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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

ring ring

“Right! What are we? We’re winners, OK? Say it then. Shout it!”
“Winners,” mumbled the boys, their minds more on the fair sharing of the biscuits than motivational chanting. Their hair is long, it’s curly, they have names like Harry and Luke. We play against teams with shaven heads, Deans and Shanes.
Junior football is a strange land I've occupied for decades, which makes me wonder why I look forward to Saturdays.
“Can’t hear you?” The coach mocked a panto hand to his ear. “And again!”

Us parents cringed with embarrassment, bent double in disassociation.
The parents of the other team looked on with frank amusement. Pit bulls strained at short leads. A touching scene of snarling and merriment, a long way from home.

WINNERS!” The coach hurled his flat cap in the air.

A fine gesture, wrecked only by the small technicality of our losing so very dramatically. More rugby the score than football. The first game had gone to 11-0.
“NO!” shouted F9, “We got 2!”
“Own goals,” I muttered, “Stop going on about it.”
A pink faced lad burst into tears.

(My phone kept going. Funky Town bursting into the field as back at home, far from the footie shift, E prepared for T12's rugby, increasingly frantic as it transpired T12 could not find his proper rugby shorts... then his gum shield ... then his boots … )

“Good luck, darling!” us mothers trilled and, “Oh well done, chicken!” as lambs to the slaughter they embarked on match 2, a game F9 and I were lucky enough to have to leave early, when poised at a crucial will-we /won’t-we stage (ie: merely on 3-0).
The coach rang me at the end to say that we had lost 12-0. After a scant four matches we flounder at the bottom of the league table. Goals for? 0; goals against? 34.

What could I say but, “Oh.”
In the background of the call, I could hear unconvinced warbles of “Winners!”

A heartbreaking e-mail emerged later from the coach. He is still chipper, but fearful that he has let the boys down. He blames himself. His responsible disappointment left me feeling mean for laughing at his flat cap and shying from his too wet lips.
I then felt cross for having to feel mean.

Meanwhile we defected to T12’s rugby trials, given his need for boots. Both he and his friend W12 are sure that a space in the A team is theirs, despite neither of them being much cop at rugby, nor even liking the playing of it much, preferring to chat.
W12’s mother, M, and I are puzzled. Being anxious and destroyed by uncertainty ourselves, we cannot source our children’s sense of entitlement in the face of negligible talent. M was still smarting over a run in with her mother about her hair, "You can't go to London looking like that, dear."

T12 slithered into F9’s football boots. F9 took T12’s trainers and looked like an orphan, trailing round the ground, muttering. His football strip out-Stanley Matthews Stanley Matthews. The coach had delivered it the night before, neatly wrapped in bronze Christmas paper. The shorts are mid-shin, the dress floating just below his knees. I was almost sick laughing. I needed mirth.

My father had phoned.
“Stop blogging about the bloody children,” he said. “Move on.”
Not much love in that, I thought.
“Put something nasty in, make it sinister. You’re quite good.”
“Darling,” my mother chipped in on the extension, “you need a job. Not an Avon lady, I don’t think, but you could become a Weight Watchers’ Team Leader.”

Where Had That Come From.

I didn’t like to think.
A very long, chilling, silence followed. The sort of silence from which great damage could emerge if the wrong thing was said. Naturally “she” saying the wrong thing would be me.
“You’d be very good,” she continued gamely, “you’re kind, and would get them going.”
I was utterly, totally horrified.

The statement had been offensive in so many ways. No fattypuff in crisis should ever have to put their faith in me, but there were clearly Other Issues at play here. In the end, I bowed to the inevitable, like a badger thinking ‘Sod it’ and lying down ready in the middle of the road. Bring on the lorry.

“I imagine you’d have to go to Weight Watchers first, mother,” I said, with the tiniest bit of bold ice in my voice, a squeak of despair valiantly repressed by the shards of my dignity.
“You’d feel marvellous,“ she breezed, “get a nice big belt and pull it tight. It’s opportunities, you see, you have to be awake to them.”

She was off to Ypres at the weekend again. Graves and war, who can resist?
“I love it,” she says.
I was tempted to tip the driver a tenner to knock her in, plonk up a white cross all of her very own. One amongst so many. Who was to know? What? Poor Mum Dead?

She phoned me before she left.
“Now, you’ll need to phone your father each morning when I’m gone, to check he’s not died in the night.”
“Why?” I said.
“The dog [blight of our collective lives, surely, this one being a borderline incontinent Newfoundland, in severe need of Weight Watching] surges past one on the stairs so. She could send him flying and of course no-one would pass, no one would know.”

She sent me fierce texts from the coach. Buoyed by distance, I tartly reminded her she was meant to think gin, not drink gin.
She claimed, like Sairey Gamp, “not a drop has touched my lip in days but leave the teapot on the mantelpiece and I will put my lips to it when I am so dispoged…”
For a senior, she’s quite dapper with the texting. Sort of Team Leader savvy. I must tell her. She could make a career of it.

I rang my father.
“Not dead yet, then?” I asked. We were at Prescott Hill Climb – I had won tickets, winning things in raffles being quite a reliable second income, for some reason. Cars roared by endlessly. The air was dense with petrol and burnt rubber, and the sensation of fielding an imminent insult; rarely a long wait, I find.
I told him about the football.
“Christ,” he groaned, “Modern bloody parents, you’re mad. You’d have died if I’d come along to any of your hockey matches.”
“It wasn't hockey,” I said, I had to shout over the roaring cars, I probably sounded mad, desperate. “It was netball.”
Then, “You’ve never appreciated me,” he said munching heartlessly on what sounded like a parsnip, “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead. I could be so dull. You’re so lucky. You have no idea.”

An image of an apocalyptic blot on my horizon, things on the road ahead I dread: my parents’ death. A landmine first strewn in youth when long, long ago, when I was fifteen, I sat next to him at a James Bond film. I don’t remember which one, since it was spent silent and wretched in tears, for he had just told me cheerily how he’d read in The Times that the 40s were a perilous decade for men, rife with heart attacks and strokes and, for men blind in one eye, the chances of making 50 were slim. It goes without saying that he is blind in one eye. And now 73.

I was plunged into a familiar despair: that of being misjudged.
I pictured the killer instinct of black fur bustling down in urgent need of a wee, the misplaced slippered foot, the glasses flung out of reach, the hope of reaching the phone all spent. The 2-for-1 pile up at the bottom of the stairs for my mother to encounter, all teapotted up, on her return.

“You haven’t got a bloody clue,” I said.

It has become necessary to add that the Prescott Hill Climb is nothing, but nothing, to do with the MP, although trotting up dat hill may do wonders for his tum, Lord, don't tell my mother. It's a car thing, bugattis and formula something, and converted jalopies and swish porsches all roaring up Against The Clock. Lots of old duffers and young lads taking notes and endless photographs. As I say, we won tickets.


Potty Mummy said...

Fabulous as ever Milla. And I hadn't thought of the Prescott Hill Climb in years. Is it still full of earnest types discussing the benefits of kit cars vs originals?

Faith said...

Bit too much rugby in the first bit for an unsporty mum with no sons but I get where you're coming from.

Now your father is over stressful 40-50's age I am sure he will live on for another 20 years. Enjoy him while he's with you. My father died 3 years ago and I still can't quite believe it but he was 93 and ready to go. Only you could blog about your father's possibly slipping in the dog and make it amusing!

Fennie said...

We do hurt our children unintentionally. In fairness I could never make up my mind whether I preferred being neglected or suffering the embarrassment of their turning up, they being more dysfunctional than most. Ah you bring it all back so well. The games that you are told you must win, but which you have known for the last three weeks will be lost badly. But I hope your sons see the light. There are really so many more constructive ways to spend your time than rugby.

Preseli Mags said...

Absolutely priceless, especially the comment about Weight Watchers. I must remember not to try and eat while reading your blogs. Laugh? I nearly died. Now, for some reason, I am left with the image of John Prescott climbing a hill, watched by Milla who won the privilege in a raffle. The mind boggles.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. And isn't loosing some of the time supposed to be 'good for the soul'?

I remember a cross country event when I was 10, when it took me about 10 attempts to get over the first 3 jumps. My mother hiding behind a tree in despair. Painful. But much more worth it when you do succeed!

As for Prescott climbing hills? I have a large and wobbly vision in my head...

mountainear said...

Excellent Milla.

I think I would be dreading Saturdays and Junior Football too.

Edward said...

Lovely blog - luckily I know you well enough not to be either eating or drinking while reading. Rugby is a top game - much better than rubbishy old futbol. And your Pa is a tremendous wind-up merchant, as is your Ma. But then I suspect you know that.

ChrisH said...

Perhaps your Ma would like to take my Ma on her next jaunt whilst we two fatties inspire the local WW? So glad I didn't have sons.

Pondside said...

I've just got off the phone with my darling parents - in their 80's.
Dad gave me the short version of what's happening in the US markets and Mum gave a 10 second gush of motherly love and abruptly said 'got to go' and hung up. They are so dear - and the subject of all my nightmares about loss (until I had children!)
Over here the children on the 'other' team are all named Jaden, Kayden, Caiden, Justin, Jaxson and Jason.

Pipany said...

Well, it's a good thing for edward's comment! I was sitting here in sheer indignation at the horrendous behaviour of your parents before reading that, though wind-up or not, I still think they need someone to tell them to ... hmm, perhaps I'll stop there. Dislike children of any age being put through such winding-up, teasing, call it what you will and Milla you are far to lovely (yes, that's what I said!) to have any of it! Phew, off for a resstorative cup of tea xx

Pipany said...

and that should have said restorative with just the one 's'!

blogthatmama said...

Ha, ha I've been forced into football for the last FOUR YEARS! I even starred in Lads vs Dads (and me) match, that's how far it's gone in this house (Lurch, naturally, doesn't even own a pair of trainers, 'instruments of the devil'). Milla, with your leadership qualities and positive attributes as identified by your Ma you could take over as coach!

KittyB said...

This is why I remind my very own little darling Harry how rough and awful these ball games are, and how lovely gardening and cookery are.

A parsnip? Sounded like a parsnip? How?

Fred said...

The Black Box travel agency sent me. I enjoyed my visit!

Frances said...

Gosh, Milla. Would you like to meet my mother?

Think that I sat across from J. Prescott on a Tube train on my last trip to London.

Sports of any kind. Are they good for us? Any of us?

Are amateur sports better or worse than professional?

I've got no answers to any of the above. I do know, however, that you really can write! Forget Avon products.


Exmoorjane said...

Where to start? The horror of the football matches? Oh yes.....the 11: nil crashing defeats....oh yes.
Hilarious the thought of you as a WW cheerleader - though I could see it (mine once told us proudly how we could use our points to drink x pints of lager and still get a bag of chips - you could do the same for white wine!). Avon though, ah Avon. My mother was an Avon lady and I used to troll round with her, and wrap up the Pretty Peach powder puffs with envy, that went to the little rich girls (or so they seemed then).
never thought about the peril of a large dog.....do you reckon a smaller dog could equally fall over said bulk and die? Hmmm...

LittleBrownDog said...

...And there was me thinking John Prescott WAS the hill. Brilliant blog, as ever, Milla. Yes, what is the point of all that cheerleading nonsense? Doesn't it just make them feel even sillier when they don't win? And as for parents... Well, I just don't quite know what to say, but it does seem to be part of the job description to engender cross-generational misunderstandings at every turn. Beautifully, beautifully written. xx

lampworkbeader said...

Brilliant Milla. You've transported me back to years of standing on the edge of muddy fields trying to look enthusiastic..never played team games myself, far too rough and how lucky to have a mum who can text. I am so impressed. Mine never even got used to decimal coinage.
Good luck with the new careers, a whole new world awaits

Expat mum said...

Gawd. If my mother tells me one more time that my mistake is not having a job. When would I do that? I always ask. My little one finishes school most days at 11.45am. Actually a WW Team leader would probably be the only answer - as long as it was only for the morning crew. Oh, and I would probably have to join in too!
Great post.

muddyboots said...

wow, prescott hill climb, used to be dragged there as a kid, the smell, the noise the cars.wow

Molly said...

I originally found your blog via Black Boxes. Now I come because I always enjoy your turn of phrase: "blight of our collective lives", "all teapotted up", "killer instinct of black fur"...if only I could think of a way to insert those in the business plan I've been stuck with. But no, I don't think there's any room for levity in corporate America these days...

Ernest de Cugnac said...

"bent double with disassociation" - nice! Have felt it myself.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Is the wee sould still breathing then? Brilliant!

Mean Mom said...

Did your mother work as a Careers Advisor? She sounds very much like the one who advised me!!

Let me know if you decide to become an Avon lady. There's a few things I need. ;0)

Fire Byrd said...

I'm so glad my sons are into such easier pastimes, poker and eating for the eldest and weight training and being obnoxious for the youngest...means I can stay home and just enjoy the fruits of their labours instead!


Funnily enough I was just about to read your two latest blogs - they were up on the screen - when I suddenly realised the urgency of making plum chutney while watching the lunchtime news (I get a kick out of attempting to multi-task, see) before the plums moulded away (like the first load of strawberries I bought for jam - Waitrose moreover, huff, what a waste). Good job I did, cos one whole punnet disgorged its mouldy mess into my hands and had to be binned. Good job then that I had the excuse to come back and eat my bean salad (Tesco) and read your latest posts since the News and Doctors was over and the chutney was safely simmering. Have left long comment on previous post (and it is SO true that the ghastly early mornings do mean, at least, that you get more done than usual by midday. Like blackberry picking and plum chutney. Aren't we homespun? A couple of desperate housewives clearly in need of better employment. Your Ma has all the answers! And WHY do they ALWAYS have to pick up the extensions and BOTH TALK to you at once and then, if anything like my parents, HAVE A CONVERSATION/ARGUMENT AMONGST THEMSELVES with me listening meekly on the other end, coughing politely and trying to get a word in edgeways. That said, I too have incredibly strong memories of worrying that my father was going to drop dead when he turned 42. It seemed ancient and dangerous. Now here I am at 45 still thinking I'm a teenager! Hope I'm not about to drop dead. Though they drive me to distraction, like you, I dread dread dread their demise. My own father now 80. Love your landmine imagery. So perfect.

At least I understand now why the pix were removed - parental pressure???!

Heart in the country said...

Hi Milla

I've popped across from Pipany's blog.....don't worry your secret blogging is safe with me ;-) Brilliant blog - I'll have to drop by again.

auntiegwen said...

I'd love to see who googles avon ladies, something nasty, weight watchers and badgers !!!

ps I DID get Killers tickets so off to Belfast we jolly well go !!!

whoop whoop, that's the auntiegwen happy noise !!

@themill said...

My own, 81 year old, Pa is far too busy cruising the Med, with his younger bird, to bother ever phoning me.
Wonderful, as always, Milla.

Sally's Chateau said...

What a fabulous blog amongst such doom and gloom, NOBODY is a weight watcher these days, they are chocolate fairies, tell your Mother to drink less gin and get herself aquainted with 'whats what'.

Glenda, saved by grace said...

hello from T E X A S
via black box

DJ Kirkby said...

Oh cringe...now I know why I don't want N3S to get interested in sports...am trying to steer him towards ballet but neither he or hsi father are having any of that! Sigh... The bit about your won mom and dad...omg...I am still snickering!

Irish Eyes said...

Pure Millablog! In my time it was taking the girls to hockey matches, and watching a Joyce Grenfell type [only 7 stone heavier] roar at them. Jolly hockey sticks wasn't in it!!!

Anonymous said...