Three little words just aren’t enough these days. I remember a time when I thought that they would always cover every possible emotion and say it all for me. Until my stepmother rang yesterday and told me she was going to start reading my blog.
Oh My God!!!
See how inadequate that is? I really need some sort of primal scream, wrenched from the very roots of my being. Let’s try. Imagine, if you will, an ear-splitting yodel, enough to raise every lazy, croissant-engorged pigeon from the roof of Dulwich College, and you’ll be getting somewhere near the very beginnings of the sound I would like to make, if I had the energy/lung capacity/will to live.
I feel as though I have been caught behind the bikesheds, and that really isn’t nice, at 40-ahem-ahem. ‘How do you even know I have a blog?’ I said, starting my objections at an oblique angle. ‘Oh, someone at the bridge club reads the Telegraph or something ….’ she said. Well, that lets my brothers off, anyway. I was worried that they’d revealed a detail under torture, and gone back on the normal family rules – nothing, ever, ever, ever is said to the parents, on the simple grounds that they don’t need to know and wouldn’t understand even if they did.
I remember X once laughing hysterically, when I said that I came from a close family. He pointed out that we three children all lived, at that time, on different continents. Well, yes, I admitted. But we’re close. And you hardly ever speak to each other, he continued. Or see each other. Or ….Well, ok, but we’re still close, I insisted, and I think that holds true.
But my stepmother? Reading my blog? Really, there is no need. Her worst fears about me have already come true – look, I’m divorced! My life is messy! I’m attempting (very badly) to support myself and my children (though doubtless both Mr X and True Love would laugh very hollowly at this)! Really, Joan, it can’t get much worse.
And, in the course of that telephone conversation, she not only told me she was going to start reading the blog, but also threw in that she’d been to lunch at a friend’s daughter’s house and the garden ‘was as big as a park,’ someone else’s daughter was having a big wedding anniversary party, and yet another woman who had had the appalling bad taste to inflict a divorce on her family had redeemed herself in the nick of time by getting married again, to a fabulously wealthy and reliable man. Oh, and did I know that Fiona Bruce was coming to Dulwich with the Antiques Roadshow?
Fiona Bruce, I should explain, was briefly in my class at school, before soaring off into the BBC stratosphere, and was lovely, super-intelligent and obviously destined for stardom even then. Ever since, my stepmother has obsessively followed her career and used it to beat me up with on a regular basis. Did I know that Fiona was on Crimewatch? Had I seen Fiona on the News? Oh, look darling, now Fiona’s doing Call My Bluff .. In fact, even my stepmother has had to give up on this as Fiona is on everything and you’d need some sort of 24 hour TV monitor to keep track of her. But yes, I am aware of the impending Antiques Roadshow, as Fiona’s lovely face is plastered all over leaflets in the Picture Gallery cafe, thanks, Joan. Yes, and I do get the point that she is successful, has children, looks fabulous and, most importantly, is Still Married. No pressure, or anything.
There is one tiny ray of hope, as I contemplate either ending it all or a life of rigorous self-censorship in the future. My stepmother still hasn’t got the hang of ringing my mobile phone (‘So many numbers …..’). There is real hope that the computer will defeat her. ‘You will show me how to get onto this thing next time I’m over, won’t you?’
‘Oh yes,’ I say, airily, going on to mention casually the extraordinary power surges which sometimes leave Dulwich without an Internet connection for hours, nay days, at a time. ‘But of course that hardly ever happens …..’