and I moved towns. I was gutted. And, had Lee Mason known he was my boyfriend, I’m sure he’d have been gutted too.


In my day, young children weren’t taught the facts of life. As such, I was under the impression that babies come from peaches – an easy mistake to make.

You see, when I was 5, we had some peaches; when I asked Ma what the knobbly thing in the middle was…she said it was a stone. Around the same time, Ma announced she was going to the doctor’s to have a stone removed (actually a cist). Around the same time, my little brother appeared – ergo: babies come from peaches.

You can imagine my shock – not to mention horror – when I eventually discovered the truth. I felt personally affronted by all the hoo-ha involved and thought peach procreation was a much better idea.


Looking back, my general take on physiology was a bit iffy. For instance, there was the time Angela and I went to a Horse Farm with our cousins David and Steven (yip, Cousin Steve). We were having an awesome time…until Angela fell off a horse. She said her arm hurt, so she sat in the car and cried. And she didn’t stop. So we all had to go home – much to the annoyance to David, Steve and myself. When we got back to Nana’s, Angela was still crying, so they took her to the doctors. Turns out she had broken her arm…quite badly.


Now, I remember exactly where I was when I was told the news – I was sitting on Nana’s porch eating a lemonade Popsicle. I remember it so clearly because the news was so utterly shocking; you see, in my mind, there was some confusion as to what a broken arm meant. Indeed, I had only one point of reference for such an affliction.

The waiter from Robin’s Nest…


…whose arm was clearly broken.

You can imagine my relief when I saw Angela sitting in her hospital bed with two arms. My surprise soon turned to fury when I saw she also had a whole pot of Tangy Fruits all to herself!!! Actually, the whole debacle turned out to be source of envy…what with the attention, time off school and cool cast that everyone wrote on.


We come now to the most painful misconception of my youth: the belief that I could sing. I liked nothing more than singing at the top of my lungs…and frequently did. Now, it’s terribly cute when a 3yr old belts out Mary had a Little Lamb, off key, in a crowded shop. Not so cute is a 12yr old butchering the National Anthem in the school choir…with her friend asking “Is that you?” Mortified, I spent the rest of the concert lip-sinking.


I could have been spared such trauma if I had believed Mrs Pyatt – my Primary School Teacher – when she told me, some years before, that I wouldn’t be in the School Concert…because, well…I couldn’t sing. I was completely shocked by this revelation, I had sung my little heart out for her and had even recorded myself on a cassette tape and had visions of a Grammy when I played it back. I cried when she told me. Then I thought: silly old cow, what does she know?

Ah well, at least I can dance…


So there we have it, the misconceptions of my youth.

Of course, there were many more; some of which I probably still labour under to this day. However, while I may not be a hooker, have a knighthood like Sir Bob, be married to my cousin, have a peach pit baby, a one armed sister or a hope in hell of winning a Grammy, I did have the best Nana in the whole world; of that I am absolutely certain.

Holy Moly

In our family, it is a well-known fact that Ma makes the best pikelets in the world. Growing up, we had them most weekends and they were always presented to us as a treat; leading us to believe we got them because we were special; when, in fact, we got them because we were poor. Yes, pikelets are the poor man’s bread.

Nonetheless, we loved them and still do. Indeed, since Ma’s conversion to capitalism and her subsequent ability to afford bread, they have been in short supply and, as such, have become highly valued by my brother, sister and I.

This being so, you can imagine my annoyance when I received a text from my brother declaring that Ma had made a whole batch of pikelets just for him.


How had he come by such prize? Turns out they were pity-pikelets. You see, he’d turned up at our parent’s house looking like this:-


No, despite appearances, it was not a lobotomy; rather, he’d had a teeny tiny mole removed. To be fair, it was cancerous – even so…a whole batch a pikelets to himself???

With a hankering for pikelets and, coincidently, a Doctor’s appointment schedule for the following day, I decided, while there, I would trot out a few moles of my own. After all, when I go to the Doctor’s, I like to have a few ailments to discuss, to make the trip worthwhile.

So there I was at the Doctors. First I told him about a lump I’d noticed. He asked me how long I’d had it. I said, 5 years. I could tell by the look on his face that it would’ve been more appropriate to say 5 weeks…or even 5 months. Given the awkwardness of the situation, I decided not to tell him why I had left it so long.

You see, I had been subscribing to my Ma’s philosophy on lumps – leave it alone and it’ll go away (strange considering she was proven alarmingly wrong on 3 occasions – though she wouldn’t be without us). Ma’s leave it alone philosophy about sums up her entire medical ethos and, for the most part, I think she is probably right. After all, trotting off to the doctor’s willy nilly, with all manner of diseases one has diagnosed on the internet, can be embarrassing – like the time my suspected cervical cancer turned out to be constipation.

Next I showed him my moles.

Now, the majority of GPs wouldn’t know a cancerous mole from a remnant of Cadbury Flake eaten in bed the night before; hence the need for a Dermatology Department – to which one would typically be referred. I showed the Doctor my most impressive moles and, sure enough, he said they looked suspect and would have to be seen by a dermatologist. Only, he added, I wouldn’t be going with them. You see, unfortunately for molely Islanders, a Dermatology Department is not available – so all moles have to be sent away, detached from their hosts, to determine whether they need to be removed or not.

A removal appointment was made for the following week and any apprehension I fealt was allayed by the thought of fresh warm pikelets.

Soon the big day arrived and I trotted off to the Minor Ops Clinic. Naturally, having never been a fan of flesh gouging, I felt very nervous when I was sitting in waiting room.


I needn’t have been. When I went into the theatre, the gouging lady took one look at my moles and declared: They’re not moles, they’re age spots. And, to make matters worse, she wouldn’t gouging them out. With my dreams of pikelets slowly slipping away, she then informed me she was going to freeze them off (perhaps all was not lost). I asked her if it hurt, and she said, yes. She was right, but I endured.


After my procedure I dropped in on my parents. Knowing that old-age spot freezing doesn’t have quite the same ring as cancerous mole gouging, and without a fancy bandage (I didn’t even have a plaster), I knew my chances of scoring some pikelets was limited, but it might at least be worth something.

And so it was.


A stale scone

Naturally I was disappointed; until, that is, I found out that my Brother’s cancerous mole turned out to be the non-melanoma kind…so there’ll be no more pity-pikelets for him either!

Ma and the Unmentionable Gifts

Most parents, when they receive a gift from their children, will ooh and aah and say how much they love it, whether or not they actually do. Not Ma. If a gift doesn’t pass muster, she’ll tell you; primarily with a look that says: are you kidding me, you stole my youth and now you’re giving me this?!

Ma is not mean or ungrateful, quite the opposite; rather, she is pathologically honest. Example: once on a train the ticket fellow overlooked us, so Ma chased him down the aisle shouting: excuse me…excuse me…we haven’t paid!

While Ma’s honesty ensures private rail employees get their year-end bonus, it also means she’ll provide an honest assessment of the gifts you give her.

I’ve furnished Ma with a number of crappy gifts over the years, but two in particular stand out.

The first concerned a family saga known as Lottie-gate. Lottie was my brother’s adorable dog – may she rest in peace. Ma likes animals well enough; she’s just not keen on having them in her house – perhaps a throwback from having had children in it for so long. Anyway, this one time, my brother asked her if she’d have Lottie for the weekend: Ma said no. Simple? Hardly. Ma likes saying no as much as she likes animals in the house and getting free train rides. Added to which, Ma saying no is a big deal in these parts, especially where my brother is concerned. It’s normally: yes of course my darling boy…would you like a plate of fresh scones with that? Long story boring, it turned into a saga, became Lottie-gate and, finally, the unmentionable incident. It would’ve stayed unmentioned, were it not for the fact that it gave me a brilliant gift idea for Ma:

A lap-tray with a huge picture of Lottie on it.


Ma hated it. Indeed, I believe her exact words were: you must be joking…why would I eat my dinner on that…I’m never going to use it! True enough, it’s still in plastic in the back of the cupboard. To be honest, I was a little mystified by her reaction. I was doubled over laughing when I thought of it and my brother thought it was pretty funny too. My sister – ever on to it – knew it would be a stinker, and so it was. And, if you want to stay in Ma’s good graces, you’re better off not mentioning it.

I remained cautious in my gift giving for the next couple of years; sticking with sure winners like red wine and a novel. That is, until recently, when I had another great idea. The remit: useful and fabulous. Tada…a funky, no strain, goods collecting transporting device (aka an old lady shopping trolley)! Ma was sure to love it and might even offer to bake me a plate of scones.


No chance. She thought it was ridiculous. Her exact words were:

Ma: You must be joking (coupled with the stolen youth stare)…I’m not that old!
Me: What (genuinely confused), don’t you like it?
Ma: No. What would I want it for?
Me: You could use it to do your shopping.
Ma: I wouldn’t be seen dead with it.
Me: Well, I’ll use it then…I think it’s cool.
Ma: (Shakes head) gees, you’ll be in a home before me.

Naturally, I was disappointed. But not for long! Because I am now the proud owner of an old lady shopping trolley. It’s freaking brilliant! No more lugging huge bags of groceries home…and no more bags for that matter. It can fit a mound of stuff, is waterproof and, when you get home, you can wheel it up to the fridge and cupboards for your unpacking ease. And, of course, it looks pretty darn cool. I know this to be true because old ladies stop me in the street to admire it. I’m telling you, if you don’t have a car and are sick of lugging things around town, get yourself an old lady shopping trolley!

As for Ma’s gifts in the future? I guess I’ll be sticking to the old favourites. However, Ma keeps telling us that when the end is nigh, she’d prefer to go to Switzerland than fritter away in a nursing home. So I’m thinking a ‘Swiss Phrase Book’ for Mother’s Day.

I hope she likes it.