This is an old story but for some reason yesterday it came to me again so I thought I would share it with you.
About ten years ago now when I was at my first year of university, in our halls of residence, we had this cleaner called Pat. Now this Pat was a character and a half, psychologists' Holy Grail and Mike Leigh’s perfect muse.
If I had to describe Pat in just one word, I would have to say, Shrivelled. She was only in her late fifties but to look at her you would think she was well into her nineties. As my friend Tracy very artfully put it, it looked as though she had been left in the tumble dryer for a tad longer than she should have.
Pat’s favourite pastimes were, drinking cups of tea or coffee with eight sugars, cornering poor, unsuspecting students and telling them all about her sex life with her various husbands and walking into people’s rooms without knocking and when finding their door locked, shouting out, ‘Why is this door locked? ‘as [has] she go’ [got] a bloke in there?’
Pat’s biggest characteristic however was that no matter what you’d done, she had done something even bigger and better. For example if you were upset because your aunt had been gobbled up by a crocodile on a trip to Africa, she would say, ‘That’s nothing. My sister and her entire family were eaten by a group of seagulls in Hastings.’ and so on and so forth.
One day a group of us were sitting in our kitchen eating lunch and watching Jerry Springer which that day was all about women who had been beaten by their husbands. Pat was busy dirtying the kitchen surfaces (with this grubby rag that she was very fond of and used for cleaning everything from the toilets, to our bedroom mirrors) and giving a commentary on the programme.
Then one of the ladies got really upset and with tears rolling down her face, she gave Jerry this very long and touching speech about how hard it was for her to live with a man who beats her and how the effects of this were not just physical but mental as well. It was quite sad really and even though everyone knows Jerry Springer is really a pantomime, we were all listening intently and feeling a bit sorry for this poor woman. Even Pat had cut out her commentary and was listening (or maybe she was just thinking up something to top that). But then suddenly she decided that this woman had hugged the spotlight for far longer than she deserved and said something which in my opinion was pure brilliance and the mother of all anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-betters.
‘Bullshit’ she cried out, ‘My‘usband [my husband] used to knock me about a bit; it never did me any ‘arm [harm].’