Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Obdurate, Perverse and obstreperous








Mid morning peace reigns.

My daughter is off roller skating with a pal.

Spouse has taken the boys to the barber, one for a hair cut, one to observe.

I take a bottle of beer from the garage and pick up my mum for a chat. One of my mother’s more endearing qualities is her frankness. She rarely dissembles and always speaks her mind. I am never in any doubt about her views. In a country where many have the most skillful command of deception, my mother speaks plainly, which some would call blunt.
“Hi mum!”
“Hello dear. What’s with the ‘hi,’ what’s wrong with an ‘hello’? I wish you’d remember to called me mother rather than that dreadful ‘mum.’ We don’t normally hear from you on a Saturday! Is everything under control?”
“Yes but it’s all quiet here so I thought I’d steal the moment.” I chop the onion with the telephone in the crick of my shoulder because productivity cannot be curtailed by chatting..
“What’s that funny noise?”
“Just chopping.”
“What’s that beeping noise?”
“The microwave. I’m defrosting the beef.”
“Oh how disgusting.”
“Disgusting?”
“Microwaves.”
“Ah. You know I’m sure you’d find one very useful in your kitchen. You really should give it a go.”
“I’ve lived on this planet for 80 years. Of all the things that I need in my life right now, a microwave doesn’t even come close. The subject is officially closed. Why do you always have to be so obstreperous? Does everyone have a microwave in America?” I try not to sigh. For some unknown reason I have been cast in the role of translator of all things American. Woe to all the American people’s for such a poor mediator.
“Most people do…….I think. I think most people do in England now too.”
“How would you know?”
“Um…..well……you’re probably right. I don’t expect anyone has a microwave in England, it’s a subject I’m completely ignorant of.”
“Don’t end a sentence with ‘of,’ dear, it’s so…….common. You do talk so strangely these days. How does anyone ever understand you?”
“Well I try to be less snitty.”
“Snitty? What on earth is ‘snitty’? Where do you get all these foreign words from?”
“Snotty then.”
“I think that might be worse. Why are you allowing yourself to be dragged down by these Americans? You must try harder to maintain standards.”
I peel the carrots and tip them into the pot with the celery, herbs, mustard and pepper. I try deflection.
“Oh I finished that sweater by the way.”
“Jumper dear. Oh good. I’m so glad you’ve taken up knitting again.”
“Really. Why?”
“Oh I don’t know…..I suppose……..it’s just so……. normal.”
“I’ve looked into joining a club actually.”
“A club? What sort of a club?”
“A knitting club.” I add a drop more olive oil and stir.
“A knitting club? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“Really?”
“Does anyone knit in America?”
“Yes they do.”
“Really? Proper knitting? Our sort of knitting?”
“?”
“You know what I mean, don’t be so difficult. You know, with needles not one of those new fangled knitting machines, that’s not really proper knitting at all.”
“Oh right, yes they knit with needles, we call them pins here.”
“We? Pins? Doesn’t that make needlework very confusing? Why do they call them pins, why don’t they call them needles?”
“The Pilgrim Father’s banned all reference to needles during the trans-Atlantic crossing.”
“Oh don’t be so silly. Surely you don’t have time for a knitting club? What would be the point?”
“It’s all the rage out here, very therapeutic.”
“Therapeutic? What do you mean? How could knitting be therapeutic?”
“There’s a club called Stitch and Bitch in Willow Glen.”
“What did you say?”
“Stitch and Bitch. You knit and chat, very therapeutic.”
“How disgusting! How could you bring yourself to even say it?”
“I thought it was quite funny actually.”
“Funny? How could that possibly be funny. What on earth has happened to your sense of humour since you’ve been out there. You’ve picked up the most peculiar mannerisms. Why are you always so perverse?”
“Um…….I’ve been practising? Anyway, I’m trying a new technique.”
“What kind of a technique?”
“A knitting technique whereby you knit two socks at the same time on one flexible needle, you know the kind with a cable joining the two needles.”
“How odd. Is that an American technique?”
“Um…..it’s an American book or rather the book that explains the technique is American.”
“Why would anyone want to knit a pair of socks? You can buy packs of them for less than the cost of a skein of wool, even given the current exchange rate.”
“Yes, but they have seams.”
“Seams? So what?”
“Well we need less seams in our lives.”
“We do?”
“Believe me we do.”
“Buy seamless ones then, don’t both to knit them.”
“They’re very expensive. I’d need to take out a second mortgage to cover the boys feet in seamless socks for a week.”
“Oh! The boys. Of course. You do so indulge their little foibles dear.”
“It’ll be fun to learn something new.”
“Why would anyone want to do that?”
“What? Learn something new? I want to learn something new.”
“Why?”
“It’s to avoid the sock curse.”
“What sock curse? I’ve never heard of the sock curse. Is that an American curse?”
“Well there’s the curse about losing one sock in the wash, that’s an international curse, but then there’s also the curse of finishing one sock and then lacking the enthusiasm to finish the second.”
“Really? I’ve never heard of such a thing. That can’t be true or maybe it’s just American. Maybe American’s are cursed with only being able to knit one sock?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why?”
“Because I know lots of American knitters. I know lots of American sock knitters and they always complete their pairs.” I rifle through the kitchen drawer.
“Well it sounds……bizarre…..who needs new techniques when the old ways are perfectly fine.”
“Don’t you remember Katherine?”
“Katherine the American?”
“Yes.”
“What’s she got to do with anything?”
“Don’t you remember that she showed us how to knit a sweater in a round, on one of those double needles connected by a cable?”
“Ooo, now you mention it I do remember that. Wasn’t that peculiar?”
“The sweater looked great!”
“Jumper! Why do you always do that?”
“Do what?”
“Jump to their defense?”
“Whose?”
“Americans.”
“Do I?”
“Yes.”
“Well I suppose it’s because I hate generalizations, except my own of course.”
“When did you become so exasperating?”
“I’m sure I haven’t the foggiest.”
“I’m sure you weren’t as exasperating as this when you lived here.”
“Absence makes the heart grow…….exasperated!”
“Well really! Half your problem is that you don’t get out enough.”
“What’s the other half?”
“Don’t change the subject. You need to get out more, meet the right people widen your social circle.”
“My circle is already very wide.”
“But they’re all lame ducks, all peculiar. You’ve always been so contrary.” I decide to head her off before we sink into a well worn path. “I’m glad you’re up and about again. Dad says you’re healthier than ever!”
“What would he know. I could be at death’s door and he wouldn’t notice.”
I look for something that will open a bottle of beer. I give up and use the can opener instead.
“What’s that clink?”
“Beer.”
“Beer?”
“Yes I just opened a bottle of beer.” I pour it onto the vegetables and add the cubed beef and potatoes.
“A bottle of beer? How foul!”
“It’s the American equivalent of Guiness.”
“You’re drinking beer? How vile. What time is it over there?”
“10:30 in the morning. I find it goes very well with knitting, very therapeutic. Soon I shall be so relaxed I’ll be horizontal.”
“Oh! You know I worry about you dear. You’ve become very odd in your middle years. It’s not a development I wish to dwell upon.”
“I suspect I’ve probably always been rather odd.”
“Don’t talk about yourself like that……..it’s not……”
“Not what?”
“Nice.”
“Nice? I thought you said I should never use the word ‘nice,’ that ‘nice’ is a non word only used by philistines and commoner who lacked imagination.”
“Why are you always so obdurate?”
“The gene pool I suspect. I was obdurate in England, now I’m merely peculiar.”
“Exactly! What do you mean the ‘gene pool’? Are you teasing me?”
“Which bit?”
“Any bit?”
“Well maybe just a little bit.”
“It’s a pity you’re too big to be put over my knee.”
“It’s a pity your knees are in England.”

13 comments:

Awesome Mom said...

Your conversations always crack me up. I am struggling with second sock syndrome right now. I have my second sock about half done, but can't seem to push past that and finish the darn thing.

flutter said...

"our kind of knitting" LOL!

Linda said...

Now I know that there are a lot of things that are different between America and Britain but I never knew that knitting was one of them! I thought it was the same universally.

I also think "Stitch and Bitch" is a lovely name for a knitting club but you'll have to pardon me that as I guess it makes me quite colonial now, doesn't it??

Karen said...

What a great conversation! You have lots of patience with your mom (whoops, mother!); I'm sure she would say she has lots of patience with you, too!

The Anti-Wife said...

What an hysterical conversation. Thanks for sharing it.

The Anti-Wife said...

PS. I'm not a cannibal. Please see my blog for further information.

frog ponds rock... said...

Gosh I was quite exhausted at the end of that... hehehehe

cheers kim :)

LceeL said...

I am wearing, at this very moment (at least, at the moment I'm writing this) a sweater (no wait, jumper!) my 82 year old mother just knitted for me. It is warm and toasty and made with love by gnarled old fingers that otherwise would get stiff from disuse. All of the (many, MANY) women and girls in our extended family (my wife has 5 sisters) have hats, mittens and scarves knitted by Grannie and they are warm and stylish. When she's not knitting, Grannie likes to surf the Internet. I have sent her a link to your post. I'm sure she'll enjoy it. I know I did.

Whitenoise said...

Very funny, even more so when imagined with a shrill, english accent. ;-)

Memphis Steve said...

"obstreperous" "obdurate" - wow! I've never actually known anyone who uses either of these words in a real conversation.

Your mother has quite a few opinions, doesn't she? Especially where you are concerned. You must be remarkably patient and calm to handle that so well.

Anne said...

I had to get the dictionary out for those words!

Joker The Lurcher said...

i'm not sure i would be as patient as you...

Rachel said...

I know I wouldn't be as patient as you.