Sunday 14th March is Mothers’ Day in the UK, originally a celebration falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent when Catholics and Protestants would visit their ‘mother’ church but now hijacked for commercial purposes of selling greetings cards and charging over the odds for a pub lunch. Nonetheless, it is a nice opportunity to celebrate mothers and motherhood and be thankful for the tireless patience of those special women who brought us into the world.
All mums are special and I am no different from anyone in thinking that mine is the best. She is the actual best. Regular readers will know of Mumsie; not only is she the butler-seducing star of Who Shot Tony Blair? but she pops up in many of my adventures and even has a lecture hall named after her in The Vanishing Lord. Being a mother isn’t a walk in the park for anyone, but Mumsie has had a particularly trying time of it.
My entrance into this world almost killed her. After an endless labour, she ended up in intensive care and I was nipped out through the emergency hatch in the nick of time. Being the stubborn little tiger that she is, this episode did not put her off and she kindly popped out a little brother for me eighteen months later. For many years, I didn’t see this as much of a favour, quite frankly, but I’ve got used to him over time and, if pressed, will confess to loving him very much. Our father left not long after and from then on it was just the three of us, with Mumsie taking on the additional role of dad with typical aplomb.
Families come in all shapes and sizes these days, but in the early 80s, attitudes were different. Being a single mother was met with an unpalatable mix of consolation and revulsion and even as a child I was all too aware of the pitying looks bestowed upon us with underlying judgement. There was never much money about and sometimes we were cold, but love, fun and laughter were abundant. With quiet dignity, a stiff upper lip and mindless optimism, Mumsie showed us and the world that there was no cause for shame and nothing to fear.
Mumsie is fearless. With only herself to depend upon, she turned her hand to anything and everything. Fixing cars, cutting down hedges, putting up fences – she just got on and did it. She taught us, through her own example, the importance of being able to stand on our own two feet and not have to rely on anyone for anything. Of course, knowing that she is there waiting in the wings plays a huge part in having unshakable confidence in my own independence. And she is still the first person I turn to in times of crisis, achievement or just plain oddity. She has never been much of a cook, sadly, but luckily I had my Nan to instruct me in the revered kitchen arts.
Bringing up teenagers is not for the faint of heart – a teenaged Lucy was certainly a handful. I ran away from school, cut off all my hair, had unsuitable boyfriends, dressed like Tank Girl for a couple of years and got my nose pierced whilst waiting at the bar in The Racehorse after being expressly forbidden from pursuing this course of body modification. I was horrendous for a time and Mumsie must have gone through Hell, but she artfully managed to navigate the lines of guidance and interference – always giving me space to make my own mistakes whilst being close enough to rush in and pick up the inevitable shattered pieces of my numerous poor life choices. She told me that she never worried too much about me, however, as she says ‘the Devil looks after his own’. I like to think that instead it is her influence in my upbringing keeping me from deviating too far from the straight and narrow. Throughout these fractious years she never let me feel that she wasn’t proud of who I was and supported my boisterous explorations of finding my place in the world. Now, I try to live my life in a way that will make her proud and show my true and deep appreciation for her exceptional fortitude during this time.
Mumsie is sort of a mythical creature. I have only seen her cry once, only heard her fart once. This latter occurrence filled me with such delight and surprise that I immediately rang my brother, and told everyone at work about it the next day. I hope the times I see her cry are few and far between, but I await further outbreaks of flatulence with gleeful anticipation.
So here’s to all the mums! The women who gave us life, show us the way, never let us down. To the mums near and far, to the mums watching over us in the everafter. My mum is tiny in stature but her heart and spirit are enormous and I am proud to share her with you all. If I can become even half the woman she is, I’ll be doing alright.