Meeting Mrs Bird
Posted on February 29, 2008
(this is an old -true!- story I wrote many years ago…)
MEETING MRS BIRD
I had to admit to my girlfriend that I had been putting it off. There was no point in denying it. She knew. I knew. But…
I had GOOD reasons, I kept telling her. It would NOT work. I KNEW it would be a disaster. I had experience of these things…
But she was adamant.
We had been going out for four months. Her mother was insisting that I be brought home for inspection. My dilly dallying was getting her mother worried. It was only making it worse. Better come home, meet the parents, and get it over with.
It would be all right, she promised. She had prepared the way. They would like me. No problem. Just relax.
I knew better. I was a bit on the wild side. Mothers didn’t like me. I’d been through it all before. I avoided girlfriends’ mothers and fathers like the plague…
I was twenty something. Loved my motorbike. A whopping big Triumph Trident seven fifty. Went like sh… manure off a shovel. And I used to BELT around on it. It was a three cylinder job, with a luvvely roaring British motorbike sound. None of your Japanese strangled-cat box-of-rusty-nails irritating whining. Nope. A deep, lusty, booming British motorbiking bellow. I loved it. I had ended up back in Ireland, and there were some crackin’ good biking roads in Dublin that had stone walls on each side. I would drive miles out of my way to be able to go balls out down those roads, revelling in the melodious din. Melodious to me, that is. Trouble was, some people had no soul. And I was aware that some folk did not like a thirty second advance warning of my meteoric arrival. Personally I liked the sound of distant motorbikes appearing over the far horizon. Going flat out, approaching like some demented warrior riding for Armageddon. To me it was a sort of poetry in motion, a definite art form,and I was a passionate motorcyclist.
I rode thousands of miles all over the Wicklow mountains, and some sweeping mountain roads never lost their attraction, no matter how many times I traveled them at speeds varying from a ‘ton up’ sizzling one hundred plus, to a mundane, gentle, thoughtful ‘forty to fifty’.
The bike was a problem. But not the only one. There was also the black leather jacket. And the black gauntlets. And the black leather boots. I had originally tried motorcycling without leathers. In a long raincoat. With black shoes. Gentlemanly.
What a farce. It was cold, the wind whistled straight through, and the rain soaked through in an instant. My coat flapped gaily and irritatingly in the breeze, my socks were soon soaked, and chips and stones would rattle painfully off my unguarded shins. I had always associated leather motorcycle jackets with hoodlums and criminals. But I was soon converted. It’s the only thing to wear. It’s warm, relatively water resistant, and hellish good when you come tumbling off. It’s like an extra layer of rhinoceros skin, and many a time I was to thank my leathers when I was left with torn leather, rather than torn ligaments.
The problem was that I knew all this. But I couldn’t (and didn’t) expect the uninitiated plebs to realize the finer points of motorcycling attire. And parents of girlfriends were definitely members of the uninitiated plebs.
The bike was a problem. The way I drove it (thrashed it) was a problem. The leathers were a problem. But…
What REALLY did it, I think, was the combination of my broken front tooth and the magnificent creation that adorned my face: my beard…
Photo of a bearded hippy by Jan Tik
The tooth I couldn’t be bothered to get fixed. I don’t know why. So it was a bit of a mess all right. Upper front right tooth was a broken old stump. So what. I wasn’t vain. Everything else, yes, but vain, no. Unkempt hooligan, more like it. And the beard…
Hell, I liked it. It… kept my face warm. And I thought it looked good. It varied in size a bit, from a smallish beard, to a mammoth beard. It went in phases. And, at the time, it had reached well down my chest. At the youth club, my little charges would amuse themselves by seeing how many byros/ballpoint pens they could conceal/attach, in/to my growth. Byros? Why byros? Never did figure that one out. I believe the record stood at fifty seven.
Of course, you had to watch things with a beard when motorcycling. It was often a good idea, when it was THAT big, to either tuck it inside your jacket, or wrap a scarf around your face, or else be VERY careful when you looked over your shoulder…
As I had discovered one day almost to my cost.
I’d been blattering down this steep mountain road, with a low stone wall on my right, racing a mate on his Norton. There was a drop of several hundred feet on the other side of the two foot wall…
Well ahead of the Norton dope, I had cast a quick, smug, look over my shoulder at this distant figure chasing me, hopelessly outclassed by me, the road racing professional. It was only as I swung my gaze back quickly to the road ahead, fast being swallowed up beneath my wheels, that disaster had struck. Somehow, my mammoth beard had blown UP in the wind, right in front of my face, totally obscuring my view. With both hands needed on the bars to control the pounding beast on the bumpy road, the sudden complete loss of vision had startled me greatly, and the resultant weird wallowing manoeuvre alarmed my pursuer to such a degree, that in the pub that night he had dined out on the story:
“Jayzus, tell ya, I thought he was going over the edge. He had his beard up in front of his eyes. Can ya BELIEVE it…? “
Of course THAT was not the only hazard associated with my beard. There were others.
Meeting girlfriends’ parents was definitely one of them…
On top of everything else, I was a lapsed Catholic.
Natalie Bird was a Protestant. With a figure like she had, I couldn’t give a hoot myself if she’d been a Muslim or a Buddhist. But I had gathered from the lovely, virginal Natalie that her parents were ‘strict’.
Great. This was going to be real great. I knew it. No, I did not want to meet her parents.
No, Natalie, tellin’ ya, it’s NOT a good idea…
She was not to be moved. I had to come and meet her parents. Oh, Gawd.
* * *
The dreaded day arrived. We drove up to her house. I approached slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible. Difficult, on a Triumph Trident. Arrived at this mucho Impressive House. Long tarmac drive. Posh neighborhood. Lovely gardens. Big car.
Oh well, here goes… Drove up. Parked between the big car and the flowerbed. Natalie mutters something about her mother winning trophies for her prize garden. Uh-huh. She’s nervous. Me? I’m terrified.
Lock the bike up. Take helmet off. Follow Natalie’s directions. You want me to go in through the kitchen? Okay. (Door’s a bit stiff) (Give it a shove)
Hey-ho. (swallows hard)
In I go.
What a racket! The tumble drier is going, and there’s music playing. I find myself in a huge modern kitchen, with a lady of massive proportions standing with her back to me, obviously unaware of my presence. Labouring with a big basket of washing.
She’s BIG… Oh, boy.
Where’s Natalie? Outside taking her boots off.
Errr… oh,well, here goes.
“Hello, Mrs Bird! “
No reaction, obviously can’t hear me above the racket. Try again.
“HELLO, MRS BIRRRRDDDD!! “
She looks around, startled, and (utterly) illogically, upon seeing a totally harmless innocent stranger smiling at her, (he can’t help it he’s got a broken tooth and a beard and a black leather jacket, CAN HE?), takes one look, and, promptly…
drops the basket…
SCREAMS the bloody house down…
and runs like hell.
Great. Marvellous. NATALIE!!!!
(I told you so, I bloody TOLD you…)
I stand there like a prize LULU. You know, proverbial lemon. Natalie comes running in the kitchen door. And a small wizened little man with spectacles, presumably hubby, appears in the other door, staring wildly. He makes a frantic dash for the radio and the tumble drier, and strikes a blow for sweet quietude.
Oh, boy. Here we go.
The echoes of the scream have died away, and an awkward silence hovers expectantly. Malevolently.
Smile, Frank, smile! Totally un-taken aback. Pretend you didn’t notice anything unusual. Pretend it happens all the time…
Advance forward, hand outstretched.
“PLEASED to meet you, Mr Bird, I’m Francis… ”
It seems to work. Hubby stammers something about his poor darling little (LITTLE?) wife having a nervous disposition (could have fooled me), and accepts my handshake with seeming warmth.
I laugh it all off. Ho-ho-ho. No problem.
Yes. Of course I’ll take my gear off. Thank you. Right. Slightly nervous hand goes to zipper of leather jacket. The zipper goes from top to bottom to unzip. You have to give it a healthy yank. Unfortunately for me, my beard has chosen this of all times to get caught in the zip. Happens once in a while.
So you have (cool) motorcyclist standing there, pretending to be all relaxed.
Puts helmet on kitchen table.
Pulls off gauntlets.
(cool, boy, cool)
Chucks them on the kitchen table.
(nonchalant, y’ know)
Yanks down on jacket zip.
Rips out handful of beard by the roots.
(Hurts like hell)
Swift, unstoppable comment slips out:
I might as well have declared my unswerving allegiance to the Pope in Rome. Dead silence. Malevolent.
Try ever so hard to carry it off. Keep smiling.
Of all the times to swear…
I make it as far as the living room.
VERY difficult conversation indeed. Full of pauses, and pregnant silences. It’s absolutely terrible.
The tea and biscuits arrive…
Nice china and porcelain cups.
All nice and fancy and slim. And you need to drink three of them to have the equivalent of a decent MUG.
For goodness sake, Francis, be CAREFUL!
Trying to be helpful. Pull over a table for Mrs Bird to place the tray on. Meant well. Unfortunately the strategic placing of the table is revealed by my action: A big bare patch on the carpet is now revealed.
A shiver travels round the room. Natalie stiffens. I might as well have peeked in the dirty laundry.
Why me, Lord, why me?
The thin little hubby actually EXPLAINS it apologetically. He’s EMBARRASSED about it. Mutters something about their finances being a bit tight.
(thinks) Mate, don’t be embarrassed about your CARPET for goodness’ sake… I couldn’t give a toss if you’re on floorboards…
I struggle through. Trying desperately to keep the conversation going. Feigning calm.
What am I doing here?
What have I got in common with you two?
Natalie’s big sister ambles through occasionally. Ugly cow. No, that’s not fair, Frank.
‘A lady of ample proportions’. That’s better. Yes. Got to be charitable.
She doesn’t like me. Very supercilious with me. Looks at me as if I’m a freak. Seems to derive amusement out of the fact that her stupid little sister could drag in such an unkempt monster.
The conversation turns to my religion. What? You can’t be serious…?
But yes, sure enough, I get a lecture. About the importance of their daughter’s religion, and the difficulty of reconciling it with my ‘different faith’.
Oh, for goodness’ sake.
It gets worse and worse. I say all the wrong things.
Like the fact that I believe that if there is a God, then He cares for all men, and no way will any one religious faith have a monopoly on the Truth.
Natalie gets upset, and argues with her mother. Ugly cow sister chips in delightedly on the side of her mother.
I get narked. Dangerous when I’m narked. Pretty fluent at arguing at times. To their astonishment quote some of the Bible back at them. Shakes them. I may be an agnostic, but I’ve studied the Bible…
Sister gets nasty with Natalie. I have heard about this. Natalie has told me sister is a bully. I can see that for myself now. Sudden dry cutting comment from Frank. Sister taken aback. Snaps at me. That’s a mistake. Gets the soft spoken SHARP side of my tongue. Doesn’t like it a bit.
Stomps out of the room.
I’m getting fed up with this. I KNEW it would be a disaster. Nervous little man now has beads of sweat on his forehead. And massive wife looks as if she’s going to have a nervous breakdown.
(thinks) Well, I’m sorry, but keep that ugly milk machine out of my hair then…
Conversation limps on. Slightly better with sister gone.
(thinks) I want OUT. I like Natalie. She’s nice. I’ll stay going out with Natalie if she wants. But right now I want OUT. Give me an exit line, somebody, PLEASE…
Ugly sister comes roaring back in. Dramatic entry.
“HIS STUPID BIKE’S FALLEN OVER INTO THE FLOWERBED AND IT’S LEAKING PETROL ALL OVER THE PLACE!!! “
And she’s pleased about it…
(Thank you, God, my prayers answered)
I follow the stampede out the door, but leisurely.
Amble into the cloakroom. Put my leathers on. Gauntlets. Helmet.
From outside I can hear screams of anguish.
“MY FLOWERS! MY PRIZE PETUNIAS! MY BEGONIAS! MY GLADIOLI! “
I stroll out the door.
Yep. Quite a mess. One Triumph Trident. On its side. Undamaged. In a flowerbed. Soft landing.
One flowerbed. Wrecked. Annihilated. Three gallons of petrol and some engine oil spilled.
One large female: yelling about her blessed flowers.
One small little man: crying about his tarmac drive, which has been dug up by the weight of the bike’s center stand.
One ugly sister: gloating in delight. Winding up mother dear for all she’s worth. And shouting at Natalie.
One virginal Natalie: hollering back.
Yep. Quite a mess.
Stride out one motorcyclist. Delighted to be going.
Positively thrilled. Picks up bike. Stands there for a second, in middle of prize flower bed, holding onto his bike.
Then laughs, uproariously. Splits his sides.
Throws his leg over saddle.
Kick starts the love of his life.
Grins at the gobsmacked expressions from his audience.
Shouts: “See you in the buttery tomorrow, Kiddo! ” at Natalie, and then…
guns the throttle…
And one Triumph Trident seven fifty leaps out of the flower bed, and down the drive.
Above the roar, a voice floats back:
“NICE MEETING YOU MRS BIRD! “
And one motorbike roars down the posh road, flat out.
The sound takes a long time to disappear…
And, further and further away, up the mountains, a hurtling missile speeds ever faster.
Photo ‘Soaring Free’ by Ti
Astride the missile, a grim, helmeted figure, dressed in black, is reflecting on the afternoon’s events.
He is grinning. He can see the funny side.
Yep. Even by HIS standards.
Quite a mess…
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 1, 2009, 2:34 pm