My now deceased mother-in-law had the capacity to annoy and amuse in equal measure. Of Cornish heritage she married a Devonian and spent the majority of her years living there. She was one of that ever dwindling breed of souls who retained not only the accent of her origins but also the dialect of her roots. In these days of bland mid-Atlantic drawl superseding regional enunciation as spoken English evolves to discover one such as her who spoke in the manner of days of yore was a fascination to me. Her name, by the way, was Olive, known to most as ‘Ol.’ Today I shall write a little on a couple of the things she said that served to amuse – in truth I am spoilt for choice in this regard.
Like many who have attained vast years and within their peer group tales of doom and distress become second nature. Indeed it is a brave person who asks of a geriatric, ‘How are you feeling today?’ The answer is, I find, invariably a tedious monologue of woe. And thus it was when visiting old Ol and over a family dinner that the conversation twixt mother and daughter (i.e. my wife Shirley) went thus;
“Mum, how is Mrs Anderson from up the road. I haven’t seen her for years?”
“Dead. Cancer got ‘er did. ‘Ers ad a terrible time t’ward the end. Poor maid was in agony.”
“I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you telephone me? What about Eric her husband. How is he managing?”
“Perished, the poor soul. Run over by a mini cab just outside The British Legion ‘e were drunk mind.”
“Crickey mum that’s terrible. Any news of Auntie Ada?”
“Did I never tell you ‘bout ‘ers? Well she be in a wheelchair these days. The leg of ‘er old Zimmerframe it got stuck in a pothole in the road and she broke her spine. Crippled for life she is.”
“Is it safe to ask about Iris from the Methodist church? You always got on so well with her.”
“Dead. Choked on a treacle toffee in the nursing home. When the staff went to give ‘ers ‘er lunch they found rigour mortice ‘ad already set in.”
“Any good news to impart then mum?”
“Well the little maid Mavis from next door just ‘ad a baby.”
“That’s better – all that death talk was getting me down. That’s lovely news.”
“’Course it’s got a withered arm though.”
At this juncture I couldn’t help but spit a mouthful of food out whilst trying to suppress laughter!
Moving on, Ol then when on to tell the tale of a few years previous whilst she was waiting at the bus stop for the Plymouth bus to arrive. It is important to be aware that Ol was a mother to six children in order to get a full handle on this one.
“Well there I were with these other two ladies at the bus stop – I didn’t know ‘um from Adam but was listening in to their conversation. Well one says to the other, ‘Ow many children you got then maid?’ to which the other replied, ‘I ‘ave 12 last count.’ Well ‘ers who ‘ad 12 now asks of ‘er colleague, ‘Ow many ‘ave you spat out then?’ she replies, ‘13 I think.’ With that the one whose got 12 kids says to ‘ers with the 13, ‘Well you must ‘ave a fanny like a ‘orses head collar then.’ That’s when they both burst out laughing. Crossed their legs and everything. Then one of them turns to me and asks ‘ow many I’ve got. All I could say in the circumstances was, ‘just the one!”
You couldn’t make it up really!