Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Nan, me and Omar Sharif

Nan was a vivacious woman who had plenty of boyfriends, but sadly she was also extremely hot tempered and her romances tended not to last.  In retrospect I think she was probably lonely and hid this under a loud and sociable exterior. Her annual romance-fest took place each summer holiday in Ramsgate (and you thought Paris was the city of lurve).  It was surprising she got any amorous action being encumbered by a whiny child (me, whiny but sweet),  a grumpy old woman (Great Gran) and an incontinent poodle (Great Gran's canine companion).  But sea air obviously made lots of people frisky and she was never short of a companion - although it should be said that the holiday boyfriends were of varying quality; but as these relationships rarely lasted longer than two weeks Nan didn't seem to mind.

One evening when on the bus to Margate (the height of holiday sophistication - a trip to Dreamland) a man introduced himself to us as Omar Sharif.  He enquired politely if we were surprised to come across a famous Hollywood actor on the bus.  Nan (a keen cinema fan) said that this thought had immediately crossed her mind and he was looking a bit shorter than when he starred in Doctor Zhivago (and a trifle plumper).

Omar explained that although he knew it would disappoint it was important to be honest and that he wasn't the famous Omar Sharif, just the Omar Sharif who was working in a Ramsgate restaurant for the summer season.  He then asked very formally if we would do him of the honour of accompanying him on a night out.    As we got off the bus Nan whispered that I should call her Mum -  I was happy to go along with this as I  was a little bit in love with Omar already.

We met him most days for the rest of the holiday, he was charming, funny and happy to be buried in the sand.  On the last night of our holiday he told Nan that he was returning home to Turkey at the end of the season and asked if we would  like to go with him. Nan said that she would have to think about it.  Once indoors I excitedly asked if we could go to Turkey (in my mind a place of gargantuan Christmas lunches).  She thought for a while and said that we had better not as she was need to run the Co-op carpet shop and - almost as an afterthought - that my Mum and Dad might miss me.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Nan and the magazines

Nan has an elderly gentleman admirer called Donnie, an unattractive version of dear Paul Daniels -  as she got older her standards definitely slipped.  I'm ashamed to admit they once came up to visit me at University and I pretended I wasn't in as they hammered at the door - I loved Nan, but didn't want anyone to see me with him.  They spent most of their time arguing - well,  Nan argued and Donnie apologised.  He brought her frequent presents - she said tartly that this was because he hoped to take their relationship to the next level (but let's not go there - it is not a good thought).

One day he arrived with a bag of magazines and asked if she would read them to him.  Nan was very fond of Woman's Own and was looking forward to a read with a cup of coffee and a Tunnock's teacake for company; but it crossed her mind that perhaps Donnie couldn't read and needed a fix of Patience Strong - so she agreed.  Sitting close to her on the sofa he began to decant the contents of his plastic bag.  As Nan put on her spectacles she focused on a pile of hard-core Teutonic porn magazines when she was expecting to see Clare Rayner - fundamental mistake here as Nan didn't read German .

Horrified Nan pushed Donnie off the sofa and as he got up she hit him around the head with a rolled-up magazine.  Exit Donnie - no apologies would suffice - he had had his chips.  For a good while after Nan entertained her girl friends (think Golden Girls merged with the witches in Macbeth) with lurid descriptions of the magazines and how disgusted she was.  I did wonder about her detailed recall of the contents of said publications when we were told she had immediately thrown them in the dustbin.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Me and the loo seat

Across the road from the primary school was a rather creepy-looking  manor house surrounded by a tall stone wall (think Atkinson Grimshaw) - the main gates were always locked and padlocked; the occupants entering and exiting by the garden door near the church.  It was the nexis of all village ghost stories.

A girl at school - Gwenda- told me that her mother cleaned for Miss W the old lady who owned the manor.   Gwenda had once gone to work with her mother and been so scared that she had had a fit and peed on the sitting room carpet- making her the world expert on Miss W.  Strangely Miss W was at the same time a living being - she could occasionally to be seen in the village with a tartan shopping bag,  but also a supernatural being who haunted any susceptible child..  That this didn't make any sense never occurred to me - I was a trusting (stupid?) child.

 At break times I would beg for tales of Miss W, but by bedtime would be sick with fear and hardly able to sleep.  One day Gwenda told me something that has scarred me for life.  She said it was  a well-known fact that Miss W did her haunting by sitting on any unoccupied lavatory;  the only way to stop her was to close the lid and put something on it (loo roll or some such) so she couldn't get purchase and would go elsewhere.

Every evening when in the bath I was terrified picturing the stick-thin Miss W materialising through the walls to sit on the loo.  Even now when I go into a bathroom I imagine I might see her.  This may be why I favour showers over baths, but if I am in the bath I'll always close the lid and put something on it - just in case.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Me and the New Year's Eve Party

It is New Year's Eve.
Boyfriend and I are going to make the long journey south to a party at his brother's house (i.e. 5 miles away in Clapham).  I am tarted up as befits New Year- something lurid, shiny and probably off-the-shoulder, accessorised with big hair - I fear.  Boyfriend is wearing his usual jeans and t-shirt combo (now that can't be right can it?)

'Yuck!', I squeal as I open the front door.  There sitting brownly on the front steps is the most enormous dog poo - I presume (hope) it is canine.  The dark brown shininess of it is both fascinating and repellent.   We stare in disbelief - Boyfriend says that he would like to have seen the originator- in the same awed voice he  uses when discussing calculus (i.e. this is something close to miraculous).

I look more closely.  Now - let's get this clear straight away that neither of us have coprophilic tendencies - it is just extraordinarily large and gleams.  Boyfriend finds a stick and goes to poke it.
'Come on, that's enough, that's really gross!' I shriek in disgust.
He then picks it up and chases me up the road; in my panic it takes some time to realise, that fastidious-type that he is,  there is no way he'd pick up dog-doings
There nestling in his hands I see that it is plastic - a joke dog crap.

Not wanting to be parted from our new toy we decide to take it to his brother's party - being sure it will come in useful.

At the flat there is a queue to go into the bathroom; several people squeeze in together at one time.  They are not using the facilities or indulging in any dodgy group activities,they are admiring the decor - Boyfriend's brother has been revamping his flat.  We wait our turn to admire the embossed mock-Victorian wall tiles.  Once inside we decide the bathroom really needs a little something extra to add to the ambiance.

With reverence we place the plastic dog poo in the centre of the bath - it looks perfect.  We then sit on the stairs outside the bathroom and watch people go in to admire the tiling and then come out with rather green faces, we laugh like drains - it is turning out to be a great party.

 Boyfriend's brother eventually discovers our gift and is not frightfully amused - guessing it was us because of our sniggering.  We are told we are immature and not at all funny - this makes us laugh even more.  When his sense of humour returns he confiscates our offering to take down to his parents' house to put in their bath.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Nan and the sheepskin slippers

Every Christmas as Nan looked on expectantly as we opened our 'surprise' packages.  The problem was the final presents we were given were never a mystery as they were always pairs of sheepskin slippers.  I think sheepskin slippers were thought to be rather 'posh' and every member of the family would be clad in a new pair for the rest of Christmas day.

I am not a fan of slippers preferring to wear nothing on my feet or if it is really cold I might don a pair of flip flops.  I suspect this is because years of enforced slipper-wearing have super-heated my poor feet.  Even the fashion for Uggs had passed me by; bit like wearing your PJs outside - not natural or necessary in my opinion.   I realised I was growing up and away from the bosom of the family when I announced before one Christmas that no one should buy me slippers as I wasn't going to wear them ever, ever, ever again.
No one took any notice and I continued to be given these furry monstrosities for years to come only to take them down to the local charity shop as soon as it opened after the festivities.
Never trust a man who wears slippers

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Me and the flat in Baywsater

Boyfriend and I move into a studio flat.  It has a tiny sitting room with kitchenette, a bedroom which should really be called a roombed - there being no floor on three sides of it, an interior bathroom and a balcony.  To get onto the balcony you had to climb over the bed, inevitably anyone climbing back in would step on the pillows leaving dusty footprints -I would ensure Boyfriend's pillow were always on top when we had guests and then swap them at bedtime - he didn't seem to notice their grey grittiness.

Although small, the flat was in a great location.  We would go running in Kensington Gardens (about three minutes walk away), lovely in summer but the Round Pond seemed to take on the weather conditions of the Barant Sea in winter.  It was very convenient for Sunday afternoon cultural pursuits  - we could walk to the V&A and the Wallace Collection - this was at the stage of life when we decided to 'do' all the major London Museum/galleries in their entirety from room 1 to the end - we managed to complete the two aforementioned places, the National Gallery, the Science Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Courtauld, but I'm afraid the British Museum never got finished.   It was also well situated for food, restaurants in Queensway when we were flush and when money was tight (the usual) the shop around the corner that sold real Turkish delight, fresh figs and ready- made cocktails in sweet little metal containers.

The house we lived in was divided into studio flats, apart from the basement which was a proper flat.  The basement was the home of this very good looking actor who was usually seen in a black leather jacket, smoking gauloises.  He had an incredibly thin, blonde girl friend called Alison - they seemed to spend most of their time arguing, but we decided that living next to the dustbins would make even the most serene people argumentative.

The house was always busy with an almost constant stream of men - they tended to be quite chatty when I was on my own but not so friendly when Boyfriend was with me.  It took a rather more worldly-wise friend to point out that most of the female occupants were on the game and that the friendly guys were their clients.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Me, Mum and my fringe

Went to the hairdresser's last week - not something I really enjoy.  Someone should invent a mirror so that the victim/customer  doesn't have to look at  themselves, but by wearing special glasses (or squinting or something like that) the hairdresser can see them.  But until James Dyson turns his attention to really useful inventions we coiffurephobes will have to continue to  suffer.

Anyway I march in and demand a trim, a tiny, weeny, no more than 1cm trim.  At this point I'm kneeling before hairdresser-woman, begging, my hands in prayer as if before St Mary Magdalen who it turns out is the patron saint of hairdressers - but perhaps I should have stuck to St Jude, he of lost causes.  She seems not to have heard me.  I am hustled to a basin and forced to have my hair washed - for the 2nd time in a morning - not good for those of us with sheep-like follicles.  Then I sit before the mirror of torture and wonder why I don't wear full slap - especially  foundation  which I believe it hides a multitude of sins and then begin fantasising about bringing one of those carnival masks next time.  All the time Sweeney Toddette wields the scissors, she obviously doesn't understand metric and cuts my hair. no - shears my hair (OK -slight exaggeration, but I am still traumatised - she cuts off two or three inches).  I am then straightened and the final insult, Edwina Scissorhands cuts my fringe too short.  - I've spent the last few days pulling it down - it doesn't work  and bounces back half way up my forehead.

This puts me in mind of my mum's hairdressing misadventures when I was a teenager. There is someone I wish to impress at youth club - a sophisticated older man (i.e. a 16-year old boy in too tight jeans with an extravagant mullet).  Mum catches a glimpse of me and suggests I wear a jumper - she did not share my opinion that a skimpy pink halter-neck top was both classy and suitable for an chilly September evening.   She then announces my fringe could do with a trim and sends me to get the nail scissors and the shaving mirror - the correct tool for the job isn't a priority in our family.  I sit on the kitchen stool and she starts cutting..
' Not too short,' I plead.
She does a few more snips.  I look in the mirror - my fringe is crooked - as I feared.
'Easily remedied,' she laughs gaily.  Few more snips and then in comes Dad who points out astutely that she might want to even it up. My forehead is beginning to feel a little chilly.
Mum stops 'Well, that's the best I can do - I can't understand why your hair just doesn't grow straight.'

 My fringe is like some awful graph (the up and downy sort - not a bar graph or a pie chart) .  It is about 5 cm above my eyebrows.  I look like a bad extra from Star trek.  I weep and decide that no tiny, inappropriate halter-neck can compete with my lack of fringe.  I try pushing it back with a hair-band, but then you get the full view of my inadequate eyebrow (see Me and dad's razor  for more information).  I decide to give youth club a miss and concentrate my thoughtwaves on persuading the fringe from hell to grow before I have to go to school the next day.