The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - October 29, 2015

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My nuptials are getting ever-nearer and my mum, god bless her, is going into overdrive.

Even in normal times she is at her happiest when worrying and nagging, so the wedding has given her a real focus.

Top of the list of her concerns is who is and isn’t on the guest list.

A typical conversation will go like this: Her (casually): “You’ve invited Mr and Mrs Rosenburg to the wedding haven’t you?”

Me: ’Who are Mr and Mrs Rosenburg?’

Her (slightly shirty): “You know perfectly well who they are, they looked after you for three weeks in May 1977 when I had my tonsils out”.

Me: ‘Mum, I’ve honestly never heard of Mr and Mrs Rosenburg’.

Her: “You have, he’s got a wooden leg and she’s the one who had that funny turn in Debenhams and passed out in home furnishings.”

And so it goes.

You name it and where the wedding is concerned, there is something my mum is anxious about.

I am having a stag do, for instance, on the Saturday before.

I told my mother this. “You’re having it one week before? That’s stupid, absolutely ridiculous,” she retorted. I enquired why it was ridiculous. “Because you know what your face is like after you’ve been drinking – you go all baggy and wrinkly and you’ll ruin the entire wedding”.

Of the many things I can accuse my mother of, being overblown, dramatic and cruelly honest is certainly among them.

But my dear ma’s piece de resistance came this week when, on the phone, she asked about my attire for the day.

Now, it’s fair to say that she doesn’t trust me where clothes are concerned.

If I had a pound for every time she has told me I look scruffy over the last 30 years, I daresay I’d have enough cash to make Bill Gates seem like a pauper.

It’s not just me she picks on, you understand, it’s the same with any family member.

I don’t think I can recall a meal during my youth that wasn’t preceded by my mum shouting at my father to change his jumper, or his trousers, or his shirt. She’d have told him to change his face were it possible.

As soon as my sisters and I heard the words “you’re not wearing that are you?” we knew to creep downstairs and stay well out of the way.

I perhaps, then, should have known better than to show my mum a picture of the suit I have chosen to wear for the wedding.

I’ve gone for what is by my standards a slightly snazzy number, grey with kind of daring little white flecks on it.

“You’re not wearing that are you?” she said, as she gazed at it disapprovingly. “It looks like you’ve been decorating and the paint’s splashed back.

“Either that or you’ve got terrible dandruff. It’s awful, take it back.”

I stuck to my guns about it, but then she turned her attention to other areas.

“What underwear are you wearing?” she asked, out of the blue.

‘Erm, some red boxer shorts,’ I replied, a little puzzled, ‘though I must get rid of them – there’s a little hole near the groin which can get a little chilly in winter’.

“For the wedding,” she sighed, “not what you’ve got on at the moment.”

Before I could answer, she then – and this is absolutely true – moved on to socks. When I told her I hadn’t the foggiest idea what underpants or socks I’d be wearing for my wedding (it’s still six weeks away – men don’t know what undies they’re wearing the following day, yet alone at the end of November), my mother sighed and told me not to be selfish.

“Elizabeth (that’s my bride-to-be) has made such an effort,” she scolded.

“She will have new knickers and bra … the least you can do for her is buy matching underpants and socks.”

By this stage I was slightly open-mouthed and struggling to comprehend two things. One, that my mother thinks a man would contemplate wearing matching underpants and socks (can you even purchase matching underpants and socks? And the chances of me walking into, say, Marks and Spencer and asking for them is less than zero). Two, that I was having a conversation with my own mother about underpants.

It was at this point I pretended there was someone knocking at the door and told my mother I’d have to call her back later.

This tactic never fails, for one of the great things about my mum is that she completely forgets whole conversations within moments of them happening and that the next phonecall will be a completely different nag, hopefully not about undies.

Next time I travel, I’ll leave the hi-vis jacket at home

An odd thing happened to me the other day.

I was at Preston train station waiting for a train, which, unless you get your kicks from staring at a Virgin Pendolino, is the reason for being at a train station.

It had been raining and I was wearing a luminous waterproof jacket I’d borrowed from Mrs Canavan. It is one she goes running in, and is so bright you can see her from miles away.

I also had a bag over my shoulder and was standing idly when a harassed-looking man in a suit approached.

“Is the next train arriving the one to London,” he asked, slightly brusquely, at which point I realised he had seen my attire and mistaken me for a member of staff.

No matter. I knew that it was indeed the train to London, and what’s more I also told him it was due to arrive in nine minutes.

“And does it stop at Warrington?” he asked.

‘I’m not sure about that’, I replied, at which he threw his arms in the air, hissed – and this is the family version – ‘for flip’s sake’, and stormed off along the platform.

Next time I travel by rail I shall wear a different coat.