Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Yesterday, my six and a half year old daughter was playing with a little plastic toy that she got in a party bag. A flying copter sort of thing where you pull a ridged piece of plastic through a hole and it makes the top spin off and fly up to the ceiling. She said quite earnestly: "Mom, I bet in your time this was a really popular toy." I replied: "Yup, along with the wheel we'd just invented."

My four year old son returned from using the toilet minus his trousers and underpants and when I asked him where they were and why they were missing he replied: "I want my penis to hang free." Given I do not have a penis, I didn't feel confident saying something like: 'I fail to see why that is necessary,' because who knows? Perhaps it is? So instead I told him he had better be wearing them when he sat down to dinner. Later he seated himself at the dinner table wearing his underpants on his head.

Right now the children are actually fairly easy going compared to my cats. The older one of the two, a former rescue cat, is behaving like a wayward teenager. Staying out all night, coming in only to eat, then going straight out again. She uses our house as a hotel and I spend a lot of time worrying about where she is, who she's hanging out with, and if they are doing drugs. Yesterday as we were leaving the house we saw her cross the street and head for the neighbour's house, and I could have sworn she looked jaunty doing it. I never did like the neighbour's cat. I think he is a bad influence on ours.

The kitten is like a little kid. He wakes me up in the morning by standing on my chest purring loudly. This is an indication that he thinks it's time for me to get up and give him his cat milk. If I try and check my email first he paws at my hand or tries to bite the phone as if to say: 'Yeah OK, enough of that, I need my milk.'

My husband and I are having a massive clear out. We seem to do this a lot, most likely because we have moved houses a lot. And it has nothing at all to do with my Amazon Prime usage. Each time we move, we lug the same old bunch of boxes and stuff we haven't opened or used in 10 years to another place where we have to find place for them. And each time I cull a bit more stuff and each time I find a reason to keep this or that champagne cork (because of the memories) or ugly multi-coloured pair of trousers (in case there is a circus themed fancy dress party). On which subject, why is it people hate costume parties so much? I adore them. Any opportunity to dress up and forget the serious business of embarrassment for a night. 

I like sites like Freecycle , Freegle or is it TrashNothing? They keep changing the name. I give a lot of things away, especially our children's pre used clothes and toys. I like the idea of other people getting use out of things and I also know how expensive it is to get kitted out with baby things, especially when it is your first time. One man arrived to collect a pushchair I was giving away. He was a smallish Italian man in his 30s. He told me he and his girlfriend had got pregnant 'accidentally' and he honestly wasn't sure how long they were going to last as a couple, but they were giving it a go. I imagined our lovely pushchair that had transported both my children through the years in rain and snow, and sometimes in other countries too, having its second life in what sounded like a bit of a war zone. And it made me feel sad for the baby that was going to be using it and, if I am honest, my pushchair too (blasted anthropomorphising). As the guy left on his bicycle, balancing the pushchair (in its bag) on one shoulder, I asked him if it was his first child. To which he responded, "Well the only one I know about, because being a man, you can never be too sure right?"

I accompanied my mother to the hospital recently. While she had a procedure done, I chatted to an elderly woman who was looking a bit nervous ahead of her own procedure. I like older people, I think perhaps it comes from having spent a fair bit of time with my grandmother  - that being my mother's mother. Although my grandmother was not a warm, cuddly, funny sort of grandmother that sat you on her lap and sang you songs, I still adored her, although I was also rather afraid of her. She was strict and didn't believe in sugar coating things. She once told a second cousin of mine that she looked like a monkey's arse and shouldn't wear so much blue eyeshadow. My poor cousin looked as though she wanted the floor to open and swallow her up. She also announced at a family lunch that men were not unlike dogs and would sleep with anything that would stand still long enough. My father interjected: "Good god Mary, not in front of the children!" Against that she had a huge heart and was very generous, she also taught me how to crochet, watch Soap Oprah's (with accompanying biting commentary), and was a fine cook. To this day whenever I smell frankfurter sausages on the hob I think of my grandmother in her kitchen preparing them for me. And she also made the most delicious chocolate milk and whenever I asked her how she made it she would smile wryly and say: "Ohhh but it's a secret."

The woman I met while waiting for my mother lived in North London but her children were all in America. Some of the other people having things done had relatives to collect them after but she had a friend. She told me she lived in an assisted living arrangement which she really enjoyed. I asked her how she found it and she told me through a woman she was introduced to who went on to become a firm friend and neighbour in the apartments she now lives in. I said: "Oh how lovely to have a friend there to hang out with when you want to." And she replied sadly, "Oh, no, Janet died last year of leukaemia. That's the problem with getting older, all your friends are either sick or they die."

And then we talked about her family, and how she and her husband had lived in France for 35 years (he wrote books on France) before he died. And how she really misses the family home and all the children in the kitchen making a noise and everyone pouring drinks and talking at once. And I thought to myself - wow, that's the kind of thing people like me with young families take for granted. And as the years pass and your children leave home and you get older and your partner dies, the house becomes quieter and quieter. It's very sad, and it's also a reminder to enjoy it and be present; The stuff that gets on your nerves now often lands up being what you miss later on.

On the subject of past and present, I've been meaning to note on here that my mother read my post about the cats and told me she did not have our Burmese cat put to sleep. Instead she contacted the RSPCA who had ties with a Burmese cat-owners organisation and he was given to them to re-home. I asked her why she thought my brother would tell me that she'd had him take the cat to the vet to be put down. And with a somewhat sad and disapproving expression on her face, she started talking about kids who announce parties on Facebook when their parents are not home and the house gets trashed. I imagined my brother, somewhere in the heavens, laughing and laughing.


Anonymous said...

Most enjoyable read Lucille...full of sentiment :)
Ans x

letters from london said...

Thank you x