A Grandmother’s Wisdom

In hindsight, the clown’s outfit might not have been a good idea, but it was a stag night after all, so I decided to let my hair down and go wild, (or to be more accurate, wear a silly red wig and go wild).

It was only when I arrived home in the early hours of the morning that I realised I’d lost my key. I couldn’t get into the house.

It was a Saturday morning, and my folks wouldn’t be up for hours yet. They treasured their lie-ins at the weekend, and would not be at all happy to be woken up by their drunken son at 6.a.m.

That left my dotty old grandmother. She was an early riser, and might be up shortly, but I’d never hear the last of it if I woke her up. You could put money on it that she’d remember this and bring it up on a regular basis.

Had I been sober, I probably would have curled up on the porch and gone to sleep, but alcohol does strange things to a person’s mind. They think the most stupid ideas are pure genius.

One of those ideas came to me now. It was climbing up the guttering onto the roof to the attic and letting myself in through my bedroom window. After all, I’d regularly climbed up and down the drainpipe to sneak out when I was grounded, or sneak back in again afterwards. I knew that the guttering was sound.

Of course, I hadn’t taken into account the facts that I could barely stand up, let alone climb, or for that matter, the problems of climbing in a pair of clown’s shoes.

I made it up to the roof eventually, with a lot of huffing and puffing and the occasional pause to catch my breath. When I finally stood on the roof slates, I felt a surge of adrenaline and almost whooped aloud, so pleased was I with my success. I only had a few feet to go to reach my bedroom window.

Sadly, success made me overconfident. I’d barely crossed half the distance when my footing went out from under me on the damp slates. Before I could stop myself, I’d slid down the roof and had fallen over the edge.

My guardian angel must have been watching over me at that moment as I didn’t fall to my death. The right cuff of the clown suit saved me, catching in one of the gutter clasps. I’d sprained my right wrist when I slipped, but at least I hadn’t fallen into the front garden.

The problem was that I was now left dangling, suspended outside of my grandmother’s bedroom window. I could hear her nagging voice in my head, “Thank the Lord for small mercies.”

It was one of her common sayings.

Another one was, “Things could always get worse. Remember the poor starving black babies in them third world countries. Make sure to eat ya greens.”

At this point, I was far too frightened to give any thought to Rwandan orphans. Desperately, I reached up and grabbed the gutter with my left arm, wincing with each jolt of my right wrist. I tried to grasp the guttering with my right arm and pull myself up, but the pain was far too much to bear. Pulling myself up with my weaker left arm was not possible either, so I was left dangling there, unsure what to do next.

It was then that I realised I had another problem.

The clown suit that I’d rented had been a bit large, but it was the only one available on short notice, so I’d taken it anyway. My trousers had been sliding down all night, and I’d been constantly pulling them back up. Now though, I didn’t have a free hand to correct my clothing, and I could feel them inching over my buttocks. I tried wriggling, but that only made it worse.

Another of my grandmother’s stupid sayings came to mind, “Always wear clean underwear, just in case ya get knocked down.” As usual, I hadn’t taken her advice to heart. In fact, I was currently going commando style.

I could feel the cold breeze on my ever-growing builder’s bottom, and it was only a matter of time before the weight of my wallet and mobile phone pulled my trousers down further. My deranged grandmother was in for quite a shock when she opened her curtains this morning. The old dear was liable to have a heart attack when she saw a clown dangling off her roof, with his trousers around his ankles and his wedding tackle dangling in the wind.

I had to think of something, and fast.

Just then I heard the jingling of an alarm clock. Grandmother was awake … then came her ritual coughing. She always started the day with a good cough. She was a fifty-a-day woman, and had smoked since she was a girl. She certainly wasn’t going to give it up now, at her age.

The coughing went on for some time. It was the sound that usually woke me each morning, that phlegmy raspy hawking that made me wince. Sleeping directly above her bed, it was hard to ignore the sound, and I usually gave up on sleep soon after it began.

In my mind I pictured her sitting on the edge of the bed, wheezing her lungs out and turning purple in the face. Soon, she would stand up, scratch her arse in a most unladylike fashion, and potter over to open the curtains.

My father had complained about the stench of tobacco in the house, and eventually, after many a heated row, she had promised to only smoke out on the porch.

She had lied, of course.

I heard her every morning, so I knew. She would always sneak a quick cig in just after getting up. She would open up her window and lean on the ledge, and take her first hit of the day.

My trousers decided that now was a good time to give up the ghost, and they finally gave up the struggle with gravity and slid down my legs.

“This is it!” I thought. “I’ll never live this down. The old battle-axe will bring this up whenever I bring a girlfriend over, and at every Sunday lunch …”

Frantically, I assessed my options. They were grim indeed.

I could hear the creaking of floorboards inside my grandmother’s bedroom. She was on the move!

I watched as the curtain stirred.

“Any second now”, I thought …

I only had one option open to me.

Taking a deep breath, I yanked hard on the cuff of the clown suit and thankfully, the flimsy material gave way.

I caught a quick glimpse of the bewildered face of my grandmother as I fell. She had opened the curtains just in time to see me falling.

The last thing I remembered was the crack of my shinbone as it hit the concrete, and then blissful oblivion.


Later that afternoon, I woke up in a hospital ward. My left leg and my wrist were both covered in plaster cast.

I looked around, still hazy on the medication they had given me. My gran was sitting beside the bed. She noticed that I was awake and gave me a knowing grin.

Outside, I could see my parents talking to a doctor.

“Sorry, Gran,” I mumbled.

“I’m just glad ya didn’t kill yourself, ya wee idiot! By the way, I did warn you about wearing clean underwear, didn’t I?” she scolded, half-heartedly.

I flushed with embarrassment, unable to answer.

“Don’t worry, lad. Ya secrets safe with me,” she added, with a cheeky wink.

My gran went up in my estimations that day. She had taken the time to pull up my trousers before she had called the ambulance, or woken my parents.

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