Mum was always writing strange things in odd places as dementia kicked in. Her new coat had all the names of her carers written upside down on the front which puzzled me for a while until I realised she was writing the names so that she could see them while she was sitting in her wheelchair. It made for an interesting fabric design. The older she got the funnier some of the messages. On her green coat which is now in my wardrobe she’d written “My Cris” (one of her beloved carers), “Prawn” (her favourite sandwich), “Bollocks” (I have no idea) and “Where am I?” which on first glance looks like a tragic loss of memory and place, but knowing her like I did, it’s more likely that she was asking the question of where she found herself in life. She knew her brain was letting her down in some way and would poke at her head with comedy gestures. “Wake up, you” or “It’s letting me down, Sonia darling” and the best of all “Just call me Tin Man” were her favourites when she couldn’t recall a fact or keep on track with the conversation she was having. She’d always laugh and one day I asked her why. She said it was to make light of it, because she didn’t want me to worry. I took a deep breath and went in for a cuddle, however I was cut short with “You’ve probably got at least ten years until yours starts doing the same. After all, half of your brain is me isn’t it?”
Inspired by the sheer freedom and creative genius of my precious mum, I’m writing two stories that come from her side of my brain. One is a ghost story based on events that happened in a huge, tumbledown old house she inherited (a story for another time) and the other is based on her abhorrence of vegetarianism, which, for some reason, really rattled her. She nearly disinherited my brother when he announced on Christmas morning that he’d given up meat just as she was serving up scrambled eggs, cucumber and fish fingers as a starter. Crashing around the kitchen yelling about wasted turkey and sausages she shouted “Eat the fish fingers – they’re not meat because they’re not red.” Rattled and riled, my brother raised the issue of turkey not being red either, or chicken, but they were still the flesh of living animals. “They’re not meat either, they’re birds and birds don’t have noses.” To her this was obviously the logical answer that won the argument. The ensuing silence wasn’t acquiescence to her winning the toss, it was us in hysterics trying not to let her hear for fear of finding the Christmas dinner decorating the walls. Christmas was always interesting with my wonderful mum.
I think about her all the time. When I’m writing I can almost hear her channelling my thoughts in a thousand different directions to find a completely new angle. I read things back a few days later and wonder where on Earth it all came from as I often don’t remember writing it. OH! HEART THUMP. Maybe she was right, as it is about ten years since she told me I’d start losing my marbles. One thing’s for sure and that’s the joy of having my late mum as my current muse. The veggie-inspired story is going to surprise everyone and with the added creative genius of my 12-year old nephew (my new writing partner), this is going to be a belter.
When I cleared her old house out I found so many jottings everywhere I was thinking of writing a book titled “Things my Mum writes in books”. Now we’ve gone one step further as her random jottings have inspired me to write stories that hope to be books one day. She always told me, whilst producing shows for the BBC, that I was wasting my time with showbiz as my future lay in telling stories. I’ve come to respect most of the crazy stuff she said, so who knows?