Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wolfgang in sheep's clothing: Part Two
The drive back to Mum's was pretty quiet. Every time I tried to start a conversation with her she ended up bringing it round to Roger. How Roger and her are getting quite serious now. How they're thinking of taking it to 'the next stage', whatever that meant. I found it hard to believe that she could be talking about the physical side of their relationship. I doubt my mother would give me notice that she was planning to reawaken the slumbering beast of her carnality. And, frankly, I would not want to know about it if that was her intention. So I supposed that she could only mean marriage.
"Your Dad's been gone a long time, Barry," she said. "And Roger's a far better man than he was."
I couldn't really argue with her on this one. My Dad was a first class shit, as regular readers will know. I count myself lucky every day that I don't take after him in the least. Not that the comparison makes Roger a good man, of course. I'm pretty sure Pol Pot would edge it over my Dad. I bet he never ran off with a lollipop lady. Although Pol Pot's Lollipop would make for a good tune, I suppose.
Anyway, the last thing I wanted to hear about was Mum banging on about hitching her cart to Roger's wagon, so when she said: "I had hoped you might be pleased for me..." I just put my ipod on. I needed to focus, and I'm afraid Mum just had to be a casualty of war at that point.
Back at the house Roger was there to greet us, wearing a smug expression that seems to be a permanent fixture. He has the most slap-able chops I've ever seen on a man. Take Nicky Campbell, multiply his slapability by that of Piers Morgan, add the corresponding value for Michael McIntyre and, well, you're not even close.
We went inside and he insisted that the first thing I did was to introduce myself to his mother.
"And here we are, Barry," he said, "just as I promised. Two fine men sharing Christmas with their mothers. I'd like to introduce to my dear, dear mother, Greta. Mother, this is Barry."
"He looks like a skinhead. Is he a skinhead?"
"No, no mother. It's quite the fashion these days for men who are losing their hair to shave what's left off altogether."
"Like on Eastenders?" she said.
"That's right, Mother dear. Like on Eastenders."
I nearly hit him. I don't think I've ever seen an older looking woman in my life. I'd say she looked old for 96, really. Anyway, I shook her hand, which felt like paper, and went upstairs to my room. At least they hadn't taken down my Forest posters. But my old room made me feel claustrophobic. Like I'd never left, except here was me, the bad side of 35, lying on a child's bed in a room decorated with pictures of Forest's 1980 European Cup winning side. It felt a bit like dwelling on past glories, if you know what I mean.
So in the end, I bolted. I went downstairs, told Mum I was heading out and went to the pub. It was full of kids. But I found a table in the corner and waited it out. By the time I got back the place was dark and quiet. At least until I tripped over Roger's mum's walking stick. It wasn't the most dignified of entrances, I guess. When you're lying on the floor in your Mum's house, a little over refreshed, at my age, looking up the stairs at your Mum, her new bloke (the tip of whose cock you think you can just about see under his short dressing gown) and your Mum's new bloke's mum (fortunately in a long dressing gown) well you could look at it as a new low, couldn't you. Unfortunately, before Christmas Day was out, I was to look back on this moment as a golden memory of happier times.
I didn't get up until after one, by which stage the others were already on the sherry. There was no option for me but to take the proffered glass from Roger, I needed to steel myself.
"So Barry, did you have a good night last night?" he said, with a smirk. "I trust you slept well. We've been waiting for you. We were hoping to be able to open some presents but I'm afraid the wonderful turkey your mother's been preparing is now ready to be consumed. So we will have presents, ahem, presently." My mum actually laughed at this.
Dinner was wasted on me, if I'm honest, despite it containing all my favourite constituent parts. Roger even had the ability to spoil my food. As I sat pushing sticky toffee pudding round my plate I noticed from the wall clock that it was ten to three. I had a brainwave.
"Come on then," I said. "Let's go and watch the Queen's Speech."
"The Queen's Speech?" said Mum. "You hate the Queen's Speech."
"Not any more," I said. "It's important, isn't it Roger."
"If you say so, Barry," said Roger.
I insisted that they all move through to the living room and we switched on the telly. I fucking hate the Queen's Speech, Mum was right. But this gave me the opportunity to talk serious nationalism. And I have to say, the Queen did not let me down. It was all about the Commonwealth this year, which looked like nothing so much as a desperate, last ditch attempt to keep people focused on something other than all of the shit that's currently going on right here at home. I think we all know that the days when Britain was a serious international power in it's own right are long gone. I bet the Chinese ambassador was just quaking when she got called in to be told that her country shouldn't have executed that bloke this week. Not that we're doing anything about it, of course, just registering our disapproval. Speaking as someone who went on the stop the war march, I'd have thought that the Government would know that registering disapproval is pretty much pointless.
So, as the national anthem came on I stood up and put my fist to my chest. The rest of them looked at me like I was completely mad.
"Come on Roger, stand up!" I said. "Don't you believe we should respect our nation? She's everything to us!"
"I don't feel the need to stand up, Barry," he said.
So there I was standing up in my Mum's living room, fist to chest, singing the National Anthem all on my own. I was starting to feel it all slipping away a bit. The last thing I am is a monarchist. I can't stand the Royal Family. But I'd got so far into this that I couldn't get out. I made one last attempt after the speech was over.
"Well Barry, what did you think of that?" said Roger.
"It was a bit... ethnic, wasn't it?" I said. "I mean, they had a bloody steel band. That's not British, is it. That's now what we're about, is it Roger?"
"Actually, I adore the sound of the steel band," said Roger. "I used to play in one."
"What the bloody hell for?" I said. "You're white!"
"Oh for crying out loud just shut up!" shouted Mum, and then burst into tears. "I don't know what's going wrong with you, Barry. You turn up here looking like a bloody football hooligan. Your face is all gaunt, your eyes are dark. You could be on drugs for all I know. And you've developed the most... odious outlook. It sickens me, Barry. How could you be so prejudiced."
"It's not me, Mum," I said, "It's Roger. He's a facist! I'm just trying to show you!"
"HE IS NOT A FACIST, HE'S A VERY NICE MAN INDEED." Mum screamed. "Now, get out, I've had enough. I'm ashamed to call you my son. I don't want anything more to do with you," At this point, she ran from the room, sobbing. I'll be honest, it wasn't my finest hour.
I turned to Roger, who was smiling. He walked over to me and put a hand on my shoulder.
"Barry, Barry, Barry," he said. "When are you going to learn. Your mother can't stand those views. She can't stand them. You're going about it all the wrong way, let me tell you. In some ways, I admire your vigour, your verve. We need more like you. But if there's one thing we've learned it's that you have to change, you have to modernise, you have to become like the people you want to appeal to. How do you think we got a Labour government? All this..." here he waved a hand at my haircut, and my 18-hole, cherry red DMs, "all this is yesterday's news. We can't be like this any more."
"Eh?" I said.
"We're politicians now. We want to get elected. You see? We can't be seen as thugs, it just won't do. It won't help us."
"Look, I'm with you, I really am. For me, Hitler was the greatest statesman the world has ever known. He had a plan. A vision."
At this point, my head was spinning. And then Greta piped up:
"Ah, the dear, dear Fuhrer. You know for five months in 1943 I had the great, great honour of being one of his secretaries. Deutschland über alles mein Sohn."
"Deutschland über alles meine Mutter," said Roger. Then she stood up and the pair of them started singing O Tannenbaum! I couldn't fucking believe it.
I made a run for it, stopping only to grab my bag and a present with my name on it from under the Tannenbaum. As I left the house I suddenly remembered my voice recorder! In the middle of all that I'd completely forgotten to switch it on! Right then and there I had what I was looking for, and it had slipped straight through my fingers. My Mum, the woman I loved most in the world, hated me and had told me she never wanted to see me again. Meanwhile, she was shacked up with a neo Nazi and his mother; a woman who could probably be tried as a fucking war criminal! That's not what Christmas is supposed to be about.
I checked into a cheap hotel and, once in the room, opened my present. It was from Mum. The label said: "Dear Barry, I know how much you want to be a writer, so I thought this would come in useful. Lots of love, your Mum. xxx"
It was a thesaurus.
My feelings of loss and guilt were Brobdingnagian.
Happy new year, everyone