Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Who's That Girl?
The girl on the left is Tina, painted by J H Lynch. Tina hung around for more years than was strictly fashionable, above Dad’s writing bureau in our front room. My parents adored Tina, but for me she’s powerfully evocative of the stomach-churning embarrassment of early dates because Dad’s bureau was where the only phone in the house sat. And, unfortunately, because it was the front room, it wasn’t just the phone sitting there; inevitably the date calls came when Ma and my kid sister were in the room too, keenly anticipating the opportunity for a bit of sport.
A discussion thread started by Faith over at Purple Coo on ‘Firsts and Worsts’ this week got me thinking about Tina and those first dates again. Before The Best Optometrist In the World and I became regulars at the youth club discos and learned to flee the dance floor before the last slow record was played and all the extras from the Thriller video emerged from the shadows to grab a snog (ooh, get me, Miss Gorgeosity with bad skin, bad hair, bad glasses and braces) I’d gone with another friend to my first grown-up disco.
The lighting levels in the church hall where it was held were so low that they wouldn’t be allowed now on grounds of health and safety, but when some bloke asked me to dance then, later, asked me out I felt quite pleased with myself for getting through a difficult rite of passage quite smoothly. Until that was, a few days later when my date turned up at the house. The fact that I had made lip contact with the person before me was made even worse by him declaring undying love. Arriving home to jeers and sniggers from Ma and Little Sister didn’t help and prompted me to write a hasty letter asking to be excused from our relationship forever on the grounds of too much homework.
Tina also reminds me of a time when Ma was at her most glamorous, she’s pretty damn good for her age now. We’re lucky to have Ma, Mil and Dil and having them to stay gives us a chance to check them for signs of wear and tear, especially since Mil claims to have everything wrong with her and Ma claims to have nothing wrong with her – both equally inaccurate. But, two weeks of back-to-back Planet Parent have been fairly exhausting. There are the three very different lines of conversation for a start; Dil’s tend to the entirely random, ‘Scotch eggs. Why aren’t they called Welsh eggs?’ (please don’t tell me, it’s Dil who cares, not me), Mil’s are dedicated to seeing all the good in the world, Ma’s to making lots of mischief.
And then there’s just the sadness that comes with seeing the effects of time passing. Sitting on the sea wall one glorious afternoon opposite Ma and Tom whilst we ate ice creams, I watched Ma’s eyes dancing with amusement. ‘I can smell a funny smell,’ she announced. ‘It’s not you, is it Tom?’ With her eyes crinkled up and her shoulders shaking with laughter at her own joke she looked more like a six year old than a seventy-six year old. The years may have taken their physical toll but it’s curiously comforting to catch a glimpse of that little girl and know that in some ways, Ma will stay forever young.
If any book can make you grateful for your family, friends and home comforts this is it.
My legs were shaking with fear at times when I read it, but it’s beautifully written and ultimately redemptive. An extraordinary read – although probably not a book for bedtime.
Cardiff Half Marathon Training
Runner’s World SmartCoach Programme Week 13 = 25 miles.