Most Tuesday nights I take part in a women’s group in the estate. It’s held in Ma’s house – Ma being Red (my ex)’s mother – and she is a loon. I have said this to her face, and she doesn’t seem to disagree, so I don’t feel bad about saying so here. I’ve decided I need to keep track of some of the things that occur during a typical Tuesday night, lest I ever lose sight of the sheer ludicrousy of it and start to think my life is ordinary.
The main thing to grasp about Ma is her total lack of understanding of the basics of the English language. She’s particularly prone to pronouncing words incorrectly, spelling them unrecognisably, confusing similar-sounding ones (a favourite of mine is “It’s just a phrase I’m going through”, although I did also enjoy a recent conversation about “tarantula rain”) and, quite bizarrely, combining 2 or 3 different ones to form a whole new one. In the latter case, I’ve noted with interest that the words don’t even have to share similarities of meaning, e.g. “flemished”, which appears to be a combination of “flinched” and either “famished” or “blemish” and is said in sentences like “He was trying to pick a fight, but I never even flemished.”
Ma aside, there’s such a mix of characters in that group that sometimes I just sit in complete bewilderment, trying to take it all in. There’s Jo: hot-headed, direct, honest and highly-strung. Kate: innocent, gentle, polite and easily embarrassed. B: loud, often crude, says what she thinks and ends every sentence with “But do you know what I mean, like?”. Me: easily amused, giggly, unshockable and pretty quiet, all things considered. Others drift in and out of the group, but that’s the core.
One day, when I have less desire to sleep than I do right now, I may tell you some of the Madhouse Tales, like when Ma took off her trainers and the smell forced us out of the house, or when some Southern dudes called to see the washing machine doing a dance in the kitchen. For now, I’ll make do with sharing my top three snippets of conversation tonight…
Breast Enlargement: Ma’s way
Jo: I’ve prayed for bigger boobs.
Ma: You should book yourself into hospital for one of those… boob… transplants.
Me: (suppressing insane laughter) I don’t think they do those on the NHS, Ma.
Kate: Should we be carrying donor cards, do you think?
Friendship: Ma’s way
Jo: Ma landed round with a packet of chocolate digestives and a flippin’ multipack of crisps.
Kate: (soothingly) Maybe she didn’t know you were fasting.
Jo: (indignantly) Course she did, she sponsored me!!
Similes: Ma’s way
Ma: She’s lovely, but she’s as mad as a bag of nuts.
Me: (in delight) Mad as a what now?
Jo: (dubiously) I’ve heard of mad as a bag of monkeys…
Kate: (helpfully) Cross as a bag of weasels?
Ma: Half a pound of WHAT?
Tuesday nights at the Madhouse. Free entertainment by the bucketload.