The Black Country Embroidery Society are total bitches.
I recently had the misfortune to share a train with them, and pretty much all of them are very terrible people.
The Black Country Embroidery Society is made up exclusively of women who are, at a rough guess, aged 70 and above. They are also all, exclusively, small, rude and racist (I specified both rude and racist as I felt it was an important distinction; you can’t just assume that all rude people are racists and vice versa – some of the most well mannered people I have ever met have turned out to be incredibly racist.)
Trains don’t bring out the best in people, I get that. Especially not when they are a four carriage Arriva train from Cardiff to Birmingham International, arriving at Wolverhampton after the last four trains have all been cancelled.
That said, there are rules.
Not sure of the exact order, but I think loudly proclaiming that ‘we (a group that I am not comfortable with being included in for reasons soon to become apparent) should flush them back to where they came from’ has got to be high on the list of Don’ts.
Look, they were just horrible women. Women that used their sinewy, surprisingly strong arms and arthritic chiselled hands to claw their way through the crowds and get you right between the ribs.
I had always taken it for granted that grandparents were nice. They let us do whatever we want, and in return, we behave better for them than we ever would for our actual parents. That’s the deal, old folks!
It was as I was being stared at by a particularly sour-faced old hag that I realised how lucky I am to have such nice grandparents.
I had, foolishly, just assumed that all old people were nice. Deaf, and nice.
But the Black Country Embroidery Society proved otherwise and as I swiftly left that train in favour of one in which I was free of the scornful gaze of small women whose wrists were padded with old tissues, I realised three things:
1. That perhaps my grandparents are a delightful anomaly
2. That I am surprisingly okay calling racist old ladies bitches in my own head
3. That thinking about how nice my grandparents are at a time when I am enraged enough to call any type of old lady a bitch in my own head is like a big hug – one of the ones with a little back rub incorporated.
And sometimes, when I feel uncertain and mixed up and as if I am balancing precariously on my entire life, that’s exactly what I need.
Here are a very small amount of the things that, when I think of my grandparents, make me feel hugged.
1. My grandma looking into my innocent eyes as I, aged 8 and fresh off the plane from Portugal, proudly displayed my new ankle bracelet and telling me “That’s what ladies of the night used to wear.”
2. Both of them shunning modern medicine, firm in their belief that all that is needed to cure a clinging bout of depression is a regimented course of cream teas at the local garden centre.
3. Both being unrelenting in their ambition to collect all of the free pens that they have ever been given, or have ever been in close proximity to, in the last forty years.
4. Serving me Cointreau and lemonade made with Cointreau that is older than my mum.
5. In an effort to be nice, talking to all gay people like they are on the other side of a very busy road.
6. My grandma being completely baffled as to why everyone is suddenly drinking water now, as if it hasn’t been around since the dawn of time – or possibly before, I’m not a scientist.
7. My granddad, when going on holiday to places such as South Africa, Thailand and Goa, taking half a suitcase full of notebooks, pencils and felt tips for local schools. (I know that it is tasteless and crass to brag about your own charity work, something that I run a low risk of doing seeing as I don’t really do any, but do the same rules apply if you are talking about a member of your family? Is that just being proud, or is it also a social faux pas?)
8. My granddad calling me to reverently warn me of impending pick pocketers whenever he knows that I’m planning to visit London.
9. My granddad being absolutely repulsed at the thought of chocolate with sea salt in it.
10. My grandma waiting until the age of 82 to have a curry…
11. … And the age of 83 to try lasagne.
12. My granddad being completely incredulous that you would ever order anything described as a ‘sandwich’ in McDonalds, despite reassurance that it is, in fact, just a chicken burger.
13. My granddad insisting on polishing whatever shoes I’m wearing when I’m visiting, even if they are sandals.
14. My grandma never turning her mobile phone on, but somehow amassing £67.32 in credit
15. My granddad inviting me round, using a roast dinner as a ploy, to go through the extensive filing system that he had entrusted to me when he dies, meaning that should we need the insurance guarantees for their last three sofas when making funeral arrangements, I’ve got it covered.
16. Managing to leave me an 8 minute long voice message that consisted solely of them arguing about whether they currently have a whole cucumber or half a cucumber in the salad drawer.
17. My grandma being so delightfully small that she can’t reach into the chest freezers in certain branches of Sainsburys.