Mad And Bad Mothers

I suppose the most influential people in most of our lives are our parents, and possibly (and this might seem controversial, but it’s not meant to be) mostly our mothers.


What memory do we have of those cherished women? Before we were born they grew heavy with us in their wombs (by us I’m being non-specific – I’ve no intention of implying that you shared my mother’s womb with me, whoever you might be. I don’t believe I had a twin, though I dared say nothing’s impossible.

Then they cared for us. They tickled our noses, tweaked our chins, coo-cooed into our faces until we thought we were in heaven, changed are nappies (or, for any visitors from across the Atlantic, our diapers), pushed our mouths against their wonderful beckoning nipples, cushioning us on their breasts when we cried out of sheer exhaustion, and generally were rather magical creatures.


The sad thing is we rarely remember those first one or two years. I can’t remember one moment of them, and I wish I could. Instead of memories we all have an idealised image of what our lives were like. We can hear the coo-coos with our inner ears and almost start gurgling with joy when we imagine we can remember those nipples and all that luscious milk. But it can’t be genuine memories that start exciting us. Instead our minds start salivating because of a reconstruction of what ought to have been, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred I dared say what ought to have been was really what was.

But let’s turn it on its heads. Let’s forget for a moment the idealised perfect coo-cooing mother and replace that angel with a bitter old harridan ashamed of her sexuality, of her desires, of the fact (shudder, shudder) that she actually had a relationship with a man and became pregnant.


You see, two of my books are dominated by such women. In A Fall From Grace there’s Josie Larkin’s mother, obsessed by purity (though, we discover, with a dark and dirty secret of her own). She has a huge and overwhelming fear of the sulphurous fires of hell as a consequence of carnal behaviour, and she is convinced it’s possession by evil spirits behind all that nasty human behaviour. So she thrashes it out of her daughter, beats her more than once to within an inch of her life in the name of her perverted religion. She is a mother, yet when it comes to compassion and love and all that we look upon as human she falls very far short.

Then in Dead Lips, Kissing, the middle aged and single Adrian Templeton is what he is, mad as a march hare and with voices in his head driving him to do the grossest of gross things, all because his mother was a harridan. Again, it’s what she sees as the dirt and filth of normal relationships that inspire her worst excesses. One could hardly blame Adrian when, with the greater part of his life behind him and newly redundant, he decides it would be best for all concerned if he killed her.

My own mother died when I was around twenty. In fact she had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s and the essence that had been her died several years before her flesh gave way to mortality. I sometimes wonder if I’m taking out my frustrations of growing through my teens in a far from ideal situation (widowed mother going balmy and me the oldest of two sons) by creating my monsters. If I am I’m not being very accurate. The real mother, the precious woman who reared me, lost her memories until she didn’t know who anyone was whilst my fictional creations know perfectly well what they’re doing and just want to do it more and more and more.

And that comes to the nub of why I’ve written this. It’s an apology to a woman who’s been dead above forty years, and a means of distancing myself from any subconscious punishment for her sickness that my own insanity is wreaking on her memory.

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