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Things my mother taught me

May 13, 2012

My mother was a lovely woman  – bright, sociable, caring and stoic. Growing up I thought all parents were pretty much the same as mine; I had no real idea of the luxury I was afforded by having two well-educated, left wing, cultured parents. Not just in  financial terms were we lucky , it was also the intellectual luxury. The enjoyment of debate and discussion. Of having a house full of their bohemian friends. The glamour of parties at home and seeing Mum dressed up in her finery to go out. I wish I’d kept her black cigarette holder. I thought it so wonderful and  decadent as a child.

She didn’t really work much past my early childhood, although she was a qualified teacher.  And one that inspired adoration and love from her pupils. She was the only teacher in our primary school in Scotland who refused to carry the tawse – a two pronged leather strap for whipping the children with. But it wasn’t her refusal to use corproal punishment that made her popular –  it was her lessons. They were so creative, so much fun. I was in her class and was not allowed to call her ‘Mummy’ – I had to refer to her as Mrs Morgan. That was hard, but she was desperate not to favour me over the other children. I must have been about 8 and after morning playtime Mum allowed us to come out to the front of the class and tell any news we had. Like we’d seen the first robin, or someone’s sister was getting married. Today I had news. Big news. I got up and told the class we were moving to Wales. My classmates looked wide eyed but accepting. Nobody was that bothered. Then someone put up their hand, “Does that mean you’re leaving too Mrs Morgan?” “Yes it does,” said my Mum.Whereupon the classroom erupted in to tears. From gentle silent sobbings, to loud gulps and nigh-on hysteria. I stood at the front of the class with a dawning realisation. They hadn’t been upset when they knew I was going, but were absoultely heartbroken that my Mum was leaving. She always seemed to have that effect on my friends. They loved her.

So I thought I would list the

Top Ten Things My Mother Taught Me

  1. You only get one chance to make a first impression. And it matters.
  2. No matter how shit you are feeling, put on a performance for your guests
  3. Children are more important than anything else
  4. The English language is a wonderful thing. Use it correctly.
  5. Good manners cost nothing and are essential
  6. You can never be overdressed so carry it off with aplomb, and never go out with a hole in your tights.
  7. A host of domestic essentials;
    1. How to make soup, sauces, cakes and biscuits (and traditional British fare like roasts, cottage pie etc)
    2. Spray starch makes ironing much more satisfying (and easier)
    3. Dylon can transform your wardrobe, towels, cushion covers and  sheets for a tiny outlay
    4. You can always make something from scraps and leftovers in the fridge
    5. Don’t put daffodils in a vase with other flowers as they will kill them
    6. Lemon juice blondes your hair in the sun, brown vinegar a conditioning rinse for darker hair, or egg for any colour
    7. Vinegar and newspaper make for streak-free, clean windows
    8. Rescue food disasters (burnt, over seasoned) by adding a raw peeled potato to absorb the worst of it
    9. Use scissors rather than a knife  to cut food during preparation or serving – often much easier and can do directly over bowl
  8. There is no need for the Terrible Twos as all the tantrums can be avoided by simple parenting tricks (controversial I know)
  9. Enid Blyton was an appalling writer; racist, sexist and classist (if there’s such a word) so we weren’t allowed to read them. She was well ahead of the pack on this one in the early 60s.
  10. Never break a promise

She was an inspirational teacher

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9 Responses to “Things my mother taught me”

  1. Carina Says:

    I think your mom just taught me a thing or two as well! 🙂

  2. Kate Says:

    i had never heard of the potato – maybe never needed (yet0 to be passed on!! Scraps and leftovers make the best meals sometimes and daffodils definitely leak – tho I had a vase of daffs and roses at Christmas which lasted a wee while!!! xx

  3. Liz Yandell Says:

    didn’t know that about the daffodils! my mother hasn’t passed on that advice! How does the raw potato work?
    I have visions of a plate of burnt offerings with the added nuance of raw potato bu I am sure that is not right!


    • I’m sure you could conjure up a great top ten for your mother – even if the daffodils aren’t one of them! You add the potato and continue to cook whatever the dish is for another 5 or ten minutes then remove the potato before serving. It will have absorbed the excess seasoning/burnt odour. Obviously there is a limit to how effective it is, depending how extreme the disaster!
      PS Someone told me I posted this on a particularly appropriate day for you as it was Mother’s day in Australia on Sunday! 🙂

  4. Michael Says:

    Well said Mumzo, a lovely and heartfelt post. Would’ve been good to know that potato trick earlier though, I can think of a few times that might have bailed me out!

    Number 2 is the hardest but some of the best advice I’ve ever had, from you and Taid as well as Grandma.

  5. Lorna Kyle Says:

    So gutted that Enid Blyton is on your list.I wanted to live with the ‘Famous Five’.I might have had a job wolfing down all those tomatoes and the ginger beer but some days I actually wanted to be Timmy (the dog).I have a collection of the original hardbacks (not 1st editions so it’s not worth breaking into the house) and just looking at the dustjackets makes me go all watery eyed.If I ever found a cafe called ‘Kirrin Island’ I ‘d sit there all day waiting for the magic to happen….again


    • Oh I was desperate to read them, and on my 10th birthday someone gave me a Secret Seven book. I was delighted. But my mother whisked it away never to be seen again. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. I have to admit that unbeknownst to her our babysitter used to bring round ‘June and School Friend’ and it had a serialisation of Mallory Towers in it which I devoured and made me dream of boarding school. Loved every madcap caper and midnight feast and thought it simply beastly that Mummy wouldn’t let me read any of the books.

  6. georgiemcclarke Says:

    Aww I love it. You are definitely leaving a legacy of your own babe, and a lot of it will come from this list too! Especially leftovers and no holes in your tights!! xxxx


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