Listen … do you wanna know a secret?

Listen … do you wanna know a secret?

Let me whisper in your ear … I’d love it if you tuned in to the MUMBELIEVABLE podcast, because every little listen helps, and it got me thinking back to my earliest memories of storytelling. My darling mum wasn’t very good at bedtime stories as she got bored with the traditional tales and would wonder off into a fantasy story that was usually very scary or had something inappropriate at its core. I remember an incident with a junior school teacher (the one who cried when Mum marched in with the porridge that I hadn’t eaten that morning). We were supposed to write a short version of our favourite fairy tale. Mine was and always will be Cinderella. Somehow I identified with the lonely girl who was always trying to do good and could get animals to sew dresses and help with the washing up. It made the story even more personal when I was lucky enough to have my very own stepmother who wasn’t cruel and didn’t make me scrub floors. Yes, the kids used to tease me with “cruel stepmother” taunts, but I think I stepped on their toes or something a little bit painful, but not bad enough to get me into trouble. My short version of Cinderella was based on the version my mum had told me the night before and her version got muddled up with the original. My story went something like this. Cinderella did everything in the house. Her stepmother ordered her to wash the dishes and scrub the floor. Cinderella asked her Daddy why the stepmother had come and Cinderella’s dad said it was because Cinderella’s own mother didn’t like cuddles or having things put inside her, so the new mummy came who was very happy with “all of that stuff, thank you very much.” The teacher gasped when she read that bit and a few minutes later I was back in Mrs. Partridge’s office with a biscuit and a cup of orange. This snack would happen at least once a week and I was surprised when I found out that none of the other kids had the same treat.

I haven’t told that full story yet on MUMBELIEVABLE, but I will. I’m just waiting for the right guest who has an equally inappropriate mum story to share. I’m astounded and flattered that the guests so far are willing to share very intimate details of their maternal relationships. Not all the interviews are upbeat. Some are quite sad and go temporarily into a deeper place, but ultimately, we look at these events and try to re-frame them, with a good dose of laughter and new eyes.

I’m hearing that one of the great things about my particular podcast is that it’s good to listen to as you snuggle down to sleep. A bit like a bedtime story to get you thinking as you drift off the sleep (not that it’ll make you fall asleep I hope). One listener drifted off to sleep after hearing Su Pollard getting a little emotional about sharing her love for her mum Hilda and another listener loved the insight into Bobby Crush’s family which he had never spoken much about in public before.

So, please have a little listen if you fancy something different and maybe you’ll recognise your own mum in one of the episodes. And if your mum ever told you that Cinderella had to ride side saddle because her legs were quite sore, think of me as a five-year-old trying to work that one out. And spare a thought for my teacher who has probably been scarred for life by the fairy tales re-written by a mother with un-diagnosed ADHD and a penchant for turning most stories into a sexual fantasy.

And as for … promise not to tell … forget that! Tell everyone you know about the podcast if you like it, because one day it might get more listeners than “Dad wrote a porno”, but … oh, wait a minute. Maybe I’ll ask those guys if they fancy coming on and I can tell the Cinderella story in full.

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.

 

 

RADIO MA MA

“Freddie who?” asked the young consultant when I commented on the brilliance of Mercury’s voice. He’d never heard of Queen which made my joke about Fat Bottom Girls fall flat on its … well, bottom! My mum loved the radio and recorded almost every show I produced whilst at Radio 2. She only ever recorded random snippets and always deleted my credit at the end in case they somehow tracked me down at home and burgled my house. She adored Brian Hayes when he was on LBC, Gloria Hunniford on Radio 2 and The Archers on Radio 4 – apart from Linda Snell who she called a “snoot”.

”Don’t ever get a job as a presenter will you, Sonia darling?” Why, Mum? “Because people will know who you are and will bother you for autographs.” Considering her mantelpiece was full of signed photos from radio presenters, I found her logic flawed somewhat.

I wonder what she’d have made of my new project? A major content production company has invited me to make a podcast based on this blog – all about our mums from maddening and meddlesome to miraculous and marvellous. We recorded the pilot yesterday which went really well with a terrific guest who I’m keeping secret for now. Years of producing shows and training people in public speaking has paid off and it felt fantastic to be on the other side of the microphone again.

I can’t tell you the name of the podcast yet, but as soon as we’re up and running with a few more episodes you’ll know ALL about it. Oh yes ! I was going to call it Radio Ma-Ma but we’ve got a much better title. Thunderbolt and lightening … very very exciting … and yes, I know, I know … frightening ! But only a little bit.


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.

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