For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
When we first used a moth trap we were inundated with small, rather drab moths. One task, for we enthusiasts was identification and leading this charge was the Archaeologist. As with most tasks both then and now he read and read and absorbed what the experts over decades had to say.
After one collecting night yet another small unprepossessing moth remained unidentified. It was left to the Archaeologist to try and sort out what it was. Dad asked if he had had any joy.
‘It’s umbiquos,’ reported a confident Archaeologist.
Dad, understandably, looked confused. ‘Umbiquos?’
Not for the first time the Archaeologist had to explain to the less knowledgeable. ‘It means very common.’
It took dad a moment. ‘Do you mean ubiquitous?’
As with a lot of family malapropisms these quickly become family lore, utilised like a secret language to confuse outsiders. I’m sure all families have them.
My father’s mother, nana, fulfilled her fair quota. The new sunglasses that became popular in the 197os for their anti glare were noted with ‘oh I would like some of those paranoid sunglasses’ and when explaining where she lived to a taxi driver it was ‘just after the bollocks in the middle of the road’.
The last I recall when my parents were still alive came courtesy of a piece of high disdain from mum. As always she’d been bullied by dad to get ready for some rather formal trip out and had sneaked off to do some dead heading in the garden while he fussed over the directions or the invite or what wine to take.
Finally he realised where she was and in exasperation called her in. ‘Barbs, for heaven’s sake. Aren’t you ready yet?’
‘Of course,’ protested mum.
‘Well what’s that on your shoulders? Looks like dandruff.’
Mum didn’t even bother to look. As she strode past him, brushing each shoulder swiftly she explained, ‘It’s pollen.’
Dad, for once, was floored. Though he had his revenge by calling her pollen as a term of endearment thereafter, when in company. Mum would smile sweetly but they both understood the joke, one thy kept to themselves.
Which brings me neatly to trying to explain why it was that, aged about 10 I started calling my mother Brian. I did right up to her death. It had some link to the lugubrious but sage snail in the Magic Roundabout but exactly what I’ve forgotten. Maybe it was the taste in hats…
I’m just happy to have called her Brian while she was alive.