One of the reasons I love romance so much is because it can encompass a range of relationships, not just the one between the heroine and hero, hero and hero or heroine and heroine (or multiple if that’s your thing). I enjoy reading about the connections between parents and children, friends, enemies, siblings, cousins, the list goes on. Yes, I include a little bit of naughtiness and I enjoy the affection between lovers, but for me, it has to have more than this. And one of the relationships I like to explore is the one between siblings. Some are close, some are estranged, some are bitter rivals, but, ultimately, when you’ve grown up with someone, particularly if, like me, it was in the middle of nowhere, the relationship you have with that person is bound to affect what type of person you are. Fortunately for me, I have a good relationship with my sister and bar the odd sibling squabble when we were younger, we have always got on. So, seeing as it was her birthday recently, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to my sister, slash chum, slash comrade-in-arms, Liz.
Now, if you’re reading this and you personally know the Scott clan, you’ll agree with me when I say we are a strange tribe of people who have more in common with the Adam’s Family than the Disney type. We enjoy our personal space, have fiery tempers and think way too deeply about everything. We enjoy poking fun at ourselves and take rejection to heart, if only to then stubbornly rise out of it and flip the bird to whatever is keeping us down, telling ourselves we’ll show them if it’s the very last thing we do. We’re also very adept at getting ourselves into whacky situations, including hiding up in our spare bedroom because I had seen a man walking up the lane with a machine gun in his hand. It was broad daylight, and the guy turned out to be going to a fancy dress party, but I was only seven years old and it looked perfectly authentic to me. Liz, Jo, me, and even the dog stood on standby with various make-shift weapons from around the house (a pair of nail scissors, a feck off massive roll of paper and a bottle of shampoo). Mum and Dad were at the pub, completely oblivious to the potential nightmare scene from a thriller movie.
Anyway, here goes a trip down memory lane:
- The horror!
Being children of the eighties, Liz and I weren’t restricted by ‘nanny-state’ restrictions, so it was not unusual for my parent to leave us alone from a young age (for hours, not days). We could also stay up as late as we liked, so long as we didn’t moan about being tired the next day. Liz is five years older than me and liked a good horror film when she was entering adolescence. I was introduced to the world of Stephen King at the tender age of six and, as such, I am now immune to all things horror. I’m more likely to laugh than scream when watching one nowadays, unlike my husband who was literally crawling onto my lap during a showing of ‘IT’. He was so vocal, I think he was providing more entertainment than the actual film was.
Back then, however, I would frequently scare the living bejesus out of my mother when I wandered into her room in the middle of the night, having had a nightmare about cannibal clowns, white nightie blowing in the wind and a pasty face coming at her, at the same time as I whimpered, Mummm!’ She would scream, dad would leap out of bed with nothing on, the dog would start barking, all the while the instigator of my nightmares, aka my sister, remained sleeping peacefully in her bed. However, if nothing else, my early education of all things horror meant I learnt fairly quickly to run the other way in the face of something likely to give me the willies for the foreseeable. For example, when I drove home from Exeter in the middle of the night and saw a wellington boot and what looked like entrails coming out the top of it. A normal person might have stopped to investigate, but not me! I knew that if I got out to be met by some bloody zombie-like creature, one which most likely wanted to eat my brain, they’d still outrun me on only one leg. So, I’ll give you this one, Liz, your obsession with horror films was marginally useful.
2. Keep your emotions in check!
To demonstrate this particular point, I’m going to give you a little anecdote about my wedding dress shopping experience with Liz, aka, my matron of honour. Liz, mum and I walked into the bridal boutique with our hands tucked inside our pockets, looking all around in bewilderment and feeling like we were intruders for marching into such a shop. As we sorted through a multitude of dresses, most of which I could reject based on the size of my chest alone, a woman of the tall, skinny and stunningly beautiful variety wandered out to an audience of what looked like every female she had ever met in her life. She was wearing what was essentially a giant doily of a dress, but still managed to make it look attractive given that she was tanned and gorgeous. The chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from her fanfare immediately grabbed our attention. She gushed and floated further in front of them before bursting into tears, fanning her face and hugging each and every one of her crew. Meanwhile, her matron of honour and bridesmaids began crying and calling out, “That’s the one, that’s the one!” It was quite the show, which left us Scotts looking on with wrinkled foreheads and deep Vs between our brows.
Cue my turn to come out in the dress, which actually turned out to be the ‘one’. A nice corset back to flatten up the boozwhams and have me looking a lot thinner than I actually was. Our reaction was somewhat different, but believe me when I say, that for the Scotts, this was a highly emotional scene:
Mum: Ahh, it’s lovely! (Complete with a smile made up of teeth and bunched up shoulders. This is more Banfield than Scott, but they’re a whole other clan to discuss at a later date.)
Me: Are you sure? It’s not too big? (Puts hands over bobs and starts to bounce up and down on the spot, test driving it for all eventualities, such as earthquakes and the aforementioned hobbledy man running after me.)
Liz: (Walks up to the mirror I am standing in front of, arms folded, looks up and down at my reflection, then nods the once). Yeah, it’s alright.
Me: Job done!
Dad, on the day of the wedding, seeing me for the first time in all my get up: Yer taking up the whole room!
3. Test Driver
Now, I don’t think this one is exclusive to me and Liz. Being the younger sister, I had to go along with a lot of her ‘brilliant’ ideas, including trying to run away from home with two cartons of orange juice, only to get as far as the back gate and decide it was too much effort, melting the garden furniture with a kid’s chemistry set which clearly stated there was positively no way the contents could cause any damage, and taking part in one of her homemade films. Over the years I played a cockney wolf, an old lady news presenter with a piercingly high voice, a tribesman, as well as a mad scientist from an animal testing laboratory. I guess she was going through her political phase back then. She was a frickin’ evil genius, however, because no matter how crazy the idea, we all did it, including my parents, who, at some point, had to pretend to be part of the Japanese mafia. The best was when she convinced her best friend, Jo, and I to dress up in black bin liners, pretending to be ninja warriors in her own version of an Indiana Jones movie. We went to a country club dressed up in this plastic finery, where one of the most popular girls in school happened to be there, looking at us as though we were one picnic short of a sandwich.
But lest we forget the many inventions she came up with, including a go-cart made from a sheet of mdf, an old pram axis and a cardboard box. As test driver, I had to get inside the cardboard box with a border collie and a golden retriever, while she pulled me along on her bike. Funnily enough, it didn’t work. My mother had to put her foot down when, in the face of adversity, she suggested we try it out on the hill on the main road with a 60mph speed limit. But you know what they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you crave for those care-free days of the late 1980s.
4. The many ways of saying, ‘You mean something to me,’ without having to actually verbalise it:
This is true of not only me and Liz but also my dad and the Scott extended family. To be honest, my mother is probably the most emotionally stable one amongst us. Now, I can cuddle and lay affection on my daughters without fear, but the thought of hugging my father or sister is almost paralysing. It’s not that we don’t care about one another, it’s just weird. In fact, whenever we have had to do such a thing, there is an unspoken rule that we must make a joke about it and awkwardly pat the other person’s back. It’s like a man hug – both fascinating and painful to watch. If we want to offer each other praise by saying, ‘Well done’, and ‘Congratulations’, it has to be said in a weird voice, often with over-exaggerated pronunciation. Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way it is. During my father’s wedding speech, he described me as being ‘goodo’, which was high praise indeed. My husband was told he was, ‘alright, which for most people would sound insulting, but for Dad, this was a positively glowing assessment.
So, Liz, if you’re reading, I think you’re ‘alright’! Happy Birthday!