Every mother, without even knowing she’s doing it, leaves little bits of vital knowledge lying around to enlighten you as you wearily trek life’s perilous highways. And it makes you wonder. As you hoot with laughter, are you guilty of inflicting similar crackpot ideas on your own unsuspecting offspring?
We were discussing it the other day when a friend remembered his Mum telling him never – but never – to drink from the water bubblers in Hyde Park. The reason she gave him in explanation is not for publication – unless you are willing to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and have the reply posted to you in a discreet brown paper wrapper.
It got me wondering about my own Mum’s little words of wisdom – and here, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, are just some of them.
On growing up:
. Watch out for ‘white traders’. They look just like ordinary people. That’s until they grab you off the street, stuff you into the back of a car and next thing you know you’re part of a harem in the Middle East. (Not with my thighs, Momma …)
. Never accept a cigarette from anyone. (This was when I was about eight.) It might be a reefer.
On getting married:
. Find a minister with a nice voice. (???)
. Never marry a man with an ugly nose. You wouldn’t want to pass it on to her grandchildren.
On having children:
. Name them with the assumption they’ll be Prime Minister one day. Choose something which looks acceptable with ‘The Right Honourable’ tacked in front of it.
And the latest:
‘When I die, get straight round here and take my jewellery.’ (Presumably both pieces.)
And all of these were delivered with a completely straight face.
Whew. Lucky me. Nobody whisked me off the street (thighs?), my straight-nosed children have suitably ministerial names, and the minister who lashed me to the Hunter-Gatherer for eternity had an extremely gratifying Alan Rickmanesque voice – no matter he was later imprisoned for deeds unrelated to hymn singing. That would be the minister, not Alan Rickman.
Times have changed, and Mum no longer worries so much about reefers or white traders. She’s a PC gamer now, and if you phone her there’s every chance she’ll be miles away in the Barren Lands or tromping through the Underground Realms … and you might not get her back much before Christmas. I leave a message with Dad and figure she’ll email me later.
Even the cooking out on the farm took on an ethereal slant. On offer with afternoon coffee was a two kilo wodge of Hobbit Cake tied in muslin to the end of a stick. It was apparently full of nuts, grains, treacle and chunks of fruit. The kids with ministerial names remarked on how good it was, and Mum told them it was what Hobbits took when they began their long journeys, and was chock-full of nutrition which would sit in your tummy for days. Very handy for an excursion to Food’o’rama. The Rt Hons (bless) didn’t bat an eyelid.
Modern-day advice, too, has taken on a more useful tack. For instance:
. Never go into a dark cave without your lantern and some kind of weapon. In case there are Orcs (and there are bound to be – or what would be the point?)
. Carry enough food for the journey (presumably a doorstep of the aforementioned comestible – which you can hack at with your elven sword whenever the fancy takes you). You can also share it with other travellers in order to gain trust and companionship.
. Speak to everyone you come into contact with until they won’t talk to you anymore. (Just my luck they’ll be white traders.)
And most important of all:
. Always save your game. Yup – you wouldn’t want to have to kill those Poison Gobbos’ o’ Horror all over again, would you?
I asked my straight-nosed children whether I had ever given them dumb advice.
One of them said she was glad I’d dropped the habit of asking them whether they were wearing knickers before they left the house. This was because I found one of them wasn’t after she executed a cartwheel halfway down the road. They laugh with derision about me asking them to tell the bus driver to ‘drive carefully’ when they went on school excursions. And ‘don’t forget to eat your lunch’ was apparently just plain dumb.
Mostly, they assured me, any advice I gave them was ignored.
I hate to tell you, Rt Hons., some time, somewhere, when you least expect it … it’ll all come back to haunt you.