We call my dad "Fleetwood Mac". This is because he goes his own way. And, when it comes to eccentricity, my mum can give Quentin Crisp a run for his money. In fact, eccentricity comes so naturally to my parents it shocks people. On the outside, they seem like a nice, reasonably prosperous couple, in late middle age. My mum keeps a clean house, wears sensible clothes and shoes and my dad can talk golf like any other reasonably prosperous man in late middle age, but deep down they are truly eccentric. It is not a posture, it comes to them like breathing and is a symptom of a personalities who are confident in the rightness of their own preferences. Why conform if you don't like it? Why be like other people if you don't like them? I really didn't know quite how eccentric they were until I met my husband's family, who were, and still are, a very respectable working class family - the stalwart kind from David Lean war films - the kind of family that made Britain great. John Mills would have played my late father-in-law in a film.
When I first brought the DH home to meet the parentals, they were most amused by his beard, his love of folk music and liking for real ale. He reminded them of a friend they had in the 1970s. Much was said on this. The parentals went out and left us to our own devices. When they came home, my dad gave the DH a pint of beer. Bought in the pub, in a pub pint glass: the beer was covered in cling film. They had driven home from the pub with a pint for the DH, my dad driving carefully along the country lanes so that my mum didn't spill it. Of course, the DH was overwhelmed by the kindness and the significance of the gesture, but also the sheer weirdness of it. How did they get the pint out of the pub? Where did they get the cling film? How will they return the pint glass? The DH would simply not have done this, just in case it would draw attention to himself - and the the DH, this would be horrific.
This streak of eccentricity runs deep in me. I don't purposefully go against the tide, I just do it. And, like my parents, I'm actually quite respectable. No piercings or anything. However, I didn't think I'd passed it onto the girls until recently. Here's a conversation I had with the eldest.
Mum: What do you want for your birthday?
Big Girl: A top hat.
Mum: We can get you one of those at auction. What colour?
Big Girl: Black, preferably Victorian.
Mum: Fine, what are you going to do with it?
Big Girl: Wear it. I look good in hats.
Mum: You're intending to wear a Victorian top hat around the estate?
Big Girl: Yes.
Now, the big girl wears as much eyeliner as any other girl her age who is probably going to do an art A' Level, but she is famed within the family for being like her dad and not wanting to draw attention to herself. The thought of her popping up the post office looking like Slash from Guns 'n' Roses is both odd and strangely disturbing. Now, this wasn't a bit of teenage posturing because she doesn't do teenage posturing. It was a simple expression of aesthetic preference. She likes top hats. She looks good in hats. She wants a top hat. Genes, gentle reader, will out. The upshot of this is that she didn't get the hat for her birthday - she needed a new amp for her bass, but I'm bidding on a hat today and she'll have one for Christmas. Perhaps she'll go carolling in it, like an old-timey Dickensian urchin. Who knows what she's got planned? I don't know but I bet it will be something just a little bit weird.