“They don’t know what to charge!!” – A go to expression used by my mother when paying for, or witnessing, what she deems to be extortionately priced goods or services.

I’m unsure if this is a Yorkshire colloquialism used by the Tyke lass, or a saying utilised throughout the UK; however it’s use to describe overpriced products always intrigued me. After all, they (the seller) clearly did know what to charge, my mum just begrudged or was unwilling to pay the price, which she opined to be inflated.

I’ve lived for lengthy spells in a trinity of English counties and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard that expression used by individuals who hail from either Tyne & Wear or Bedfordshire. From recollection, only hearing the saying via the lips from people who originate from my present locale (and county of birth) Yorkshire.

One of many sayings that were handed down through her family lineage. Another being “They’re peeing like a Co-op*** horse!” An adage hailing from the time when dairy products were delivered by the Co-operative milkman on a horse and cart. The adage referring to a pee that seemingly never ends, which I’m assured were a penchant of the shire horses which pulled milk carts at that time.

*** – Co-op pronounced by my mater, in her West Yorkshire dialect, as the one syllabled Cwop, not the two syllabled Co-op favoured by the chattering classes.


From the simile “They’re peeing like a Co-op*** horse!” mater coined the descriptive term “Co-op horsing it!”…… As in, for example, if I entered my childhood home and my old man was toilet in situ at that time, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear the maternal announcement of “Your dad’s Co-op horsing it upstairs!”

It was an expression whose quirkiness never failed to make me smile. Endearingly whimsical, similar to her once adapting the name Leaning Tower of Pizza into the Leaning Pee-er of Tower, after witnessed dad leaning against the wall while emptying his bladder. Her bastardisation of the iconic Italian sight didn’t make a lot of sense, however it was entertaining….. Some may liken that to my narratives…… Or perhaps not!

There were numerous of Maggie Strachan’s sayings that had a suffix of “…….ing it!” For instance if my dad was at the pub she’d, on occasion, describe his socialising as “Ale carting it!”

One occasion, after my old man sneezed the contents of his breakfast against the kitchen wall, the term “All-Branning it!” entered the oft eccentric dictionary utilised within the confines of chez Strachan.

With her never using the dafter sayings outside of our Gateshead family home, mater was clearly aware some of these daft expressions should ‘stay in-house’. Opining the adages plateau of idiosyncrasy exposed her family to questions relating to their sanity. Or so she thought, anyhow!

An over cautious strategy that meant she’s predominantly lived as a comedienne by stealth. Her sharp humour oft suppressed through worries about what people would think, a mantra I also subscribed to for far too long. Dumbing down to placate others, especially those who don’t warrant that reverence, is a truly ludicrous mantra. One of the reasons I write so much about her is to try remove that veil.

I also try to coax her to lose her penchant of acting servile to avoid upsetting people, irrespective if they deserve it or not. A dangerously naivety that means we have to keep a keen eye on her day-to-day dealings in dotage. She’ll speak her mind to the people who she knows love her unconditionally, but if those individuals aren’t in that group her “That’s nice!” ideology can and will rear its ugly head.

My siblings and me aren’t angry at this lady who hasn’t a malicious bone in her body and judges everyone from a baseline of positivity, just worried. Being overly nice/naive can lead to a level of dangerous vulnerability, particularly when so far advanced in the ageing process. Consequently, we’ve needed to introduce a ‘tough love’ strategy for the old lady’s well-being.

Anyhow, I must dash!….. Yours truly has an urgent requirement to Co-op horse it!!