Elephants and Wet Suits

My mother would be proud of me. Last night we gathered around the table at Rick Stein’s famous Sea Food Restaurant in Padstow and ate large quantities of strange sea creatures dipped in delicious sauces, washed down with Champagne and a rather lovely White Burgundy.

Can we all please just take a moment to understand that I am brutally hung over and even seeing Champagne and White Burgundy in print is increasing my nausea level to barely tolerable

As one of my friends stated On FaceArse (she’s part of our Witch’s Coven - we go back twenty years to a time when we were all on our first marriages with that hopeful glow you have in your late twenties and early thirties before time, children, life, ex-husbands, mean bosses and cruel twists of fate leave their indelible marks on your soul and drain your ample supply of elasticity in your skin), it was a fine ending to my Birthday Festival. I rather like the idea of having a Birthday Festival and may well adopt that for future years.

You have to scroll back a fuck of a lot longer than 20 years to get to my first marriage

I mention my mother because she is dead. She died in 2012, six months before she had a chance to watch the incredible opening ceremony for the London Olympics. She would have loved that. Anyway, she died and that’s sad. She did however, manage to tick a few boxes before she popped her clogs and that included a trip to Rick Stein’s famous Sea Food Restaurant in Padstow so I felt that I was following in her footsteps.

There are two things that arise from this musing. One: when did we stop saying the word ‘dead’? I have never said my mum ‘passed’ or ‘left us’. I’ve always said quite plainly that she died, because that is indeed exactly what she did. It’s as though by saying the word ‘dead’ we fear we might bring it upon ourselves suddenly and unexpectedly, turning around to see the grim reaper standing behind us with his large scythe and a big toothless grin on his face beckoning us to follow him.

Could we just get one thing crystal clear: all of us, yes, even Bill Gates with all his squillions, will die at some point. Can we just get our heads round that fact because it occurs to me that the quicker we do get our heads round it, the better lives we can all lead. It’s amazing what facing up to your own mortality does for motivation.

Perhaps my brush with skin cancer at the age of 33 brought this to the fore in my life rather earlier than most or perhaps its because I’m jolly practical and have had a will and full life cover since I was twenty seven. Am I odd?

No You aren't odd Bec, I too have full life cover and a will - or maybe it‘a both of us??

Having a dead mother means that I have now taken on the role of matriarch for the family, which brings me onto my second thing. This has become a bit of a niggle for me, Pip would call it a foible. I call it the huge weight of expectation from society at large and my family in particular. What’s a matriarch supposed to be like these days?

In my opinion they are like whatever the fuck they want to be!

We had a blueprint once upon a time. Matriarch’s were stern, straight backed and didn’t have much fun. We could look to the elephant world for hints and tips. They seem to have got this matriarchal society nailed. The herd follows the matriarch everywhere, she knows things and they respect her. She also sorts out the bull elephants when they get annoying.

Matriarch’s definitely did not go stand up paddle boarding. As I stood on my paddle board earlier this week, clad from head to toe in damp neoprene I wondered about my role as the female head of the family. Would my mother have put a smelly wet suit on and launched herself onto a cold estuary in October to join her daughter in a jolly escapade? No. She would not.

She would have had more sense.

I, however, found myself balancing precariously on the paddle board, with freezing feet and fingers that were slowly turning blue. My Eldest Daughter and Youngest Daughter were sharing a paddle board and had paddled gleefully on ahead.

”Are you alright mum?” Came the shout from Eldest Daughter.

”Yes, I’m fine.” I replied in my best calm voice, whilst at the same time wondering what the fuck I was doing in a wet suit in the middle of Cornwall standing on a floaty board thing.

We docked (can you say docked in relation to paddle boards?) at a small beach where apparently, the next fun thing to do was to jump off a large rock and plunge yourself into the hyperthermic river.

My two intrepid daughters went first, encouraging me from the water to ‘just jump Mum, it’s not that high!’

Funny, very funny. Whilst it was not that high, it was however cold and wet (the drizzle was fairly persistent) and I simply didn’t want to get any more chilblains than was strictly necessary.

Then I remembered. I was the female head of the family and to not jump would most definitely have let the side down. I had, after all brought my daughters up to be feisty, independent minded people who are fearless, free and savvy. How could I wimp out at this late stage in life?

“Right then.” I said to myself as I launched my seal-like form into the depths of the ice flow. As my body sunk to the bottom of the river, I wondered whether we could go to the Bahamas next year for our October half term break and calculated the cost of flying everyone there compared to the numbing cold I was now experiencing.

I bobbed to the surface, did a quick check of my vital organs to make sure they were still functioning properly and then heard the delighted cries of my fabulous girls,

’Well done mum! You did it.”

Yes, I did do it. I climbed back onto my paddle board and with renewed vigour, paddled happily around the estuary, feeling proud of my minor triumph. My girls were delighted, we‘d shared a moment and the bond was strengthened.

Perhaps my matriarchal role can be anything I make it. We live in a world where us women can now write our own scripts and quite frankly, if that involves sky diving naked whilst flipping a pancake, then that’s ok. It also occurs to me that we don’t need kids to be a matriarch. There’s something about women of a certain age and the things they’ve been through that must be respected and slightly feared.

You see, we know things. We’ve seen things and we have ways of dealing with things that leave the male of the species slightly baffled and wondering how they agreed to a new kitchen, posh holiday, meal, sparkly items etc without noticing.

Strong and full of understated rage - like so very many of us. Everyone knows I want to overthrow the patriarchy and fully buy into male bafflement!

I’m off to prepare my cauldron and draw upon my inner elephant.

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