Mobile phone conversations, Russell Brand, and birthday cakes

I overheard a rather disturbing conversation last night on the train coming home from class. It was late, after 9pm and after dark. The train was crowded as usual. I was sitting and the man was standing right over me, talking into his mobile phone. He looked about fortyish, dark haired, well dressed, obviously in some executive job. His voice, the expression on his face, even his body language, said ‘impatient’ and ‘exasperated’.

‘Just tell it to go away,’ he kept saying, ‘just walk away from it, just go home…’ and a few other phrases I can’t remember.

The voice on the other end sounded young, female and distraught. His tone suggested that he was talking to his child, rather than an adult. He seemed dismissive, unconcerned, as though the person on the other end was making an unnecessary fuss. Normally I hate mobile phone conversations on trains, especially pompous, self important businessmen who talk like they’re captains of industry, or young women loudly sharing their intimate private lives or social arrangements with their fellow passengers. But this time I was straining to listen and work out what was happening at the other end, building a picture in my mind. Not just out of nosiness, but concern. The person at the other end was obviously out and about, walking somewhere, because the man kept saying ‘just go home.’  It might be a predatory male perhaps, who was following them, making them feel threatened, but the man kept referring to an ‘it’. The picture in my mind was a stray dog. But ‘it’ could also have been a car. A kerb crawler? Following his daughter home?

Now it could have been an elderly mother, perhaps with dementia, but why would an old person be out walking the streets at night? His impatient dismissive attitude could indicate perhaps an elderly confused person who repeatedly did silly things and went wandering off, like that awful scene in Iris, where Judy Dench goes walkabout. But my guess was that it was his teenage daughter.

I will never know, because he got off at the next stop, but it has been bothering me ever since. What upset me most was his evident lack of concern. If that had been my daughter, or my gaga old mum, or my wife, (it was definitely a female voice and sounded like a family member), out and about somewhere, in distress, being followed, I would have been beside myself with worry. I would have been in frantic tears, telling who ever it was to call the police, knock on someone’s door, whatever. He just didn’t seem worried. I still am.

For mothers in particular, that umbilical cord is never quite severed. Your offspring, however old they are, never stop being your babies. You never stop worrying about them. I now know what I must have put my parents through. And no doubt the same experience awaits my daughter later on. It’s scant comfort, when I have those moments of ‘this is what I remember my mother used to say to me and now I understand’ and ‘she will understand this later on when she has her own child.’

Last Monday we had a family outing, a birthday treat for Izzy and Dan, whose birthdays are a week apart. In the old days, a family outing would be a trip to Thorpe Park or Legoland, a picnic by a lake or a day at the beach. This time is was Russell Brand. And he was beyond brilliant. It was a philosophical dissertation laced with hilarious filth and biting satire, with a brilliant punch line. He reeled off complex, highly sophisticated sentences and every word was heard and followed. He quoted Nietszche and Wittgenstein and no-one felt patronized. He had a right old go at David Cameron and the Daily Mail, slaughtered globalised capitalism and patriarchal monotheism, all the things I hate. He worships the feminine divine! Women are goddesses. I’ll buy that. Never mind that it’s so he can get laid after the show, I forgive him his concupiscence. I can’t imagine being able to stand on a stage and spout your mouth off for two hours and remember everything I was going to say, and keep an audience of 3000 completely enthralled. He got a standing ovation at the end. The best thing was, a lot of it related to what I’ve been reading in my Critical theory module at Kingston uni. Not the filthy bits obviously.

We’re having a joint birthday party for Izzy and Dan next Saturday. It had to be done - I had a great idea for the cake…….When Izzy was young I would do these big themed birthday party events, usually based on the latest Disney release, complete with makeshift costumes, fairy grottos, castles, gypsy treasure hunts, teepees and visiting storytellers. The party bags were meticulously themed too. The cakes were not just cakes, they were three act movies with subplots. I had Pocohontas rafting down a waterfall, witches storming castles, mermaids beckoning to hapless sailors, fairytale princesses and a gypsy encampment with a fizzling fire. I made them myself, all bodged together fairly crudely, using a lot of food dye and hundreds and thousands of hundreds of thousands, but it got the idea across.

Maybe one day I will grow up. And by that time, Izzy will be doing the worrying

Posted 268 weeks ago

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