“I’m not doing this for my own good.”
How many times have you heard someone say that. Not so much today, but years ago, when I were young, way back when, Ee, times was hard. Well actually they weren’t, they were just different.
No, we didn’t have computers and telephones, and we didn’t have our parents running us around everywhere, we didn’t have Netflix and we didn’t have, those wheelie things that you stand on and glide around the streets on, without falling over. To be quite honest if one of us lot had come out with one of them, Segway’s I think they are called, if anyone had one of those, they would have been laughed at.
We had our push bikes and our Roller Skates. Not having any sense of balance back then I had quad skates, not inline skates they hadn’t been invented. But having things was always a good excuse for our parents to use those words, “It’s for your own good.”
Punishment came down to three things, being grounded, a clip around the earhole or having your prized possessions removed. In my case that meant anything I did wrong, I got a clip around the earhole if I was in range, grounded for weeks and once for a whole month during the summer, and having my skates locked in a cupboard. They were my saviour. I could be anyone whilst skating. A dancer on ice, a speed skater, an intergalactic pirate who zoomed through space on power skates. Anyone. When they were away from me I was useless. We even took them to school.
At the time as I was exercising my right to have transport, not being old enough for a licence and not steady enough to ride a push bike, my skates got me everywhere, and the three miles to and from school was much better when skated. Then along came a stupid film that had the hero running around with a skate board. The World got stupid and boys found out it was cool to board. They were everywhere and the council had so many complaints that they banned all skating on the streets. But being a teenager and chancing my arm I kept skating to school. Then the inevitable happened and we got caught skating to the fish and chip shop at lunch time. There was hell to pay. Two coppers frog marched us into the heads office and gave us a severe dressing down regarding the bylaws and such and our duty to respect others freedom to feel safe on the pavements. When the policemen, sorry, not coppers, when they left we did get told off, for being caught. The head just wanted to know if we had had a chance to get her fish and chips.
A report was sent home to our parents as the police had taken our names and if the head hadn’t done something then the police would have. My skating privileges were gone. It wasn’t that much of a problem, by the time I got them back the winter was setting in and I found that there was a cut through across the farm to my school which couldn’t have been taken on skates.
It seems that I’ve done something wrong now, at the wise old age of 50 something the DVLA have in their own way turned to me and said, “It’s for your own good.” As they revoked my driving licence. I might add that it has been an unjust decision. Like the time that I was grounded for bunking school dinners. I mean honestly if you had the choice between coming home and having cream of chicken soup and some of the fodder schools were dishing out in the seventies, you would have gone home as well, but there I was, in front of the firing squad and having my paints taken off me.
My licence has been taken because a doctor has given out the wrong information on my medication. So, I’ve got a choice, get up and do something about it and wait for the outcome, do something about it and find another form of transport, or just sit here in self-pity. I tried the self-pity, I have to say, it doesn’t really suit me. For a start, apparently, I keep apologising for my predicament and Mark thinks I’m a bit weird. He believed that part of his role as husband is to support his wife when she gets mardy and has screaming fits, he’s a strange man. I’ve bought myself an electric bike. And since then it has been icy, wet, miserable and not biking weather at all. (No, my reluctance has nothing to do with my inability to stay upright on a bike, this one is electric powered and goes like sh…erhm, sorry, it goes incredibly fast, don’t you know).
Having your privilege removed, because that’s what a driver’s licence is, a privilege, is quite hard. It was only a few years ago that mum stopped driving. She is 89. She should have stopped sooner, but no one wanted to tell her. This is the woman that shoots rats in the yard, chases young men off her property with a broom stick in the middle of the night and could in her time drive and ride anything and everything from a tractor to a motorbike.
The funniest day was the day dad died. I shouldn’t really laugh about it, in its own way it was sad. He had been found in the night by mum and the ambulance came early in the morning to collect him. After the phone calls and the visits, the house fell silent and my brother and I realised that mum had disappeared. I was sure she had gone for a nap and begged him to let her be, he obviously knew her better. I followed him out of the house to the garage to find the door open and dads bike gone. It was a shiny AJS. Don’t ask me what type, I have no idea. It was gone. Thoughts run through your head at times like that and they run so fast that even Seb Coe would have had a hard time keeping up. Then we heard it. The bike had a familiar ring to it. It had always been our alarm. As soon as you heard it coming down the road you knew to put everything away. Dad didn’t want to see toys all over the floor and if he happened home early and the house was a mess you would be in for it.
The sight that came into view from down the narrow lane was indeed a sight for sore eyes. Mum, all 4ft 10’ of her was straddle across the seat of this big black mean machine, her knuckles as white as snow as she gripped the handlebars. Her shiny white teeth bright in the sunlight, fully exposed to the elements as she grinned from ear to ear. She must have been doing a grand total of at least 25 miles an hour. I didn’t know whether to murder her for being stupid or laugh. It was a good job we had come out for as she slowed to a stop Alan had to catch her and prevent the bike from toppling over. He was furious.
Amidst all the scolding and the “They’ll take your licence off you,” speech he was giving her, she quietly stood her ground and looked up into the sky. “There you bastard, I’ve ridden it.” She said.
I couldn’t help it, I laughed and Alan got angrier.
Mum continued to drive, although to my knowledge she never rode another motorbike. She did admit to me that she had frightened herself witless. I know she had a tractor or two out and moved the white van about for a good while after, but the final reason we took the car from her was the bus driver knocking on Alan’s door one evening. Mum had a way of dealing with the traffic in the lanes. Now you have to remember that three cars in our town is a traffic jam and four cars at any one time is front page headlines in the Parish News Letter and the greengrocers gossip for a month.
Mum used to just stop whenever faced with an oncoming vehicle and let them go around her. That was ok when she was younger and she would stop alongside the road, giving room but as time went on she became a stubborn hitch and insisted on stopping just where she was, which usually meant smack dab in the middle of the road.
Chris was a nice young man he had grown up with my daughter and I was never too sure if he and her had ever, well you know, I have to wonder. Different story. He had been a driver from the first day he had come back from college. Taxi’s then buses and finally he went on to driving coaches. At the time, he drove the local bus back and forth on the school runs and had to pass by mum’s house four times a day. He knocked on Alan’s door just after 5pm, I was there for dinner that night and the only reason he had come to Alan’s was because he’d tried my place and I wasn’t in. You could see it wasn’t Alan he wanted to talk to. But he braved it anyway and recounted the mornings events. He had been driving back from dropping off the children to the school when mum stopped in front of them. She wouldn’t move and they couldn’t get pass. The travel assistant that accompanied the bus driver had to get out and ask mum to move, when she wouldn’t and she had said some very profound things, Chris had to get out, explain that he couldn’t move and that the assistant would be more than happy to move the car for her. Chris explained to us both that it had taken a lot of persuasion but eventually she let the assistant take her car back the few feet required to get the bus through.
I know I shouldn’t laugh at these things, but dementia does do some funny things to people. I had begged Alan to take her car away from her, after all, it was for her own good, and now it seemed it would be for the good of every other road user in the area. He agreed and Chris went out, cap in hand, backwards almost bowing. It had nothing to do with the look on Alan’s face, nor the shotgun propped up against the wall. He was just a very polite young man.
Alan borrowed mum’s car the next day on some pretext and then told her it wasn’t running right. She argued, she always did, but he convinced her after he spent half a day fiddling with the engine. After going in and telling her the car was fubared he said she would have to stop driving.
Just after Christmas Alan came and collected my car, took it away and I have tucked my motorbike away for the duration. However, unlike my mum, I’m not giving up and I’m not having anyone tell me, “It’s for my own good.” It might not be biking weather but I’m sure that somewhere in one of these boxes I still haven’t opened, (we only moved three years ago, give a girl a chance) is a pair of Roller Skates.