My mother didn’t ever tell us an awful lot about how her young life was, before we all came along. 

Scraps of information or stories were tossed out here and there. How Grandad would chase Dad away when he came calling for Mum. How she would row the boat when Dad was fishing. She was a Mum-Mum, petite and ladylike, but I once saw her wrestle with our German Shepherd in the back garden when he was sick and had a fit and tangled himself up in some rope. She dived right in and untangled the poor boy, right in the middle of his attack. The dog was fine after but it afforded a glimpse of someone who could be far tougher than we generally required her to be.

Something reminded me today of a tiny story of Mum’s and I thought I should set it down. It probably won’t make for the most riveting blog post ever but that hasn’t been the point of this place for the longest time now. Entertaining the masses is not the priority. I love it when you come and read but I don’t ever mind if you don’t. That’s the current policy in this neck of the woods.

So, anyway, here it is.

One thing that Mum told me many times, not without some hint of pride, was that she was apparently born with a caul. A caul is a piece of membrane that can cover a newborn's head and face. The caul is harmless and is immediately removed by the attending midwife upon birth of the child. This didn’t mean much to me, as a young man. I would nod a bit and made some appreciative noises but that was about it. 

Once or twice, she would enlarge on the story by telling how a knock had come to her door once upon a time, when she was young, and a foreign sailor man was stood there on her front step. He had come in on a ship that was docked in the harbour below her parent’s house and he had heard in a pub that a lady lived here who had been born with a caul and who still had it. He wanted to buy it from her.

He was subscribing to a belief that was shared by my mother to at least a certain degree. That the possession of a caul was a protection against death by drowning. The presence of a caul on this man’s ship would prevent it from sinking.

Mum didn’t have her caul but she probably wouldn’t have sold it if she had. She, too, spent time on water and she too had no desire to drown. This is an indication of the curious line Mum trod between being a Devout Christian as well as being a person who was brought up among strong local superstitions.

Reading up about Cauls a bit, I find myself a little more impressed than I was back when Mum first told me about hers, all those years ago. If the Internet can be trusted, (hint – it can’t) only one in 80,000 births involve a caul. In literature and such, David Copperfield was born with one and it sold for fifteen guineas. Danny Torrance had one too, in The Shining, and look how that turned out. Sigmund Freud, George Formby and Johnny Giles were also members of the club. So there.

That’s all I’ve got. Short and sweet, this week. Just worth jotting down, I think. The story that Mum can no longer tell, I can tell for her here. I hope her young life was full, fun, and satisfying; I think it probably was.

I also hope the exotic sailor on Mum’s doorstep sailed out of Sligo Harbour on his timber boat and lived a long and fruitful life out there on the high seas.


Jim Murdoch said...

Christ, you make it hard. Cauls! What the hell am I going to say about cauls? Sod it, I'll just tell you another joke:

Similar class to before. [I usually tell this joke second] A boy puts his hand up:
“Please, Miss, I need to do a pish.”
The teacher is aghast [I usually gasp]: “It’s not a ‘pish’ young man, it’s a ‘Number One.’ Now off you go and do your business.”
So, the boy goes off and does his business.
A little later another boy puts his hand up:
“Please, Miss, I need to do a shite.”
The teacher is aghast [Another gasp]: “It’s not a ‘shite’ young man, it’s a ‘Number Two.’ Now off you go and do your business.”
So, the boy goes off and does his business.
Later on, the ruffians at the back of the class get an idea:
[They whisper to and nudge each other]: “You do it.” “Naw, you do it.”
Finally, one puts his hand up:
“Please, Miss, the boy next to me wants to fart but he disnae know the code.”

Ken Armstrong said...

I had a laugh at this. That's quite rare for me. :)