Not that the world gives a shit, but in the off chance that my imaginary future grandchildren might, I thought a few stories of their aged Grandmother might raise a few laughs.
The Day the TV Came
Contrary to the opinion of my offspring, I did not emerge fully formed from the womb.
In 1976 something huge happened in sunny South Africa and not just my birth. We got television. Yes, the rest of the world had been enjoying the goggle box since the early 1900s, but here in SA it was regarded at the Devil’s work.
Up until then, the radio was people’s only source of news and entertainment. Even for a long time afterwards, I remember my Grandparents and parents trying to tune into the BBC World News on the radio.
It was also the year of the Soweto Youth Uprising on 16 June. Yes, I was born into white privilege in the middle of the worst of Apartheid. I missed it by 8 days. Since then, I have been permanently late for anything important.
The Great American Disaster
I was not so much a mistake, as an error in judgement and timing. 8 months and a week before my parents were cruising around the Med near Ibiza with some friends and the Great American Disaster.
Spending a lot of time in cramped quarters was not conducive to their remaining friends after the trip was over. Neither was the fact that besides my parents, everyone ditched their partners, each other and picked up the Great American Disaster somewhere near Ibiza and eventually marooned her on a little Greek Island and made good their escape.
My mother knows the moment of my conception, because the couples took turns to use the main stateroom. Also, my mother had forgotten her birth control pills somewhere along the way. And my father had bought her a fertility ring at a market near Athens.
All my father asked was for my mother to not go into labour on a Tuesday. He was a journalist and Tuesday was Press Night. Press Night was sacred. You did not mess with Press Night.
Of course, I could have picked any other day of the week to announce my arrival, but in my usual bloody-minded way I picked a Tuesday. It’s the kind of thing I do.
Like Michael McIntyre, the comedian, I looked distinctly Asian around the eyes.
The Macaroni and Cheese Debacle
Back then, my father was a sub editor who worked nights while my mother worked in the Africana Museum during the days. A young wife, she was determined to be a good one. Despite loathing pasta, she knew that my dad loved macaroni and cheese. Every single morning, she made him mac and cheese to eat when he came back from work. Just that. Every single day. Until he cracked. Since then my mother has never made it again and he hasn’t eaten again. Ever.
There were a few more culinary disasters – The Great Haggis Disaster and The Bloody Butchery of the Lamb. Since then she learned a few tricks, one that Haggis was revolting and two, you can actually buy half a sheep and have the butcher dissect it so that you don’t end up crying in a pool of blood waving a carving knife around like a hysterical Valkyrie.
The Hedgehogs and the Irish Setter
It was an idyllic place to be a toddler. There were hedgehogs and chameleons and little purple flowers. We’d head off, me in my pushchair and Alex the Irish Setter into the veld. A short while later the push chair would be filled with prickly rescued hedgehogs that the dog would proudly bring back to us, a few chameleons and an entire garden worth of little purple flowers. I would be made to walk on the return journey.
All of that is gone now, replaced by a highway and a plethora of car dealerships. In fact, the day our old house was demolished to make way for another car dealership, my mother cursed it. Ever since no car dealership has lasted long on the site.
The Great Escape
My earliest memory is of escaping my crib. I became quite adept at it. I also was obsessed with having a tail. All my clothes had to have tails sewn on or I wouldn’t wear them.
On the night of the Great Escape I scaled my prison walls outfitted in a knitted, blood red, onesie type thing, but without legs, just a sort of bag around the nether regions. It was outfitted with a rather natty tail made out of one leg of my mother’s stockings. I was rather proud of it. I crawled determinedly along the passage towards the sounds of voices. Over and over again I was caught and returned to captivity. It was really rather soul destroying.
The Shopping Situation
Periodically, my mother would wheel me down to the tiny little village shop. There I would be left outside with dog tied to my carriage while she did the shopping.
Mentioning to her recently that this didn’t seem like the actions of a doting parent, she said, “Well, it wasn’t as if I left you alone. I did leave the dog with you.” This is usually followed by, “When I was a child in wartime England, we were left outside the shops in little rows all bundled up in the cold with bright red cheeks until our mothers had finished having their tea.”
The Broken Leg (or maybe Arm)
This was the time my Grandmother (my mother’s mother) walked through a plate glass window straight into a hole my father had dug for a tree (or perhaps it was a Granny trap?). She was carrying a tea tray and didn’t break a cup, although she did break her leg (or it might have been an arm?).
This had the unfortunate consequence of Granny staying a lot longer with us than either of my parent’s had the patience for. It didn’t endear me to her that I found physical comedy incredibly entertaining and couldn’t stop laughing every time I saw her.
The Random Kidnapper
There was the time a guy tried to steal the car and passed out drunk in the backseat. My furious father drove to the police station and insisted on his arrest. During this tirade, the drunk would-be robber woke up and interjected. Apparently, he was walking down the road, quite normally, when suddenly a red-faced, boxers and dressing gown wearing, mad white man had leapt out of the greenery and bundled him into the car. My father shook his head and went home for coffee with a stiff shot of whiskey.
The Great Mud Pie Disaster
My nanny was a wonderful woman named Joyce. She also had a baby. Her baby was gorgeous. She wore white lacy baby things and never ever got them dirty. I attracted dirt. I was entranced by dirt. Dirt was my happy place. My father would arrive home to find me bum in the dog bowl covered in mud. Two minutes beforehand I had been on my seventh change of clothes for the day. He despaired for me.
This love of dirt led to The Great Mud Pie Disaster. I spent a happy afternoon carting buckets of mud into my parent’s pristine (and out of bounds) bathroom, where I mixed up a veritable feast of mud pies. And then I hid. I knew full well that things had gotten of hand and that I needed to make myself very very scarce. I tried to get rid if the evidence at the garden hose, which just made everything worse. I sat in a puddle and knew that I was never getting away with it. I was done for.
Myself and my trusty doll, Rosie Poppet, were in for a hiding. I just knew it.
We waited in silent desperation waiting for the yell of shock and horror. It never happened. Somehow, Joyce had made it all disappear. At least, it was never mentioned. It just didn’t happen. I was certain the axe would fall for years and eventually admitted it only at about the age of 25.
The Day My Father Shot Me
My final and most traumatic memory of the house was The Day My Father Shot Me. My father has a gift. Each and every time we moved to a new house he developed either a physical injury that precluded him from lifting anything or he disappeared on an emergency business trip.
On the occasion we left the house of my birth, he had slipped a disk and ensconced himself on the floor or the empty nursery entertaining his darling daughter while my mother dealt with the minutiae of moving.
An Aged Relative had at some point bestowed on my father a tiny silver pop gun. It went bang. Nothing came out of it. It just went bang. He thought that I think it was cool.
He pointed it my direction and pulled the trigger. Things did not go as expected. I had a meltdown. I ran on my short, stubby legs screaming to my mother yelling, “Daddy tried to kill me! Daddy tried to kill me!” My mother and the moving men looked on in horror as my father limped out of the house brandishing the small, silver, not-quite a revolver.
The Button and the Nose and the Mustache
Once upon a time I was messing around in the back seat while my parents had a complicated conversation in the front. There was no such thing as a car seat, or for that matter, seat belts in the back. It was a heady and dangerous time.
Without much in the way of entertainment, I occupied myself with the buttons on my spiffing dungarees. This was funny, until one fell off.
“Mummy. Mummy. MUMMY!”
“My button fell off.”
“Well, put it somewhere safe.”
Somewhere safe for a small child is quite different to somewhere safe for an adult. I put it in the safest place I could think of. My left nostril. As soon as it was up there I had a sneaky suspicion this was not the somewhere safe, my mother had been thinking of. She could be quite prosaic in her thinking and probably meant a pocket or something.
So, I kept my mouth shut, wore the one buttoned dungarees and the button stayed safe up my schnoz. Of course, eventually my nanny became concerned that my blocked nose was not the result of a naturally occurring virus.
A visit to the doctor was duly made after hours in parental panic. I honestly don;t see how waiting for the morning was not considered. It had been there happily for months by this time and few more hours wasn’t going to hurt.
I’ll tell you what did hurt. Getting it out. It was excruciating. The doctor had a mustache and wielded his picking-stuff-out-of-noses tools with maximum agony in mind.
Several painful hours later, with a bloody and swollen nose I was button free and deathly afraid of all men with mustaches.
I completely acknowledge my mustache bias. I still don’t trust men with facial fungi. They have something to hide.
And this was how my life began. A comedy of errors that just keeps giving.