Ellie and Mum
This is a pair of gloves and I inherited these...well I say I inherited these, they used to be my Mum’s. Now they’re mine. It wasn’t like she went, ‘When I die I want you to have these gloves’. I kind of went, ‘Ooh they’re nice’ and so I just took them.
I’ve inherited a lot of gloves...over forty pairs of gloves. I inherited a lot of clothes and lots of Chanel suits from the fifties...and loads of stuff like that. And I never really knew if they were my Grandma’s, or my Aunt’s, or my Mum’s...or who they belonged to. But I know that these gloves are my Mum’s. Now I don’t know whether that makes a difference, but they’re the nicest.
I just took them. That makes it sound like I stole them, I don’t think I did. But we went through a long process of clearing out the house and clearing out everything, so it was part of that process of deciding what to keep, what to give to other people, what to send to charity, and what to just throw away. Which I find an interesting process, because there’s always that sort of assumption that when you go to charity shops, you’re buying things that belong to people that are dead. And I’m giving stuff to charity going, ‘I wonder if the person that buys this will realise that this is from a dead person?’ I wonder if they did realise...if they did think about it, whether it would bother them? Because part of me thinks, ‘Is it really morbid?’...because I use these quite a lot. I wear them loads...and is that really morbid that I wear my dead Mum’s clothes? I buy things from charity shops all the time and they probably belonged... particularly vintage stuff...if I buy vintage stuff, the chances are it will have been worn by someone who is now dead, essentially.
She was an artist and a writer and a lecturer, and so she would just sort of...keep things. Because she always had in the back of her head, ‘Oh I might make something out of that one day’, or, ‘That will be useful for something’...which is a quality I have inherited far too much.
My Mum was very good with her hands. Very practical. So she would make things. She was an artist, so she would make things. Or she’d draw and...something I didn’t associate with my Mum but my sister did, was my Mum’s hands...and them always being busy and always transforming things.
When I was little she used to...we used to make dolls. Doll’s houses...and make toys, and make doll’s clothes...and make all that sort of stuff. That used to quite annoy me because I’d see something in a shop and I’d be like, ‘I really want it’ and she’d be like, ‘I could make it’. And I’d be like, ‘But are you going to? Because, I know you could, in theory...but are you going to?’
When my Mum died...my sister’s adopted and I sort of forget. Well, not forget about...but she’s much more conscious of it than I am. And so she used to get really freaked out when Mum died because I’d hold her hand and she’d be like, ‘Oh, they’re like Mum’s hands. You’ve got the same hands as Mum.’
As a teenager I had M.E but I was also deeply lazy. And I spent quite a lot of time at my friends’ houses and my Mum used to drive me around. She had this big, bright orange VW camper van, which I thought was the most embarrassing thing in the world...until I realised it could take all my friends to parties and back from parties. So she spent quite a lot of time driving me to my friends’ houses. She never wore a seatbelt but would always insist that I wore a seatbelt. I think it’s because she had...when she was ill she didn’t want to wear a seatbelt because she had scars where she’d had a mastectomy. I guess she didn’t want the seatbelt to be close to it, but I think that was partially an excuse for just not wanting to wear a seatbelt.
I never saw her wear these. These were from when she was young, when she was a person I didn’t know. I think maybe if I’d have associated these with her when she’d been...not when she’d been alive, but if she had worn them when she was being my Mum, rather than the young person in big dresses that I’ve seen in photos, then I might be a bit... I’ve got a jumper of hers that’s really, really warm. And sometimes if I’m really cold I’ll put that on and I feel a bit like, ‘Well, I’m not quite sure about this’...whereas these don’t. So yes, she always had bare hands and bare feet...even when it was quite cold...strange woman.
I had quite a confident relationship with things that belonged to my Mum. In the sense that I’d open her wardrobe and think, ‘Oooh that’s a nice coat, I’m gonna try that on.’ No respect for her privacy.
Practical. Like a doormat: she was really, really passive...she kind of did simmering resentment well. Practical, a doormat, creative...I mean obviously. Creative...but I don’t think I mean that. Maybe it’s more like...not opportunist but...resourceful maybe. In that she would look at what was around her and look at what could be done with what was around her and turn it into something else. Whether that was going into the kitchen and going, ‘Right OK, we’ve got these ingredients, I’ll make this?’ Or, ‘Ok we’ve got these objects, what toy can I make out of this?’ Unfulfilled I think. Which is quite sad and I suppose I didn’t think about this when she was alive. But now that I’m an adult I think about it more and also I’ve found things since. I’ve found a box full of (she was a writer) of loads of manuscripts. And then I found a notebook, which was her...not doodling visually, but doodling with words...and I’m like, ‘Oh God you’re a really sad person.’ I think she quite often wrote things down rather than say them to someone. So that’s been interesting, I suppose. Unshockable or laid back. My Mum was T-total. I don’t know why, I think mainly because she was a real lightweight...maybe they’re kind of connected? But she was very OK with me drinking as a teenager. Which...I think her plan was, ‘if I don’t make drinking something exciting and forbidden, then they’ll get bored of it’. It hasn’t exactly gone to plan, but I think it could have gone a lot worse.
So when my GCSEs finished I was with my friends...and we were at my friend Laura’s house. We finished our GCSEs and were like, ‘Hooray!...Oh...we don’t have any alcohol.’ So I rang my mum and was like, ‘Mum we don’t have any alcohol.’ So she went to Sainsbury’s and brought it over and knocked on the back gate. And was like, ‘Bring jumpers, bring jumpers. If you wrap these bottles of wine in jumpers then they won’t clink when you walk past Laura’s parents. And obviously I didn’t buy this for you...you bought this and if they’re going to find any of the bottles make sure they find that one because it’s really weak, like it’s 3% and the others aren’t. So be savvy.’
In some ways I kind of wish I could have a chat. Have a catch up with her because I’m a very different person to who I was when she died. So, it would be nice to meet her with me being an adult and her obviously being an adult.
My mum had cancer. And when she found out that she was ill, we kind of carried on as normal. And one day we went to Matalan and (it was very glamorous) we went to Matalan and she was really ill. So, she was standing there for a while and I could begin to see she was starting to struggle a little bit. And I was getting a bit concerned that she wasn’t going to be able to manage it. There weren’t any seats around, but we paid and we went outside, and went and sat in the van. And this ice cream van (it was a really hot day), and this ice cream van came past...and my mum didn’t really eat...she mainly lived off tea and coffee...and she looked at this ice cream van and went, ‘Will you go and get some ice cream?’ It was a really out of character moment; she barely ate and when she did eat, it was always savoury stuff. And we just got these massive Mr Whippy’s...like really kind of...I don’t know, stupid child food... and just sat there in the van in the Matalan car park just eating them. It was just a really nice...I suppose...a playful moment. Not much was said. It was very fun...and maybe even more fun for the fact that I knew she wasn’t going to be around for much longer. Maybe it’s because I could appreciate her because I wasn’t busy being a teenager...just for that five minutes.
And a difficult memory I have of her is when she found out she was ill. She rang up my lecturers and told them that she knew she was going to die and that if I was upset in class, or if I was funny in class, then that would be why. And she told them before she told me. And I was really upset about this. And rather than choose to voice it in a, ‘Yeah ok I can see why you did that but I’m really upset’, I was just sort of like, ‘That’s
so stupid and it’s ridiculous’. And I sort of went off at her in a kind of teenage rant. I sort of feel bad that I don’t actually feel bad at having done that. I kind of feel like I shouldn’t have responded like that. But I don’t think you can beat yourself up for...like...that’s who I was. In some ways, a moment where I was being very honest...even though it was probably horrible for her to hear, and she must have felt like shit. And she didn’t have a go at me back, she was just kind of really nice about it. But yeah, I suppose that’s difficult because it’s not a very nice thing to do...and yet I still think it was, not the right thing to do, but it was very authentic.