My sister inherited from our grandmother a musquash coat. In those days it was not frowned upon to wear animal fur, it was just a pity that my sisters’ resemblance to Bud Flannigan was so strong when she wore it. Our ‘Nana’, on the other hand, was upright, forthright and staunch and carried her coat with great aplomb. It was usually taken for airings twice weekly to the cafe at Binns department store, for coffee mornings with the girls; the girls were 70-80 years of age and in competition for the best-dressed lady. Nana would make a grand entrance onto the carpeted floor taking her seat with a casual air, the fur coat bedecked with a lizard marquasite brooch, a silk scarf lightly folded across the pearl necklace, felt hats were a must, leather handbag and gloves, silk stockings and a goodly portion of foundation cream, rouge and a heavy-weight lipstick.
One fateful day, my father ( her son-in-law, Billly) had visited her for some reason and was making his way home through the town centre;it was agreed that he would take her by car into Fawcett Street and drop her outside of Binns.
A short trip by car and he pulled up at her destination; she alighted, pushed the car door shut and her taxi took off from the pavement…..with her in tow!!
Sadly, the furcoat hem had got trapped in the car door and it wasn’t going to let go! So as the car gained momentum, so did the reluctant follower, taking longer and longer strides down the main street in Sunderland; the imagination can have a field day with the apparition that must have been, apparently the sprinter was letting fly with the handbag, trying to keep the hat attached, silk scarf flying in the wind. It wasn’t until the applauding public caught the drivers’ eye that ‘Billy’ saw the fright that was his mother-in-law in full flow out of the passenger window.
The fur coat stayed intact long after it became a Bud Flannigan costume whereas relations between the two relations were at a stand off for some time afterwards.
Not for the first time am I confused by the true meaning of a word or phrase. As a child, before the general use of showers, my maternal grandmother taught me that cleanliness was akin to godliness. And she duly instructed me how to be sure of both of these disciplines by teaching the art of washing ones’ whole body with three inches of tepid water, It goes like this; you wash up as far as possible and then down as far as possible; then you wash ‘possible’. Over subsequent childhood years this anomaly puzzled me somewhat, but no more than the second untruth.
Ladies, women, girls do not ‘pass wind’; they do a ‘butterfly’. Hence, ” Oh dear, was that a little butterfly?” How charming. And so it is that those points of interest were portrayed to me as a timid child; and to this day, phrases such as “No…that can’t be ‘possible’ ” and ” If only that were ‘possible'”……..you get my drift, have childhood connotations that have little or nothing to do with the current subject matter. And a butterfly, drifting in the summer breeze, flitting from flower to flower as delicate as a , well now, how can I put it, bears no rsemblance whatsoever to my initial beliefs.
In France now, I have had many a juxtapostion with one innocuous phrase. ‘Ah Bon’ With a question mark intonation. Literally…’Ah, Good’; but no, that’s not the case, as you will see. Not so long ago, a particularly good friend of mine had been visiting me regularly at my home in France. Sadly, her husband, after two or three visits, was unable to accompany her and she came alone on these little sojourns. Some time later, he died. When I visited the local bar one day, shortly after his demise, the patron duly asked me if I was well. I assured him that I was fine but asked him if he could recall my friend, who had been present at his 50th birthday party. He could remember her well; so I was saddened to have to tell him that her husband had died. His reposte was “Ah Bon!”. ‘No’ , I said ‘Pas Bon’, Not Good, “Il est mort”, He’s dead! His mannerisms were testimony to the fact that the words and meaning behind them words were totally differnt.
Shortly after that, I was obliged to visit a specialist about a minor problem; “Have you any other ailments?” she asked me. ‘Oh Yes,’ I replied, ‘I have fibromyalgia’!. “Ah, Bon” came the exclamation, ‘No,’ I said, ‘Not Good, It’s very painful’!!
1979 and my three eldest children share the same pony……a fat would-be Shetland called Willie. That is, until Mr Snow arrived on the scene. Willie was a black, rotund, hairy character with a most endearing habit of lying down to roll when the mood took him, even when being ridden. So dismounting was a skill the children learnt very quickly.
One Saturday morning on a Bank Holiday weekend and ‘en famille’ we were looking at bedroom furniture in our local store. We knew the owners quite well. All was calm, no piped music in those days, just the odd couple browsing beds and wardrobes, some flicking through carpet samples. Our friend James, the proprietor , wandering through his domain, spotted us deliberating over a new bed and came over to pass the time of day ( and hopefully secure a sale).
A quiet, respectful and gentle man with a kindly manner, he knew our children well and made small talk with them; hands behind his back rocking on the balls of his feet slightly. I can see him quite clearly as he looked down on my small son and asked ‘ So, what are you going to do this weekend then? Are you going to get your Willie out?’