The magic Flokarti rug…

In celebration of the pending release of my debut novel, HINDSIGHT, I thought it would be fun to look back on things I’ve done during my time, that were…well…a little bit dumb, a little bit crazy, a little bit ‘what the hell was I thinking?’

Everyone has a dish from their childhood that still makes them shudder at the thought of having to eat it again and for me it was mum’s Chow Mien (or Chuck Mein as we named it behind her back). It consisted of ninety five percent cabbage, three percent mincemeat and two percent lurid yellow colouring. It was a testimony to my love for her to chug it down each week.

Although it threatened to come back up numerous times, I always did my best to finish as much as I could – namely because we were not allowed to leave the table until our plate was clean. Whatever wasn’t eaten went in the fridge until you were hungry again and that was your next meal – and, in the days prior to microwaves, if there was one thing worse than hot Chuck Mein, it was cold Chuck Mein. It was far better to suffer quickly than prolong the agony.

Finally, years later, I reached the end of my tether and couldn’t withhold my inner Chuck Mein rebellion anymore. It took me weeks to work up the courage to deceive my mum -she had eyes in the back of her head, and her punishments were swift and not open to negotiation. Make no bones about it, this mission was dangerous and once started, there was no turning back.

The entire plan had three steps to it:

1)       Take my dinner in my bedroom, as a tweenie is required to do in order to keep up anti-social, venom spitting appearances.

2)      Transfer the contents of my bowl into a napkin.

3)      Feed contents of said napkin to our ever-hungry Red Setter, Mulligan, by sneaking out the back door, out of the view of my mother.

Easy. Brilliant planning. Sometimes the most effective covert missions are the ones carried out in broad daylight, under the ruse of normal, everyday life – or so I learnt on ‘Get Smart’ and ‘Mission Impossible’.

I should mention here that my mum was a HUGE fan of floor rugs – every room had a rug in it, even the bathroom and toilet. There were Persians, Woollen loomy things, hippie looking rugs and the epicentre of 70’s and 80’s interior design – the Flokarti.

Yes, you guessed it – my bedroom floor was adorned with the Flokarti.  A white Flokarti.  For those of you who have remained blissfully unaware of these rugs for the last thirty years, let me demonstrate one I prepared earlier…

flokarti rug

A Flokarti rug is made of wool and has the appearance of an Albino Rastafarian – the fibres are twisted into dreadlock looking strands that are approximately three inches long, which meant that it was better at trapping dirt than a Dyson. In fact, I think I lost the entire contents of my pencil case in there once and never found it again.

So, the plan was in action. The Chuck Mein was sitting in the bowl on my floor, steaming it’s little yellow heart out, emanating rancid cabbage and Keen’s Curry powder fumes into the atmosphere.

I carefully laid out the napkin that had been given to me – mum was a stickler for cleanliness at meal times- and steeled myself to transfer said Chuck Mein onto it.

I took my spoon in my right hand and tried to stop the trembling. If I was caught doing this then my life would cease to exist until the day I turned thirty six, and when you’re only ten, that’s an awfully long time. High stakes, people!

Slowly, I spooned the Chuck Mein onto the awaiting napkin, until it was loaded. Pleased with myself, I took a  congratulatory moment, and prepared my nerves for the biggest part of the mission – the movement of loaded napkin from my room to the bowl of the dog, which was a good thirty metres away, punctuated by a small flight of stairs, two doors,  and a long ramp down into the back garden. Like I said, high stakes.

It wasn’t until I attempted to pick up the loaded napkin that I realised I had made two enormous mistakes that would cost me my freedom for the next twenty six years.

  1. The napkin was made of paper and was folded out to maximum size, meaning that it was 1 ply thick.
  2. The napkin was currently resting on top of the beloved Flokarti rug.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

With my little hands lifting the napkin, and the weight and moisture of the Chuck Mein making lift off a physical impossibility, I was left holding the corners of a torn napkin as the Chuck Mein spread itself all over the white Flokarti rug.

Stop! Wait, did that just really happen? Did I just spill an entire bowl of toxic coloured Chuck Mein all over a WHITE FLOKARTI RUG?????  (Cue falling on knees ‘Platoon’ style and releasing a silent ‘Nooooooooooooooooooo’.)

Just at the moment where my heart ceased to beat and my body was paralysed from the eyeballs down, my older brother, Michael, opened my door and walked into my room.

He could see what I’d done and his face must have mirrored mine.

“Shit Sarah! What have you done?”

This was my cue to burst into tears and ask myself the same question.

Through jabbering lips and over stimulated salivary glands, I tried to explain my mission, but it didn’t sound so brilliant with a life sentence sitting on my rug.

“You won’t tell her, will you?” I stammered.

Michael was always fair, but honest. I had hoped that he would help me clean up my mess and it would all magically go away.

“I won’t tell her, but if she asks what happened, I won’t lie,” he said.

Of course it didn’t go away – Mum found it, I got in loads of trouble and the Flokarti had a permanent toxic yellow stain on it for the rest of its life.

And the next time Chuck Mein was served to me? I sat at the table and ate it under the watchful eye of my mother. I remained scarred, just like that Flokarti Rug.

A thank you to my mum…

Every year on Mother’s Day, I send my mum a card thanking her for all the things she did for me during my childhood and teen years. Mind you, I wasn’t able to thank her for most of these until I was safely out of the confines of her house and care, mainly because she would have bolted the doors and denied me access to the outside world until I turned forty seven.

Here’s my list of the top things I have thanked my mum for in recent years. Of course, there are many, many more things, such as giving birth to me, covering all of my school books and writing my name on each and every pencil, but you get the gist. (And yes, she has a great sense of humour.)

1. Thanks for getting me out of nappies and toilet training me because it’s a really handy skill to have when you’re living on your own.

2. Thanks for making your special Chow Mein once a week, consisting of ninety five percent cabbage, three percent mince and two percent lurid yellow colouring. Because of this weekly torture, I am able to eat anything anyone serves me and lie convincingly about how delicious it is. (Even my mum admits that it was a terrible meal, and my eldest brother is as equally scarred as I am in regards to any form of Chow Mein.)

3. Thanks for being oblivious to the fact that a ‘Blue Lagoon’ cocktail contained both Vodka and Blue Curacao. We went out to dinner each Saturday night and I was permitted to have two (yes, two!) ‘pretty blue drinks’, resulting in me building up a tolerance to the effects of alcohol at an early age. Consequently, Saturday night with my parents didn’t suck too much.

4. Thanks for forcing me to bring each boyfriend home prior to them taking me out, (except for the ones I was smart enough to not tell you about). Each boy was interrogated and intimidated by the line up of my three large, scary older brothers. This ensured that I stayed single and dateless for the majority of my teens, which limited my exposure to sexual activity, prolonged my virginal state, and probably ensured that I didn’t catch a sexually transmitted disease or fall pregnant.

5. Thanks for sleeping like the dead so that sneaking out the front door in the middle of the night and into a revving V8 driven by some teenage boy was not such a challenge. These were the boys I never told you about.

6. Thanks for drinking cask wine instead of the bottled variety, because it was impossible for you to have known how much was missing.

7. Thanks for insisting that I accompany you to many seasons of live theatre because it was the first time I had ever seen a penis – although the smile on your face at the sight of the young, naked actor was burnt into my memory like a branding iron and haunts me to this day. I still don’ t know what disturbed me more – a real-life penis or the Cheshire Cat grin on your face and enlivened mood for the rest of the evening.

But most of all, thanks for being you. Love you to the sky and back again, Mum! xx