Creative Comedy Project

Last of the Summer Whine By Julia Hodson Hodson

Last of the Summer Whine

I never deliberately waited for my father to raise his favourite topics of conversation whenever I visited. Actually I completely forgot about it until one of his pet subjects came up - then I opened my mental check list and ticked off each of his regular updates before, with satisfaction, leaving.

Why I hadn't spotted the pattern before I will never know, but like any repetition it was both comforting and frustrating. I did not know Norman Gent and yet my father felt obliged to drip feed me every detail of his life.Tick. He would snipe and complain endlessly about some minor expenditure that my mother had made on herself, say a hair cut, a multi pack of Tena lady pads or a new tea towel, as if she had bankrupted him. My mother just smiled and flicked her newly cut hair. Tick. His final piece de resistance was usually a ‘script perfect’ rendition of an episode from the Last of the Summer Wine, with a preference for the sketch where the two coppers decline to report a traffic offence because it will cause too much paper work. Tick.

I am sitting with my mother looking at his empty chair, after his funeral. A counsellor would explain that my next imprudent outburst was the result of a failure to accept his death and getting stuck at the anger stage of the grief curve. I blurt out, ‘Isn’t it quiet without his boring stories and his mean penny pinching…..”

My mother interrupts me, ‘Don’t you speak about your father like that.’ She almost added that he wasn't cold in the grave yet, but in truth his ashes were still hot. “Your Dad always looked after me, I never wanted for anything. It was just an in joke between us.’ She chuckled.

‘OK, so he was just boring then. All those stories about Norman Gent?’

‘Norman Gent never existed - he was a fictitious character. Your Dad was keen to contribute something to the conversation when you were coming home with your highfalutin stories - its not easy when you are stuck in these four walls.’

‘Norman Gent was made up? You're joking?’

‘Oh no dear, after a while we started to enjoy it. My favourite story about Norman was that he was an acrophobic member of the one thousand big dipper club. In fact when you came there was an unwritten code between us that Dad would try and get three tales in on certain themes. It was a challenge. He got a reward for a Hat trick, if each of the three stories were original. I kept a note of proceedings. Checking things off.’

‘And the reward was a cup of hot cocoa was it?’

“Oh no dear we’re talking a little hokey…….’

‘Stop right there….’

‘Too much information?’

‘Yes. Just tell me - the Last of the Summer Wine?’

‘Oh well we thought you liked that, we hated it. He did so enjoy your visits, so much fun.’ She was smiling.

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