Maternal Memories – The Sequel

Earlier today I shared a trio of old blogs in tribute to my recently deceased mother – These partly fictional journals, based on fact, a record of the familial matriarch. Anyhow as I’ve a wealth of this type of reverential maternal insights, I thought I’d share another trinity of previously penned deferential posts.

This piece was written and posted on 7th June 2019, titled Co-op Horsing It……..

“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 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.

co-op-horse-cart

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 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. Although a great quality, a naivety which 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!!

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This piece was written and posted on 7th September 2020, titled Surprise For The Birthday Girl……..

“Yesterday afternoon, family and friends gathered at a local social club for my mum’s surprise 80th birthday party. Upon entering the event room, filled with almost thirty family and friends, her arrival was greeted with a hearty yell of “Surprise!!”, Her awareness of the ruse led Maggie to look deeply moved.

After the initial euphoria’d died down, I approached mater to ask if it’d been a nice surprise. An inquiry leading to the ditzy mare replying “I’ll say it was, love…… I didn’t even know it was my bleeding birthday!”

The clandestinely arranged party was attended by immediate family and close friends who’d travelled from as far afield as Kent, Cheshire, Tyne & Wear and Moor Knoll Lane. All people whose love for my mum rendered those miles no barrier to celebrating the old lady’s special day…… Additionally, not wishing to miss out on a free lunch and the inexpensive drink prices of East Ardsley’s Conservative Club.

The Connie Club’s beverage prices so low, reaching the minimum of £5 contactless card limit necessitated the purchase of a large round of drinks. As is the case with the great institute of British working mens clubs, you can get 3/4 pints for the cost of a pint in a city centre pub.

I’m not party to the establishments current subscription charges, however, when my late dad joined the Connie Club thirty years ago the yearly subs were £3 a year. As a new member he was given £5 in beer tokens upon enrolling. So, in effect, for the first year the club were paying my old man £2 to be a member.

Footnote – To clarify, when I wrote ‘when my late dad joined’ above. He wasn’t late at the time of joining. The Connie Club has a strict ‘No Dead Members’ policy, which’d have gone against him at that juncture.

The bash was organised by my sister Helen, who never sat down during yesterday’s proceedings. Her thoughtful desire that everyone was suitable refreshed and entertained meaning she put herself last, as is her want. Her workload not helped by her two brother’s sitting on their backsides eating, drinking and talking to the accumulated throng, instead of providing a helping hand.

Although only the third funniest of Maggie’s children, as the eldest, I wrote and delivered a very brief and uncharacteristically nervily delivered pre-toast speech. Three small sheets of paper which, like these narratives, containing an amalgam of whimsical fact and fiction.

Within the trio of leaf’s were memories of mum when the three of us (her offspring) were children. Tales including her penchant for seemingly having a song to accompany any current life episode. Predominantly refrains originally aired from the boards of Old Music Halls.

I pointed out in my oratory that due to mother’s habit of singing these ditties, by the age of seven, my brother Ian, Helen and me, were acquainted with all 72 verses of ‘Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line’. My young siblings and I also able to perform accomplished cover versions of ‘Boiled Beef & Carrots.

When we were slightly older, through this musical conduit, mum revealed Hitler had only had one ball. Goering had two but very small. Himmler had something similar, but poor old Goebbels had no balls at all.

During this brief delivery of memories, I also spoke of mum’s local community voluntary roles in the 1970s/80s. Among them performing roles as a Guider, Ranger Leader, helping run a youth club, delivering Meals on Wheels and work as an infant school dinner nanny.

She particular loved the dinner nanny role, where her engaging and funny nature allowed her to build strong bonds with both kids and staff. In fact, through my mum’s tutoring, Oakfield Infants School became the first teaching establishment in the UK to include ‘Hitler Has Only Got One Ball.’ within the Nativity play.

I closed my oration by relating the humour of mum’s amateur punditry during test match cricket. Her opinions generally coloured by parameters such a how clean the players whites are, whether or not they have a “scruff arse beard” and they behave appropriately on and off the field.

Two years ago, this criteria leading to,, after Ben Stokes barroom altercation, stated very firmly that “I wouldn’t be ‘aving that Stokes in my team!”…… Thank god she wasn’t chair of the England cricket selectors at the time!!

(From L-R) My brother Ian, sister Helen, the birthday girl and yours truly.

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This piece was written and posted on 27th July 2019, titled Kashyyyk’s Got Talent……..

In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a major problem. That being said, I’ve got to admit I was slightly disturbed to witness my mum dressed in almost identical coloured t-shirt and slacks as me when picking her up this morning from her local community centre’s coffee meeting. A stop I made prior to our onward destination to the White Rose Shopping Centre (WRSC), where Mrs S senior was to undertake a weekly comestible shop.

As mentioned, I appreciate the situation was merely a first world problem. However seeing my mother dressed almost identically to me, in sky blue top and royal blue trousers, my immediate notion was we’d be wandering around the WRSC looking like Howard and Hilda Hughes from BBC TV comedy Ever Decreasing Circles. The two H’s, a timid couple who’d a terrible penchant for wearing ‘his and hers’ outfits, along with frequent displays of overbearing righteousness.

Howard and Hilda 1980s

Maggie (ma mere) and me ordinarily behave in a slightly more street-wise manner than the suburban Surrey couple, played by Stanley Lebor and Geraldine Newman. Consequently, I was significantly more ill-at-ease than Howard and Hilda would’ve been at the thought of trudging around Sainsbury’s aisles adorning similar threads.

Having no desire to dress like twins*** with anyone, GJ Strachan certainly wasn’t enamoured at the thought of meandering around the malls and aisles of the WRSC with attire uncomfortably similar to his mother.

*** – Admittedly, Maggie and me would look like about as twin-like as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger were in the movie of that name.

Anyhow, when Mrs S senior climbed into my car outside of the East Ardsley Community Centre, I commented “Bloody hell, mum!!…. It looks like we’re wearing a Strachan family uniform?!”

Eventually cottoning on to what I was alluding to (she was never the sharpest!), mother cuttingly replied “You’re joking aren’t you!!….. I’d never dress like you. With your hairy arms and tight t-shirts you look like a cross between Chewbacca and Simon Cowell!”

“Lots of people say I dress quite well for a guy my age!” I countered defensively.

“Yes, but lots also think you look like you’ve just returned from judging an episode of Kashyyyk’s Got Talent!” mater mischievously informed me, tongue firmly pressed in cheek.

Possessing very little knowledge about the Star Wars movie franchise, I enquired “Where’s Kashyyyk?!”

“It’s the planet where Wookies originate….. You know, the tall, hirsute, intelligent biped species who seem adept at piloting the Millennium Falcon.” Maggie countered.

“Ah……. I thought it was the kebab shop in Middleton. The one which covers their doners with that really fiery chilli sauce.” I sheepishly admitted.

“Idiot!….. You must be the only person I know that’s never seen the original Star Wars movie!” Mrs S senior felt moved to add, further twisting the knife.

“Anyhow, how do you know so much about Wookies and Kashyyyk, mum?!…. You’ve never been much of a Star Wars fan yourself.” I enquired of my forthright mother.

After a brief reflective pause, Maggie proffered “Actually, I think it’s time I told you something about your real dad, Gary!……. And, before you ask, no it’s not Darth Vader!” 

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