Wednesday, 9 July 2014
The wicked stepmother and the jar of coffee
I had one of those friends in the last year at school who wasn't what I'd term a 'proper' friend. She sort of latched on to me for some reason, but it was always a bit of a one-way relationship. She was 'more transmit than receive', if you know what I mean.
I never went round her house, although she was found frequently knocking on my door waiting to pour out her latest news. We had little in common apart from once having shared a boyfriend... we just hadn't known we were sharing him at the same time. Other than that though I can't think of what we talked about, but then again I was probably only ever doing the listening. There was a good reason why I was never invited back to her house, mind: she had a wicked stepmother.
Wicked Stepmother had a thing against me. She'd seen me in town on Saturday afternoons wearing my leopard-spot trousers and gravity-defying hair with Eric the plastic skull key-ring hanging from my ear, and strongly disapproved – well, apparently. I never knew who she was, never saw her, but One Way Friend delighted in telling me that I'd been spotted by this unknown woman. “She thinks it's disgusting the way you dress. She thinks punks are the pits,” she'd tell me at school on Monday mornings. It's no surprise then that, in my mind, Wicked Stepmother took on the personality of Cruella Deville with the physical features of the Duchess from Alice In Wonderland.
In the Summer of '79 we left school and One Way Friend went to live with her sister in Ipswich, which seemed a million miles away even though it was only fifty. In a bid, perhaps, to continue our 'friendship' in spite of the distance, she offered me cheap tickets to see Ian Dury & The Blockheads at the Ipswich Gaumont one night, so off I went with my (new) boyfriend; we had a good time at the gig, all was well. As a small return favour One Way Friend asked if I could deliver something when I got back home. She gave me a jar of coffee – special coffee (I don't know why it was special, was it some brand that you could only get in Ipswich? 'Tractor Boys' Coffee?) and asked me to drop it round to her old house for her stepmother.
I fully intended to do this, honest. I put it on my little desk in my bedroom and decided I'd go round there the next weekend. The next weekend came and I felt a bit nervous about finally meeting Wicked Stepmother. “No, I'll do it next week,” I decided, imagining somehow, magically, I would feel differently then.
Next week came and the jar of coffee was still on my desk. Meanwhile, in my mind, Wicked Stepmother had taken on the personality of Attila the Hun, with the physical features of Hitler. I was too busy really, wasn't I? I couldn't spare the time this week, I'll have to go round in a few days. I'll just put the jar of coffee in the cupboard until then.
“Have you taken that coffee round yet?” my Mum asked the following month.
“Oh no, I'll do that next week...”
Meanwhile, in my mind, Wicked Stepmother had taken on the personality of Godzilla, with the physical features of... Godzilla.
In 1983 I moved out of my old family home. I packed up my clothes, records, books, etc. I threw away a load of old papers, dolls and games that had been stuffed away in my bedroom, out of sight and mind for years. Right at the back of the cupboard I found a dusty jar of coffee.... I threw it out too. I mean, I was hardly going to go round and deliver something to Wicked Godzilla Stepmother four years late - she'd have thought I was the pits. Disgusting.