MUMFORGETTABLE

MUMFORGETTABLE

“Once met, never forgotten”, is one of the phrases used by a special guest on my new MUMBELIEVABLE podcast about our challenging, courageous, confusing and cherished mums.  Margaret was a one-off.  For anyone who met her, she wasn’t one of those women who merged into a beige memory – oh no, she was a bright red, luminous green kind of woman.  A woman not afraid of speaking her mind, flirting with any man within winking distance, demanding money off strangers or brazenly stealing bunches of flowers from flower stalls or front gardens.  The only thing that scared her was that I could become well known and get my house burgled.  She was convinced that if anyone knew my name they could look me up and break in.  I think secretly she knew that she was capable of doing it, so was suspicious of the world of Margarets out there.

Today being Mother’s Day is a mixture of celebration and sadness as Mum is no longer with us, but her memory and life is the basis for the new podcast which has already had dozens of famous faces agreeing to come onto talk about their own mums.  We are officially launching today and put up a couple of episodes online for people to get a flavour of what’s to come and the reaction has been overwhelming.  With 24 hours we had 900 downloads, so that’s a good sign in podland, so I’m told.  That’s the happy bit.  The sad bit is that Mum isn’t here to listen to the stories.  She would laugh her head off at the memories I have of her antics, because she always told me that she had no real recollection of doing or saying the things that caused me so much embarrassment in my childhood.  I suppose it was because she was doing them all the time, not just to me, but to my long-suffering dad, mixed up brother and anyone around her.  I think what’s making the podcast so appealing is that it’s a celebration of our mums, mixed in with more poignant, deeper stories about how their lives were so different to ours.  The first two episodes on the podcast feature Steve Nallon and Kerry Howard.  Steve was the definitive Maggie Thatcher on the original Spitting Image and we learned from him that around the time he lost his mum when he was 9 years old, he realised he had a skill for  impressions.  His story about how unbelievably open-minded his mum and grand parents were is a lesson to us all.  Kerry’s mum sounds incredible and a TV star in her own right as she has been accompanying her son, Russell Howard (Kerry’s brother) on screen around the world and getting her teeth into adventures she never would have dreamed of having.  Another insightful and moving story that reinforces the message that life’s there for living, if we choose to live it.

This blog will soon become part of the MUMBELIEVABLE family as it’s too confusing for my little brain to have so many concurrent blogs and pods going.  The podcast is inspired by the stories I’ve been telling about Margaret here and I want the podcast to become an archive of generational stories that help tell us who we all are, through the lens of the mothers who brought us into this world.  I’m thankful that my cancer journey completely missed Mum.  She would have been beside herself. because in one of her lucid moments when I was about to go into hospital for a gall bladder removal, she said. “Now, don’t you die on me, Sonia darling.  That’s not a gift a mother wants from her daughter.”  Looking back, I went into hospital on the Monday after Mother’s Day which must have been behind her thinking over 30 years ago.

I’m on a mission now to include stories of our mums, good, bad or ugly (stories, not the mums) to help support people who may have had tricky relationships, amuse those who love a giggle and to help us all dig a bit deeper into our own lives.  One guest said that we only really think of parents from the moment we were born.  Their history isn’t relevant to us until we’re much more enquiring as adults.  I sometimes regret not sitting down with my dad to ask him more about his upbringing from a working class family who were supportive, but confused by his career choice to be a classical violinist.  I did ask my mum about her early life, but to be honest, the stories were so fantastic and mostly made up, I’ll never really know.  

In my bones I feel that I may get to know more about her through the podcast as I’m hoping that friends and family will tell me stories of their own encounters with her.  And I can build up an album of pictures and stories that make more sense than the tale she told me of living on a yacht on the French Riviera, dropping in for lunch with Prince Rainier and learning how to ride a horse on the golden beaches.  Do you know what?  I’m going to believe that’s true.  It’s the sort of thing my mumfomgettable mum could have done.  I’m also really looking forward to people sharing their own mum stories, so if you feel inclined please drop me a line and we can chat. 

To quote the great Nate King Cole, one of Mum’s favourite singers … “Like a song of love that clings to meHow the thought of you does things to me, Never before has someone been more…”

Happy Mother’s Day = to our mothers near and far.

 

 

Stomach Cake

Stomach Cake

A very short blog to remember my precious mum in the run up to Christmas. I’d spent all night creating this special cake and Mum’s reaction was – Why do the reindeers have Square legs? And His stomach looks like he’s about to explode. We did eventually eat the cake after taking it to at least four parties where we had to stop people slicing into it.

Considering that Mum was the worst cook for anything savoury, her cakes were always gorgeous. She didn’t like this actual cake as it was a dense fruitcake which she always said gave her windypops.

Happy Christmas – it’ll be a quiet one this year and I can’t wait. Chemo coming to an end soon and no more ‘orrible drugs till January.

Bring on the windypops !

Take five

Take five

Mum passed five years ago and it seems like the day before yesterday. I stayed and talked to her for hours after she died and even though I know she’s gone, I always feel her mischievous presence everywhere.

I’m sitting in the chemo clinic waiting for treatment and Maura has just taken my lunch order. When mum worked as a a cleaner and domestic in Edgware General she used to bring me home whole meals on china plates, covered in clingfilm. Sometimes the food was a bit mushed together. That’s because she traveled everywhere on her bike, swearing at careless drivers and flirting with police or traffic wardens when she was told off for taking liberties.

She was terrified of being a hospital patient, but loved working in them, Sometimes, if I didn’t find a wrapped meal in the fridge there might be a handful of chocolates and even a get well card once. She’d tell me tales of getting patients out of bed and taking them for walks, despite protestations from nursing staff. And a midwife once confided in me that Mum had a magical effect on scared new mothers. She had suffered severe post natal depression, so she would have seen someone suffering and felt it was her mission to cheer them up, probably by bringing them chocolates that she’d nicked from another patient.

I remember going into her room at the care home and seeing her windowsill covered in model boats. She was never that keen on boating and I asked her about them. “I know you love the water and and Frank didn’t need so many, so I’ve borrowed them.” Did he mind? I asked. “He was furious, but it’s all part of the fun of living here.” she laughed. A little later in the day she produced a ‘going home bag’ containing thawed garlic bread, three sandwiches wrapped in foil, a can of Pepsi and three incontinence pads.

She’s with me today in spirit and there are chocolates on reception … I sense mischief.

The chemo chameleon

The chemo chameleon

“You’re just like you’re mother” or “ Meet the mother, know the daughter”. Sentences I lived in dread of hearing until Mum and I came to really understand and honour each other once she reached 80 and was placed by the mental health authorities into a secure care home.

A couple of weeks after my previous post I sought help with debilitating grief at becoming an adult orphan after losing my precious, funny, wonderful Dad. This was on top of losing three close friends just before Dad died in an instant. I told myself, slightly tongue-in-cheek that I was going nuts and was just like my mum. It made me smile to think about it as I noticed certain expressions, looks and existential stabs at the world which reminded me of her. I knew my mental state was poor, but I didn’t really believe it deep down until those two words were made real by my therapist suggesting that I was going through a type of nervous breakdown. But I wasn’t running down the street naked, singing Danny Boy at top volume ( like Mum did ) or pretending I was a prima ballerina and performing en pointe in bare feet ( again, like Mum did). I felt breathless all the time, agoraphobic and running on empty. Normal for grief and burnout, right?

It turned out that the breathlessness was from blood clots in my lungs and very low blood count. Even though I was hospitalised and felt awful I decided not to give in to the mental decline and fought the emotions, telling myself I was getting stronger. I wasn’t. I nearly died but thanks to a strong heart, the clots passed through it and lodged in my lungs. Then they told me that my low blood count could mean I went quickly into sepsis if I caught a fever. I caught that fever and was hospitalised again. While trying to make sense of everything from my hospital bed the main diagnosis came in – life threatening leukaemia – seriously?

Oh, for Heavan’s sake. What was going on?

Now I had an inkling into the mental turmoil my complicated, maddening, loving mother went through and if it was possible to love her memory even more, I did. Now I’m grateful for the near-death experiences as they’ve allowed me to understand the crazy life Mum lived and I have inherited her adventurous no-more-if-only attitude now that I’m on the road to recovery from this horrible blood cancer.

As for “Meet the mother, know the daughter”, my darling husband adored my mum and could see how I’d inherited her bravery and comical look at the world. And I’m so grateful for the chance of getting to know myself by experiencing the light and dark of life through her crystal blue eyes.

I’ve started a new blog as I feel that there’s a new adventure to tell – hop on over to www.chemo-chameleon.com for the new stuff. I’ll be checking in here whenever a situation occurs that directly relates to Kathleen Margaret Beldom. She would have been distraught at my cancer diagnosis and Heaven knows what she would have said or done in the hospital. I know one thing. It would have been the stuff of anecdotes and mayhem. Many years ago I had major surgery and Mum invited a priest one day, a very puzzled Rabbi the next and a group of gospel singers to sing outside my window. Happy days.

Ignore her and she might go away

Ignore her and she might go away

I met up with my best, best friend from junior school last week, thirty five years after we last saw each other. We’d lost touch and after decades of trying to find him via social media, his old home address and Friends Reunited, up popped his photo on Facebook a couple of years ago. Bronzed and cool, now living in LA. The years flew past and he recalled a story that he’s often told people about my crazy mum. She’d turned up unexpectedly at my new school where things were pretty fantastic compared to the other schools I’d had to join mid-term along with the taunts, jibes and non-acceptance from other kids. Nobody, it seemed, liked a newcomer, apart from my last junior school where my lovely friend waved frantically at me shouting out “Sit here. Sit next to me!” Whereupon the other kids tried to get me next to them, smiled at me and offered me sweets in the break. I don’t think I really believed it, as it was likely I’d be yanked out of school again when one, both or all parents disappeared and moved – again! There was my mum at the end of the school path, in the street yelling out “ooh, ooh, Sonia darling, ooh ooh”. I whispered to my friend “Put your head down as we go past and maybe she won’t spot us amongst all the other kids”. It worked and off we scampered, seeking out ice cream and making sure we were home at least an hour after our annoying parents had told us to be back. My poor Mum. She would have been desperate to see me, having only limited access rights after the divorce. She shouldn’t have turned up un-announced, but “shouldn’t” wasn’t really in her vocabulary. Typical Mum. She would have decided she wanted to see me, got herself to the school and done what she always did – draw attention to herself and in turn to me. Although Andrew and I were laughing about it, I was holding back invisible tears to think how upset and confused she must have been to see her precious daughter for a snatched moment and then lose sight of her again.

She’s had a habit of turning up unexpectedly and one that sticks in my mind was when she took me and my brother to a holiday camp when we were 13 and 11 years old. I was just beginning to understand the power that a smile, a busty frame and long blonde hair had over teenage boys. I hung out with Philip, the first boy who called himself my boyfriend, smelled of mouthwash, bought me flowers (carnations) and chocolates (Black Magic). His mate tried it on with Dairy Milk, but that wasn’t cutting it when I had Mr. Listerine. We decided to go to the fancy dress party one evening and I made him a bow tie out of a black bin liner so that he could be James Bond and I was his Bond girl with a borrowed long frock and my hair piled up high on my head. While we were all parading around the stage there came on stage a little figure with what looked like an oversized grey bishop’s mitre resting on their shoulders with rows of points drawn on one side and a big pair of eyes on the other. Walking very slowly and with hands outstretched in front it was obvious that the thing they’d forgotten to include in this bizarre head costume was a pair of eyeholes. The Redcoat saw this as an opportunity to test out his comedy skills as he slid over and smiled at the audience before making a joke of some sort. For those not familiar with the pantomime of British holiday camps, imagine Summer Camp with people in red blazers organising “Miss Lovely Legs”, “Mr. Knobby Knees” competitions and embarrassing themselves once a week with their own talent show. Well this guy was classic. “So WHO do we have here then?” he said, winking at the audience and knocking on the cardboard headpiece. Sounding like it was coming from inside a sock, a shrill voice shouted out “JJJJJWWWAAAAARRFFFZZZZ”. “Pardon?” said the Redcoat, dancing around the character and mugging to the audience. Again, “I’m sorry – WHO or WHAT are you?”. Now he was doing that annoying pretend laugh where people who really aren’t very funny at all double over and hold their bellies in mock hysterics. “MMMMM JJJJJWWWAAAAARRFFFZZZZ !!!”, louder this time and starting to sound cross. “I’m sorry, love you’re gonna have to do better than that, isn’t she, or he, ladies and gentlemen?” Now the crowd was laughing, as was I, in the way you see a braying audience shouting OFF OFF OFF when a hopeless hopeful tries to belt out a Whitney Houston number on Britain’s Got Talent. Exasperated by not being understood the character tore off the grey cardboard hood thing and shouted “I’m Jaws, you stupid man!” “JAWS? Did you say JAWS?” “Yes, JAWS you stupid idiot, fatty fat boy!”. Silence fell and a few feet shuffled awkwardly as people started sniggering or walking off in embarrassment. The figure had flowing red hair, pink cheeks from being inside the home-made Jaws head and I hid behind Philip in case she saw me. Mum had tried very hard to be original and funny in her inimitable way, but I was crucified with embarrassment and wanted to deny I knew her in that moment. Aren’t we cruel when we’re kids? Of course, we laughed about it a few years later and I’ve never been able to see the film without thinking of my little mum marching around with a cardboard Jaws head on. It was rubbish, truth be told and didn’t look anything like a shark, but it was the creative thought I admire when I look back. Other mums were pirates, fairies, cats or ghosts. Mum was a shark. Of course she was.

Andrew and I compared notes about our mums, early careers, loves, losses and what makes us tick. He lives in LA now and it’s my turn to go and visit him next time. I knew I’d be friends with him forever when we first met. He was warm, welcoming, smiley and kind. He apparently thought I was sweet, quiet and shy. Well, that was the coping strategy in a new school. Keep a low profile and perhaps they’ll ignore you and stick horrible notes on someone else’s back. It’s so life affirming to hear a friend saying “Wow – what a lot you’ve packed in to your life” and “How did you EVER get over that?”. Channelling my mum, that’s how. She was brave, creative and confident in her Jaws moment – all qualities she’s passed on to me whenever I try something new and plunge feet first into a new adventure. She still nags me when I see her. “You’re not getting enough sleep” is her current favourite one as she tries to convince the care home staff to make up a bedroom for me so that I can stay the night.

So when I rock up to Los Angeles International Airport should I wear a Jaws costume and shout “Ooh,ooh Andrew, ooh ooh?” He’d laugh, but I’m not sure about the LAPD … safe journey back across the Atlantic my precious friend and I’ll tell Mum all about our wonderful afternoon when I see her at the weekend on the South Coast where, thankfully, great whites are few and far between.

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