My elder brother gets married next Saturday. It's his second marriage. They've been together about 15 years and have two kids. Now, after suddenly becoming a Christian, his former atheist 'you're an idiot to believe in anything' partner wants a wedding. And so it's booked for 10th December.
I avoid get togethers like the plague. The last party I went to was a schoolfriend's 14th. The last wedding I went to was my brother's first one, 20 years ago. I left after the photo's. You can keep speeches, small talk with strangers, lukewarm food and loud music that no one would normally stay in the same room with.
But this time there is no getting out of it. Or as Mum so succinctly put it- "Well, they're expecting you up there, and I'm going, so you've got to take me." Well that's told me, then, hasn't it? Nothing like being 44 and under your mother's orders.
And it started about 6 weeks ago- the trial of trying to get mum something to wear. She wants to go shopping for clothes at least three times a week. No matter how slowly I walk for her, she slopes along three steps behind me. I try to keep my chin up and smile. Like today; "OK, what sort of top would you like?"
She already has a nice navy blue jacket. The sleeves are too long and so I'm half way through putting these up for her, not fast enough apparently as she asks if I have done it yet at least twice a day.
So now we need trousers or skirt. I will need to put these up, too, as even 'petite' ranges don't cater for people UNDER 5'2".
Ever tried to find a short, straight navy skirt in the run up to Christmas? There aren't any. Anything with just the main colour being navy? You know, a pattern, whatever, doesn't matter? No. Everything not snazzy enough for a Christmas party has gone into storage and store assistants look up begrudgingly from conversation, mobile phone texts and magazines to tell me "Oh, well, if we did have that it would be out on the rail."
Occasionally over the last month and a half I have found items of clothing that would work. Usually mum just screw her nose up at them and walks off, or makes a sarcastic comment, or laugh derisively as though to say, "you like THAT? Oh my God! What's WRONG with you?"
It would be easier if she actually looked. But I look, she just wanders behind me. Then stands there, like a reluctant child in the summer holidays, being forced to shop for school uniform. But it is HER idea to come into town and look. Then once there it's all onto me.
Well today I had ENOUGH.
Let's concentrate on a top today, shall we?Victory!!
OK.So what kind of top do you want?
Don't know (shrugs, screws up nose)
I think white, cream or blue would go with your jacket.Yes but what else? Do I get trousers or do I get a skirt?(we have already had this conversation 50 million times but never mind)
Well let's concentrate on a top first. This shop has both, though, so we can keep an eye out.
(Then I find a white shirt, long sleeve- previous short sleeved selections have not past the wrinkled nose test. This shirt has a slim pin stripe in it, and in the stripes are flowers. Nice. Smart. Warm. Feminine.)Ooo how about this?- I say, bringing her the shirt.
-She pulls a face.
Well, it's smart enough. Nice material. Will go. And you could wear it other places afterwards...?
-Screws up face, derisive laugh.
-Then she picks up a long sleeve T shirt. Big blue swirly flower pattern. Yeah, why not?
Yes, that's nice.
-I like that.Yes, ok. Why not try that one on?
-Yeah.Want to bring the shirt as well?
-Screws up face.
OK, we'll leave that.Go to try on top.
Look at other selections on the way, no short skirts.
Get to changing rooms. Mum has a go at the assistant, saying that there are no skirts. Assistant reels off a list of other shops we should try, which we have already tried. I tell her this, and she doesn't believe me. She particularly doesn't believe that M&S have nothing suitable. The last thing I need is shop staff telling me to look harder.
Mum tries on the top and calls me.
-"It's too low at the front."
(It isn't.) Erm, no, no it isn't. But you could always wear your silky blue scarf around your neck if you fel cold."
--"No it's too low. You can see my vest."Well leave it off for one day."
-Screws up nose.Then agrees, as she likes the pattern and the material.
On the way out of the changing area the assistant asks, "OK?"
"Yes," I beam. "We have success!"
Then mum appears, and thrusts the top into the assistant who stares at her, confused.
-"It's too low. You can see me vest.""Uhm, what if you wore a light scarf with it, ma'am?"-"No. I need it higher. And buttons. A few buttons up the top .""Shall I go and get that shirt, then?"
-"No, not today. Let's go home. We can come back tomorrow."
One of 3 left before Xmas weekend.
And we both hate crowds.
Oh what fun.
I text my brother, telling him of yet another fruitless afternoon shopping for Mum to get something for his bloody wedding. I am already cross with him because his promise to "take mum off your hands for one weekend a month" didn't come through for November, and won't for December either. Next chance I get of a day to myself is mid January. I tell him she might come to the wedding in jeans. He texts back that jeans are ok, so long as she has a matching hat.