to the side
I'm not a great list maker. Unlike the Nick Hornby's hero in High Fidelity,
I don't use idle moments to think of my all time top ten favourite songs.
Frankly, who has the concentration? I'd lose my place before I got to
number five. Yes, of course, everybody has their own personal theme tunes
- records that instantly transport you back to some half-forgotten emotional
trauma or joy, usually lost in the charts of time for a reason. Who wants
to be reminded of the twenty seven men who dumped you, or the summer you
had braces? Heck I could release a double CD of songs that make me wish
I was dead. Divorce - originally released on vinyl. Bad sex - various
artists. Marriage - an import. Hits for painful childbirth. Adolescence
- a whole boxed set, complete with sleeve notes and geeky black and white
photographs. And who can forget Tunes to Turn Forty With? The only thing
to do with records like these is lend them to someone and hope you never
get them back.
Most women don't have time to compile lists of their top five break ups.
If given ten minutes in a traffic jam to daydream we start making shopping
lists in our head, or we run through our outstanding chores. Was Billy
Easton's particular brand of mental torture more painful than Malcolm
Cook's? Who cares when the fridge is empty, the freezer needs defrosting,
the car needs a service, the house looks as though it has been burgled,
and the sheets haven't been changed for a month?
It's usually the woman in a relationship who ends up being the keeper
of joint information. The modern man often shops and cooks, but unless
you provide detailed instructions about what to buy he arrives home from
the supermarket with fifty pounds worth of truffled pasta, several boxes
of Coco Pops and multibags of kettle chips - which could be a deliberate
ploy to make you do it yourself. Some men even drive their kids to school
in the morning. You may, however, have to remind him who their children
actually are first. My mother told me a story about a friend of hers with
a gaggle of children who left her husband to babysit. Did they all settle
down to sleep all right? she asked on her return. Oh yes, he replied.
All except that little red-headed chap - he cried and cried. It took me
ages to settle him. Apparently, the red head was visiting from next door.
My own husband is a very hands-on father and usually manages to recognise
his own children. But he doesn't know the names of any of their teachers
or their best friends, their shoe sizes or their food fads. He only remembers
his mother's birthday since she tattooed it on the back of his hand.
But hey - he knows the original line-up of early 70s bands, all the words
to every Bob Dylan song ever released, and he plays a mean air guitar.
My parents' phone number? Oh don't be silly.
Another activity that has evolved as a collective experience is the very
act of 'keeping' itself. As in: where do 'we' keep the sugar, the shoe
polish, the baby? You would think that if indeed 'we' kept things organised,
then presumably 'we' would know where to find them without asking.
Still, I know who to ask if I want to know how many records Rod Stewart
released with the Small Faces.
So, I am Mrs Walking-talking Domestic Encyclopaedia. Who needs a CD Rom
when you have an interactive wife? I don't have space in my head to remember
twelve records about first love because my brain is already full the most
ppoular grocery idems and five favourite places for hiding money. My mind
has photographic images of the quantity, and exact location of the tinned
tuna in the store cupboard and how much Persil there is under the sink.
I memorise sell-by dates and twelve things you can do with a bag of week
old carrots and a pound of mince. I memorise deadlines, school runs, rotas,
homework time-tables and routes that avoid right hand turns. I know about
dental appointments, medical histories, and relative's birthdays covering
three generations. So don't talk to me about bloody song titles.
Don't ask me what my all time favourite romantic records are unless they've
suddenly reissued, in order: "A Cheque isn't a Birthday Present,
Darling." "Get Off Your Bum and Write Your Own Cards this Christmas."
"That's the Way - ah-ha - We Load the Dishwasher". And top of
the list, sing it with me: "I Don't Know Where We Keep Your Clean
Socks (or your glasses either) Baby".
That last one has a very nice ring to it - and I'm sure every woman in
the audience knows the chorus.