As Mothers’ Day approaches in Canada and the U.S. I was thinking about some of the things my mother had to endure from my brother and me. I was also thinking this could be a good opportunity to embarrass my brother – always fun. My brother was born at the beginning of the second world war, on a very cold day in January of 1940. Mum brought him up in North-East London during the blitz, while Dad was serving as a Royal Air Force electrician in India and seemingly having a reasonably good time. I showed greater wisdom than my brother right from the start, I decided to be born in the warm spring of 1946 – when it was safer. I was also a cute baby…
First some stories of my brother’s escapades. Remember, we lived on the outskirts of London – but still London. One fine day my brother about 8 perhaps, came home riding a horse, bareback. First, we didn’t have a horse, second he had never ridden a horse before. Apparently the poor horse had been left all alone in a field near the bottom of our street. My brother was convinced he was a stray – certainly he had been led astray!
“Take him back!” said mum. “But he has no home” said Mugwump” (a loving name my mother game him from his initials MW…My own initials of RBS earned me the nickname Rotten Bloomin’ Shame…and they wonder why I have self-esteem issues).
Luckily my brother returned the horse without further incidence and this being England and not America wasn’t strung up as a horse rustler. He did bring home some other strange creatures, but I don’t talk about his former girl-friends.
On another occasion my mother was confronted by a neighbour from around the corner. Mr B, obviously very upset said “Your son has insulted our house!” I’m not exactly sure of the rest of the conversation, but in answer to the question of how he had insulted the house she was told “He walked by our house holding his nose”. I think after the door shut rather sharply in Mr B’s face he probably had to hold his nose on the way home.
There was the time when mum came home, Mugwump had been ‘looking after’ me with his friend, and right away noticed the band-aid (plaster if you are a Brit) on my shin. “What happened?” Now my brother, when he was young, could be a little inventive with the truth, but there was always an element of truth in what he said. “We were playing darts on the lawn and RBS slipped and fell on one”. “Of course he did” said mum, with that look. That look could take your head off at 100 yards and shrivel you to the size of a dust mite. Now the true story is this: MW and his friend were playing darts on the lawn. Playing with regular dart-board darts and not lawn darts, I am happy to report for reasons which will become obvious. My brother had this wonderful idea for a great game – let’s have RBS stand over there and then we will throw the darts and see who can get the dart to land closest to him. I was, the attentive and mathematically minded will already know this, six years younger than my brother and easily conned by him. This sounded to me like an interesting game.
I stood very still in my short pants and watched as darts began to land around my feet. I kept my shoes on – I’m not stupid. My brother threw a dart, I didn’t see where it landed, but I noticed my brother’s mouth was wide open, as were the eyes of his friend.
They were staring at my leg. I looked down and aha, there was the dart – oh oh, it was sticking out of my leg. Suddenly I could feel the pain – I expect there were tears. Brother came to my rescue, told me it was nothing, pulled out the dart and applied a plaster (band-aid). We decided it best not to tell mum what had really happened.
However, my brother wasn’t the only one to cause Mum some stress.
We used to have a Hoover twin washing machine. It could be hooked up to the kitchen taps with rubber hoses. And there was another long hose with a small end and a wide end for draining the machine into the sink. I discovered I could play notes on this long rubber hose like a trumpet – I was gifted that way. But I also discovered that if you spoke into one end of the tube (the wide end) your voice would come out the other end. Did I mention I was a brilliant child? Well as well as being brilliant I was still quite short at 8 years old and my mother was 5 foot 9 inches. She was used to looking down at me. One day, while mum was doing laundry, I decided to try something with the draining hose. I crept into the kitchen, quietly, quietly moved up behind Mum, slowly raised the hose so the end was about 12 inches above her head and slightly behind her. In the deepest voice I could make I spoke into the hose – “Hello!“. I had no idea my mother could have been a high jump athlete. How she missed hitting the 8 foot ceiling I don’t know. But the look on her face suggested I make myself scarce or I would be the one for the high jump! I think I may have been saved as she probably had PMP (or for grammatical correctness PHP).
One more story. It was December of the same year as the hose incident – there was a toy gun being advertised. It was called a Burp-Gun. It was wonderful. You could fire it like a machine gun. I remember it as a wind-up machine gun, but looking on-line, it appears it was a pump-action that fired ping-pong balls. Memories are so different from reality it seems. I don’t actually like guns as weapons and can’t understand the U.S when it comes to things like gun control etc. But, as a boy I loved playing games that involved toy guns. (later on I did win my Royal Air Force marksman’s badge – but as a near pacifist and not liking killing things I haven’t made any use of the skill except at the fairground). Anyway, getting back to the burp-gun. I wanted one! I mean I really wanted one. I had enough money saved to be able to buy one. “Mum, can I get a burp-gun?”. “No”. “why not?”. “Because I said so”. “It’s not fair”. After some further fruitless discussion and imploring I resorted to threats! “If you don’t let me buy a burp-gun I shall follow you around and talk non-stop for 4 hours!” If anyone is contemplating a filibuster, I am your man! I can’t imagine the patience it took for Mum not to react to my following her around and talking for four hours. But, at the end of the four hours mum was just laughing, I was horse, and I didn’t have a burp-gun!
What I didn’t realize was, a burp-gun was already wrapped and sitting on top of the wardrobe waiting for Father Christmas to bring down the chimney. Hmmm, may have to revise that comment about being a brilliant child.
So, to Mum who died almost 13 years ago now, thank you for all the tolerance and patience and love you gave to Mugwump and Rotten Bloomin’ Shame. And thanks to all the mothers who try so hard to love and teach their children. Have a very happy Mothers’ Day.
PS Dad’s initials were HD – AKA Human Dustbin.
PPS I’ve been having some hearing issues. The doctor has recommend that I regularly pinch my nose and blow – I hope I don’t run into any Mr. B’s or his family and for the record I mean no disrespect to any person, animal or object that I may be passing at the time of following the doctor’s instructions.