2012 — My Mother — to be sung to the tune of "Love and marriage"...

Written after yet another tedious 280-mile wasted weekend round trip to the Midlands, in the mid-1990s.

In one ear and out the other,
Is the way to listen to my mother,
   It's a crying shame
   Her gossip gurgles down the drain.

Who's been nice, and who's been naughty,
Who's got too much loot, and who's too haughty,
   It's not just her money
   Her tales just don't strike me as funny!

She goes on and on and on — a one-man juggernaut!
As her anecdotes roll on, my nerves get very taut!

In one ear and out the other,
All her stories whirl and dance and hover,
   It's a crying shame...
She's drivin' me
She's drivin' me
She's drivin' me just plain insane!


On a typical visit, and...

... we must have made 300 or more during our 33 years together — we would arrive at dear Mama's to a generally frosty reception (never for any clearly discernible reason), have a cuppa, bundle the little bundle of joy into our car, take her into the local village, do some shopping for her, then whizz her over to her older sister (my favourite mad aunt) six miles away, make and serve a meal there, do any chores and house or garden tidying that needed it in either or both houses, bundle her back into our car, pop her back to her little house, have a final cuppa, and set off on our return journey just as she would be starting to thaw out and warm to us. Almost.

All while being forced to listen to the two elderly siblings reminisce lugubriously and repetitively about how much more fun it had been "during the war", how the modern world had gone to hell in a handcart, and how everything was the fault of either or both me, "my" spoiled generation, and (if you please) the Germans. Such good fun.

Regular visiting began...

... right back in 1974, while Dad was dying, and then after dear Mama was widowed (but before she moved) we tried to be there every weekend for a while. That was not much fun for a pair of newly-weds, let me tell you. At least it was a mere 18 miles, though it could easily take us an hour each way. She moved back up to the Midlands in September 1975. And at that point, we entered (and were to remain in) the doghouse for months for having had the temerity to take our first-ever fortnight's holiday together — our long-delayed honeymoon, in fact — rather than ferrying her up to her sister's place. She lived with my aunt for about a year before buying the Wombourne house.

From our flat, or later our house, in Old Windsor, Wombourne now meant a 130 mile trip (each way) for us. From Technology Towers, it was a 150 mile trip (each way). We would in later years try to make a point of combining our reluctant trips with, for example, a sideways jaunt into Oxford (for the bookshops) or Bicester (for the LaserDiscs) or, well, anywhere really! That way we felt we got at least a bit of value out of an otherwise lost day each time. Of course, the two of us were together for the day, which was always very pleasant, but I can't pretend these trips, with such a cool reception every time at the destination, were anything over the years but a "duty chore". Junior, who is a lot more sensible than his Dad, opted out of visiting once he was 16 on the grounds that he didn't like the way his grandmother treated either of his parents. His choice, and Christa and I both respected it.

I can count on the fingers of one kneecap the number of times we left after our visits feeling any emotion other than simple relief. It was only after Christa's death that dear Mama finally seemed to change her opinion about her funny foreign daughter-in-law. What's that phrase that means "too bloody late"?