Thursday, March 22, 2007


Every day, dear reader, is like Sunday and this blog entry is like a window on my Mother's world, a look at the things in her living room that perhaps might shed some light on who or what my Mother is.

The first is a statuette of a woman who, according to the lady who gave it to my Mum (her friend's daughter), is as close as one can get to my Mummy in ornamental form. The top half, dress up, sits upon the legs and wobbles with the gentle push of a finger.

This is a plate depicting The Eagle's Nest. in 1979, Mum, Dad, my brother and I went on holiday to Austria and Southern Germany. My parents never had a plan when on holiday, we just drifted from one campsite to the next, absorbing what came in-between. Luckily for us, on our way back from Salzburg, we stumbled upon Hitler's former home.

My Mum bought this plate, thinking it was a wooden carving. She was saddened, on returning to the UK, to see bubbles in the plaster on the reverse.

Mum used to have a friend, originally from Austria, who married a Brit in 1950 and came to live in Southbourne. I thought she was outrageous. She would only eat in cafés and restaurants with tablecloths. White ones. But that's not what makes her outrageous. The outrageous part came with her name: Titty Gillespie. I'm sure Titty couldn't have been her real name. No idea what it was though. Mum could say it without even a smirk. I could not. I would break out into rude laughter every time someone said it. Remember, though, please, I was about nine years old when she died, rather sadly, of breast cancer.

Titty had a metal Swastika on a a ribbon. She showed it to me once, slightly covering it with her hand, although no-one else was around. I often wonder how she came to have it. She was certainly no Nazi but the most liberal woman of her generation I've ever met.

This Witch was bought for my Mother by Caitlin and Aidan (her niece's grandchildren) for a birthday a few years back. Mum adores it, although Aidan is quite afraid. Mum has a bit of an obsession with Witches. One can find another two somewhere in her living room. Not just Witches. No. There are also Trolls, Fairies, Elves and other such beings from European folklore.

Mum is an Esoteric. Quite unusual, I think, for a woman of her age and background.

Behind the Witch, on the wall, is a framed postcard of HMS Hood. Her cousin, Bunty, a Royal Marine, went down on it during World War II. She often speaks of him. Although he was a little older than her, they were close. I sometimes wonder if she had a crush on him.

Lorraine, my sister, and her husband, Peter, bought this for my Mother for Christmas in 1980. It looks as though it's something special, but it's not. It's cheap and nasty. My Mother was impressed by it, though, and for years it took pride of place on the mantlepiece. Relegated to a display cabinet when the room was redecorated in 1997, it's been there ever since.

My sister is well known for buying cheap and nasty gifts for friends and family. She has a penchant for things which look impressive but are actually cheesy, crappy, second-rate rubish.

One notorious birthday featured her giving me a Weetabix bag. She didn't pay a penny for it, only saved up tokens from the cereal packet and sent away for said trash.

To the left of the clock is a photograph of my nephew, Spence. It was taken when he was about thirteen years old. He's now twenty and about to be a Father for the first time.

To the right of the clock is a photograph of Emily, Lorraine's daughter. She was born in 1982 when I was ten years old. She is a lesbian. Or bisexual. I can't remember. Her sexuality seems to change with the wind. She and I lost touch after her Mother and I fell out. Such a shame. I've always adored her.

My Mother, although her hands are riddled with rheumatoid arthritis, adores to knit. This is her knitting bag. Current projects include a blanket and various jackets for her first great-grandchild who is due on 4th July.

Mum's knitted since a wee girl. When needles and wool were unavailable, she told me she'd use skewers and a ball of string.

Most of the jumpers I wore as a child were knitted. Click here to see the school jumper I wore back in the early 80s.

I bought this mug for Mum when I was down in England last. I don't usually approve of humourous crockery, but this is an exception. One of her friends calls her The Queen Mother (me being a gay) and another calls her My Lady Of The Manor. I saw this and just had to buy it.

If Mum was in a gang, she'd be leader.

Mummy likes CDs. Her favourite periods are the 1940s and 1950s. Her CD storage unit is far too small. It used to be mine. I bought it in the 1980s when I had about thirty compact discs. At its height, my CD collection amounted to over three thousand of the little blighters. Around half have been lost to ebay.

If you look closely at the image, my lamb, you'll see a photograph of a woman holding a baby. The woman is my Mum's sister, Barl. The baby is me. Oh, and I think there's another Witch! Also, see if you can see Emily in adulthood. She's just to the left of the left-most pile of CDs with her brother.

I bought this sailor bust for Mum in 1997. There used to be quite a few of these things strewn all over the walls of the living room when I was a boy. They disappeared with my Father when he left in 1981. I presumed he'd taken them with him. He had not. Mum threw them out when he'd left. They were things he'd bought apparently, and she hated them. But not as much as she hated him. I only found this out recently. I'd like her to be able to take the bust down, but cannot, as I'm not supposed to know what I do know.

Although this was bout in the late 1990s, it's very similar to the ones displayed in the living room in the 1960s and 1970s. The looked very typical, very of the time and went well with our plastic three piece sweet and Roman soldier in chariot wallpaper. The look reminded me of Beverley's living room in Abigail's Party.

Mum, as you can see, dear reader, is mad for religion and photography.

She bought the crucifix from a shop in Lourdes, 1969. Curious that this was the year. Tucked behind it, just about visible, is a card that Ian and I made for her 69th birthday.

The photographs include images of:

Her Father (in fireman's uniform)
Her Mother
Her sister, Barl

More photographs, more religion. The religion, this time, though, is that of the Native Americans. The photographs are mainly of grandchildren, though one of my brother is visible and another featuring her eldest daughter on her wedding day with her husband. The other two people in the photograph are my Mother's Father and Mother-in-law.

Mum used to be heavily into the teachings of Silver Birch.

This picture was given to Mum by a dying man she cleaned for. He said she should choose something to remember him by before his son cleared everything out.

Poor Mum, she thought it was a real oil painting, pointing out the brush strokes. Sadly, not the brush strokes of the original artist, but of the person who applied the varnish.

She's still convinced it's the genuine article.

This, hen, is Mum's favourite chair and only about six months old. It's not leather, though it looks like it. And that's good enough for Mum. But that's not why it's her favourite chair. No. It rocks! Not in the street speak sense, but in the traditional. Oh, and it comes with a stool which also rocks. Seventh heaven for dear Mum.

I think Mum always dreamt of an idyllic lifestyle in which she'd be seen, knitting in a rocking chair in her seventeenth Century cottage with roses growing around the front door. This chair is as close as she's ever got.

Next to the rear window in the living room, we find an ornamental display from Switzerland, bought in the mid-1970s, a plate given to Mum by her friend (and my Godmother) in 1986 and a giant spoon, a gift from the same woman. She said Mum was good at stirring. Some kind of in-joke. I hope.

This is a squat little walking stick, perhaps only about a metre in length. No, much less. It's designed for a child, you see, and was perfect for me when I was eight years old. A gift from my Mother during a trip to Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France. I hung it over the door for the purposes of the photograph. It had been stashed in a corner of the room for years. It's now here with me in Edinburgh, Mum telling me I should take it on.

There are four badges nailed onto it, like wee shields:

St Gilgen

I learned to swim in Mondsee. Mum taught me in the lake.

I will soon be adding a fifth badge to the wee stick, Mum having bought one for me during our recent trip to HMY Britannia. Quite fitting, really, as she bought all the others. I was quite shocked to see it, having never seen anything similar in the UK before.

These photographs feature my Mum's parents, Emily and Henry; a wedding photograph and another which looks it was taken a few years later.

Emily died in 1956, the year the UK banned heroin. I never knew her. I'd have liked to.

My Grandfather died in 1981. I knew him very well and we were very close. It's a shame he died when he did, just months before my Father left home, just when we needed him. I'd also have liked to know him in my teenage years and adulthood. Grandfather was a very clever man, very intelligent, like a walking encyclopedia. I would have adored hearing about his life, first hand.

Mum tells me lots about her Father. I think she was very proud of him and loved him dearly. I remember how she broke her heart at his funeral. I've never seen anything so sad.


Andrea said...

Oh dear Minge.
Memories are the greatest, aren't they? I live with many myself. You see, I live in my Mother's home. Which was her parents home. Like you, I simply adored my grandfather. I love that I live and walk where he did. ;)

A Novelist said...

What a great post! You have some fabulous memories from your past! I absolutely love your mother's knick-knacks, especially the witch! She's so cute hanging there, kind of watching over her. :)

Brian said...

I'm waiting for you to collect all these posts into a memoir proper.

Minge said...

Andrea, I never knew this. you're a very lucky lady.

Novelist, glad you like the Witch! Most people hate it!

Brian, I wouldn't know how, hen!

ucallmemadam said...

I am always sad when I think I never met my grandads.


Just a Girl said...

Your mom sounds like a cutie.

I grew up with a Kitchen Witch in the house that was very similar to your moms.

As to unfortunate names? Dick and Fuchja Kochs (Dick and Fuckya Cocks). Come on! How could you not change that??

Salty Sailor said...

where others see "memories" I see "eBay heaven"....... your Ma's stuff is worth a fortune! Lemme at it!

Urm, on the other hand I'm not a cheap money grubbing cnut. Honestly.

Susan said...

Where did your mum get all the Native American things??!!

As for your grandfather, mine died when I was late teens but at the time, I thought all his stories were boring. What I wouldn't give to hear them now.

My dad passed away a year ago this past November and it still hurts very much.