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My Mum Said Some Silly Things
Here's a boy who's not in a dress,
Though he might as well have been.
He doesn't look at all impressed,
And doesn't want to be seen.
There beside him stood a man,
Who fought 'to end all wars'.
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men,"
Have sadly many flaws.
Here you see a Glasgow lass,
Standing all in white,
Who made the most almighty fuss,
When I was "standing in her light".
Paul Foot - The Vote: How It Was Won and How It Was Undermined
"You're Standing in My Light"
My Mum was a dressmaker to trade, and everywhere I went in the house, when I was a wee boy, she said, "You're standing in my light".
I used to think, that was a silly thing to say. Why was it her light? Did she own the dark too? If I'd gone and stood in the cupboard, would I hear a wee voice shouting through the keyhole? "You're standing in my dark." But it didn't seem to bother her so much when I stood in her dark. In fact, she encouraged that.
Anyway, I thought I'd better keep out of her dark as well, because she might suddenly want it back to use, as a punishment for when I’d been "standing in her light".
"Well," I said. "If you don't want me “standing in your light”, why don't you lock it in the cupboard where you keep your dark, and then you'll know where it is when you need it. I wouldn't want to stand in it, if was in the cupboard anyway; it's too dark and creepy in there, even with the light on."
Of course, the light in the cupboard didn't belong to my Mum, because it was a council house. The working class didn't go in for homeownership in those days. Anyway, she didn’t seem too bothered about that sort of thing. I suppose she was satisfied enough that she owned all the daylight. She wasn’t a greedy person - except for when it came to daylight-ownership, and then she became a rampant Thatcherite.
Another silly thing she used to say to me was, "You've got your whole life in front of you."
“That’s just silly”, I said. “How can my whole life be in front of me, when all the life I’ve ever had so far, is behind me?
“You have a potential life”, she said, - “if you don’t get too cheeky”.
Nevertheless, I thought, some of my life was behind me, some of it was above and below me; just because I couldn't see it, that doesn't mean it wasn't there. And, when you cover your eyes with your hand, you mightn’t be able to see where you are, or where you're going, but others can - although they might not warn you when you're about to stand in dog-pooh. So, what confused me was that she must’ve been able to see it, because it wasn't behind, above or below her all the time, so why didn’t she know it was there? She wasn’t a banker or a politician; she was a dressmaker, so she wouldn’t lie to me, although, as I’ve already pointed out, she did say some silly things.
So, I asked her one day, and she just said, “I can’t see anything, because you’re standing in my light again!”
But anyway, if my whole life was in front of me, why did it hurt so much when my Mum slapped me on the back of my head for “standing in her light”? When she head-butted me on the nose, I understood, because (until then) my nose was “in front of me” along with the rest of “my (potential) whole life”. And, that was a friendly gesture anyway: She was from Glasgow.
Then, one day, she said that I needed a haircut, and she showed me the back of my head in the mirror. I said, “That can't be my head. You said, “my whole life was in front of me””. But, she explained that the reflection in the mirror was mine, so, because that was in front of me, I still had to have a haircut.
I used to say to her, "Why do you need all the light?”
And she would say, "Because I'm a dressmaker, and I need all the daylight there is".
Well, I didn't believe that, how can one person have all the daylight there is? She was starting to sound like a megalomaniac. Megalomaniacs, and my brother, always want to own all there is. But I didn't mention that, because I didn't know what megalomaniac meant in those days - anymore than I do now - which is just as well because megalomaniacs are nasty, and that's all we need to know about them.
There were about 3 billion people in the World in those days. I wondered how they felt about my Mum owning all the daylight. She wasn’t the only dressmaker in the World - it surely wasn't fair, her having all the daylight, and it was bound to affect the GDP. The miners were the only people who didn’t need daylight in those days, because they were down the pits, but that was a good thing in a way - because at least they had jobs then.
Then she'd make me wear the dress because I was all she had to hang it on while she was looking to see where she needed to put the rest of the stitches. It's funny how I wasn't "standing in her light" then. I was standing in one of her half-made dresses, and praying that none of my friends would come to the door and see me standing there, in a half-made dress, which didn’t suit me.
I didn't want to be seen standing in any kind of light when that happened. I wanted to be standing in the cupboard where nobody could see me, and where she kept her dark, and in which, I hoped, my friends wouldn’t see me. But, I thought I’d better ask her permission first, due to the almighty fuss that she always used to make when I was, “standing in her light”.