Family Secrets (OS019)

I’d just returned with the shopping when Pam caught me and said; “Morning Oliver, you had a visitor whilst you were out, your aunt. She seems very nice. Chatty.”

“She is, I suppose. What did she have to say?”

“I think she is concerned about you and wants to see you back in work. I can’t remember what exactly she said but there were quite a few sayings… or do you call them proverbs. There were three as I recall:”

  • “You should ‘nail your colours to the mast.”
  • “Talk does not cook rice”

“and……oh yes my favourite!”

  • “Better to be an engineer of your destiny than a tool.”

“I think the second may be a Chinese proverb and I’m pretty sure she made the third one up.”

I confirmed that I have no idea what they mean. Pam attempted to enlighten me.

“I think the first one is about deciding where you want to be and going for it regardless of rocks in the road.”

“So, it’s about my driving?” I asked.

“No, it’s about reaching your goal, overcoming obstacles in your way and ‘No’ before you ask, it’s nothing to do with orienteering either” said Pam, smugly.

“I get it. It would have been easier to say ‘Go for what you want and stick at it, even if it’s difficult.’ Instead of some sea shanty.”

“A shanty’s a song. Anyway, the second, is easy ‘Do something don’t talk about it; and the third, I guess she feels you are not engineering your own future which makes you a bit of a spanner…… Other tools are available.”

“Thanks. I get that one. Charming.”

“She seems very nice…”

“Oh yes. She promised my mum she’d keep an eye on me.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know your mum had passed over.”

“She won’t have. I expect her to go directly south.” I replied, pointing downwards.

Just an aside, south is obviously not down but since I didn’t know my compass bearings relative to my current position I thought this was an acceptable compromise. Should I have been referring to a map on a wall, south would in fact be down. I’ve since checked and it would have been more correct to point just to the right of the patio door, as I was stood by the fridge in the kitchen. Useful to know should I need to make another directional statement.

Whilst I was contemplating the accuracy of my gesture, Pam developed a strange expression, open mouthed and staring at me. She then operated the formerly open mouth to chastise me, for some unknown reason.

“That’s a horrible thing to say Oliver. Well. I’m sorry she’s gone even if you are not.”

“Thanks, but I’m not really because she loves Crete. She should be just about there now.”

“I’m sorry…. So she’s not gone to a better place then?”

“Well, Crete’s great for a holiday but Manchester is awesome.”

“No, I mean she is not departed, gone, no longer with us, you know thingy…..”

“I don’t know how else to explain it, she has gone to Crete on holiday. The plane departed this morning from Manchester airport. She is probably on the sunbed by the pool now, drinking a gin and tonic.”

“I’m trying to say, has she passed away?”

“Oh!…. I see what you are struggling to communicate now. No whatever gave you that idea?”

“It’s just I’ve never seen her here and with her asking your aunt to keep an eye on you.”

“Well, I drive over to her house because she’s decided not to drive after she broke her wrist.”

“That must be hard having to give up driving.”

“Oh, she’s never driven.”

“But you said she gave up driving.”

“She was thinking of taking driving lessons but she’s not going to now.”

“Are you being deliberately obtuse Oliver.”

“I don’t know what that means but it sounds like a bad thing so, no I’m not.”

“Anyway, I never knew your mum worked in a circus.”

That was certainly news to me so I asked “What. You’ve got the wrong end of the stick there….again.””

“No, that’s where she met your dad. You must have known. She was on the trapeze and he was the Ring Master and helped with the animals.”

“You are making this up.”

“No, really.”

“How come I never knew?”

“Didn’t you ever talk to your parents? Anyway, they gave it up when you were born. Your mum went into labour suddenly and they drove to the hospital in the nearest vehicle, the clown car. Almost got there but the engine blew up and the doors fell off.”

“No way. You don’t mean I was born in the back seat of a …. A CLOWN CAR.”

“No, silly….. It was only a two seater.”

“I don’t believe it. It can’t be true.”

“Didn’t you know any of this? Talk to your mum.”

“How did you learn more in a short visit than I have in a lifetime.”

“People just talk to me.”

“I don’t believe it. I’ve never even been to a circus.” I protested.

“Ah, well. Bad memory. You see the circus knife thrower took a shine to your mum and it all got a bit nasty. Your aunt and uncle had to leave also as she was strapped to the rotating target for the knife thrower every night.”

“What? My Aunt was in the circus as well…and my uncle?”

“Yes. Didn’t you ever think Uncle Coco was an odd name?”

“Well. I suppose so….No…. Not my uncle, a clown? I thought he has big feet. Why didn’t I know all this? I’m just going to my room for a bit to think this over. Don’t tell me anything else. Not just yet. Maybe not ever. I’m going to have a serious chat with my mum when she gets back.”

Why didn’t I know such mind-blowing facts? What else don’t I know?

It would be great to hear from you. Drop me a comment (at the bottom of the page). Just some thoughts on possible subjects but feel free:

  • Did you learn something surprising about your family which you should have known all along.
  • Do you know someone often quotes proverbs or has favourite sayings?
  • Have you had any conversations when you talked at cross purposes?


… Oliver Sudden

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