I’ve grown used to my mother surprising me, but I have to admit that my eyebrows went up a tad higher than usual when she informed me that she used to bounce Lord Voldemort on her knee when he was a little lad…
It’s difficult to explain what I mean when I say my mother is full of surprises. Perhaps the best way to convey this is by means of a few little stories…
For example, one evening when I was a youngster living at home with my mom, dad, and little brother, we were watching the news on television. At some stage there was a report about the fact that the Maharaja (“High King”) of Jaipur in India had passed away. “Oh dear,” said my mother, “he was such a kind man; I will have to send a note to his wife.”
The point is that we are not a “posh” family. I’m from Sheffield, England. My mom was born in a less than affluent part of Sheffield and my dad was born in Nottingham. The bottom line is that don’t tend to hang out with the “upper echelons of society” as it were. So how did my mom happen to know the Maharaja of Jaipur and his family?
A few moments ago as I pen these words I called her to ask for more details. As usual with my mom, the answer to any query of this kind involves an explanation so mind-boggling that it makes your brain hurt. The only part that I managed to follow was the fact that (for reasons unknown) my mom had found herself in Jaipur, that the Maharaja owned numerous palaces in Jaipur, and that one of her meetings with him was in one of these palaces. She finished by saying “Of course, that’s how we came to have the elephant rides and everything…” But I’m too old of a hand at this game and I quickly said goodbye before she could leap into another tortuous tale.
Many years later when I was a student at University, one of the guys on my course was from Yugoslavia. One day I invited him round to my parent’s house for supper. When my mom asked him where he came from in Yugoslavia he replied Skopje, which used to be the capital of Yugoslavia (it’s now the capital and the largest city in the Republic of Macedonia).
My friend was somewhat surprised by the fact that my mother seemed to know an awful lot about his home town. When he queried her about this, she replied that a company she used to work for had been part of a consortium that was building a steelworks in Skopje. When the earthquake came (this would have been the earthquake that destroyed 80% of the city in 1963), my mother joined some other folks to fly to Skopje on their company plane to deliver a plane full of emergency medical supplies. Years later, she was presented with a book showing photographs of Skopje before the quake. She disappeared into the loft and returned with this book – my friend was amazed to see images of his city before the quake, showing buildings and scenes he had never even imagined.
What, you want more? Well, in 1984 when I was about 27 years old I was visiting with my mom and dad. The epic German war film Das Boot ("The Boat") was being shown on television in German with subtitles in English. As some stage one of the actors said something and my mom said to my dad “Isn’t that translation incorrect Reg?” (she called him "Reg", because that was his name :-) and my dad said something like “Yes, that actually means…” and he rattled something off in German.
All of this came as something of a surprise to me. “Hang on,” I said, “do you both speak German?” My mom informed me that this was indeed the case. So how was it that I had reached the age of 27 without being aware of this interesting fact? My mother explained it very succinctly as follows: “You never asked!”
All of which brings me to the point of this blog (yes, there is a point). Last week I was visiting with my mom in the UK. I don’t know about you and your parents, but I always find it difficult to know what to get my mom for her Birthday and Christmas presents. Looking at her bookshelves I saw that she had the complete set of Harry Potter books – and I remembered that she had seen and enjoyed the first couple of Harry Potter films, so I asked her if she would like the full box set of DVDs (which is set to be released on 2 December).
This is when she informed me that she used to bounce Lord Voldemort (the main antagonist for the Harry Potter series) on her knee when he was a little lad. I must admit to worrying for a moment that perhaps a sedative was in order (either for my mom or for me). However, she proceeded to explain that Lord Voldemort’s alter ego is the British actor Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes. It seems that in one of her incarnations, when Ralph was just a little lad, my mother used to be the personal assistant to his grandfather. On occasion, my mother used to drive over to the town of Beccles in Suffolk to pick up Ralph and his family and bring them back to visit Ralph’s grandfather, and it was as part of these trips that my mom used to bounce Ralph on her knee.
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)
I tell you, I could write a book about all of this stuff…
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