It started when I was fifteen and she took an instant dislike to my first boyfriend, Johnny Rowbottom who was in my year at Mottershaw Comp.
My mother, with all her airs and graces, never thought he was good enough for me. She used to peer out from behind her bedroom curtains every time he came to take me out and watch us walk down the garden path together. She always denied it, but I knew she was there.
If she just happened to bump into us at home and even when we were out, she would say something like… trailer trash night is it Ellen? In his earshot! And, to his face, do you buy your clothes at the same place as Sid Vicious? If she’d ever looked closely at the poster boys in my bedroom, she would have known Sid outnumbered the rest.
I suppose it was because she kept on and on about how Johnny was not good enough for me that I not only stuck with him, but I married him four years later. Which was just as well as I was already pregnant with Karen.
We started our married life in my old bedroom, it was either that or living in a squat. So in hindsight, it was inevitable really… two nineteen-year-olds and a baby living under the same roof as my mother was never going to work.
Johnny turned out to be rotten anyway and joined the Merchant Navy. We never used to see him for months on end and I think he had a girl in every port, so we got a divorce, eventually. But, by that time my mother’s stock phrase I told you so, had really begun to grate.
It was hard on my own at first, until Karen went to school. I used to look at my single mum friends whose mothers happily stepped in to look after their children whilst they were at work and I remember thinking how lucky they were. My mum and dad always seem to be away on holiday, cruising around the Mediterranean or the Baltic. In fact, I cannot remember one single occasion when my mother offered to look after Karen.
Then I married Arthur Coolie, who was a widower, with a child at the same school as Karen’s. He had his own house, so it seemed like a good idea at the time until I realised he was an alcoholic. His alcoholism bought on because he struggled to get over his first wife, even after he had married me, which was the time my mother reminded me that you marry for better or for worse.
Yes, I was bitter, especially when I started having health problems in my early forties and there was my mother freewheeling towards seventy without any aches and pains. Even now, now careering towards ninety, she is still a way off using a Zimmer frame.
Living in the bungalow she bought after dad died with her sixty-five-year-old toy boy who she refers to as my fountain of youth. I really don’t want to dig deeper into the connotations of that or how he appeared from nowhere to help my mother come to terms with my father’s death. And there was me with MS, two failed marriages behind me, two children, one from each marriage who had both emigrated to Australia.
I adopted a ginger tom, Alouishus, from the local animal shelter to keep me company after alcoholic Arthur went off with the barmaid from the Cat and Custard Pot. Arthur and the tart made the perfect pair, as they were both permanently pissed but credit to them, they supported each other through Alcoholics Anonymous. They are still together, so they were meant to be.
Then Al left me too. He wasn’t meant to be. He got bored with the supermarket food I was buying him and moved in with the woman at number 29 who served her cats proper fish out of a tin. She didn’t seem to have a problem with Al sneaking the odd pilchard, so it didn’t take him long to get his paws under her table.
Al the cat was my last resort on the companionship front. Even my mother had stopped saying things like so-and-so is not good enough for you, her stock phrase having become the chance of meeting Mr Right at your age and state of health is very slim. I was only forty-five then and she’d obviously forgotten that she started cradle snatching at sixty-five… not that I would ever resort to that.
When my mother announced she had changed her will and would be leaving everything, including her bungalow to her fountain of youth, I was devastated. I am her only child, even if she’s always driven me round the twist.
Maybe it was karma, but it was shortly after that I won £20 Million on the National Lottery. My mother, can you believe it, assumed I would be buying a mansion for us both and the toy boy, but she was the one that was devastated when I said I actually liked being alone. I didn’t hold back, I told her I preferred my own company to that of my two ex-husbands, herself, her fountain of youth and the cat, but I hated being lonely.
Much to my mother’s pique, I moved to Australia, reminding her before I left that she had the fountain of her youth to look after her in her bungalow. I bought a winery in Victoria and I live in what used to be the manager’s cottage. Karen and my other daughter moved into the enormous colonial-style house, which is split into two, with their families and they all do their bit to make Ellen’s Estate Wines a successful family business.
They’ve got six children between them… at the moment, and I am happy to look after them anytime.