This week, a friend of mine happened across a book while tidying her daughter’s bedroom.
“Did your mother write this, by any chance?” she asked me.
Now Le Crazy Cat Saloon, with a cast of cats and a sprinkling of French words, may be amusing, but it’s hardly literature.
Nor is it politically correct. For one thing, it features a cat who’s a stripper. As my sons pointed out, stories about strippers aren’t exactly suitable for readers of all ages, no matter what the cover blurb says.
All the same, whenever people talk about my mother’s many books, or her cat paintings, Le Crazy Cat Saloon always features in the conversation.
On Mother’s Day, I have a vested interest in thinking that mothers should be remembered in the best possible light.
If I were to choose one book to remember my mother, it would be Cocktails and Camels. Although she wrote it just after Suez, and her divorce, it’s upbeat and funny. Here’s how it starts.
I used to live in Alexandria—Egypt, that is, and not, as some Americans think, the one in Virginia. I liked Alexandria. There was no place like it on Earth, I used to think, and now, on looking back, I am quite sure there wasn’t. It was a nice, friendly little town basking in the sunshine and cool Mediterranean breeze, and in summer its streets smelled of jasmine which little Arab boys sold threaded into necklaces. Alexandria had plenty of character—characters, rather—Italian, French, Maltese, Turkish, even White Russians, to say nothing of Copts, Pashas, Effendis, and bird-brained but devoted Sudanese servants. The grocers were Greek, the jewellers were Jews, the shoemakers were Armenians, and the Lebanese were everywhere. The British Army used to play polo and complain about the heat. How they came to be there at all when they had a most roomy Empire in which to exercise is a long, sad story. For the British, though they like to look like good-natured and paternal fools, are, as every Arab knows to his sorrow, very cunning indeed, especially when it comes to taking advantage of trusting Arabs.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Note: Mother’s Day may be on the second Sunday in May in most of the world, but in the UK ‘Mothering Sunday’ aka Mother’s Day is today.