Here’s the story of 2016, character, and the fuzz.
I think fear is something someone only truly experiences once in a while. Like that time I was being led through a forest blindfolded in the middle of winter, or like that time I was wading through a river as a kid and I got washed away. Stories for another day, I suppose. Then there was that time I was the passenger in a car in a makeshift ‘citizen’s car chase’ when the car ran a red light at a major junction at 30 over the speed limit. That was true fear, readers. It had gone beyond the, ‘ARRRRGH!’ phase and entered the stunned silence phase. I was expecting to wake up and relax knowing it was all a dream. I knew it wasn’t a dream because I don’t remember my dreams. Unless me not remembering my dreams is part of a dream I’m dreaming and I’m dreaming that I’m dreaming in a dream that I can’t remember because I’m actually dreaming. You might wonder how one finds oneself in such a situation, to be clinging to the passenger seat with your eyes closed and your heart beating so fast it’s now a samba. The answer is simple. My mother was driving. And she’s a beautiful lunatic. One who I think sums up the spirit of Christmas…
You see, my mum is a strong-willed and determined person, but she’s also a person of fire. A colourful character that will be the best friend you could hope for but also that person you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of. She doesn’t have much of a temper and she’s generally a gentle person, but she’s also full of life and, quite often, the lives of a million other people, too. There we were on a lovely summer’s day drive, laughing and joking, and then, the red mist descended and she snapped.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car careen into the side of ours, the jolt more than a little frightening. Thinking his sports car could outrun our cheap German efficiency, he put his foot down and fled the scene. Mum, that wonderful, wonderful person, wasn’t best pleased with this turn of events, and so she too put her foot down and the chase was on.
The police would probably like me to tell you not to take the law into your own hands, and I tend to agree with them, but I certainly wouldn’t be the one to tell my mum that. “PULL OVER, PULL OVER, PULL OVER, YOU IDIOT! PULL OVER!” Cue the flashing of the lights, the honking of the horn. “He can’t hear you, mum!” I said. “Get his licence plate number and shut up!” she responded. Thank heavens the traffic was light. I was expecting mum to give up the chase as she approached a light just turning red, but travelling at 60, braking wasn’t an option. Heck, to me, it didn’t seem like I had any say in the matter.
Mum soon realised the idiot wasn’t going to stop and this chase was rather futile. Best stop and call the – hang on, did he just stick his fingers up at us! “Did he just do that! OH, THAT’S IT, I’VE HAD ENOUGH NOW!” This made her more determined and me wishing I’d packed some clean underwear.
The chase rumbled on for mile after mile, with mum doing well to keep up, but eventually, it became clear our German tank of a car was no match for his sporty vehicle on the tight and winding roads near the hills. By this point, a police car had shown up wondering what the hell was going on. Such is the power of my mum’s words that the cops immediately knew she was telling the truth. They gave her a polite talking to, of course, but seconds later, they were in hot pursuit of the reckless nutter quickly disappearing into the horizon. It gave us a warm fuzzy feeling when we were informed that they had arrested him. “You see, you see! I was right in going after him!” “Mum, nobody thinks that!”
The less said about the time she crashed her car into a council lawnmower, the better…
You might wonder why I adore her so much and why I speak of the car chase with pride. I know it was dangerous and all that, but there’s something about someone doing that that I can’t help but love. It demonstrates perfectly her character. She takes nothing for granted and makes her own path in life, with her own two hands. She’s done it all, a life well lived. All 67 years of it. Born on a farm and helping out with all the dirtiest, ungainly and unwieldy tasks from as young as five. Working ridiculous hours and ridiculous numbers of jobs to make a living. She made her own wedding dress and had to sell it to make ends meet. Found a job as a caretaker and 35 years later, retires. Somehow, through it all, she’s found time to raise a family with my dad and make an impression on the world few do. The hundreds of cards she’s got from kids at that school who she helped out, offered a kind ear to, and, in general, was a friend for, brought a tear to my eye. And she’s never grumbled. She’s never complained. She’s got on with it. She’s a working class hero of steel and iron. One of grit and determination. When she put her foot on that accelerator there was a part of me thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s my mum!’ She’s on a million and one pills a day for various ailments, she has arthritis and struggles to get up the stairs. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face. A life well lived and, now she retired this past week, she can take a well-earned break. Although I don’t imagine she’ll ever take it easy.
It’s not all been candyfloss and puppies, of course. I’m reminded of that time a few years back when her car was stolen. She was locking up the school. She’d driven out of the car park and got out to lock the gates. Some opportunistic punks saw their opportunity, got in and drove off. Mum, oh mum – you guessed it – she chased after them. On foot! She even managed to get the driver door open! I mean, these kids were around 15 and she was 53 at the time. 53! What a brilliant woman. Sadly, the youths pushed her to the ground and she was injured. She wasn’t the same for quite a while, yet even through this most trying of periods she came out fighting. Stronger than ever. Those kids were arrested, in case you’re wondering. They’d rolled the car, but at least they’re rotting in jail…
We’ve had a very difficult 2016 and we can only hope beyond all hope that 2017 is a much quieter and more peaceful year. There’s very much a sense of ‘getting on with it,’ isn’t there? Terrorist atrocities and death after death. ‘We have to brave and fearless.’ I don’t think anyone believes that. I think we’re all terrified. And there’s no shame in that. It is a scary world. But not a bleak one. Christmas is awash with Christmas spirit, but what is Christmas spirit and what is its place in such a world as this? I think my mum is that spirit. And I think she symbolises how we move forward. She never stops smiling. She’s incredibly determined and strong-willed. She’s colourful. She’s memorable. And when she literally got knocked down, she got right back up again. She spent time on a farm and spent 35 years cleaning a school. And decorating it. And putting up boards and plastering. And fixing holes in the roof. All by herself. She was on the roof last week. At 67!
This is what we should be like. God knows I’ve tried to emulate her for 26 years. Like her, we should embrace life and each day we’re given. Never give up. Be full of life and determination. Make the best of what we have and try to build our own roads for our own futures, not have them determined by events elsewhere. To fight and keep fighting. And know, beyond any doubt, that when the wind is knocked out of our sails, that there will be a future, one not the same as our past, but one enhanced by the strength of our unique and colourful characters.
Fuck 2016. It’s Christmas time. Regardless of who you are, enjoy it. Love it. And never, ever, let go of that happiness…
American cartoonist, William ‘Bil’ Keane (1922-2011), once said: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
Merry Christmas :|:
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