30 January 1998



I think Im normal. I suppose everyone says that, so perhaps my personal assertion doesnt count for a lot; but I do believe Im an average, ordinary wife and mother.

So why do my children think Im odd? Peculiar? Possibly even in need of professional counselling?

A mother should, I am told, complain at having to endure Top of The Pops every week. A mother should not join in and sing along. A proper mother, I am also advised, should periodically scream up the stairs to "turn that awful racket down!" She shouldnt ask to borrow the tape.

Admittedly, when Michael first played The Prodigy I thought the CD player had gone wrong and I was out of my chair and half way across the room in an attempt to prevent the player from self-destructing, before I realised that the noise was the music and its supposed to sound like that. And even that grows on you. Eventually.

I am also, apparently, sadly lacking in the "youre not going out of the house dressed like that!" department. When Michael came home from University with dark blue hair I rather liked it. It was short, neat and not bright enough to cause people to stare. What more could a mother ask for?

Emma insists Im into my second childhood. Personally, Im not so sure I ever left my first.

Of course, Christmas is a golden opportunity to let some of my "soft" out. This year we had a small family gathering (eight of us) at my sisters house. I have learnt over the years that Christmas at home is punctuated by phrases such as "Ill only be a minute" and "Ive just got this little job…" all of which involve wellies and winter coat and usually result in a strong smell of sheep and a rain of straw on the kitchen floor. Going to Barbaras is my secret weapon. Theres no excuse not to join in. TV is banned for the duration (though the video may be used in extreme circumstances) and out come the Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and other desperate games, followed swiftly by charades and assorted card games.

After being Old Maid five times in a row and beginning to feel just a little type-cast I suggested we had a change to Cheat. I had no idea my family was so dishonest and devious. They cheated with relish and, what is worse, with straight faces. Im sure I cant think who they get it from.

Well, Christmas is all over and done with now, for another year. I know its over because our local supermarket is clearing shelf space for the Easter eggs. Does anyone ever actually buy them at this time of year?

Mind you, Emma still has some left over from last year. She gave up chocolate for Lent. No chocolate bars or drink, no cake or even choc-chip cookies. She did very well and managed, with much moaning and complaining, to resist all temptation. Only now shes gone right off it altogether. Chocolate biscuits are back in but not chocolate on its own. Hence the Easter eggs.

I would have given her a helping hand if Id known, but unfortunately a mouse found them before I did. So Blue (the sheep-dog) can look forward to a very chocolaty New Year.

I have just been interrupted by my son. The conversation went something like this:

Michael: If you mention me, please dont use my real name.

Me: Why?

Michael: Because someone I know might read it.

Me: Oh, I see. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent.

Michael: Innocent?

Margaret Quartly: Does anyone actually buy Easter eggs yet?

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