I reckon I’ve always been a romantic, probably because of my love for cinema.
That scene in Now, Voyager when Paul Henreid puts two cigarettes in his mouth, lights both and then passes one to Bette Davis. Such a beautiful moment.
‘Big deal!’ my mother snorted one day 40-odd years ago. ‘That bloke could have set fire to his nose lighting up two fags.’
‘You are a hard woman, Mother!’ I snorted back. Being a healthy teenager, my snort was a lot snortier than hers.
‘That’s a lie. I’m a romantic person, too,’ argued Mother as she sat on the back doorstep plucking the main component of that evening’s chicken dinner.
There was a brief snortless pause before Mother renewed our war of words.
‘If you are using the cinema as your yardstick, my favourite film is that family one where the mum protects her young son from the unpleasant things in life. That flick really tugged at my heartstrings,’ said Mother as she flicked and tugged on more chicken feathers.
I shook my head in disbelief. ‘Mother, must I remind you that Psycho is NOT a romantic movie.’
‘Whatever,’ she shrugged and disappeared into the kitchen with the by-now bald bird.
Anyway, dear reader, I don’t want to talk about my mother any more.
‘Why not?’ the psychiatrist asked me the other day.
‘Because my mother fussed over the dog more than she did me. That’s why I grew up feeling small and insignificant.’
‘And how do you feel now that you are grown up?’ asked the therapist.
‘Taller but still insignificant,’ I mumbled.
‘Sorry,’ apologised the psychiatrist. ‘I missed your reply. I must have been miles away because of your monotonous, droning voice.’
‘I said I still feel insignificant,’ I repeated.
‘And boring?’ queried the doctor.
‘Boring?’ I answered, puzzled. ‘I never said anything about being boring. I don’t think I’m boring.’
‘Hmmm,’ hmmmed the therapist as he scribbled the words ‘self-deluded’ on his notepad.
Anyway, dear reader, I don’t want to talk about my psychiatrist any more.
‘Why not? asked Mrs S as we sat down to dinner (not chicken) last night.
‘Because what is discussed between a therapist and his patient must remain confidential.’
‘Oh,’ said Mrs S. ‘So he told you that you were boring, then.’
‘Not in so many words,’ I muttered. And then: ‘Oh, dammit. I forgot to tell the doc about the number of times my mother went out and left me to babysit the dog.’
‘You told me that that happened only the once,’ pointed out Mrs S. ‘And in your story it was a cat not a dog that you had to look after.’
‘It was BOTH!’ I said. ‘I had to babysit our dog Rover AND next-door’s cat Claude while Mother and the neighbour went to bingo. It was horrible . . .’
As soon as Mother and the neighbour left the house, I called both creatures into the living room. ‘Now look, you two. I don’t want the pair of you fighting like cat and dog. Go to your corners — and stay there!’
Rover dived behind the sofa and Claude jumped onto the sideboard, knocking over and smashing to smithereens the hideous vase which had been a wedding present to Mother from her equally hideous Auntie Hortense.
I could tell you a few stories about my Great-Auntie Hortense but suffice it to say that if she weren’t already deceased I would surely have murdered her and damn the consequences.
Anyway, back to my babysitting horror night all those years ago when the aforementioned Hortense was still very much alive although God knows in which dragon cave she was living. But I digress . . .
The next few hours went so slowly that I thought all the clocks and watches in the house had died. It was like when your kids are little and you throw a birthday party for them and their bratty pals — and three hours seem more like six. But let’s get back to the plot again . . .
Feeding time was a real barrel of laughs. Rover emerged from behind the sofa and ate Claude’s chunky tuna. The cat reciprocated with a lightning raid on Rover’s bowl and wolfed down my mutt’s beef and turkey.
Then both animals called a truce and polished off my egg and chips.
I was by now becoming very twitchy. In times of stress I like to go to the pictures. Did I ever tell you that when I was young I had been known to visit the cinema twice in one day? That night, I couldn’t even go once. How could I leave a dotty dog and a crazy cat alone in the house?
I switched on the telly but every channel seemed to be showing a fly-on-the-wall documentary about vets. So after making sure that both Rover and Claude were sleeping-off their (and mine) heavy meals, I put on my jacket and went for a walk.
I hadn’t got 20 paces from the front door when I was suddenly stricken with guilt. What if Rover and Claude woke up to find that I wasn’t there. Would they pine to death for lack of human company? I would never be able to forgive myself.
So I returned home and switched the telly back on. It was showing a Hollywood film entitled The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
I sighed so loudly that my furry charges commenced to stir in their sleep — accompanied by the unmistakable churning stomach sounds which heralded the onset of throwing-up from food over-indulgence.
‘Don’t you dare ruin the carpet!’ I warned them and rushed to open the front door.
As the creatures raced into the garden, I thought that things could not get any worse. Then a figure marched into the house.
‘You!’ I shrieked.
‘Out of my way!’ snapped Great-Auntie Hortense. ‘I’ve come to visit my vase!’