My parents gave me three godmothers, and a godfather by marriage. I have never really known what to make of this as it seems my parents were convinced I would require a vast amount of spiritual counselling, even from an inchoate and slightly smushy age.
The eldest of my godmothers had been a missionary doctor in India for thirty-some years, and was a delight. She gave wonderful hugs and never had a bad word to say for anyone or anything. I admired her enormously. I learnt the hugs, but sadly, that was as far as her influence went.
When my best friend of the time went on a soul-search to India, my eldest godmother wanted to know exactly whereabouts she had gone, knowing as she did, the whole country. I knew one of the places had a ‘K’ in it. I recognise that that was not especially helpful. In fairness, my buddy was finding herself, so I don’t think she really noticed where she was; she was rather busy looking at the world through a bit of a fog, meeting people similarly, and inhaling deeply.
My eldest godmother gave me a watch for my eighteenth birthday, a very traditional and well-loved present, which I have worn ever since.
At the time of my eighteenth, Auntie Anne enclosed a card and indicated that, since I was of age, I could omit the “Auntie” from her name. I was an adult, and she was Anne.
Well.. No, I couldn’t do it. I had no objection to growing up, to being viewed as an adult, voting, drinking – no longer in the relegation zone of child – but promoted to some sort of attempt at grown-up. Anne just seemed too short a name and so I slipped repeatedly.
Eventually, she gave up the ghost and allowed herself the continuously mumsy and woollen Auntie-prefix.
My middle godmother always signed herself as ‘Your Godmother’ in birthday and Christmas cards. She lived on the Isle of Wight and had cats. A pescatarian who thought the term rather wimpy, she referred to herself as a vegetarian but turned her nose up at nut roast, she would much rather have a nice big chunk of salmon.
When we helped her move from the island back to the middle-ish of London, her cat sat in a basket on my twelve year old lap, peeing every now and then until it soaked through its cushion and into my pelvis.
I never liked that cat. I’ll point out, there was nothing medically wrong with the animal. He just didn’t like me any more than I liked him.
When I was around twenty, thinking myself a revolutionary, I told my middle godmother that the government should legalise all recreational drugs, and in this way the drug users could be sure of what product they were getting, nothing would be cut through with washing powder or rat poison, and the government would be able to cream a nice little tax off the top, thereby fixing and/or saving (depending on which government was in control at the time) the NHS and the education system.
My Godmother didn’t miss a beat. “Indeed,” she said, “they should legalise all of it. Let them kill themselves.”
My youngest godmother, a lovely lady with a bun was the one who supplied my godfather through marriage. I was allowed to believe he actually was my godfather, proper with the promises at the font, until I was every day of twenty-five. I’m not sure how this fiction had begun, but it was probably at the Godparents’ Luncheon.
Indeed, the Godparents’ Luncheon. As if we were fancy. This was in Croydon but my mother wanted to be fancy.
Throughout my teenage years, she admonished herself and told me: if she’d been able to take control of her labour, there would have been a long-ish drive, but I would have been born in Canterbury. If only that could have been the case, she told me, because then – even if I achieved nothing else in my life, I could still tell people that I was born in Canterbury. They would surely be impressed.
Usually, some time in the summer, during the eighties and nineties when it was always sunny, my mother would invite the godparents to lunch to thank them for yet another year of solid godparenting, of being in the background should I need anything beyond the standard parental guidance.
My mother would have made her lasagne. I don’t remember meat substitute from those dear old days, so she probably made it with lamb mince. It could only have been lamb.
It was around 1987 when we stopped eating beef. The BSE crisis had hit and we didn’t have farmers in Croydon, so our understanding was limited to the stories we read in the papers. They, with the best of respect to the journalists and collected bellends involved, engendered an inherent fear of cows in the late nineteen-eighties.
There would have been a salad, shot through with my family’s own bash at a vinaigrette: oil, vinegar, ground pepper and dried herbs, swished together like a throat-splintering cocktail. And bucket upon bucket of rosé, the seventies throw-back with the bulbous bottom.
My dad and godfather would smoke their pipes at the bottom of the garden while my godmothers and actual mother talked about nursing at a large picnic table on the patio, surrounded by lavender bushes.
I spent those summers convincing Rupert to sit and lie down for the lazy suburban hours.