Sunday, 21 October 2012


“I used to be so fun” I wail to my brother after my 11 year old Daughter announces that I am boring and stalks off in a huff. This was the result of me not allowing her a second Ice Cream after she had only just finished her first, which by the way was preceded by a burger and chips. She has no right to be so darn skinny! He smirks rather unsympathetically which also makes me feel that he is in fact hinting that I was never fun. A lie!
“It’s them!” I insist, “they have turned me into a nagging, boring old fart. I should sue!”
“Having children will do that to a person” he soothes before punching me with “and you are middle aged so you know...” he trails off on noticing my death stare.
“I. Am. 35. Years. Old”.
“Yes” he scoffs, “but how old do you expect to live?” I don’t skip a beat and my eyes don’t leave his as I counter “100 years old. Just like Great Aunt Sue”.
Now we both roar with laughter. Great Aunt Sue was a blue rinsed old soak, who also smoked 10 cigarettes a day (so she claimed but we can all count so knew far better) all of her adult like. Despite all of the obvious health risks to these particular activities she managed to live until three days after her 100th Birthday and was just never ill! Mind you to be fair-what germ stood a chance against the Gin? Great Aunt Sue is a legend in our family. Her name was never even Sue, she was christened Ethel at birth but decided that it was an old woman’s name, so from the age of about 8 refused to answer to any name other than Sue! She also refused to have her name legally changed by deed poll on the grounds that a name should be free-“what will we be charged for next?” she would argue “the very air that we breathe?” No one ever crossed her and won so every legal document she acquired throughout her adult life named her as Sue.

I often regale my children with tales of Great Aunt Sue, all of which I know to be true and none of which they believe! Mike and I giggle and laugh like a couple of school children as we relive some of Great Aunt Sue’s outrageous antics probably for the millionth time. I feel like I am having an abs work out from the laughter, and am crying remembering poor Mum calling me in a panic after the smoking ban was brought in. Aunt Sue kept setting the fire alarm off in the nursing home as she outright refused their requests and then INSISTANCE that she refrain from smoking in her room. They were threatening to throw her out! Poor Mum was charged with the task of mediating between them. Mum was sure that stubborn Sue wouldn’t listen to her pleas for cooperation and was shocked when no more was said about it. It was only after Sue’s death when the nursing home wrote a scathing letter to Mum accusing the family of removing the batteries from the smoke alarm that we realised that Mum had in fact failed her mission! We hadn’t committed the act-or crime as Mum would yell if she heard that. Sue surly couldn’t have, but clearly had managed to persuade someone to. We all of course thought it was comedy gold, Mum didn’t. She was too concerned that the home could have burnt down or she would now be getting a lawsuit from the home to see the funny side.

“Shhhh! Mum! Shhhh! Uncle Mike! People are looking at you!” my Daughter Millie is scolding us in urgent low tones while still outwardly managing to smile. She is rocking ever so slightly in her sparkly converse trainers signalling her discomfort. She reminds me of my Mum who does the same things when she doesn’t want to make a scene. Her beautiful black curly hair is thrown back wildly and she is flushed from running around in the indoor play centre. Her hazel eyes and beautiful mocha skin are glowing. But she looks far from a child who is having fun as the lines of annoyance are etched across her face and her dinky button nose is screwed up in distaste.
“What?” Mike yells playfully purposely causing yet more eyes to focus on us.
“It’s embarrassing” she scolds clearly feeling that no further explanation is needed. I see Mike sit up ready to do battle so I close my mouth and settle back ready to see who comes off the winner. Both are worthy contenders but I suspect Mike has the edge on account of the fact that he has no shame what so ever, where as Millie is deeply ashamed of her whole family!
“What is embarrassing honey?” Mike yells knowing that she will be livid that he called her that after the ‘I am not a Child anymore’ lecture he just sat through in the car on the way to the play centre, “being in here playing with all these kids? Mummy and me laughing and being happy? Or the fact that you have ketchup down your white top from your burger?” he asks fixing his eyes directly on to the offending stain. I am holding my breath from the effort of trying not to laugh. Honestly I don’t know what has come over me-I have turned in to my 11 year old self in the presence of my kid brother. I will be tying my curly blond locks up into bunches next!

Millie swivels round to face me, her hip is thrust out and her hand is placed on it in a stance that for some strange reason makes me think she looks very American. “I hate you. I hate him. I hate everyone” she hisses as she turns to stalk off towards the giant blue slide she has been zooming down since the last time she stomped off, but she makes a slight detour as she spots her Brother Luke meandering in our direction. He has a shaved head so no messy hair for him although everything else seems to have missed that memo. His face and clothes are covered in food which is clearly visible despite his dark blue clothing, his laces are undone and he has un-tucked his shirt which is hanging beneath his jumper which he refused to take off despite the heat in the play centre. His face is glowing from the heat combined with all of the running about he has been doing. He looks confused as his sister stalks over to him, grabs his arm and storms off yelling “don’t bother talking to them Lukie. They are in stupid moods!”
“Hey I want a drink” he yelps indignantly as he is hauled off. I do try to call him back but he is carried off by Hurricane Millie so doesn’t stand a chance poor boy. I half raise from my chair wanting to go and tell Millie off, save Luke and tie his laces all at the same time, but Mike stops me.
“Don’t worry Alex, he’ll be back in a minute if he really is thirsty and it isn’t as if they haven’t had a heap of drinks and food since we arrived. As for Millie, pick your battles”.
I nod my agreement. We have been here for three hours and they have had four Slush Puppies, Burgers, Chips and an Ice Cream each so my handsome little Lukie of the button nose will likely survive the lack of fluid if not the E numbers. Whether or not my sanity survives Millie’s adolescence is another matter if this is how things are already.

“I have missed you Mike” I blurt out of nowhere, suddenly serious. Mike left London three years ago. He moved to Scotland to follow his Girlfriend who got a swish job up there. He sadly had to give up the chance of buying a bar in town in order to follow her, but that is Mike for you, loyal and selfless. Or perhaps a bloody stupid sap depending on what day you ask me! We rarely saw each other, but we called, text messaged and emailed often. Communication all but ended in the last year. I took it to be a bad thing but Mum pointed out that he could just have been busy and having fun. Then abruptly last week Mum called to say that Mike had just shown up with no warning at all, he had his bags in tow, and was asking to move in for a while. Apparently his stupid-wasn’t good enough for him in the first place-girlfriend-who never bothered with his family despite all of the sacrifices he made for her, had walked out on him and moved in with her boss! The tramp! I wasn’t sorry to lose the girlfriend, she was all hair, short skirts and high heels that one. She had a shrill laugh which made me want to slap her every time I heard it. Mum thought that I just hated her as she was the replacement for Jill. Jill being a lovely woman that Mike had been with and who I became firm friends with. I thought she was perfect for Mike, but their relationship fizzled out after around 2 years and then he met the shrill one and that was it. Over and out! Well for Jill and Mike anyway, Jill and I are still firm friends and I am down as her Birthing Partner if I can’t think of a good enough reason to get out of it. Everyone thinks if you have had kids you will be a naturally good Birthing Partner. Wrong- I am terrified! It brings back painful memories for goodness sake. But Jill won’t have it, she wants me there and there is no reasoning with a pregnant woman as I know well! So I am having to go along with it. I only wish he were going to be my nephew, rather than my friend’s baby. But life and people move on and I just have to get with the programme even though I think that this particular show sucks.

I was glad to have my brother back home at last but I hated that he looked crushed and miserable, like life had sucked the joy out of him. My pretty boy brother looked at least 10 years older than his 30 years; his normally immaculate appearance was missing underneath a coating of brown stubble (which would have to be called beard in about two days) he was wearing scruffy old clothes, and his brilliant green eyes (which my Lukie had inherited despite being mixed race) were dull and lifeless. He had lost shed loads of weight when he could ill afford to-unlike me who never can lose an ounce. Thank goodness my husband loves a big bottom and full breasts because oh boy do I have em! After seeing my brother on his return I decided that I had to help him have fun and reconnect with his family and friends again. After all we need to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good when life seems to be turning a bit shitty.

“I missed you too” he states. He doesn’t continue and I leave it be-after all this isn’t the time or place for deep and meaningful conversations.
“Sorry Millie was so rude” I scuttle back to the safe topic of my children “we really don’t know what to do with her lately. She is so rude so often! Well mainly to me. Troy on the other hand still gets the sweet Daddy’s girl attitude”. I am very aware that she and I need a little reconnecting too.
“Damn right!” I laugh “but there again even he knows his days are numbered”! We laugh again and it feels good to see his eyes light up once more.
“Now you know how Mum felt when you got to that phase”
“I do” I agree, “but I was older at least. They grow up so fast! Dad keeps warning Troy that his little girl won’t dote on him forever. He is so mean love him!” We all inherited our dad’s mean streak so thankfully my husband doesn’t bat an eyelid, but it does cheer me up that he won’t be hero to my zero forever in Millie’s eyes! Luke on the hand is still the stereotypical, Mummy’s boy-and long may that reign I say. I offer Mike another coffee and he accepts. We only have another 45 minutes left before we have to leave. It will take about 15 minutes to round the kids up but we have time for another quick cuppa before we have to get them together.

I queue for the outrageously over priced, not so nice tasting coffees and plonk back down on to the squishy blue chair I have been buried in since we got here. I am feeling tired from sitting in the warm comfy chair for so long, at home I rarely sit. I usually have a long list of chores with my name on them, and often find myself doing my accounts in the evening so don’t get much time to sit and do nothing. I run a market stall on Deptford High Street on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I sell jewellery that I also make. I am about to launch a little ‘online stall’ as I am calling it so have been pretty busy lately. Business isn’t booming but I am doing o.k. I am tempted to offer Mike some work running the stall for me while I am focussing on the website, but am finding it hard to pluck up the nerve to ask. The thing is that I could use the help, but he won’t think that and might be offended thinking that I am treating him as a charity case. I just need to think about how to phrase it. He helps me.

“You look like you are about to nod off” he comments affectionately. I laugh as I respond, “I might well do! I am shattered from running the stall and setting up the online one. I am going to have to get someone to help me with it all I think”. Of course he knows exactly where this is heading, he is my brother and we are close.
“Ahh. Well let me know how you get on,” he counters, “I actually have something lined up myself so fingers crossed I’ll be really busy next week, and I can’t stay with Mum forever”.
“Have you? What?” I don’t mean to sounds quite so amazed but he hasn’t even been back for a full week yet.
“Just some bar work again sis. You know me; I stick to what I like even though the money isn’t so great. I like the work and the hours suite me” I nod my agreement. He does enjoy what he does. As long as he is happy....... I have a little ball of disappointment sitting in my gut but that will pass. “You look disappointed” he scoffs in amazement.
“Well I am a bit” I confess “I mean, I actually do need the help and it would have been lovely to work with you”.
Shaking his head he responds, “Bless you sis, but really I am chuffed to have this job and I still want to run my own bar, so you know” he shrugs trailing off.
“Do you have any savings left or did legs eleven help you blow them all before she...?” now it’s my turn to trail off. I have no clue how to finish that sentence without hurting Mike.
“No I have quite a bit left. She didn’t touch my money sis. That was all me, and be fair Mandy and I just didn’t work. It was over before she moved in with that twat-Brad. We just screwed it up 50/50”. Ha! Don’t believe it! I don’t. Bloody Mandy! Wasn’t there a song about a tart called Mandy? Or was that Maggie? I don’t know and don’t care. I hate her for hurting my Brother. I love my family and turn savage if anyone dares to cross them! “Anyway” he continues, “I am back and ready to have some fun for a while. I mean generally sis, not with women” he hastily added seeing the look of distaste on my face , “well maybe a woman or two” he adds just before I throw a cushion at him and protest about not needing to know!

We are giggling again when I catch the time and shoot up in a panic, “Oh no!” I exclaim “We have 5 minutes to get the kids and be at the exit or we will be charged for another two hours play time!” Mike grins at my urgency but honestly I’m not paying another fifteen quid for the kids to have another two hours play as we cannot stay here. We are meant to be meeting my husband and going out for pizza, so you know, it is kind of urgent. “Which one do you want to tackle?”Mike asks playfully.
“Uh Luke of course” I scoff detecting a challenge, “he sometimes listens to me at least”. Mike grins, “O.K I will tackle hurricane Millie, but you are going to have to answer to Mum if I don’t make it”. I jokily weigh up my options and agree, “Race ya!” Mike yells as competitively as ever, “the first one to the exit wins and the loser pays for dinner” he adds as he tears off in the direction Millie was last seen storming off in. “No problem” I mutter doodling off past the ball pit in the direction of the climbing wall. What my kid brother doesn’t realise is that I have a secret weapon. You see, Lukie spends 95% of our time here on the climbing wall pretending that he is Spider Man, and I am sure that as soon as he managed to get his sister to release him, that is exactly where he would have headed. At last a race against my brother that I am bound to win.

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