My Mum turns 80 this week, I did a speech, she hasn’t disowned me. Here it is.
So, Mum, Mummy, Mother, Your Mother, Grandma, Grandma Sonia, Grandma Shortbread, coooee, ala, orange juice, root canal….
I have a number of thank-you’s before we get started. Mike and Work in progress for coming to play today, Mum for inviting us to Tanya’s beautiful home and garden. Tanya and Carl for hosting today and trying to hire the marquee, and Natasha stepping in at the last minute to provide a pair of her pants for the marquee.
And thank you all for coming today to help celebrate Mum’s 80th Birthday.
Back to Mum.
Just so you know, this speech covers happy times, good times and possibly sad times, but bear in mind that most of these stories and recollections have at least a smidgen of truth attached. And, the speech was okayed by Mum’s big brother, Uncle Andrew….
One fact is, Mum has expressly forbidden me from talking at her funeral, her reasoning being that I would be too upset, which shows remarkable confidence on her part.
Anyway, I would much rather Mum got to hear what I think about her in person.
Sport has always been a big part in Mum’s life, whether it be avoiding getting involved in all the team sports when we used to go and stay with Uncle Andrew and Auntie Rosemary, watching Pat Cash’s thighs at Wimbledon, engaging in marathon matches of table tennis because she refused to be beaten, watching Pat Cash’s thighs at Wimbledon, thinking what a lovely son Johnny Wilkinson would have been, or watching Pat Cash’s thighs at Wimbledon.
She was also an avid supporter in my younger days.
From the sidelines I would hear her shouting “SHHOOOT”, which was fine, but she shouted it at the opposition when I was in goal. Or rugby matches where her refined voice would holler “kill him”, again, to the opposition when I had the ball.
Even today, when I take Sprout to see his Grandma Shortbread, and I suggest that maybe, just maybe, he has had enough shortbread and pizza crust, she will say, jokingly, I think, “Shut your whole mouth up. Or I will punch you in the head. With a knife”.
We bicker, and, from the outside, we do say some rather unpleasant stuff to each other, but we do make each other laugh. Hopefully. And that, to me, is Mum’s greatest attribute, her ability to laugh and make me laugh. She has known some very sad times, namely when I asked, at the age of 35 if I could move home as I had decided to give everything up and go to college and become a gardener. She didn’t bat an eye, and said of course and supported me to do something I wanted to do, or at least until she could persuade Nancy to take me under her wing.
On reflection, I was always going to be a gardener, and it was Mum’s doing. On the odd occasion that I misbehaved at the dinner table, I would be sent to the top of the garden to think about my behaviour, I was up there for hours sometimes, looking at the butterflies on the Buddleia, rubbing the Stachys or bunnies ears between my fingers or just trying to remember why I had been sent up to the top of the garden.
She has given me my love of nature – the tree colour in Autumn, the ever changing scenes of the sea, climbing Helvellyn – which has scarred us for life- and picnics on the beach; she used to take us to Saltdean beach for breakfast from Tupperware containers before school.
Her culinary talents have been mentioned and again those are some of my favourite memories, Mum and food – meat and potato pie, shepherds pie, fondues, Christmas cakes and puddings. And her contribution to French cuisine, that not many of you will know about.
I was 6 months old, she had a Rhodhesian Ridgeback puppy, Jamba, so naturally Mum and Dad decided to have a French student. When he went home, he wrote a letter thanking them for their hospitality and complimenting Mum on her culinary skills – particularly the cornflakes.
Mum is very proud of the fact that she doesn’t have favourites, and that isn’t because she dislikes us all equally. She has a huge capacity for love and to make us all feel loved, no matter how little we may feel we deserve that love at times.
Tanya and Natasha, you may have gathered, come from the more refined side of the family and would like to distance themselves from anything scurrilous said.
But it was Mum’s guidance that made Natasha the lady she is today, Natasha once said to someone she was frightened to go home as Mum would be cross. On hearing this, the friend said, your Mum never gets cross – Natasha, aged 10 replied, she does, flames come out of her nostrils and smoke out of her ears. When this is the threat, you learn to behave very quickly.
Tanya, has inherited Mum’s kindness, shown by letting her move in whilst she moves house. Mum hasn’t told Tanya that the sale has fallen through and she will be here permanently.
Mum must be the only person who, with 80 approaching, decides to move house, to a bigger house, with a bigger garden. There fact that it has no bath or downstairs toilet leads me to think she is returning to her Northern roots. But we all hope that you will be very happy in Lindfield.
I’ve completely overrun Mum’s schedule, but I was never really terribly good at keeping to Mum’s schedule.
Hopefully, we’re going to have some cake and something fizzy now. So, on behalf of everybody here I would like to say : Mum, Grandma, Sonia we love you, you are amazing.
And that is really the truth.
Let’s see if publishing it gets me disowned….