Monday 20 March 2023


It was Mothers’ Day on Sunday. My chance to look back affectionately on my mother who died 27 years ago in 1996 aged 96. It also allows me to reflect on that world two years before Google’s launch. 

Scotland's papers: A&Es to turn away patients and MP lobbying row - BBC News

We had “Mad Cow Disease” and overrun hospitals. Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov at chess. John Major’s Conservative government, over 20 % points behind Tony Blair’s Labour in the polls, was limping towards a landslide defeat the following year. Home Secretary Michael Howard was loathed for his right wing measures. Plus ça change. 

Listen to Bill Clinton's 1996 radio ad touting his passage of DOMA | CNN  Politics

In America Bill Clinton won his second term, General Motors launched their first all-electric car and the NASA Pathfinder landed on Mars. There were hurricanes and the Gin Blossoms – “I’ll follow you down” (listen to it…full of life).  Above all America was exciting. They held the Olympic Games and launched the longest Space Shuttle mission with six astronauts on board.

Meanwhile in China there were missile tests which created the Third Taiwan Straits crisis. Again plus ça change.

A European Council was held in Dublin. I quote “It reached agreement on the various elements necessary for introduction of the single currency (legal framework, stability pact, new exchange rate mechanism), adopted the Dublin declaration on employment and confirmed timetable for the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)”. Now I understand Brexit. The EU was so boring. All we ever wanted to do was tease Europeans. 

Does that make sense?: "And England sad-sad-sadly are out!"

My mother was a diminutive, Edwardian lady with a vast appetite for life. She emigrated to Spain in her early 20s with her lover, there met my father, married, watched the Civil War unfold and with it their savings disappearing, was saved from Barcelona by the British Navy, returned to the UK and shortly afterwards endured the Second World War. She loved parties, cocktails and had a decisive attitude towards life and death.

As she died she said grimly “well if this is dying you can keep it” and about a government whom she disliked “frankly I’d line them up against a wall and shoot the lot of them.” She enjoyed being outrageous. When she was 90 I bought her bottles of whisky the combined age of which was 90.  There were 10 bottles. She and her sister, a near neighbour, made remarkably short work of them. 

The Best Scotch Whiskies For Every Budget: Siponey Founder Amanda Victoria  Picks 21 Superb Bottles

She would have regarded Boris Johnson as the sort of buffoon who should be lined up against that wall but she’d have taken a shine to Bill Clinton. She smoked, she drank, she partied and she drove ferociously, once encountering a runaway horse which she said furiously “reared up and put its paws on my bonnet.”

Was the world she lived in so different to ours apart from technology? It’s actually taken 27 years to advance from Deep Blue to Chat GPT. Remarkably space travel until recently had made little progress. Many politicians are still tired, confused and hopeless. Social media didn’t exist and that was probably a benefit. But there’s one thing that’s changed for the worse.

AJ+ on Twitter: "RIP to Grumpy Cat. The sourpuss cat sensation – real name  Tardar Sauce – has died at age 7, its owners say. “Grumpy Cat has helped  millions of people

We’ve become a much less “jolly” bunch – that was a word she used a lot and if she disliked someone she’d call him or her a rotter. Once when I was sent shopping and made several errors she glared and said “you’re a filthy shopper”. Perfect.

I still miss her language and sheer exuberance for life. We need to love life more energetically. If the last 27 years has taught us anything it’s that the script remains similar but the actors are now more lacklustre.

Mother’s Day was a chance to have a jolly good time. I hope you had fun.

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