I have spent long hours trying to think how to describe the mother in law’s life philosophy with the correct degree of accuracy. Today I find it has been done for me. I just watched the preview show to An Idiot Abroad, the new show by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The m-i-l is the female equivalent of Carl Pilkington. For those of you who have also seen the show, this may seem harsh. I thought it may be until I heard Carl describe the Welsh and their use of the Welsh language.
They only use it to confuse the English. They speak English until an English person approaches and then they speak Welsh.
I have had the exact conversation a number of times in the past with the m-i-l, who despite my best endeavours refuses to change her opinion. The fact that I booked survey appointments for properties in North Wales for seven years and for some of that time worked for a surveyor for whom Welsh was his first language was beside the point.
m-i-l: ‘The Welsh are ignorant. When we went you walked into a shop and they’d be talking in English and as soon as they saw you they’d start to speak in Welsh.’
Me: ‘How did they know you were English?’
m-i-l: ‘They just did.’
Me: ‘Mary, for many people Welsh is their first language. They speak it at home. Once you get to Anglesey and Caernarfon a LOT of people learn Welsh first.’
m-i-l: ‘No, they don’t. They’re just ignorant. When have you been to Wales.’
Me: ‘Only once as an adult but I speak to them every day at work. They are generally really nice.’
m-i-l: ‘No, they’re not. I’ll never go again.’ (Well I’m sure the whole of Wales is really disappointed about that.)
The only difference I would say between the m-i-l and Carl Pilkington is that there is no way on the planet that Mary, even in her youth, would have gone to see the Seven Wonders of the world. When we said we were going to Australia in 2007 she told us we should go to somewhere like Benidorm or Tenerife instead it was closer to home.
Just before we went we’d taken the m-i-l and Bernard’s dad out for a shopping trip and we were driving past trees.
m-i-l: ‘You won’t get these in Australia.’
m-i-l: ‘It’s all sand.’
Me: ‘Not all of it. There are forests too.’
m-i-l: ‘There aren’t.’
And the m-i-l certainly wouldn’t have entertained any sort of ‘foreign’ food, she has never even tried rice and mushrooms are a bit of a grey area! I once asked what she ate when they’d been abroad – apparently there are a lot of places you can get English food!