I knew trouble was brewing the moment I laid eyes on My Mother's friend/critic/enemy Shirley-the-competition. She had new glasses. Not just any glasses, oh no, little gold, shiny, half moon ones, the kind your headmistress wore hanging on a bead necklace that you always imagined she tied her husband up with in bed. Thinking about it now though she probably doesn't anymore, not with the arrival of Ann Summers, and besides she must be about a hundred by now and operating bondage gear with arthriticky hands would probably put them off most nights. Maybe just special occasions and birthdays:
Do you fancy one tonight Bert? (or some other old person sounding name, you're welcome to use your imagination),
Why, what's the occasion Doris? (again, imagination-using invitation proffered),
Another one of those blasted telegrams from the Queen
Oh heck, best get your necklace out then
Shall I do your bunions first to stop them chaffing?
I'll get the sandpaper
Anyway, Shirley-the-competition stood there, half moon glasses perched Dame Edna-like upon her rather pointy and long nose (for sticking into things according to My Mother), staring at My Mother's carrot cake. And this is when it happened, Shirley -the-competition lifted her chin a little into the air (not too much you understand, just enough to let you know she'd practised this in the mirror at home) and peered down over her glasses at the cake.
Hmmm, she said, in her best Church Flower Arranger voice I think you may need to add a little more baking soda next time, it's a little flat this side.
My Mother glared upwards, no doubt spotting herself reflected in the new glasses and not liking what she saw (who does? it's like discovering you are really an upside down spoon shaped potato head), and observed Shirley-the-competition peering down at her. It was as good as saying excuse me little worm and flat carrot cake maker, I am older, wiser and significantly more important that you. In fact, forget my advice about the carrot cake, you're not worthy of it.
My Mother sniffed and moved away from the glare of the glasses and busied herself with a pot plant. I knew then, with a certainty as strong as my liking for chocolate, that trouble was a-brewing, and I scarpered.
The next day My Mother came calling, running the usual finger along the mantelpiece checking for dust, sniffing loudly at the milk before she used it and laying the clean tea towel she'd bought with her onto the chair before sitting down. She cut straight to the point: I've been noticing recently Darling that I'm not quite as observant as I once was, have you noticed anything? Because if you have you would tell me wouldn't you? I mean one isn't quite as young as one once was, and one does know that one's faculties may be fading just a tad (My Mother talks like she thinks the Queen would, personally I think the Queen would have a fit at the interpretation, or at least require a stiff whiskey and an early night with Prince Philip and the necklace). If she had paused for breath at all, just once, I would have taken the opportunity to break in and save her the trouble of the pretense. She wants some glasses. Half moon, shiny, gold ones (although heaven forbid I hope she doesn't want the necklace) just like Shirley-the-competition. How on earth can she be expected to keep Shirley in her rightful place (i.e. lower than her and last on the Church roster) if Shirley uses such a downright unfair prop? Once she had turned so blue that she was forced to pause and inhale, I suggested this to My Mother who looked at me as if I'd just stripped in front of the WI (she hasn't seen the calendar so doesn't realise it's de riguer now). What Shirley has she sniffed, means absolutely nothing to me, I'm simply concerned for my eyesight and was wondering if I may need some glasses. This from a woman who, when we were growing up, could spot a misdemeanor at one hundred paces, it was like being raised by an owl.
There was no point arguing, once My Mother wants something, she invariably gets it, so I've booked her into the optician tomorrow. Now I just have to work out how to slip a pair of half moon, gold, shiny spectacles into the optician's hands without My Mother's owl eyes alighting on them like some unfortunate rodent and guessing that the question of her getting some glasses (albeit ones with plain glass in them) is a foregone conclusion. That and how to explain that under no circumstances is she allowed to keep them on a beaded necklace.
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