Soap January 27, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I have become my father’s son. Well, I mean, I always was him, but, with inevitable predictability, I am actually turning into my father.
Which needn’t necessarily have been the case. Our early lives could hardly have been more different. Well, we’re both youngest sons. But my father grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Whereas I am a Londoner born and bred. Whereas my father’s teenage years would have been spent, no doubt, doing things like milking cows and shooing hungry foxes, mine were spent bunking off school and, when I did occasionally make my way in, spending hours in HMV on Oxford Street with my pals on the way home and being laughed at by Scandinavian tourists because of our school uniform.
Now remember that American comedy Soap? With Billy Crystal playing the gay son and that confusing round-up they had at the beginning or end, or perhaps beginning and end, of every episode? I was addicted. Both because it seemed daring and raunchy at the time – I must have been about 10 – and there was a gay character. I think I even managed to make myself fancy Billy Crystal, which is no mean feat (although there was a much dishier brother played by Ted Wass). And there just didn’t seem to be many gay characters around on TV at the time – Colin and his filofax came to Eastenders years later – and even though the UK charts must have been awash with poofs, the actual g-word was probably never mentioned and I was too dim to make the connection. And of course I thought Freddie Mercury doing the hoovering with massive fake knockers and a moustache was just the fashion of the time.
So this is where my family life and romantic life get Soap-like. My ex – though not till years later. Well, he wasn’t even my present till years later. I didn’t have a boyfriend at 10 – was my brother’s best pal at school. My ex and my brother are 8 years older than me. This means my ex, then my pre, was already in my life when I was about 6. He was an absolute regular at our house. He and my brother used to do teenagerly things together. He would stay the night. My sisters were known to comment on his good looks. I would remain tactically silent. My pre, or rather my brother’s pal, as he would then still have been qualified, became a pal of the whole family. When he and my brother fucked up their A Levels, my brother went back to school to resit but my pre went to work for my father.
The pre/ex and I come from rather different families. Whereas the greatest achievement by my ancestors was perhaps winning the fastest cow-milking competition in the land – yes, mother a farm-girl too – everyone in the pre/ex’s family had written twenty novels, had had countries named after them and had invented the wheel. While my grandmothers and great-aunts were perhaps honing their udder-skills, the pre/ex’s grandmothers and great-aunts were going to Oxford and Cambridge or turning their progeny into concert pianists. Which made for good fun when our two families ran into each other.
The pre/ex’s mother – then just a disembodied posh voice but later to become my sort-of (now ex) mother-in-law, good pal and source of or inspiration for every witticism in this blog – is/was a shrink and a worrier. When my pre/ex was a teenager, his mother would ring our house if he hadn’t come home for the night. Sure enough, he would be safely ensconced at our place. When my pre/ex got that first job, in a spectacular career non-move, working for my father, his mother would still phone our house to check if her son was with us. And he always was. Her calls were a moment of some excitement. We didn’t have that much contact with posh types and she even had an odd, posh name for good measure. She and my parents became firm telephone friends.
Now my father liked a drink. As did/does my pre/ex. Their work-place must have had the highest booze consumption of any organisation outside a Russian moonshine factory. When work was done for the day, the men would troop off, as one, to their pub and stay there till they would team off in an early take on the car-pool and the designated driver, barely tipsy after 13 pints, would decide it was time to call it a night. The pre/ex was very frequently my father’s designated driver as, aged 18, he could, naturally, easily take his ale and drive the two of them home where my mother would have two once-steaming dinners waiting for them, keeping warm on covered plates atop a saucepan of simmering water.
Fast-forward a gazillion years. My father had shuffled off his mortal coil, the pre/ex was now very much my present and the posh, disembodied voice had become my pal. And, having never met a single member of my family, but for my older brother, she knew more about my family from those fretful phone calls than I did. “Darling, has present ever told you about my most famous phone call with Mr. BiB senior?” The present looked on blankly, aware that my innocence was about to be shattered. “No? Then I’ll begin…”
Then-pre/now-ex’s mother put in one of her regular phone calls. My father, fresh in from a quick 19 pints after work, picked up the phone. Telephonic mores were abandoned as soon as he’d put her mind at rest that her son was safe and sound on the sofa, sloshing with beer, tepid potatoes and probably clutching my father’s car-keys. The conversation went south. “Then-pre/now-ex’s mother, Mrs. BiB (senior) – though there isn’t a junior – has locked the bedroom door.” “Oh.” “She’s been locking the bedroom door for six years.” “Oh.” Then-present/now-ex’s mother had perhaps never had a moment so tricky in all her shrinking days. “For six fucking years…” She consoled her son’s drunk employer, whom she’d never met, as best she could.
I took the intelligence like a man, grateful for this belated insight into my parents’ ancient history.
Fast-forward to the present, in which the ex is now my ex, but still my pal, his mother is still my pal and the Russian is my present. I too now like a drink, though thankfully, as a freelancer, don’t have a timetable or logistic arrangements allowing for a quick 19 pints on the way home. Nor do I have a driver. The Russian and I are at a busyish separate-lives sort of stage. No time for proper dinner. Just both wolfing down helpings from a vat of chicken soup of the Russian’s confection. As I went for helping number 12 yesterday, I thought it would be awfully nice to wash it down with 19 pints of red wine. I assumed, though, to my chagrin, that there was none in the house. I randomly opened every cupboard in the house, hoping there might be a bottle discarded in a moment of carelessness, and to my amazement found one nestling promisingly. I gently closed the kitchen door and opened it as noiselessly as I could manage. I finished wolfing and trundled back to my computer with my glass still very much half-full. “Un très bon choix,” I cackled triumphantly to the Russian through the crack in his door, like a child with an ice-cream.
This was my mistake.
When I returned to the kitchen about 13 seconds later to top up my glass, the bottle was gone. I rescoured the cupboards, but it was nowhere to be seen. It dawned on me that the Russian perhaps hadn’t appreciated my triumphant solo-drinking. And the bedroom door was locked.
But who might phone for me to pour my heart out to? “The Russian’s locked the bedroom door. I have become my father.”
Faithful bloggers. You do come in handy.