....so I bought my mother-in-law a chair, but my wife won't let me plug it in!
(If it weren't so true that old joke would indeed be funny)
Yes, as I write this I come to the end of three very long weeks in the cloying company of my wife's mother - an individual I found intolerable during previously infrequent encounters, let alone having to live with her for three whole weeks. (And I should point out that this is notwithstanding several vicious and underhand tricks she did when I first seduced her beautiful daughter some 18 years ago, which I try hard not to influence my loathing of her).
Apart from the fact that she is perhaps the most thoroughly dislikeable person I have every met, most adults of a certain age will probably admit that it is also very difficult sharing ones personal space with another adult you wouldn't ordinarily choose to live with. That said, once I had got over the initial urges to mark my territory by urinating on the dining table leg, rationalised that I was only connected to her by some tragic fluke of marriage, and that my summer holiday/Christmas was going to be buggered up beyond redemption, I have to admit that I did settle down somewhat to revel in the spectacle that was to follow.
I suppose those that don't know me may feel my opening comments are a little uncaring (those that do know me probably feel the same!), but be assured that Mrs C does in fact share my dislike of the woman, although perhaps not to the same extent, and begged me not to abandon her to her tender mercies. Undeterred by this impassioned plea, I pointed out the undeniable truth that she was in fact no relation of mine and our paths had only crossed by an accident of early 20s lust and animal attraction (to Mrs C, not her mother!!). Therefore I patiently explained that I was quite within my rights to find every excuse possible to disappear with the children, play golf or undertake marathon Playstation sessions in another room or join the Merchant Navy. And at this point, It is worth bearing in mind that the visit was only grudgingly agreed to for the sake of the two Chipettes, who mistakenly believed they were missing out on something by being 10,000 miles away from Grandma. If you care to read on, you can make your own decisions on whether they were.
As I say, at first it was perhaps just a little difficult because of the territorial aspects of three adults cohabiting. Nevertheless, it became apparent after only the first fifteen minutes that it was going to be much much more than that.
Having passed through New Zealand customs control myself a few times, I am very aware that there are stringent drugs controls in this country and a notable intolerance of smugglers. That said, The Bride of Satan managed to fox this country's trained enforcement officers and their clever dogs somehow and arrived with the biggest haul of drugs I have ever seen! Antihistamine tablets, thyroid tablets, aspirin, allergy tablets, enough Rennie to have rendered Acid Bath Haigh harmless, anti-depressants, sleeping tablets, distemper tablets, foot and mouth cream - you name it she had the lot. The only thing she was missing was the medication to treat her hypochondria!
When I was stupid enough to comment on the size of her pill box (more a travel bag than a pocket box) she regaled us with tales of how she had scourged the pharmacies of Sydney (during a 10 day stop over) because she was worried she only had enough blue pills for the next 3 months!! Not content with that, we then got a blow by blow account of her extravagant pill popping excesses.
"This blue one I have 75mg one day and 50mg on the next, then 75mg again....or is it the other way round, I can never remember? Anyway, this yellow one I have three times a day. The white ones I just take when I fancy......"
I'm assuming the white ones were in fact mint imperials, which she harped on about regularly throughout the visit (and which were later found, half sucked, in the bed when the covers were changed after her departure!!). Judging by her miserable countenance and lethargic shuffling round the house, I can only assume the blue ones were not speed! I also have a theory that her insomnia could be triggered by some kind of mad urge to get a sugar rush around 10pm every night - mint imperials, honey, assorted biscuits, Ovaltine, you name it. All were consumed as part of the going to bed ritual, accompanied by 10 minutes of exaggerated yawning and the oft repeated chorus of "Oo I'm tired, I'm worn out, I am tired you know, I think I'll go to bed". After 5 minutes of which I was fighting back the urge to scream "Well, just effing go to bed then, so that the rest of us can hear ourselves think!"
Somewhat suicidally bored and fighting back the urge to self harm, I retired gracefully to bed at the end of day one!
In the following days she displayed perhaps her only skill in life (assuming paranoia isn't considered a talent), being the ability to fill every single waking second with unnecessary noise or vacuous and inane chatter. Let me give you but one example - upon meeting her on the stairs one evening she greeted me with the earth-shattering revelation "Eh look, it's me, with my camomile tea and honey". Now Stevie Wonder may have struggled to deduce that one but I just about managed to draw that conclusion by assimilating the assembled facts (ie, it was definitely her, she was holding a cup of hot liquid, she'd never stopped harping on about camomile tea since she got there (this was before we'd scoured Greater Auckland to replenish mint imperial stocks) and it was past 10pm so there was bound to be a shovelful of honey in there!). Somewhat stunned by the enormity of this event I was fleetingly tempted to contact Sky News to advise them of this world-changing revelation but, on further reflection, opted for the wintry smile instead.
Mind you, it's a wonder she can find time to brew camomile tea quite frankly, what with the hectic social life she seems to live. After all, she seems to be on first name terms with just about every A-list celebrity you can imagine. Or at least I assume this is the case based on the running commentary she gives whenever she watches the TV (which is almost constantly). "Aw look, there's Elton, he's been going some years, eh look, it's Rod - he's nearly as old as me you know. And Shirley, she's done some stuff over the years...la, la,lelah, bum, be bum"
Now I have to confess I'm perhaps not Shirley Bassey's biggest fan, though her talent is undeniable, and I am reasonably familiar with her most popular songs. However, I couldn't for the life of me place the one that had just been attempted by Beelzebub's Bedfellow
But perhaps the greatest revelation of all, and one the New Zealand Herald would definitely be interested in was.... "Aw Diana - she's not dead you know, oh no, she'll never die, she'll live forever"
I don't know about you but after a fairly conclusive post mortem, endless media coverage, a State funeral, several messy stains in a Paris underpass and a high profile enquiry I thought it was a given that she'd shuffled off this mortal coil, but apparently not. Nevertheless, this little snippet did leave me wondering if it was all a ruse so that Di could get some respite from the media attention. Perhaps she's teamed up with Elvis and works in a burger joint in Des Moines, and only Mrs C's mum knows the secret?
By this point, we were only a few days in and I was beginning to wonder if I would stay the distance without "going postal". Nevertheless, Christmas Day was imminent, so I felt duty bound to soldier on. And what a joy Christmas Day was! We were treated to Christmas courtesy of QVC - for the uninitiated, QVC is a shopping channel available on satellite, cable and freeview in the UK. It specialises in selling chintzy, tacky crap of all descriptions to insomniacs who are too tired to venture out during the day, mostly because they sit up all night watching QVC! And the Monster-in-Law is a most avid fan - I can recall a time when Mrs C revealed how she had opened a cupboard at her mother's house, only to have a near-death experience under an avalanche of Jiffy envelopes and boxes all bearing the QVC emblem.
Anyway, given their origins, it was perhaps not surprising that most of the gifts fell apart after the first hour or so, prompting a rant about all the things that upset her the most about Christmas. Somehow, this turned into a discussion around the jewellery adorning the Monster-in-Law's crabbed hands and a revelation far greater than the immortality of Princess Di...
Mrs C, whether out of mischief or morbid curiosity - I know not which , asked "Why do you keep buying all that stuff Mum?"
"Well, I'm a collector you see. I buy it all on Easypay you know - I just pay over four months so it's a lot cheaper. And most of the things I've bought have appreciated in value".
Now at this point, apart from being in danger of losing control of my bladder, I was also stunned to realise that there was in fact a market for "Diamonique" and "Rubyite" jewellery outside those that sit up all night watching camp wannabee presenters waxing lyrical on the aesthetic and intrinsic value of a glass-and- silver-plated ring that wouldn't look out of place falling from the big end of a Christmas cracker. I naturally assumed that pieces of shaped glass were of limited value, regardless of their colour, unless made in Waterford instead of Warrington. Needless to say, when the Harpy from Hades does get the call to return to Satan's side, I'll be sending Mrs C straight off to the Antiques Roadshow with her inheritance!
Mind you, if - as I suspect - the 'jewellery' (I imagine the Guild of Master Jewellers may dispute the careless use of that word as gross misrepresentation) turns out to not be worth enough to pay off the Easypay instalments, we will still have something to remember her by. Well, that's assuming Mrs C doesn't chuck out that one of her set of her best towels her mother ruined when surreptitiously dying her hair.
And I couldn't help but marvel at the underhand way she "confessed" to this wicked deed.
Waiting until Mrs C had gone out, the MIL backed me into a corner and numbed me into semi-consciousness with a rambling account of how the sun had dried her hair and taken the colour out (Bearing in mind this is the same sun that had seemingly failed to appear most of the time......"Oh I am disappointed with the weather, it's been nice seeing the kids but I'll be really upset if I don't go back with a suntan", but that she had basked in at every opportunity, turning the uncovered parts of her body into charred flesh...."Oh no, it's not sore, look I can even do this...." [slaps horrible turkey neck violently to demonstrate lack of excruciating radiation burns]". She wasn't fooling anyone though, the putrid stench of burnt flesh and the oft applied Savlon were testament to her misery and stupidity).
Anyway, almost to the point of semi-consciousness, I suddenly realised this rambling soliloquy actually had a point......"all the grey was showing through, so I had to dye my hair. I brought an old hand-towel with me especially but it was too small and my hair was still wet. So I borrowed one of Mrs C's towels to finish it off....the stains'll come out when it's washed I'm sure...."
I have to admit, I couldn't resist mentioning to Mrs C on her return that she might want to have a quick shufty at the top quality, extra thick CREAM-COLOURED bath-towel currently residing in the laundry basket....
And so let me finish with a message to all sons-in-law out there, particularly those who reluctantly allow their mother-in-laws to stay. It may seem like a prospect worse than death but, with the right mental attitude, it can be hugely entertaining and incredibly educational - I now know much more about immortality, celebrity lifestyle and the specialist collectors' market than I could ever have imagined, and I learnt some new swear words too when Mrs C found the towel!
Oh, and I also improved my golf handicap and won prize money in the club competition two weekends running!! Not bad for a bloke who usually couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo!!