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My mum's still with us, and dad will hear about it.

Byline: Hannah Jones

To anyone reading this who knows my mother, here's one fact you really must grasp: She's not dead.

Seriously, she's not. Despite 67 calls asking when her funeral was - she counted, such was her inflated sense of self-worth even when a fake 6ft under - she's still alive and kicking Well, not so much kicking - her two useless legs want to limbo, but she's content these days just to make it to the kitchen without the aid of two walking sticks and a prayer.

However, she's alive so she's happy and thrilled to have the opportunity to waddle about on her two gammy legs, thank you very much.

The Chinese whispers began when someone in her road passed away.

Because he used to drink in the pub my family owned and coincidentally lived in the same street as both them and our pub, his untimely demise morphed into my mother dropping dead in Morrisons/Tesco cheese aisle/B&Q. Take your pick. If you can queue there, she collapsed there.

Luckily my father - or so the fable goes - was with her at Morrisons/Tesco cheese aisle/B&Q and had enough breath in his body to whisper "I love you, Soph" without the aid of his blue asthma pump as she made her way to that big superstore in the sky.

I'm not kidding you when this story became so exaggerated that six people from Ebbw Vale swore that Breathe Again by Toni Braxton was playing on the speakers, such was the heartbreaking pathos.

My parents, though, have seen the funny side of it and are taking great pleasure in reminding concerned neighbours that they will live to see "Wales win the Grand Slam", whatever the heck that means.

But with this potentially fatalistic story of mistaken identity comes others with less serious consequences.

My mother, with Olympian dexterity and despite her disabilities, was able to deflect attention from herself to my father's ineptitude when it comes to identifying things accurately and having one eye in Brynmawr and the other in Cefn Golau.

Take the time they were in Asda, Merthyr, back in the day when you had to line up for your cold meats at this huge circular display at the rear of the store.

While she waited for her number to be called, Dad asked if she wanted sugar.

A nod yes, and off he went to get six bags which he quickly deposited in the trolley.

"Dripping, Soph?" Yep, so he got an arm full as they were shopping for seven of us in those days.

"Want tea, Soph?" A dozen boxes, loose leaf and bags.

"Sausages, Soph? Cereal, Soph? Washing-up liquid, Soph?" And on and on and on it went until, just before my mother was about to take her place at the front of the line, he asked: "Do we need frozen peas, Soph?" Without missing a beat she simply said: "I don't know John.... why don't you ask that fella?", indicating the chap next to her.

"Why?" asked my bemused father, tidying up the trolley so the bread (five loaves) wasn't crushed by a mountain of dripping (see above).

"Because that's not our trolley!" He did something similar with a dog once.

Having just returned from sea where he was in the Merchant Navy, he went downstairs to answer the door very early one morning.

"He got out of bed.... boomp, boomp down the stairs he goes," as my mother recalls it.

"I hear him go, 'thank you very much, thank you very much', shut the door and boomp, boomp, boomp, his way back up the stairs.

"I'm lying in bed now wondering what the hell is going on when he walks into the bedroom holding a dog.

"He says, 'Look at this Soph, some kind fella saw our Charlie walking the roads in Tredegar. He must have known that the dog goes wandering about. Anyway, he's brought him back home for us. What a nice chap, eh?'" And then came the corker: "John, that's not our dog..."

My father had in his arms a six-year-old black and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Our FOUR-MONTH-OLD GINGER ONE was in bed with me at the other end of the house.

Thankfully, my mother is still alive to tell the tale - and make no mistake about it.


* A shaggy dog story involving a case of mistaken identity
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 2, 2012
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