The Older the Fiddle, the Sweeter the Tune

Once upon a time a long time ago, a pretty girl was swept off her feet by a dashing young corporal in a smart uniform and a devilish twinkle in his eye. Plucked from a small town in Ireland, she began army life on the move. Babies landed here and there – Northern Ireland, Germany, Malaysia, England and Malaysia again. My mother lapped it up, throwing herself in at the deep end as the perfect army wife. She loved the friendships and the sense of belonging, and she really loved the parties – especially the posh frocks.

After demob, my parents ran a backstreet shop – selling booze and bread and all things in between. It was a good little earner. Even during the dark days of the 1974 three-day week, they kept the lights on with candles from the cash and carry. And for the late Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, Mum helped throw a street party. The till rang non-stop as the bunting fluttered in the summer breeze.

After a few happy and fruitful years on Civvy Street, Dad died, quite suddenly. Mum lost her husband, her living and her home – all at once. What did she do? She picked herself up, dusted herself down and soldiered on alone as a single mother.

After Dad died, Mum remained resolutely single for the rest of her long life. In fact, she was a widow for much longer than she was a wife. She called herself ‘the only virgin in London’, without the slightest hint of bitterness or irony. Liam called her ‘One hell of a woman’. He wasn’t wrong.

Mum was a grafter too. Not many people would catch a night bus into London’s West End five days a week to clean offices – something she did well into her seventies.

At 81 years young, she came to Turkey for my surprise 50th birthday party. She was the belle of the ball, a big flirt in a long blonde nylon wig, dragging up the fellas for a turn around the floor. But flirt was all she ever did, preferring to share her bed with a mug of tea, her puzzle books and a pack of cigarettes. ‘Keeps my brain active,’ she said. The puzzles that is, not the fags.

And she loved nothing more than recalling the stories of her flirty days of old when her dashing corporal fought for her affections with Alec, a Scotsman of some considerable means.

But Mum married for love.

When she turned 90 we threw her a bit of a do – a full house to honour our grand old dame. Despite being a bit mutton and increasingly frail, she was in fine fettle, loving all the fuss and fun, surrounded by family. The big pile of scratch cards went down well too.

Mum’s boogie nights may have been well behind her but she and I still shared a slow smooch at the end of play.

Truth be told, my mother was a bit of a fraud. How so? Well, a while back, I ordered her birth certificate. Turns out Mum was registered in the name of Dora, not Doreen. Who knew? Certainly not Doreen.

How can I describe Dora? Stubborn and contrary? Fiery and maddening? Or maybe feisty and canny, loyal and wise? Truth is, she was all these things and much, much more. An extraordinary woman, who lived an extraordinary life. A life lived in technicolor; the last of her siblings.

One thing I can say with absolute certainty: our old girl was never boring.

She would have loved her send-off – the service, the tributes, the tears and, in particular, the boozy do afterwards.

As they say on the Emerald Isle…

‘The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.’

Doreen Fenwick

1929 – 2022

The Last Dance

A few months back, my old girl turned ninety and we threw her a bit of a do. Family and friends pitched up to make a fuss and shower her with gifts of cards, cash, flowers and scratchcards – she’s always liked a flutter. Sadly, she only won a tenner. Just as the party was drawing to a close, an old friend – or rather an old flame – of mine videoed us smooching on the dance floor. I thought I’d lost the footage but have just found it on my smarty pants phone. Mother looked suitably regal in the girly crown I picked up from the Pound Shop. I see my bald patch is getting bigger.

Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go

Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go

Once upon a time a long time ago, a pretty girl from a small Ulster town was swept off her feet by a dashing young squaddie in a smart uniform and a devilish twinkle in his eye. Army life on the move quickly followed with babies dropped in married quarters here and there – Ireland, Germany, Malaysia, England, Malaysia (again). Sadly, her military man died young – way too young – and the pretty girl soldiered on alone as a single mother. She recently turned ninety and we had a bit of a do. Apart from being a little mutton and frail, Thursday’s child has still far to go. As they say in the Emerald Isle…

The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.

I inherited my Father’s devilish twinkle. I just hope I’ve inherited my Mother’s genes.

Desperately Seeking Doreen

Desperately_Seeking_Doreen

A cursory glance at my stats shows that Perking the Pansies pops up on the internet in totally unexpected ways. My irreverent ramblings seem to attract the lost, the lustful, the inquisitive and the ignorant – and from the four corners of the world. These are a few of my favourite search terms:

  • Pussy lovers (for feline aficionados, obviously)
  • Gran Canarian Sex (for a bit of bump and grind in the sun)
  • Rent Boys (believe me, my street-walking days are over)
  • Hardon All Day (hit it with a stick)
  • Is Marti Pellow/Gary Lineker/Kate Adie gay (they seem happy enough to me)
  • Gumbet Love Rats (for the ladies who never learn)
  • The Turkish Living Forum (keeping my 2012 rant right up there in the rankings)

And then came:

  • Doreen Dowdall

Doreen Dowdall

Now that one completely threw me.  Dowdall was my old girl’s name before her soldier boy popped his ring on her finger. Who was the mysterious surfer?  I don’t know, but if s/he ever surfs back, do drop me a line and put me out of my curiosity. And yes, that is me in the picture (the one in shorts, not the fabulous Sixties frock). Bless.

P.S. It’s Doreen Dowdall’s 85th birthday tomorrow. Apart from being a bit mutton with a touch of arthritis and a dodgy hip, the old girl’s in fine fettle. I just hope I’ve inherited her genes.