Ma and Da dropped in on their way home. They’d visited the old home town the night before. Been at the Club. A showband belting out Queen.
I could’ve sworn it was Freddie singin’ burbled Mum. It was so loud I could’ve sworn I was about to have a heart attack.
She protested but a bottle of cheap bubbly Pinot Grigio was found and opened. Old family photos were conjured online from Ma’s cousin who’s conveniently laid out his photographic genealogy on Facebook.
|My maternal grandfather John Phillips with his sisters Jean and Peggy circa 1924 and again, with his mother too, circa 1965 (courtesy of Great Aunt Peggy’s big box of family photographs)
All this time Da had been shifting from foot to foot, coughing and refusing food offerings. He wanted home. He was starving but he’d eye-balled the house curry and rice with deep disgust. Finally, realising Ma was not for shifting, he scooted up to the Chippie for a Fish Supper for himself.
Freed from Dad’s fidgeting and her dinner-making duty, Ma relaxed. Unwound. Started to tell her midweek tale of ‘Mrs Repression from Across the Landing and Things That Go Bump in the Night’.
Repression is a middle-aged born-again virgin. Got herself a rebound shagger 23 years ago; held onto him long enough to get pregnant and then he did the dirty and found someone who didn’t sellotape her nipples down to prevent them showing through her jumpers. (She told me this one long, unfortunate night shortly after I’d moved into the village).
Repression lives across the landing from Ma and Pa.
She’s odd. says Ma. But she’s a good neighbour.
Ma means that she’s quiet and keeps a clean house.
In fact, Repression is an invisible neighbour. Aside from the annual bottle of ‘thank you for cleaning the communal stairs’ wine – which simply materialises on Ma and Pa’s doorstep every Xmas morning – you’d never know she existed.
Slugging a deep draft of the fizzy, Ma settled to her tale.
It was Wednesday. 3 o’clock. I wis wide awake because a hid restless legs and I was ready to kill yer father for his snoring. Ye know whit he’s like. You’ve heard it. That snoring.
Nods to Evan. Aye son. They laugh. Whit wis it you ca’d it?
Aye. Hog-Shoos. We all laugh at that memory. Evan at 18 months trying to tell me what his Daddy had been doing when I was out. Then shouting loud HOG-SHOOS HOG-SHOOS. Hours later when Robert fell asleep, it made sense. Snore on the in-breath and snore on the out. Join it together. To anyone with even just a fraction poetry in their ears it sounds like Hog-Shoooooo.
Ma supped some more wine and resumed.
Well, a hid punched him but he wis still snoring. So a thot (rolling her eyes to heaven) jist get up Mary, jist git up and make yerself some tea. So a did. A got up and rose and fetched my new housecoat.
(Aye I got it last Saturday when we wur shopping. Aye, from that Marks and Spencers outlet in Livingston.)
So. Anyway. Before yer Mother so rudely interrupted me (she pointedly winked at Evan) Tae cut a long story short, I got up. That bloody animal was still lying there snoring. Didnae even notice a’d left the bed. Then a went through to the hall and into the kitchen and put on the kettle. Yer father’s still got paint tins oot of course and I nearly killed maself because he doesnae know the meaning of putting things away safely. Anyway. Tae cut a long story short a wis standing at the sink rinsing oot ma favourite mug (ye know how a like that Oceania mug) when there wis this, well, this and at this she’s casting her eyes about searching for the word she wants This Noise.
And at that minute, from the hallway or from the bowels of the basement, came the most almighty grunting growling groaning animal sound. An almighty, loud, growling gurgling grunting. Snorting syllables resolving finally into a distinct: Hoooooooogg-Shoooooooooo.
Evan started to giggle. He started to laugh. He snorted his juice from his nose which made us all laugh. He stood up from the table and held his sides and bent double and from the wheezing laughs it sounded like he’d forgotten how to breath.
Between laughs, I stood up and bellowed.
JAAMIEEEEEEE…. you little bastard! Come-up-this-stairs-and-say-you’re-sorry!
And Jamie, the truly tricky one, appeared in the doorway.
Aye Mamie said he That Noise, Mamie?
That’d be Papa’s SNORING Mamie. And then we all laughed. And Mamie didn’t get to finish her tale until much later because Papa arrived with his fish supper and they descended upon him and it like locusts.
“To cut a long story short…”
The noise was a banging and grunting and growling which was coming from the communal loft. Ma roused Da and they stalked the flat fruitlessly searching for a sound-source. They went to bed again and settled into their nocturnal rhythms. Da snoring. Ma rubbing her restless legs.
Then came the door-taps. Gentle at first. Then loud, insistent. Then a wailing from the communal landing. Then Da pushed out of sleep and stumbling around in the dark; feeling his way to the door, where he stood, naked as the day he was born, holding his willy and (Mum says) whispering into the door.
It was Repression. Da, shocked into awake-ness shouted ‘Eh? It’s you? You want me? Sorry hen. A’ll gist be a minute. You’ll need tae wait tae a git sum claes oan’.
Ma got up too. Da shoved on trousers and top but forgot his teeth, so when he finally opened the door – to a distraught Repression – he spent the whole time lisping and with one hand across his face. Having made sense of Repression and her wailing, the band of three (Repression in pyjamas; Ma in her new M&S housecoat and Da sans teeth) trooped into Repression’s flat. Where they spent the next hour, ooohing and aaahing over the strange noises coming from directly above Repression’s bedroom.
Da checked the heating and the pipes. Having fallen 8 ft from out of the loft last year he drew the line at climbing the ladders offered to him. Eventually, at 5.30am, they decided that there was no bomb or gas pipe or water tank waiting to explode and took their weary leave of one another. They were too tired to worry about being killed in their sleep by anything, never mind a mains gas collapse or exploding tank and resolved only to call the plumber in the morning.
Next day the Frood man was called. Frood is a Lanark institution. He listened to the noise. He went up and down the stairs from the communal basement boiler to the flat. He carried large clanky hitting tools said Ma. He cocked his head and made his own noises. ‘Ahhhhh’ he said. ‘Ohhhhh’ he said. After his sixth trip to the boiler and back up the noise stopped.
Ma asked what had caused it? The noise? Frood tapped his nose and laughed and said ‘Ah. Well Mrs R. That would be a technical matter.’