Mamma Used to Say…



I have always lived my life by a certain moral and practical internal code. But it has occurred to me that some of that code hasn’t entirely been innate. My mother was (and possibly still is) a very insightful woman at times. And some of her little adages that she must have spouted off whilst washing up at the kitchen sink or slaving over a hot stove (she did a lot of that) must have rubbed off on her six little children. Some of those concise little nuggets of advice were pure gold and have helped shaped the way I am and how I conduct myself. Some are a little iffy, but you make your own mind up.

1: Never cancel an agreed engagement just because you get a better offer.

This one is entirely right and proper. As any polite and well-bred person ought to do; if a date has been made, one does not have the right to discard it purely because something more interesting has come up. Honour your engagement and re-arrange the subsequent arrangement for another day. I can safely say I strictly abide by this rule. Even if I don’t particularly like it sometimes.

2: Never air your dirty laundry in public.

This piece of advice is not literal. I’ve said in various posts in the past, we were a poor working-class family *sob*. Where we lived, the occupants of the other council houses seemed to take great delight in bringing their arguments, quarrels and disagreements out into the open air for the entire neighbourhood to hear. In fact, shouting about these affairs at the top of their voices seemed to be the thing to do! A little bit like a real-life forerunner to the Jeremy Kyle Show, really. My mother detested this vulgar behaviour. She made it quite clear that all our disagreements had to be made behind closed doors. It is entirely improper to audibly bandy about one’s grievances for all to hear – I wholeheartedly agree with this one.

3: It’s gonna’ get broken where it’s going.

Now I think this might need a bit of explanation! The saying actually was in reference to food. So for example, if my mother was dolling out biscuits and one of her hapless children was unlucky enough to receive a broken one, she would say this to explain that in your mouth and stomach everything gets broken! But being the witty and slightly sarcastic children we were, we ingeniously inserted the words into the title of a made-up song. ‘It’s gonna’ get broken where it’s goin’, that’s what my mamma said!‘. But our song related to a ‘heart’ being broken in a romantic dalliance. My mother gave a stiff smile whenever we sang it; we had rubbished her wise words. And that was unforgivable.

4: Never ride or allow yourself to be passenger on a motorbike.

This is a little more literal and I’m afraid I’ve broken this rule on a couple of occasions (please don’t tell my mother, she’d kill me). But of course she’s quite right. To allow one’s fragile little body to hurtle along a road at breakneck speed with nothing but a helmet and no shell (i.e. – without the protection of the metal casing of a car) is a pretty risky thing to do. A lot of people die or are seriously maimed in motorbike accidents, very often through no fault of their own. Some just never stood a chance. I can’t promise I won’t ever find myself on the back of a motorcycle again but I will attempt to limit the possibility of it.

5: Don’t put your coat on inside the house – when you go out, you won’t feel the benefit.

I think every mother in the entire world has said this at one time or another. But I’ve never been entirely certain of the validity of it. Why won’t you feel the benefit? Surely you are pre-warming the pocket of air between your skin and the coat so that when you venture outside, the layering system will already be in place. Therefore you should actually be warmer.

6: Never marry a soldier.

Now this advice is a little bit controversial and I’m not entirely certain of my mother’s thinking behind it. I’m going to paraphrase and guess that she meant that soldiers out in the field have seen a lot of messed-up things; death (sometimes of friends), maiming and obviously, they themselves have to be trained to kill. And in turn, this could in theory mentally screw a soldier up. Therefore screwing up any kind of relationship. I don’t know, I’m guessing at this one because I’ve never questioned her on it. Maybe she just meant that soldiers never stay in the same place for very long and you, as a soldier’s wife, would be forced to move house (or maybe even move country) on a regular basis. And I’m particularly lazy and could not abide by that. Suffice to say, I am not married to a soldier.

7: If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

This has become my mantra. It may not come across in my blog (but then the blog is the contents of my mind, and in my mind, I am queen of the world), but I am rather shy by nature. But I don’t like to be perceived as shy so I put on a bit of a front. Yet I still find the above advice difficult to carry out at times; though it still remains very relevant. If you don’t state what you want, you very probably won’t get what you want. So you really have to take a risk and ask for it. It might just pay off. My mother really did nail it on that one.

8: The only way out is through education.

Well this speaks for itself and is also very indicative of the fairly impoverished background we came from *sob*. I have definitely moved up a level from the circumstances I was born into and hopefully my children will move a level above that. My siblings are all extremely bright – and I would say I’m fairly savvy myself. But unfortunately I don’t think I was quite clever enough and the things that I excelled at (mostly creative) don’t always make one terribly successful. So there was definitely a limit to my social mobility. My upward movement was capped by the limitations of my intellect. Still, my lifestyle is fairly comfortable and I am better off than a lot of people. And looking at my smart daughters, I think they will do very well for themselves.

I’m sure there were many more of these adages. Some of them have completely gone from my memory, some of them I may not even attribute to my mother (even though I probably should). As you can see, most of her pearls of wisdom started with a ‘never’ or a ‘don’t’, and were examples of things a sensible person must try at all costs not to do. And I’m not professing that I have followed these sayings to the letter (in some cases I have blatantly ignored them), but something has definitely sunk in. And in some instances has even passed down a generation to my children. Lucky, lucky them.

I’m sure your mother or maybe your father (not mine, he never said anything remotely sensible) have given you the benefit of their wisdom. I would wager this wisdom has influenced you – even if in a very small way. And I for one would love to hear about it!


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10 thoughts on “Mamma Used to Say…

  1. My mother left when I was very young *sob* .. But of course if you knew her you would probably say it was the best gift she gave me. My father to this day doesn’t say much, but that’s probably the best advice I never took from him lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Naa then thy dan greet tonnip’ed, guide thysen else ah’ll ding ye wan!

    (An exaggeration of my mum’s Lincolnshire accent – she wouldn’t use this phrase herself but would use it as an example of something a Lincolnshire percent might say to warn another from their current course – the translation is “Now then you darn great turnip head, watch yourself or I’ll ding you!”)

    Liked by 1 person

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