Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Look out kid.....

Every time I leave the house at the moment, Maude reminds me to drive carefully. Whenever I leave the house for work, she states ‘I hope you’re still driving carefully.’ I tell her that, of course I am driving with absolute care.

‘I rarely get to ton-up any more dear’, I said yesterday morning when this ritual took place. ‘I have stopped overtaking on bends while sending text messages – all in the past, that kind of thing. I have even started wearing my seatbelt.’

Maude usually adopts her stern 'teacher face' at this point – the one she uses when trying to outstare a spirited teenager at school.

‘You know what I mean. You wouldn’t want to leave me a widow and this poor child (points at bump) an orphan.’

I usually do my mock-chided face at this point and she lightens up, safe in the knowledge that she has put the notion of safe driving at the top of my limited mental agenda. She does, however, have detailed knowledge of my driving habits.

‘What about the flash cards?’

Last year I watched a Bob Dylan documentary and was quite inspired by the film clip for ‘Subterrannean Homesick Blues’. Like most Dylan songs, it is a bit top-heavy with lyrics, but he whips through them briskly and helps his audience with an armful of placards. He drops or flings aside each card when the line is complete. I spent several hours in the garage composing a similar set of message boards – all with a motoring application. Maude flouts the highway code by frequently using her horn 'as a rebuke' (accompanied by some regrettable gestures). My card system is designed, instead, to encourage fellow drivers to reconsider their driving style.

I travel along the A1 a great deal (apart from the occasions on which I am forced to go cross-country. The A1 often grinds to a standstill at peak times and I am forced to pull myself off to avoid an unhealthy build up of frustration). I find that I often end up sat parallel to a motorist who has recently cut me up, changed lane without indication, or has a mobile phone clamped to his or her ear. At such times I have my handy stock of clearly stencilled flash cards. The most useful cards read as follows:

(for handheld mobile phone users) : QUIT YOUR JIBBER JABBER!
(for non-indicators) : GIVE US A CLUE!
(for boy racers) : GROW UP!
(for emergencies) : YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE COPPER!

‘Very rarely used, dear', I reassured Maude, 'and never in anything above second gear.’

Maude put on her coat and kissed me on the cheek, seemingly happy with this renewed attention to safety. She stalled halfway through the front door.

‘I haven’t forgotten about your replica gun.’

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Last Night I Dreamt....

Maude and I share everything – hopes, fears, dreams. She asked me why I hadn’t slept very well on Sunday night and was even more tired than usual for the start of the working week. I explained that I had been distressed by a bad dream. ‘What?’ she asked 'a proper nightmare?’.

‘Worse than that,’ I answered.

I explained that my dream had featured my finally striking up a friendship with Morrissey. (I once declined an invitation to a party in Manchester – unaware that The Smiths were there. This has obviously stayed with me). I went on to describe how Morrissey had brewed his best tea for me. He had poured it from a teapot swaddled in a tea cosy bearing the combative image of Pat Phoenix and then served it in China cups. The cups chimed beautifully when replaced in their saucers. We had lovely muffins, freshly toasted on Morrissey's open fire – all the while talking about our favourite books, the highlights of ‘kitchen sink’ cinema and trying to quantify just how much Manchester had to answer for. The phone kept ringing and he fielded calls from Nancy Sinatra and Alan Bennett – explaining that he had a far more important new friend and it was highly unlikely that he would need their company any more. It was then that the dream took a dark turn. Morrissey had just asked for my help.

‘Please please PLEASE! have a look at the songs for my new album – I’m really not too sure about them.’

Morrissey then crossed the room and rifled through a leather satchel. He produced a large scrapbook with the legend ‘My New Songs’ stencilled on the cover. He fumbled a little, put on his reading glasses and made to return to me at the hearth. My second muffin was very nearly done to perfection. Morrissey’s face now wore an expression of profound relief. He had obviously been carrying a great deal of worry about the quality of the new songs and saw in me a kindred spirit - someone who would add the necessary polish to get the songs to recordable quality.

Morrissey’s body was then struck by a terrible spasm. His hands dishevelled his cardigan and clutched at his chest. He then fell, dead, on the deep-pile carpet.

Of course I awoke at this point.

Maude looked unmoved by the events of my dream.

‘I tend to dream about family and friends,’ observed Maude. ‘You know, the people who matter to me…’

‘I dream about you as well, dear.’

Maude looked unconvinced and continued.

‘I dream about the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.’

I pointed out that I was still upset and she really should keep her threats to herself.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mother Knows Best

Maude and I attended our first ‘Parentcraft’ class last night. Maude was quite looking forward to it – she had done a great deal of research and wanted to participate fully.

The midwife introduced herself and was impressively warm and welcoming.

‘That’s Carol,’ whispered Maude. ’She’s our midwife.’

I smiled and Carol suggested that all the couples introduced themselves to the group – since we would be sharing the sessions for several weeks.

The introductions began. Couples squeezed each other’s hands, exchanged smiles, gave their names, detailed how pregnant they were and where they lived. Carol thanked each couple in turn and made everyone feel at their ease – especially the men who shuffled in their seats and fidgeted with the change in their pockets. Our turn arrived and Carol glanced over. I drew breath and shifted slightly in my seat. Before I could say anything Maude took over:

‘Hello Everyone! I’m Maude! I am 36 weeks pregnant and I will be having my baby at the Queen Elizabeth.’

There was a finality at the end of this statement, so Carol smiled again and moved to the next couple. I tapped Maude’s arm gently.

‘Well, they don’t really need to know who you are, do they?’

Maude ‘whispered’ this, so it was audible to the entire room. A diminutive father beside me sniggered. I looked closely at him. He was wearing a waistcoat which made him look like a snooker player and his sideburns were shaped to emphasise his individuality. I began to think that I didn’t really want to surrender my anonymity to this group anyway.

Carol took the group through the 3 stages of pregnancy. Maude answered when Carol asked if anyone knew the names of those stages. Maude also chipped in with various technical terms and suggested at one point that one of Carol’s diagrams was, in fact, the wrong way up.

Carol persevered, but began to offer her questions exclusively to the other side of the room. Maude was undaunted and fired her answers at the back of Carol’s head – repeating them until she turned around and was forced to acknowledge that Maude was right.

‘Maude's being doing her research, hasn't she?’ Carol forced a smile.’If I’m feeling under the weather next week, I'm sure she can take yous all through the rest of the course.’

I swiftly fell off my chair to distract Maude, before she worsened the situation by correcting Carol’s grammar.