I recently shared with you some of my family’s verbal peculiarities in the form of odd sayings that became part of the very fabric of life. Since then of course my brain has been bombarded by other sayings jostling for attention and asking me why I hadn’t picked them and saying it wasn’t fair and slamming doors. Some of the sayings have had to go to their rooms and think about what they did until they are ready to apologise. I explained to them they were letting the family down, they were letting me down, but worst of all, they were letting themselves down, somewhat like the inflatable child with the sharp pin. But that’s another story.
Time for more sayings I think. On the whole this batch of child-terrorising phrases probably helps to explain the damaged psyche that is EBL today. Allons-y!
Don’t pull that face or the wind may change
Grizzly toddlers everywhere are subjected to this kind of verbal and psychological abuse. They are threatened with the prospect of a deformed and ugly face just when they most need a hug. Well, that’s the way it can sometimes seem.
I do remember that I was occasionally interested to see what kind of face I could mould, but never managed to keep it long enough to set, no matter how long I stood in the garden like a determined miniature gargoyle, chin thrust defiantly into the prevailing breeze. As a result I quickly uncovered the duplicity of this particular piece of adult intimidation, and also learned the implicit message that no one loves you if you are not pretty.
EBL is many things but you could not accuse her of prettiness.
Enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers
Another top saying from my grandmother, this particular phrase was utilised to acknowledge breaks in the cloud cover of England when bits of blue sky could peep through and make the end of winter seem a viable proposition. I don’t think it was intended to convey anything more than appreciation for a bit of decent weather, something of great significance in our soggy isles. At least, I never understood it to mean more. Who knows with grandmothers?
I never quite understood why sailors got the nice blue sky for garments, but it sounded pretty darn cool.
It’s a bit black over our Bill’s mother’s
Conversely my mother used this one when the sky was getting ominous with dark cloud and rain looked like it was on the way. And by rain I mean the proper stuff, not a puerile drizzle or heavy Scotch mist, but real, honest-to-deity-of-your-choice solid coat-soaking feet-squelching shoe-drenching hair-dripping pocket-filling neck-freezing rain. The kind that, to coin another phrase, comes down in rods, possibly with cats and/or dogs implicated. Real English rain. It can go on for weeks like that. The phrase was employed with a certain degree of relish, as without such calamities we English have nothing to talk about and conversation while waiting at the bus stop can be terribly stilted.
Of course, I knew that one of my not-really-an-aunty Aunties had an attachment called Uncle Bill, and as our house looked out across a field to more houses I was convinced for years that his dear old mum lived in one of them. But we never visited. Probably because the wind had changed.
It’s not the cough that carried him off, but the coffin they carried him off in
This one was one of my Dad’s, and he would trot it out whenever his delicate little flower was hacking her lungs out with that lovely catarrh-ridden, phlegmy liquidy noise only available to single-digit-aged children or heavy smokers; not mutually exclusive categories of course, especially in those days when as a six year old I could run an errand to the corner shop for my mother to get a pack of 20 John Player’s No. 6. You couldn’t do that now. It’s health and safety gone mad, I tell you.
So I’d cough up, my Dad would chirp up, and I’d be traumatised with thoughts of death until the cold cleared up, about three years later on average.
Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire and down Sheet Lane
Ah, the cosiness at the end of the day, that put right many of the preceding traumas. Bath done, teeth brushed, nightie donned, it was time to say goodnight and go to bed.
I didn’t go to sleep easily as a small child. When I was five I caught the measles and had three weeks off school because that was the quarantine period you had to go through. My grandmother was distraught as her own daughter had died at a similar age from measles and diphtheria. She sat up with me all night and every night and scared me half to death as a result, because clearly I was very ill, despite feeling quite feisty and rather bored because I wasn’t allowed to play with my friends.
After that was all over she stopped, but by then I couldn’t get to sleep on my own so my poor father had to sit with me every night until I nodded off. Usually he went first and started snoring very loudly, so I would climb over him and go downstairs to get my mother to come and wake him up again.
If possible I preferred to read in bed instead.
What bad stories did your parents use to try and pull the wool over your eyes?