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.

cyril-and-mavis

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.

sleep-copy

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.

bb

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…

nana-copy

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.

steve

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.

ponch-chips3

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.

isolated-peach

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.

broken-arm

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…

robinsnest-copy

…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.

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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.

singing

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…

dancing-copy-2

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.

pikelets-597x800-478x640

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:-

mathew-477x640

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.

reception

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.

Post-op:

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.

scone

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.

lottie

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.

st

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.


Header image used with permission of the artist: Cathy Thorne