My Mother… Bosses The Students

Now that my blog star mother is on the road to recovery after her soap opera-style stint in hospital, I thought I would share some previously unseen footage of her doing what she does best: namely bossing students around.

As landlady of a house she rents out to students, my mother is convinced that all of them are utterly simple (see previous blog here) and so every year they get her Simpletons’ Guide To Independent Living.

Back in September, she gave one poor, beleaguered student the full house induction, including (in no particular order): which cupboard they should store their tinned beans in, which washing machine cycle to wash their togs on, how not to set the house alarm (whatever you do, don’t press ‘yes’!) and – bizarrely – where to find a starter motor for the fluorescent tube light in the kitchen.

Here she is at her most brilliant, bonkers best.

<p><a href=”″>My Mother… And The Students</a> from <a href=”″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Twisted Fire Starter

Drama at my Uncle Stephen’s house this week after his neighbour set fire to his runner beans!

‘He’d been nurturing those beans for months,’ said my mother, recounting news of this terrible incident. ‘He’d grown them since they were little seedlings.’

It emerged that Uncle Stephen – quite the eccentric himself – was tucked up in bed when his pyromaniac neighbour decided to strike.

But having taken out his hearing aid, Uncle Stephen was oblivious to the fact his prized vegetables had gone up in flames.

‘I was in me jim jams snoring my snout off, when I heard lots of banging,’ recounted Uncle Stephen.

‘I peered out of the window and the whole street was full of people.

‘They all waved back at me!’


This isn’t the first time Uncle Stephen’s crazy neighbour has started a fire. On five separate occasions, she’s burnt down her garage, her back wall, wheelie bins, compost bins, and a row of conifers.

With his runner beans and bins reduced to ash, Uncle Stephen now fears for his onions and Brussel sprouts.

‘She’s a tiny woman but she does a lot of damage,’ said Uncle Stephen.

‘And when you tell her off, she just shrugs. She’s barmy!’

Living next door to a pyromaniac is real worry, mused my mother.

‘Mrs Smith, the neighbour, wants to remove those other conifers,’ she advised. ‘They’re too tempting for a local arsonist.’  (see video clip below!)

‘You’d think her husband would come round and apologise,’ my father chipped in.

‘For emotional damage as much as anything else!’

‘Her husband’s ugly as sin,’ said Uncle Stephen. ‘He’s the ugliest man I’ve ever seen.’

She’s Got A Ticket To Ride

I took a trip back home on Thursday to spend the day with my mum. I miss hanging out with her and enjoying her everyday idiosyncrasies. She’s a lot of fun.

Isn’t it funny how you still refer to the family homestead as ‘home’? Even though I haven’t lived at my parents’ home for 16 years and they’ve since moved house from our childhood domicile, I still have their number programmed in my phone as ‘Home’. I suppose it always will be home to me.

Pulling up on the driveway, I ventured round to the back garden to find 67-year-old mother slide-tackling her grandson in a competitive game of football. When I said I was spending the day with my mum, I actually meant my mother and her little partner in crime aka my four-year-old nephew Max. As my mum loves to say, there’s no show without Punch.

‘You’re back!’ cried my mother, clutching hold of the garden bench to regain her breath. ‘We’re just having a quick kick around.’

My mother is the most virile 67-year-old you’ll meet. Having never learnt to drive (despite a top qualification in backseat driving), she still cycles everywhere on her trusty bicycle; her day is just one long list of energetic escapades.

In fact, nephew Max complained to my sister that after a day with my mother, he is absolutely exhausted. His favourite phrase at bed time is, ‘I’m so tired. Nanny’s worn me out – again!’

Inside the house, my father’s original inflatable boat ‘Chrismick’ was laid on the floor of the kitchen, sad and deflated.

‘Your dad’s been trying to pump it up but it keeps going down,’ said my mother. (I hope she was referring to the boat!). The parents seem oblivious to the fact that they bought the dinghy in 1976 and it would struggle to stay afloat in a swimming pool, let alone the sea. Even Max looked sceptical.


Despite replacing it with Chrismick II in the early 90s (more on that here), my father seems unable to discard his original Chrismick (pictured in its heyday below), preferring to carry on adding more and more puncture patches, in the hope it will once again make a glorious return to sail the River Fowey (and stalk Dawn French).


Over lunch, I made enquiries as to the welfare of my mother’s best friend Val. Every other Friday, Val and my mother head out to the local bingo hall (they’ve been meeting on alternate Fridays for the last 40 years). Unbelievably, they manage to play two hours of bingo without spending a penny.

I’ve never really got to the bottom of how this is possible but I think it is something to do with bingo hall offering free games of bingo, thinking that they will make money on drinks at the bar.

However, they’ve clearly underestimated my frugal mother, who doesn’t drink and gets by on glasses of tap water. Sometimes, they actually win at bingo so end up coming back in profit. This is my mum and Val having a boogie at my wedding (Val on left; mother on right).


The trips to bingo have been a little few and far between recently after a terrible incident befell Val on her annual holiday to Benidorm. On the second day of the holiday, her husband Laurence took a tumble and took all the skin off his shin. He had to have a skin graft and was admitted to hospital for week.

During Val’s visit, a patient in the bed next to Laurence asked if Val would be so kind as to lift his suitcase down from the cupboard above. Unfortunately for Val, this particular patient appeared to be harbouring several slabs of concrete in his case. As Val struggled under its immense weight, her kind deed ended up giving her a hernia!

Poor Val was instantly admitted to hospital herself and found herself laid up in the hospital bed next to her husband. She went from hospital visitor to fellow patient within an hour. It was the holiday from hell.

Val now does all the driving in the family, my mother went on. But for inexplicable reasons, she is only able to turn left in the vehicle, being too fearful of right turns. This means that every journey she takes has to be meticulously planned so that the car only travels in an anti-clockwise direction.

In other news, the days of riding the Blackpool tram using a pensioner’s bus pass have come to a sad end. My mother, father and Uncle Stephen (pictured) used to regularly ride along the promenade for free, using their bus pass.


They weren’t the only ones; scores of grey-haired pensioners would clamber aboard and ride up and down all day at tax payer’s expense. At the end stop, they were forced to alight the tram for 10 minutes for the driver to take a toilet break, where they would stand grumbling and shivering until the tram re-opened in order for them to repeat the journey all over again.

Naturally, Uncle Stephen drove up to Blackpool the day before the new ‘no bus passes’ rule came into force, and went up and down a few times on his own: one final free hurrah.

After watching one episode too many of Homes Under The Hammer, my family have recently invested in a bungalow and is in the process of doing it up. My mother was keen to show me how it was coming along.

We pulled up outside and my mother and Max tiptoed out of the car in an exaggerated fashion, like two pantomime characters.

‘What are you doing?’ I hissed.

‘Trying not to alert the neighbour that we’re here,’ said my mother in hushed tones. ‘She’s a bit S.I.M.P.L.E.’

Max nodded sagely, in agreement.

As I’ve mentioned before, the number of simple people my mother encounters on a weekly basis is disproportionately high.

‘What do you mean?’ I whispered back.

‘She not quite all there,’ said my mother, reciting another of her favourite phrases. ‘She keep asking me if I’m a farmer!”

Driving home from the bungalow, we hit rush hour traffic and I suddenly realised I was going to be late to meet my friend at Starbucks.

My mother foraged feverishly in her pocket. ‘Don’t worry,’ she cried triumphantly. ‘I’ve got my bus pass!’

‘Just drop us off here and they you can get to Stardrops!’ she continued, leaping out of the car.

‘Stardrops is what you use to clean the carpet with!’ I called out of the window. ‘It’s STARBUCKS!’

But she didn’t hear me; she was already marching purposefully in the direction of the bus stop, Max trotting obediently at her side.

With a free bus pass in her hand and an open road ahead, it was anybody’s guess where she might end up.

My Mother… Landlady Extraordinaire

Regular readers may recall my mother’s role as a student landlady, in which she believes all the tenants are simple (see My Mother… and the Simple Students). She regularly peddles round on her bicycle to impart advice such as, ‘Put the bins out – and don’t forget to lock the back gate!’, and ‘Drinking at this hour? It’s a wonder you ever get any studying done!’.

After the departure of last year’s batch of simpletons, my mother set about her annual summer cleaning of our student house.

But as she hoovered away at the carpet with her trusty ‘little vac’ (the Dyson rendered ‘utterly useless’), she kept feeling holes in the floor of the lounge: holes that my father had been blithely ignoring for the last few years (bringing with it a very literal meaning to brushing them under the carpet).

Finally pulling back the carpet, my mother was alarmed to find large areas of the floorboards has been devoured by a particularly voracious strain of woodworm – a grim discovery that brought about her new saying of the summer, ‘The floorboards were like WEETABIX!’


Rather than immediately consult with a woodworm expert, my 65-year-old mother decided to venture into the bowels of the house herself, squeezing down a tiny hatch she found in the corner of the lounge. On her hands and knees, she managed to crawl, caterpillar-style, the entire length of the underbelly of the property, to inspect the extent of the damage with a torch.

Re-appearing, covered in soot, my mother – the pot-holing pensioner – claimed that no-body over 5ft2 would even make it down there.

My father’s role in this was to investigate a solution. He apparently managed to operate Google and read up on some super-strength woodworm killer, although given the scale of his internet ineptitude (see My Parents… and the World Wide Web), I’m not sure how this was possible.

After weighing the job up at length, the parents decided it probably was time to call in a joiner, who arrived to replace the Weetabix floorboards and told my mother he had replaced part of a joist underneath the house too.

Not content with just taking his word for it, my mother then ventured back down the hatch and slithered underneath the house – torch poised – to see if he really had replaced a joist. Luckily for him, he had.

This September brought with it a new batch of students and further parental eccentricity. I told my mother that I had organised for two Polish girls to move in and she was to meet them at the house on Friday.

My father began making noises about collecting them in person from Liverpool airport. He said it wouldn’t be any trouble. But, in the end, they settled for a ‘meet and greet’ service at Preston train station, and a personal taxi service to the student house. Contracts duly signed, normal landlords would probably wish them well and be on their way.

But not the parents. Oh no… their concierge service continued. When I phoned my mother to ask how it had gone, she said that they had pretty much spent the whole day with the Polish girls.

Apparently, they drove them to the University library and actually waited in the car for them while they registered. The girls were then ‘terribly hungry’ – hadn’t eaten for 17 hours, in fact. Ever the hostess, my mother toyed with the idea of taking them back to their house for dinner but instead she settled for dropping them off at Aldi to do some food shopping. She thought they’d feel at home in Aldi, she said, because of its continental connections.

In the midst of this madness, my father – the chauffeur – had produced one of his infamous maps with a highlighted route and instructions on how to get from the house to the University on foot.

They left the Polish girls happily ensconced back at the house, munching on an Aldi pizza and watching X-Box (I think she meant X-Factor).

At the end of this tale, I asked my mother what the Polish girls were like.

‘One of them seems quite sharp,’ she said. ‘Pidgin English – but definitely all there.

‘But the other one is terribly feeble. She barely spoke.’

I just knew what was coming next.

‘In fact, she seemed a bit… simple.’

My Mother… and the Simple Students

Most student landlords fit into the stereotypical image of a burly, no-mess character, who would pitch up at the front door if your rent hadn’t been paid but would largely leave you to your own devices, unless the house was actually burning down.

And then there’s my mother.

My mother – with her cheery nature and natural desire to help – makes an extraordinary landlady. If the students so much as need a lightbulb changing, she promptly hops on her bicycle (she quite contentedly cycles everywhere, having never learnt to drive) and two-wheels down the hill to remedy the problem.

Pitching up at the front door with a deft rat-a-tat-tat, she bustles in, usually berating any poor student caught with a can of lager in their hand mid-afternoon.

‘Drinking at this time? It’s not even 5pm!’

She would then fix the offending lightbulb, wash a few dishes ‘now that I’m here’ and occasionally top up their toilet roll supply, before exiting in a whirl of energy, with a parting shot of, ‘don’t forget to put the recycling out’ – only just stopping short of actually staying to cook their dinner.

The extent of this madness doesn’t stop there. She often offers an impromptu ‘meet and greet’ service to bewildered students when they first land at Preston train station. My map-mad father once even printed off a map of Preston for one particularly feeble student – highlighting the route from the house to the University. It goes without saying that my mother has also been known to wash the occasional student’s bedding.

She puts up a pretence of exasperation with it all, her favourite phrase being: ‘Goodness knows how they are going to be able to do a degree!’

But secretly she loves it.

When I ask my mother what this year’s students are like, they usually fall in one of two categories: ‘simple’, or ‘a bit puffy’, the latter being my mum’s catch-all expression for any boy who acts feeble or slightly effeminate. The quota of puffy and/or simple students my mother encounters seems inordinately high.

Puffiness aside, it stands to reason that over the years, we’ve had our fair share of oddities. One such eccentric that springs to mind was Cameron – an idle character with unkempt, corkscrew hair, who languished in his room for days on end. Too lazy to go to the toilet, he simply used to urinate in a pan and place it under his bed. Not just one pan, but several… which accumulated over many months.

And when it came to moving out, rather than simply emptying his pans into the toilet, he placed them straight into bin liners, leaking his smelly urine all over the backyard – and subsequently the boot of my father’s car (much to his chagrin).

And how could we forget Alvaro, the hairy Spaniard, who barely spoke English – and could only communicate with my mother in exaggerated hand gestures (my mother firmly believes that adopting the tactic of speaking incredibly slowly and incredibly loudly to foreigners will somehow improve their communication). He was dubbed ‘the swarthy foreigner’ – a title which stuck with him for the remainder of the year.

And then there was The French. The French came in a pair, by the names of Idriss and Vincent. This troublesome twosome detested the English and had a strange obsession with leaving the bathroom completely sterile. If so much as a rogue bar of soap was left overnight by a fellow housemate, they would simply hurl it out of the window in utter disgust. Within six weeks of moving in, they had chased away the other three perfectly reasonable English housemates and commandeered the house for themselves, phoning my poor mother at all hours with their unreasonable demands.

Suffice to say, my mother has never viewed the French population in the same light again.

She would rather take a ‘puffy simpleton’ any day.