Motherisms Feat. Memory Lane, Poet Laureates, and The Fiery Pits of Hell …

It’s that time of year again (my birthday), and to my mother’s delight (I’m sure), I imposed myself on her in Devon for a whole week. And we’ve actually even been speaking on the phone before then, which has led to many miscommunications …

 

I am in the last phase of my Master’s — it turns out it’s a lot of work, who knew? But now it is dissertation season …

Mum: Have you finished your dissertation?
Me: No, I haven’t even started it.

 

I’m on the phone to mum before her imminent London arrival ..

Me: We bought a nice organic chicken.
Mum: Oh yes, how is she?

(Apparently mum thought I’d said something about one of my friends. I’m not convinced though..)

 

Mum has now graced London with her presence and is tired of the whole thing by day two.

Me: It’s not just you, London is exhausting.
Mum: No but it’s different. For me it’s that your body is exhausted. You think you’re going somewhere and then another part of you drops off.

 

Mum’s been staying at my godfather’s in London, who has a very sophisticated TV set up by the sounds of it.

Mum: I pressed a button and then it started asking me hundreds of questions: how many hertz did I want, which of the 500 channels … I pressed some of the buttons and nothing seemed to happen, but I’ve probably launched a missile.

 

We’re on the leisurely 6 hour bus down from London to Devon together. We’re going through Chelsea, mum is giving me the guided tour of memory lane and is pointing at the roof garden of a flat my godfather rented …

Mum: The summer of Live Aid we were up there, listening to Cheech and Chong.

 

We’re sort of half-watching ‘Green Mile’ and our attention has drifted back to it momentarily ….

Prisoner (inexplicably) testing the electric chair for someone else and reciting his last wishes (?): Fried chicken dinner with gravy on the tatters and a shit in your hat and have Mae West sit on ma face cus I’m a horny mother fucker.
Police man: Hahahahaha
Tom Hanks: Ahahahaha
Other police man: Hahahaha
Mum: What an extraordinary sense of humour.

 

I’ve had a very big job cancel last minute and need to conjure some financial magic. Mum has a suggestion ..

“If you want to raise money just pretend you’re a dog with a problem.”

 

We’ve been out for a charming day at a stately home like normal people, and even had a cream tea like normal people. Unfortunately we arrived when there were still a lot of other, truly normal, people there. However, we got lost on the guided walk and emerged 3hrs later through the undergrowth, having had to walk around a 10ft high ‘ha ha wall’ (not so funny) and my 73 year-old-mother climb over several fences, and by then everyone else had left …

Mum: That’s why it’s nice to come later in the day not all these people in brightly coloured kagools ruining the view.

 

We’re walking around the lovely stately home, it’s not too big, it’s not too small. Got a lovely garden, some fields, a stable, a pond, some chandeliers, a William Blake (on loan)…

Me [wistfully]: Yeah I could actually live somewhere like this I think.
Mum: Well, you’ll have to marry some chinless twat.

 

A Panty liner advert is on TV…

Advert: Women don’t have to be soft and bla bla …
Me: Oh god yes we know, you’re tough and a right old fucking bruiser. Good for you.
Mum: “Even on my period I’ll kill you.”
Advert: ….you can do anything, even if you are woman bla bla bla …
Mum: Oh god who writes this shit!

 

Mum’s friend has helped her locate a new car, a lovely little (10yr old) VW.

“He’s prouder of this than he his that Mossad wagon of his.”

 

Brexit news is on, we were never going to be able to avoid it entirely …

Mum: Ahhhh… Let’s see who killed who tonight.

 

It’s a couple of months ago. Mum has asked to read a poem of mine, I have duly sent it to her and have, after a week, received no feedback. I’m curious …

Me: Did you read my poem?
Mum: No … yes.
Me: Well you can’t have thought much of it if you forgot.
Mum: No, I think I noted its arrival but didn’t read it. I like everything you write.
Me: Ok.
Mum: Carol Anne Duffy’s coming to the end of her term.
Me: Yes, I think unfortunately I’m still a little obscure to become Poet Laureate
Mum: Obscure is so cool.

 

Mum is a firm believer in watching some good old fashioned mindless television, and then talking over all of it. ‘Bake Off’ is on..

Man making bread: I like a pert bun. *wink wink, nudge nudge*
Me: It always amazes me the amount of innuendo people manage to get into any sentence involving food
Mum: Oh yes it’s probably scripted innuendo now, sort of mandatory.

 

Mum hasn’t quite worked out how to work her touch screen phone with complete success.

Mum: When you call it says ‘sweep up’, so I sweep, and nothing happens!
Me: I think that’s swipe up mum, just touch it and move your finger up.
Mum: No, it’s sweep!
Me:….ok…..

 

There is such a thing as ‘Archers Anonymous’, and Mum’s on it …

“Let’s stir the buggers up! My daddy would have loved the internet.”

 

We’re watching a programme about 1992 as it’s the year mum started building our beloved house that is no longer ours. There’s a segment on ‘Wayne’s World’:

Mum: What’s this?
Me: Wayne’s World
Mum: Hmmm…not sure about this.
Me: No, I think this is right up your street — you liked ‘Dude Where’s My Car’.
Mum: … Yes I did.

 

The 1992 programme is now talking about Achy Breaky Heart (a song I’ve decided I very much like).

Someone with an angular haircut who thinks they’re very cool and probably into moaning at parties: Line dancing is the spawn of Satan.
Mum: There’s worse things than line dancing
Me: I’d do it.
Mum: I think I would too.
Someone else with angular haircut: It’s all hideous diamanté and frilled skirts.
Cutaway to exactly that.
Me: Looks great, I’m into it.

I leave the room momentarily, then return.

Mum: Oh no, it’s getting a little hitler youth now.
Me: Oh, shame.

 

All the houses down mum’s road seem to be being re-painted (very slowly)…

Mum: I like the colours they’re painting these.
Me: Yes maybe they’ll eventually reach that penis.
Mum: What penis?
Me: The penis that’s been spray painted on someone’s doorway for about fifteen years.
Mum: Oh that penis! Yes, it’ll take a while to get rid of that.

 

Somehow — how exactly I do not know — mum has signed up to a cat website, she has no particular affection towards cats …

Mum: You’ve got to get me off this cat website.
Me: What cat website?
Mum [genuinely distressed]: I don’t know but they send me hundreds of cats a day, and I don’t know how to stop them!
I’m laughing.
Mum: They keep talking about their “babies”, “this baby”, “my baby”, “your baby” … it’s dangerous: it’s a cat.
Me: Ok. We’ll just unsubscribe you.
Mum, back-tracking: Well, one or two a day, that’s cool, I like animals ..

 

We’re watching the end of ‘Celebrity Masterchef’. I only recognise Zandra Rhodes, mum is helping me identify one of the other contenders …

Mum: He’s Joey Essex.
Me: Is he.
Mum: Yes he seems rather sweet actually, he just needs watering twice a week and that’s it.

 

We’re sitting down and ready to get competitive watching ‘University Challenge’….

Me: Jeremy Paxman hasn’t aged at all.
Mum: I was just thinking how much he had.

 

The students on ‘University Challenge’ are doing their “Hey, I’m James, you might remember me from …” intros and it’s making me cringe.

Mum: I do wish they wouldn’t do this “first name only” thing.
Me: It’s almost like they’re auditioning to be a presenter, it’s horrible.
Mum: It’s because it’s got to be caj. Everything’s got to be caj …. I’m surprised they’re even allowed to compete anymore.

 

A programme about WWII is on as I’m flicking through the channels…

Mum: Oh no! It’s handsome chaps doing serious stuff — amazing guys.

 

We have continued flicking, mum now has the remote and has hovered on the ‘Mash Report’…

Me: No.
Mum: Give it a chance, give it five minutes.
Me: No that’s far too long.

4 seconds later …

Mum: Yeup it is.

 

I’m on the phone to mum with a lovely paper bag full of ingredients for supper …

Me: I’m just walking back through the park from getting mushrooms.
Mum: Be careful foraging.
Me: I haven’t been foraging, I went to the shop!

 

I don’t know what mum is watching in the other room but I have a feeling it’s ‘Beverly Hills Housewives’ or some variation of because I hear her shouting at the television …

“Kick him to the curb honey!”

Two minutes later….

“He’s a twat get rid of him.”

 

I am a blessed angel and have cooked and washed up for the sixth night in row and just want to check it’s been recognised …

Me [impersonating mum]: Oh Jade, thank you so much for washing up again, you are a saint. When is your canonisation, please can I attend?
Mum: Yes I’m sure it will be very soon and I’ll be in the fiery pits of hell.
Me: Probably.
Mum: With all my mates.

 

 

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Michael Goragg

I am forcing myself to write more often; because I am a kind woman, I am not forcing you to read.  But with looming prospects of a proper job and with nothing else to do but worry about all the proper jobs I might actually get, I am squeezing out whatever is at hand, today it’s a short story. Or as much of a short story as I can be bothered to write while feeling like I’ve accomplished something, and knowing it is better than yesterday’s. Tomorrow, tomorrow it will be nothing I’d have thought …

Michael Goragg

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On a small farm in Devon an even smaller herd of sheep lived, and routinely died.
In 209 million bc Devon had “actually been a part of Gondwana” and situated “somewhere around the equator,” so Michael Goragg’s girlfriend at college had told him. She had also told him 9/11 was an “inside job” and that “we all grow gills in the womb so fish-humans living at the bottom of Atlantis was really more likely that not”.
This year of Our Lord, 2013 (Our Lord had been cracking through the years recently) Devon was firmly in place between Cornwall and Dorset, and Michael Goragg had 23 sheep, all of which had lineage on the farm dating back to 1586.
The Goraggs had always prided themselves on the lineage of their sheep and at not having to join the others at the rowdy sheep auctions in town. This pride and respect for the Goraggs was limited to the family, as the rest of the farmers didn’t take the Goraggs seriously, and hadn’t since Giles Goragg – Michael’s father – sold the last of the heifers back in 1983. Since then, the family had lived off the land more than the few remaining animals; they converted the barns and let them out for more than they needed to comfortably survive; slaughtering lambs every autumn to ensure a new car every other year. In 2009 Michael Goragg, still under vague supervision from his father Giles Goragg (who lived like a fat Miss Havisham in the extension off the old manor house), had had a wind turbine installed on his land, and now received an extra £10,000 a year to watch the thing, like a giant rosary cross spin, spin and spin – or, as was often the case, stand petrified in the shallow breeze that slid through the hills.

Still, the energy that it refused to convert was of little concern to Michael, as long as it stayed standing, kept paying; the white façade was more than welcome. They were to build a nuclear power plant about 70 miles east, but Michael had bigger things on his mind. Last week he had paid two young teenage boys from the village of Down Martin – about 2 ¾ miles from the farm – to sheer his sheep for him. Feigning too many responsibilities to do it himself (Michael had shorn sheep as a child and knew that at least 3 sheep per herd would have maggots, which involved a rather gruesome ceremony of scooping and washing and retching) he had told Giles Goragg it was part of a local apprenticeship scheme. Giles didn’t believe him but now drank Fosters out of the can and ate Battenberg for breakfast. He had lost the will to keep his mind in check when Mandy Goragg died and had no intention of finding it again, in case he found all the pain.
So, the two young ‘farmhands’ as Michael bequeathed them, much to their amusement, had set about sheering his sheep. Under his instruction for the first 7, but for the other 16 Michael was in the house under the white strobe lights “making tea”. When they’d finished the two ‘farmhands’ came to Michael’s door saying they were done, the sheep were in the top field and could they have their money. Michael laughed loudly which alarmed them a little, and coaxed them out the door where the notes could exchange hands without Giles Goragg finding out. Deep down Michael knew he was fooling no one, had he accepted this reality life would’ve been easier for him, but he didn’t like who he was in reality, so he kept pretending, only half-fooling himself and weirding out everyone else in the process.
For the next few days Michael carried on as normal, he fed the sheep, then did as little as he could for the rest of the day while pretending to be busy. This would involve being irritable around a computer, which Giles Goragg didn’t quite have the knack of yet, so had no idea the myriad things Michael could be doing while shouting that he was “emailing the council regarding the wind turbine”, always. He was always emailing the council regarding the wind turbine.
This time what Michael had actually been doing on the computer was booking himself on the London Marathon. He had seen pictures of men he’d gone to school with finishing the marathon earlier in the year; they had always had something Michael hadn’t, but Michael could have that – the London Marathon, and then maybe no one would notice Michael didn’t shine like the others.
These images combined with isolation and a feeling of complete insignificance – exacerbated by exploring the expansive universe of the internet from his kitchen table – took Michael down a wormhole self-pity and reproach, at the end of which was a mirage of glory and fulfilment. A vision. He would be fulfilled. He would be released from the fear that pulled away at him in the breaths between the chattering of Jeremy Vine and Simon Mayo. He would start training next week. Tomorrow he would buy new trainers and a lot of whey protein. He would get a personal trainer.
“Oh!” Michael jumped up and clapped his hand over his mouth. There was someone on the radio talking about having run the London Marathon; how strange. Almost like it was meant to be or something. Michael could be as good as someone on the radio now – another accolade to distinguish himself with down the pub. His friends wish he’d just give up and rest in who he was – lazy, self-involved, massively insecure but nice enough, nicer still if he could accept who he was and stop trying to be something more. None of them told him this though of course, so, they were blissfully unaware that while they carried on with their lives until their next pint with Michael Goragg, he would be spending his time conjuring stories of coincidence and significance and why it was so special for him to do the marathon. Aunty June had died of something once, he was sure. He’d find out what that was and say he was running for that. Then it couldn’t be about him, or no one could say it was, to his face anyway and that was all he was interested in. His back was puckered with other people’s words.

On this morning though, when he went to feed the sheep, as he tipped the feed in the trough, dodging the stinging nettles and thistles that jostled for his attention; he noticed one of his sheep hadn’t been sheered. As it trotted closer Michael realised that actually, no, he had been sheered, but only his face. The sheep’s visage was completely bald, grade 0, beyond army cut. Michael was so shocked he laughed, then he noticed there were no nicks on the sheep’s face, and slightly resented the boy’s dexterity. As the sheep timidly drew up to the trough, without the hair covering him up, Michael was sure he could see shame, or embarrassment – it was hard to tell which one, it being a sheep.
Inside the farmhouse he called “the boys”, stripped of their respective title of ‘farmhand’, but neither answered. Michael left what he felt were a couple of stern voicemails and expected a swift response. He imagined he struck quite an intimidating figure to two jobless young teenagers, and in fact everyone he deemed to be lower down the money rung than him. He was wrong.
Michael hadn’t realised until too late in life that one does have something to prove, at least to other people. So now all his last-ditch attempts, though triumphs to him, were just trinkets for his conversations with others, that they would forget and then pretend to remember a few years later when they were drunk. Michael couldn’t quite see who he was.
The next day as he fed the sheep he watched the one with the shaved face, his bare features a mark of disrespect, against him. Him! Michael Sinjon Goragg!
He quickly forgot the cross the sheep had to bare and instead martyred himself – why had they not replied to him? Why were they even daring to disrespect him? Had they no respect? Or just none for him? Which was it for fucks sake?
He could hire a hit man. Check out the deep web …
No, not yet.

Over the next few days Michael drove around Down Martin looking for the boys, not knowing what he would do if he found them but imagining various violent incidents in which he would be the victor. Meanwhile Giles Goragg had been surveying his livestock when he noticed one of his sheep had been left unshorn. He took it upon himself to sheer it and so stored another ounce of resentment for his son in his Adam’s apple, to help him swallow the Fosters that he would drink to forget him. Michael was a wet blanket, the soggy end of the line.

Oblivious, Michael sat in a lay-by and watched the grey submerge the sky. As he watched a flock of crows scatter from one of the wintering trees, he thought of the bird lore someone had taught him long before and wondered what it meant; according to his phone they were flying from the …. East … North. Yeah, the North.
Maybe something horrible, maybe the sheep’s face was just the beginning? All the things he had done. Where would it end? Human sacrifice?
At the end.
As wing mirrors broke, new phones came out and offers for the land came in, Michael forgot about the sheep and his vendetta, the mortal threat he might be in, the curse he might be under. Life moved on. The bridge in his fathers mind eventually collapsed and blended drink and dementia together. Michael put him in a home that he had no plans to visit – “it’s not like he would remember it anyway”.
He had all the sheep slaughtered, ending their line in 2014, the products of 468 years of inbreeding gone in a lorry one October morning. Then he put a games room where his father had lived.

At night Michael would watch the wind turbine and convince himself he was a pioneer of progress. Plans to divvy up all the land would let him live comfortably for the rest of his life and Michael didn’t think past that. He wondered if he had things like arthritis or diabetes, but smothered greater fears, and with them the face of his bald sheep and how it had made him feel.

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Motherisms: Feat. Breaking Bad and Prossies ….

Last week I went down to see mother, it had been a tough fashion week and I needed to feel looked after, cared about; with the perpetual lack of a boyfriend in my life, mum is still as good as it gets.

I’m twenty fucking seven, sorry mum …

 

I have had  a Norse Myths and Legends CD stuck in my computer for quite sometime now, it means it makes a whirring, crunching sound every time I turn it on … Mum looks at me quite alarmed and says ….

“Is it making cheese?!”

 

Mum wants to watch Breaking Bad on my Netflix account, I find it remarkable that she knows what either of these things are, and that she is now light years ahead of me in tv series. I tell her she can use my Netflix account ..

Mum: But hang on ….. won’t they get suspicious?

Me: Who mum? The C.I.A?

Mum: Well, yes, with your track record …

Me: Yeah, I can see the headlines now … ‘DAUGHTER LETS MOTHER USE NETFLIX ACCOUNT.’ It’ll be the ruin of our family name.

Mum: Your family name, maybe …

 

I’m trying to help mum watch bloody Breaking Bad on my Netflix before I go for a swim, after many attempts at trying to mentor her through it, and watching her click on the wrong thing over and over again, she finally bursts out …

“Oh for Gods sake! I wish I was a bloody tree.”

 

Mum is talking about her nightly audiobook routine of listening to Jeremy Irons reading Brideshead Revisited …

“He’s just brilliant, half a page and I’m fast asleep, I do worry though, if I ever met Jeremy irons I would just slip in to a coma.”

 

We are reminiscing about the building of the house we lost, we get on to the subject of ‘Builders Tea’ …

Mum: I remember when I gave Morley Airs his first cup of tea with us, he spat it straight back out and said  “Whats that maid?!”  “It’s Earl grey Morley …” “It may be but I don’t like it.”

Me: Good story.

Mum: Oh Fuck off.

 

Mum has been informed there’s a prostitute in South Molton, she has also been informed you can find her online, mum finds this fascinating …

Mum: Harriet says there’s a prostitute in South Molton, I’m going to google it.

Me: I look forward to you having that on your search history.

I go back to watching University Challenge …. minutes later …

Mum: P. r. o. s … prostitutes South Molton …. google search “south Molton escorts …” obviously they’ve interpreted ‘prostitutes’ in the broadest sense …. ah here we go … South Molton prossies …

Me: You’re going on it?

Mum: Yeah …

She starts reading out the names and descriptions …

Mum: Curvy and sensual … OH MY GOD! Sweet Jesus  …..

I’m now laughing …

Mum: “Fuck my arse” ….. OH charming!! Get it off! Turn it off!

I’m now in hysterics …

Mum: Oh how horrible. South Molton used to have a lovely old prossie next to the chip shop, where if you have thruppence, you could go upstairs.

Me: Ah, the good old days, when you could get a prossie with your potatoes …

 

My old school has decided to put Latin back on the GCSE syllabus, I am jolly pissed off about this as I am currently trying to teach myself …

Mum: Anything sounds clever in Latin

Me: Why do you think I’m learning it.

Mum: Ut  is ‘in order to’  … I’m going to get the car keys “ut” go to Tescos.

Me: Wow mum, that sounded really smart ….

 

A poem I’ve written is doing rather well, mum reads it …

Mum: It really is very good, completely strange, though very, very good … but then you are at a slightly oblique angle to reality all the time ..

Me: I’ll take that as a compliment, I’ve decided to take everything as a compliment. It’s doing wonders for my self esteem.

Mum: Good for you darling.

 

We’re in the car …

Mum: I sent a rather stoned and cheerful email to the battered wives charity shop volunteering my assistance …

Me: That’s nice of you ..

Mum: Yes, well, problem is, they’ve replied ….

 

It’s the Barnstaple fair, we drive through late in the afternoon as they’re finishing setting everything up with lots of barriers and metal fences, though there’s no one there yet ….

“Oh yes, hold back that crowd! It’ll be an evening of riotous activity, they’ll be staggering about without their shoes on before 11pm.”

 

Mum’s trying to lure me in to watching Montalbano …

Me: No mum. No way. It such a waste of my brain.

Mum: But it’s young Montalbano, young Montalbano’s very tasty.

Me: No. Still no. Just because he’s not fat and bald doesn’t mean he wont give me brain rot.

Mum: Quite right, bare that in mind in real life too darling.

 

Mum is making supper …

Mum: Getting very creative here …

Me: Please don’t get too creative.

 

There’s an advert for Viking cruises on television …

Mum: That’s what I should be doing with some grey miserable bastard .Circling the planet catching ecoli.
Me: I think it sounds fantastic.
Mum: It’s a plague ship darling … and probably full of prossies.

 

The fireworks are going off for Barnstaple fair …

“Hezbollah are closing in on North Devon Leisure Centre …”

 

I’m flicking through the tv channels, I get very excited at the amount of history programmes on ….

Me: Fire of London then The Battle of Trafalgar …That’s our saturday night!
Mum: Sounds good, though no Montalbano?
Me: No, not even the young one.

 

It’s Sunday and we’re parking the car, I’m reading whether we have to pay ….

Me: Monday to Sunday … that’s everyday!

Mum: Every minute of your bloody life. Cooking meth is definitely the way forward.

 

It’s a bit later and we’re cooking supper, I am watching an announcement from UN Secretary Genreal Ban ki-Moon to my old school as I hear …

“Oh fuck! It’s the cinnamon not Tumeric!!”

A few minutes later ….

Mum: Here we have vegan cinnamon and mushroom ratatouille …

Me: Mmmm…yum.

 

We are on the subject of life skills, I am trying to persuade mum to do something creative with her life, this was her response …

Mum: One day I see myself becoming a drug dealer  … Working with little kiddies …

Me: Jesus Christ mum, it’s like living with Frankie Boyle.

 

I have to put this in:

This is from a phone call I had with mum a couple of months ago, for the few days prior to it I noticed mum was sending me fewer and fewer kisses in her texts, I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out what I could have done wrong (without actually asking), then ….

Mum: You’ll have to call me back darling I haven’t got much credit … That’s why I haven’t been sending many kisses.

Me: What? Mum, you don’t pay per kiss.

Mum: Oh!

 

Dear Mother, the cinnamon and mushroom ratatouille was delicious, I don’t know how you made it work, but you did. I shall come for a severely extended visit very soon x x x x x

 

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