Friday 11 February 2011

Hope springs.

He’ll kill me for telling you this, but my Dad has a little routine that – among the confines of me, Mum and Jamie (and now you) – he’s become rather famous for. Not a routine in the hair-gel-before-aftershave, right-shoes-before-left-sock sense, but an actual routine. A tap-dancing routine.

It’s a daft little skit that only tends to come out in happy moments. Not weddings or birthdays or parties or any of that (although, that said, he did once do it in a shoe shop on holiday in Mexico, and still basks in the glory of the horrified looks on his teenage kids’ faces); more like contented moments at home in pyjamas eating biscuits. Which, of course, only makes the dance all the more glorious.

Key to Dad’s routine is its simplicity. (Well, its simplicity and the daft grin on his face. And the fact that it’s usually performed in socks.) His arms stretch out at perfect, proud right angles, his feet press together, and before you can say ‘5, 6, 7, 8’ his little legs are going ten to the dozen, toe-tapping, heel-digging and shuffle-hop-stepping to the tune of Keep Young and Beautiful. (Message to BBC Drama researchers: THIS is my family. You’re welcome.)

Dad’s routine is inspired by an episode of my folks’ favourite TV show, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, in which loveable Brummie Barry declares to the lads over a pint that he once took tap dancing classes. (‘Me auntie was the teacher so I got a rebate on the lessons.’) Amused by his revelation, his mates encourage him to give them a quick performance in front of the dart board and, after some gentle persuasion (‘Off yer gan, lad – one little bit and you’ll not have to buy a drink all night’), he obliges. Maniacally shuffling around in a circle, he looks as proud as punch. ‘It’s comin’ back, lads!’ he enthuses. ‘It’s comin’ back!’ 
As far as I’m concerned, it’s Timothy Spall’s finest moment in front of a camera – and if you scroll to 1.50 here, you can see it for yourself.

I spent a few days back at home with Mum and Dad last week, while Mum recuperated from her double mastectomy – and by ‘recuperated’, I mean ‘made her family and friends immeasurably proud with the bravest, most brilliantly can-do attitude and startling mental strength ever displayed’. (Seriously. The woman is a marvel. And I want the world to know that said marvel is my Mum.) I’d been tentative in my approach to what I’d find behind their front door, but the moment my ringing of the doorbell was answered by Mum looking unnervingly resplendent in pyjamas and a dressing gown (with the drains from her wounds being carried in sparkly gift bags), it was clear that all was well at home. Better than well: happy. And, given the number of Geordie-accented comedy-quotes both Mum and Dad were coming out with, I gathered that said happiness was thanks in no small part to the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet box-set marathon they’d been watching both prior to her op and immediately after she got home.

It goes without saying that these past few months have been a funny old time for my family, with the discovery of Mum’s BRCA-2 gene dropping a bomb in the middle of the rubble that was left over from my diagnosis and Jamie’s redundancy (to name but two of a number of chip-pissers). But those few days at home, in the company of my happy – and, more to the point, relaxed – family were as sure a sign as any that the balance is tipping back into more contented territory. The worry about Jamie’s redundancy has turned into excited anticipation about his new job. The fear about my recurrence chances has been assuaged by the success of the prophylactic procedures I’ve had. And, more importantly, the anxiety about Mum’s painfully difficult decision to go ahead with her own preventative surgery has been replaced by the most wonderful wave of relief that’s seen Mum and Dad in particular return to a place where they’re as lightheartedly positive as it’s possible for them to be. (And, at the risk of getting all soppy on you, I can’t let this paragraph go by without saying what a magnificent thing it is to behold: this couple, who adore each other so much, at the kind of comfortable, cheeky, cheerful ease they so deserve.)

It’s funny how you pick up on those kind of changes, though. I thought about it this week when I bought my first daffodils of 2011 (if you can find me a more optimistic symbol than that, I’d like to see it) and texted Mum with a picture. It’s a long-standing tradition of ours, racing each other to find the year’s first daffs, and something I remember Mum doing with Nan  (a much nicer gene we share that hasn't had the limelight it ought to have). But, to my mind, it’s the daft little things that are the most reliable indications that things are getting better. Mum writing shopping lists for Dad from her hospital bed; Jamie spending his final few days of work-free freedom panic-buying Rock Band accessories; breaking out the posh biscuits for an 11 o’clock cup of tea… and Dad entertaining his convalescing wife and daughter with a tap-dancing routine.

With Mum out of action, it’s fallen to Dad to cook (a man who famously gave his son tinned curry on toast the last time his wife was unable to do the dinner) and, as it turns out, his skills don’t just extend to tap.
‘Are you going to do more of this when Mum’s better then, shitface?’ I asked, leaning on the kitchen worktop as he hung up his oven gloves.
‘Don’t be daft,’ he said.
‘You do realise that tonight is the first time I’ve eaten any food you’ve made,’ I ribbed. ‘And I’m 31.’
‘Oi, piss off. I’m a very sensitive person, you know,’ he winked.
I grinned my approval at his cooking and, with a cheeky look in his eye, he paused, then responded in the only way he knows how: by stretching out his arms at perfect, proud right angles, pressing his feet together, and toe-tapping, heel-digging and shuffle-hop-stepping to the tune of Keep Young and Beautiful. And, bugger it, I joined in too. Because, yep – it’s comin’ back, all right.


Meep said...


I've been reading your journal for a while now and I think it's great. I recommended it to one of my close friend whose just been diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Things are not going to be too much fun round here for a while.

But whilst she is dealing admirably with this, her husband is really finding it hard. He's a lovely guy, in touch with his feelings, not afraid to show his emotions etc, but on this he's just.. struggling. And it struck me that the one thing I can never remember seeing on your blog was a guest post from P about how HE felt about your cancer, and so I wanted to ask you if you would consider asking him if he would do one. I suspect it would help many people out there.. She certainly thinks it would help them :o)

I think you're amazing. You've done so well through all of this, with grit and courage. Well done.

Laura Sparling said...

Haha! Love the Spall routine. Very amusing. :-)

Lovely post, Lisa. Glad to hear that your Mum is doing so well.

Laura x

Lisa Lynch said...

Hey Meep,

I'm so sorry to hear about your mate. What utter shitness. Huge love to you all.

As for a guest-post from P, that's not a bad idea you've got there. I can't guarantee anything, but let me put it to him (with a Chinese burn thrown in for good measure) and see what we can do...


Anonymous said...

Superb stuff and very, very amusing. Your Mum is a marvel, do not tell her I said that though, I don't want her getting big-headed.


Claire said...

Aww, really beautiful story :)

the_jok said...

Hi Lisa,

Great news that your Mum is doing so well, and its such a happy scene. Thank you!

Amy said...

Your mum sounds absolutely brilliant. Tell her that from me and any other person in the world with half a braincell.

This post is wonderful, it made me smile so hard my cheeks are now hurting. Good on you and your family.