I'll Cross the Stream

By Carolyn Rankin

When did it happen? When did I get to be this grumpy old woman? It must have crept up on me slowly, surely. Or maybe it’s because I’ve had to put up with so much that all my reserves of patience have gradually been worn down.


I remember what my mother was like.


All sorts of quite ordinary things made her angry. Take, for example, the neighbours. Five o’clock only had to appear on the new digital clock for the doorbell to ring, causing the dog to bark as if on cue. Mum would never go to the door at five. Five o’clock was tea time.  Everyone knew that. So it was always up to my dad to go, or worse still, one of us.


Then “who is it? she would shout through the open living room door, leaving the caller in no doubt as to the inconvenience they were causing.


But, of course, we already knew exactly who it was. It was the man next door, with an offering of tomatoes, or blackcurrants, or beer.  And in spite of Mum’s best efforts to discourage him, he still kept coming round.


Then there were the ones further down, the ones with all the screaming kids, who somehow found their way into our garden under the guise of friendship and then had to be fed slices of bread and jam (no butter, mind!) and refreshed with dilute juice and not just any supermarket own-brand rubbish, no, she didn’t stand for that sort of thing in her house at all.


And over the back were the worst of all. Any glimpse of sunshine and out would come the “tranny”, or transistor radio, not the wireless, that word that brought endless mirth to us kids as it seemed so old-fashioned no-one our age used it, only people on Radio 3.


Well, she showed them. Was Beethoven’s Fifth their cup of tea? No matter. Was that loud enough for them? She didn’t give a flying fig!  They could call the police if they didn’t like it.


Nowadays, of course, it’s those people without headphones who get on my nerves. The ones who just play their music on the train, and inflict whatever taste (or lack of it) they possess on the rest of us. 


Oh no! I’m turning into my mother. Next thing I know, I’ll be taking my new laptop with the powerful, new speakers on the train and blasting out Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” to see how they all like it.


After many years of wearing black to attempt to look slimmer, I find myself wearing quite a lot of purple, although not matched with a red hat! Having been told in my younger years that certain colours were “too tarty”, I have decided that bright colours are positively me.


On this very subject, I was recently reliably informed by linguistic experts of some experience and note that the plant some of us have been referring to as fuchsia and pronouncing it fyoosh-a should in fact be pronounced fook-see-ya. Gives it a bit of a different sound. 


I’ve still to try going in to Boots the Chemist and asking for a fook-see-ya lipstick. I wonder what the Lancôme Lady would make of that!


I still have to wonder about all the time spent agonising about what to wear, which can almost paralyse a woman rendering her housebound as she comes to fear disapproval so much that she would rather stay indoors.


No matter that certain individuals of the male gender see fit to grace station platforms wearing grey loose-fitting “joggy bottoms” that should have been consigned to the charity shop or even the bin long ago.


But I do pity men working in offices. What colour of shirts are they supposed to wear? Nowadays, the safe options of light blue or white can be supplemented with a pink or pale lilac option, sending their minds into a spin. What if they wear the white shirt on a blue shirt day? Or even worse, the pink shirt on a blue shirt day? How will they all cope with this brave new world that we are living in??


And have you ever been to a Burns Supper where they sing the original version of Auld Lang Syne? As a musician and more particularly a singer, I’ve been to a few.


I wonder what they’d do if someone just refused and sang the better-known tune.


Or have you been in a church where they sang the fourth verse of “O come all ye faithful” when it wasn’t even Christmas Day!


Well, I’ll be seeing you on a local bus or train soon. I’ll be the one belting out “My Way” at the top of my voice and daring you to object. Or join in!


childhood memories, nostalgia, challenging conventions