The Wit and Wisdom of…. My Mother

Yes, really. Just a gentle indulgence.

My mother, who died last year, was a gently rather than hilariously funny woman. She was also (mostly) very tolerant. I have very fond memories of teaching my children to untie her apron while she was cooking. She would always pretend not to notice, until it fell down and she feigned huge surprise.

She and I had a long running routine based around that old, old joke:

I say, I say, my wife has gone to the West Indies on holiday.”


No, she went of her own accord.”

We would change this around and muddle it up, until it became something like:

I say, I say, my wife has gone to the West Indies on holiday.”

Did she go of her own accord?”

No, Barbados.”

At which we would fall about laughing, even if listeners didn’t. It morphed into variations such as:

I say, I say, I’m taking a young lady to Italy on holiday.”


No, but I hope to!”

She was not without her acidic side. When my grandmother came out of hospital and was staying with us, Mum would ask her what she wanted to eat. “Just throw me in an egg,” Nan would reply. Knowing that this simple request would necessitate very careful organisation so that the egg, bread and butter and tea were all to my grandmother’s exacting requirements, my mother would mutter suggestions about where she would like to throw the egg. She would often mimic my grandmother’s comment of “You like that sort of thing, don’t you dear?” with its accompanied critical intake of breath.

When things went wrong with my life, as they do with all lives, she would observe, with her tongue only partly in her cheek:

Never mind, dear, it’s just another crimson thread in life’s rich tapestry.”

Recently Mrs Oblique made Miss O. number 3 a red dress. We are still finding crimson cotton threads on the floor, and each one reminds me happily of Mum.

On the last occasions we saw her she was mostly sleeping, counting or grunting, without making any sense. As we left, Mrs O. told her that she had just made some strawberry jam and would bring some down. My mother called her back.

And did it set?” she said, briefly intelligible at last.

No,” Mrs O. admitted.

The last coherent thing we heard was Mum’s throaty laugh, no doubt recalling the many times she and Dad had struggled to make the marmalade set.


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