E Jane Dickson: 'Clara looks like a midget pole-dancer'

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The Independent Online

I am In Ireland, out shopping with my mother and my daughter. Clara selects a gorgeously sequinned pair of ultra-low-slung Britney jeans from a garment rail and urges me to try them on. "Not in a million years," I say. "Don't you think I am a tiny bit old for buttock-cleavage?"

I am In Ireland, out shopping with my mother and my daughter. Clara selects a gorgeously sequinned pair of ultra-low-slung Britney jeans from a garment rail and urges me to try them on. "Not in a million years," I say. "Don't you think I am a tiny bit old for buttock-cleavage?"

"No," say my daughter and mother together, but for different reasons. Clara, because she thinks I should update my image, and my mother because she hasn't got her specs on and doesn't realise that the jeans in question wouldn't cover half my bum. "All the same," says Mum, folding her arms to mirror Clara's, "you're not that old. There's no need to go round like Stanley Baxter impersonating a Sicilian widow."

"Thanks, Mum," I tell her, "I was actually aiming for 'Ronnie Barker does Nana Mouskouri' but you've opened my eyes to a whole new style spectrum."

"No need to get shirty," says Mum, shirtily. "It would be nice to see you making the most of yourself, that's all."

"Have you, perhaps, considered the possiblity," I ask (because my mother and I routinely address each other like ham actors in a lunchtime courtroom drama), "that this is the most I can make?"

The counsel for the prosecution sniffs meaningfully. For as long as I can remember, my mother has dressed in impeccable navy separates (with the odd, moment-of-madness grey skirt thrown in). Yet she persists in the notion that I, at 43, am far too young to be let loose on the classics.

It's always been the same. When I was 12, and obsessed with perfume, I would be propelled firmly in the direction of Charlie or Aqua Manda or some such noxiously "girlie" scent, when what I really wanted was to reek of sex in Shalimar and Chanel (as a matter of principle, I still steal a scoot of Mum's perfume every time I pass her dressing- table). I am about to drag the Great Cologne Controversy up for an airing when Clara appears, breathless with triumph. She has found a pair of almost identical off-the-bum sparkly jeans in her size. Not only will they make her look like a midget pole-dancer, they cost £39.

"Not a chance," I tell her, but Granny has pre-empted the stand-off by finding a faintly less obscene (though no less sparkly and barely less expensive) pair and already the two of them are waltzing off to the cash desk.

"You'd never have allowed me something like that when I was Clara's age," I point out to my mum.

"No, but your gran would have bought it for you anyway," she says. "That's what grans do."

It's the first time either of us has mentioned Gran today. It's the second anniversary of her death, which is, partly, the reason I'm here in Ireland - to be with mum on a difficult day for us both.

We don't really go in for anniversaries in our family. There will be no tears, no formal observances to remember my beloved, irreplaceable grandmother. An act of inter-generational defiance will do just fine.

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