Thursday, 10 February 2011

Mum's inconsistency

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

I agree with Emerson, but I wish that I knew how he would have distinguished between a “foolish” and a “wise” consistency.

My mother had no consistency, despite all her protests to the contrary.

“In the beginning” (i.e. when I began to form memories!), Mum was very consistent.  As a convinced member of the Labour Party (at one time she half considered running for Labour in the Bristol Council election).  In the spirit of British working class socialism, she was also a paid up member of the Cooperative movement.

So we bought our groceries, bread, milk, furniture, clothing, coal, and insurance from the local Co-op. Mum even took me to the Co-op Departmental Store on Castle Street in downtown Bristol for my earliest hair-cuts.

Then Mum and Dad “got saved” and hooked up with the Plymouth Brethren at the local Gospel Hall.   

The Plymouth Brethren were (mostly) opposed to Co-ops.  This was on the somewhat spurious grounds that in order to be a member of the Co-op a person would be given a number by which her/his purchases were recorded, to facilitate the payment of a semi- annual Divi (Dividend) based on the member’s purchases.

The P.B.’s reasoned that this “number” had to do with the “mark of the beast” (go figure!!).

Thus “inspired by the wisdom of the P.B. elders”, Mum changed her choice of vendors.

Now our milk and coal came from neighbourhood businesses -  milk from Bedford’s Dairy, and coal from  the Thorne family business .  We bought our groceries from the corner store owned by Mr. & Mrs. Higgins.  Our meat and eggs came from the Moreton’s Butcher Shop on Church Rd., Redfield - mostly because one of the Moreton brothers was vaguely connected to the Plymouth Brethren.

Mum was clear about one thing.  She would never trade at Les Groves’ butcher’s shop for he was very coarse. Nor would she buy groceries from George Matthews’ store, for he was too flirtatious.

Mr. Higgins died. His widow was unable to run her corner store with anything like efficiency. Mum decided to forsake them. Poor Mrs. Higgins sent Mum a note, pleading with her to remain as a customer.

It was to no avail. George Matthews became the hero. Mum would place her weekly order with him, which he would deliver on Saturday afternoons.  I never cared for the man, but Mum would welcome him and his wife, and offer them a “cuppa”.

“Magically”, Mum discovered that Les Groves in fact sold the very best meat, eggs, bacon and the like.  So she forsook the Moretons in his favour!

Much later, when many of these local shops had gone under, my dear Mum discovered the emerging supermarkets.  With her eye to snob value (which I have inherited!), she disdained Tesco and the like, in favour of Sainsbury’s.

Mum claimed to be consistent.  She was not!  

For that I am glad, because according to Emerson “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”

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