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.