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Tuesday, 10 July 2007


When I was about nineteen years old, I escorted my mother on one of her annual pilgrimages abroad. She has been making these trips for as long as I can remember, to places like "The Holy Land," San Giovani, Rome, Fatima, Knock and Medjugorje. I was fascinated by the reports in the press at the time, regarding this small Serbo-Croatian village. Apparently the Virgin Mary herself was appearing there in person every single day. The sun had been reported to "spin, dart about and even become flat like the Eucharist," in the sky as a sign for all to see!

I must admit that I have always been a cynical 'so and so' and to Brenda's shame - far from devout. She had been relating tales of miracles, apparitions, the stigmata and bleeding/crying statues for many years. I was keen to observe this particular sensation at first hand and so (together with the rest of our parish) we flew to Split, and were accommodated in the modest, simple homes of the folk who lived in the village as no hotels had as yet been built to accommodate the droves of visiting comparatively wealthy, devout Christian visitors.

What a memorable trip this turned out to be...

Mrs Jones (my mother's widowed best friend) spent most of the pilgrimage sunning herself in the front garden of our cottage wearing a banana yellow coloured toweling hot pant suit. The local men were mesmerised by the outrageous behaviour of this post menopausal chunky female. Remember this was a simple small rural village where a large proportion of the locals were actually devout Muslim and everyone dressed modestly, as indeed usually did Mrs Jones. Clearly the laws of common decency do not apply to the British when abroad. Mrs Jones was on holiday and so she wore her hot pants, would she have done this in her front garden at home in Beckenham? Definitely not. I have a photo here by my side as I type ... shall I scan it in? Her son is a lawyer, perhaps not.

The locals spoke no English, some had a little German and as I had an 'A Level' in the subject, Mrs Jones often asked me to translate for her but it all soon became rather tiresome.

Mrs Jones was much more Ivy Tilsley than Liz Taylor and her immodest flirtatious behaviour was simply outrageous. Eventually when she asked me to translate the words of the retired uncle of the house, I grasped the opportunity and lied (well I was still only a teenager!):

"He says that you appear to have very firm breasts for a woman of your obvious great age," (I thought the sentence was so funny I wanted to expire with laughter). The poor man had actually asked if Mrs Jones would move to the back garden to lie in the sun in a less exposed position. Mrs Jones however winked at him and opened her remaining cardigan button.

On another occasion I told Mrs Jones that he had said; "she was clearly a sexually experienced woman who knew how to pleasure men". To my horror and fascination she delighted in the remark ... this went on for several days until my mother eventually overheard my interpretation and immediately recognised my signature sense of humour. Brenda insisted that I confess and quelle suprise, Mrs Jones still hates me now.

On reflection, I think Mrs Jones deserved it, she turned the front garden of that small cottage into a spectacle for the entire village, a kind of Spearmint Rhino for the over 55's. This was supposed to be a religious pilgrimage after all.


antarctichousehusband said...

By 'modest and simple home' I presume you mean with a ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms of less that 1:2 - anything less is sheer hell, darling, and I would never have believed any stories of the Virgin Mary's appearing under those conditions. St. M has a rider in her contract, apparently, which ensures an en-suite bathroom and an abundance of pure white roses, plus unlimited Veuve Cliquot for her entourage of cherubs. Your kind of girl, I'd have thought.

rilly super said...

It's a miracle you didn't start a civil war down in those parts with your mischief-making dulwichmum. The fact that no such dreadful fate befell those poor people is testament to the truth of the holy visitations and shame on you for your scepticism my dear!

Drunk Mummy said...

If Brenda is fascinated by visitations from the Virgin Mary, what on earth does she make of Dulwich's very own Immaculate Conception, in the form of Ana's pregnancy?
I can just see Alleyn Road becoming a site of pilgrimage (although I doubt the residents would appreciate the hordes of sick and disfigured spoiling the locale).
I would imagine that 'weeping statues' are a common sight in the local Starbucks - what with all those repressed emotions, and all that Botox.

The Good Woman said...

The Great British Tourist is quite something to behold. I have to admit that I was in serious doubt that a 'stiff upper lip' had ever existed on this island. Before I got here of course.

My generalisations in those days were more about sunburn and general lack of clothing. Ah, so THAT's why it rains so much here...

Omega Mum said...

I love it. I think we should all be entitled to a virtual translation whenever we like so when the white van boys yell their unpleasant comments out of the window, they're immediately translated into some divinely flattering comment.

dulwichmum said...

Dear Antarctichousehusband,

You really are terribly knowledgable about all things religious. I should introduce you to Brenda!

Darling Rilly,

Now that I have reflected on the holiday, the locals were shooting into the air as we left, and I am sure the ethnic cleansing soon followed... Oh dear! I never realised, what have I done?

Super Drunk Mummy,

I love your description of Starbucks in Dulwich! You are so right, I almost inhaled my latte while laughing earlier on this evening.

Oh lovely The Good Woman,

Yes indeed, the banana yellow hot pant suit is reserved for trips abroad only!

Dear Omega Mum,

I remember being a teenager so very well, I thought our generation were so very switched on and much brighter than anyone else ever. I think translating for Mrs Jones was one of the most pleasurable experiences of my entire life to date! said...

A great post Dulwich Mum, continuing the Roman Catholic theme I see. I am however a little disappointed that you have teased us with the admission that you indeed have a photo of the banana yellow towelling hot pant suit but but that you are not going to post it!

I Beatrice said...

Tell your mother there's no need to go quite so far for her pilgrimage next time. There's a very nice little shrine that has sprung up lately in a back garden not far from here, in Surbiton...

Now, no Surbiton jokes please! If it's good enough for Tom and Margo as well as Our Lady - well, it should be good enough for anyone don't you think?

I was with your mother's friend on the question of your translation of her remarks, mind you. Though that might be just an age-related reaction of course....

Frog in the Field said...

Mrs Jones, well what a fantastic story, I just love it. I can say nothing else, bloody brilliant (as they say in Wales)

Elsie Button said...

my great great aunt was a nun - sister catherine - and even she did some pretty crazy things abroad, by all accounts she was a bit of an old tart... shocking.

dulwichmum said...

My dear Ingenious Rose,

My facebook page says (in the words of my good friend Baby Steps) I am a "recovering Roman Catholic" - shall I ever be able to truely move on?

Lovely I Beatrice,

I shall send Brenda right over!

Lovely Frog in the Field,

I have been entertaining a lovely Welsh lady myself tonight! My Monster in law is here to visit. There's lovely!

Oh Elsie, you are a scream. I once knew a Sister Catherine, she had a beard, and so did Sr Kevin I seem to remember...