Cotswold Life

In the mood

‘The Queen of Moods is my daugh­ter. Her foul tem­per is at least pre­dictable. I try to keep out of her way be­fore she’s had her break­fast. She comes down­stairs like a dragon, scorch­ing the wall­pa­per. I take cover’

- Con­tact @sue_limb Viral · The Queen · Elizabeth II · Charles I of England · Fiona Bruce

I’ve just sat through 20 min­utes of some­body com­plain­ing mood­ily about some­one else’s mood­i­ness. But of course mood­i­ness is catch­ing. I’m feel­ing quite moody my­self, now. I don’t like the way the car­pet’s look­ing at me.

Even the dog is moody. If I sug­gest to him that he might like to chase a squir­rel, his tail thrashes like mad and his eyes light up with joy. But if I leave him on his own in the kitchen for five min­utes while I wa­ter the green­house, when I come back he sprawls grumpily on the floor and re­fuses to look at me for hours.

The Queen of Moods is my daugh­ter. Her foul tem­per is at least pre­dictable. I try to keep out of her way be­fore she’s had her break­fast. She comes down­stairs like a dragon, scorch­ing the wall­pa­per. I take cover.

“Who’s left the jam there?” she seethes. Hid­ing un­der the ta­ble, I hope to get away with it. “I see some­body’s started the new bread with­out fin­ish­ing the old bread!” Her eyes flash, re­duc­ing the bread­bin to ashes. She glances at the news­pa­per. “I hate rich peo­ple and I’m go­ing to Kill Them All!”

A cou­ple of slices of av­o­cado on toast, though, and she’s wreathed in smiles. “It’s such a lovely day! Stroke the dog, he’s so vel­vety! I’m go­ing to re­fill the peanut feed­ers for the dar­ling lit­tle birds! I love the Queen she’s a le­gend!”

While she’s feed­ing the birds I crawl ten­ta­tively out, like the sur­vivor of an air raid. Now all I have to worry about is the postal de­liv­ery at noon when my part­ner re­ceives his bills, com­plaints, bank state­ments and bossy di­rec­tives from DEFRA.

You have to tip-toe care­fully around a volatile tem­per­a­ment. My par­ents’ tem­per­a­ments were far more steady, though op­po­site. My mother was con­sti­tu­tion­ally op­ti­mistic. Her response to any ill­ness was “It’ll right it­self.” I think if she’d been at the ex­e­cu­tion of Charles I, when they held up his sev­ered head she would have shouted, “Don’t worry, your Majesty, you’ll soon feel bet­ter!”

Dad was the op­po­site. He came out of black­ness and dan­ger: a long line of Der­byshire miners. Then he worked for GCHQ. Se­crets, ter­ror, nu­clear war. My mother chat­tered vi­va­ciously when­ever we had com­pany. He sat in si­lence, drum­ming his fin­gers on the arm of the chair and oc­ca­sion­ally glanc­ing out of the win­dow, ex­pect­ing the Apoca­lypse to be com­ing up the street with its teeth bared.

I started off moody. As a ter­ri­ble tod­dler I was once so fu­ri­ous, I ran up­stairs and stamped on the floor, hop­ing the ceil­ing would col­lapse on my fam­ily in the sit­ting room be­low. But the 1940s coun­cil houses were made of stern stuff and the or­nate plas­ter­work and chan­de­lier were un­moved.

It’s the busi­ness of teenagers to be moody. I re­mem­ber re­hears­ing my glow­er­ing in the bath­room mir­ror. When I was 12, my mother said to a friend, “Sue’s wear­ing her first bra to­day!” I made her pay for that! I sulked for 36 hours. In those days I could sulk in my sleep.

I sup­pose the roller-coaster of moods is in­evitable given the un­cer­tain­ties of hu­man life. But as an adult, as the di­vorces, bur­glar­ies, wars and mouldy cheese mounted up, my moods be­came less ex­treme. A calm­ness came over me, grad­u­ally. It was rest­ful. What do they call it? Fatal­ism. It’s in­cred­i­bly sooth­ing. I rec­om­mend it. The sink will be blocked. The car’s bat­tery will be flat. The dog will scoot on the car­pet when the vicar comes to tea. A pan­demic will spread over the face of the earth. Of course.

Just once a decade, though, I erupt out of my ha­bit­ual calm, like a lit­tle old volcano, for old time’s sake. It’s usu­ally about some­thing very triv­ial. Fiona Bruce, for in­stance. She’s beau­ti­ful, she’s in­tel­li­gent, but is she audi­ble? Only one word in four gets past my ear­wax. Mur­mur­ing the news is not what she’s paid for.

“Bur­ble­bur­ble­bur­ble GOV­ERN­MENT bur­ble­bur­ble IN­VES­TI­GA­TION bur­ble­bur­ble­bur­ble JUNE NEXT YEAR.”

“‘Speak up, Fiona, for cry­ing out loud!” I bel­low, and hurl my bot­tle of beer at the telly, like Fa­ther Jack. It’s tremen­dously lib­er­at­ing.

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