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Wee Margaret’s Bean Calendar

By Victorgrigas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This week in Crumbly Manor, we’re all about tolerance: New house is just about built. Old – and currently living in  – house is getting pretty broken, which is….uhm…interesting when you’re trying to find keys or lost paperwork, or that thing you put down for just a minute.
The kids are back at school which is great on one hand and terrible on the other, as my 10 year old has resurrected his campaign against 10 year olds doing homework ever, and my eldest seems to have an ongoing slew of “really important’  school projects that need to be delivered in about half an hour.

Sometimes I believe it is technically possible to demonstrate good textbook parenting, and other times it goes a little to the wind. This week was more of the latter.
In fact, when my eldest got snippy with me because I kept forgetting to refer to his “non-binary’ friend as ‘they’ and not ‘she’, I snapped back and said, “Think yourself lucky. When I was growing up, my mother didn’t believe that anyone was gay.”

There then followed one of those silences that means there’s some explaining to do. My 10 year old put down his homework (any opportunity) and my eldest waited.

Where I grew up in Scotland pretty much everyone, lived in the same type of houses, was the same colour of white, and men and woman got married – or mysteriously remained single – and the only perceived difference between groups of people, was who was Catholic and who was Protestant.

But when I went to drama school in Glasgow, nobody cared who was Catholic or Protestant – people were distinguished between who was gay and who was straight.
My mother could not understand this. “Men don’t kiss men. And women are much too sensible for that sort of thing.” she’d say.

I tried reasoning.
“Ok then, Liberace?”
“He’s flamboyant. He’s just a showman.”
“What about Rock Hudson?”
“Not gay. Too tall.”
“Alright then, Boy George.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. He’s just a pop star. All pop stars dress up as girls. Don’t you remember the 70s?”

I’ve pretty much always known I was heterosexual, but it seemed to me that not recognizing that some people were gay was bizarre –  like not recognizing that some people have brown hair, or green eyes or are left handed or right handed.
And I couldn’t understand that my mother could not understand that, when she was someone who valued the truth so highly.

Years later after drama school, I took a job working in a gay bar with one of my best friends, Strappy. Strappy was gay, and one of the smartest and most considered humans I knew.

Strappy loved my mother, and my mother loved Strappy, and so one night when we were talking in the kitchen behind the bar, I told him about my frustration that my mother just didn’t believe that homosexuality existed.

“It’s just a matter of timing.” he said. “She’ll get there eventually.  Some people live in the here and the now, and use the Gregorian calendar. Others take a while to catch up with what’s happening in the  here and how. And then there’s others who live by Wee Margaret’s Bean calendar.”
And we laughed.

Wee Margaret made the pub lunches during the week, and her calendar was a large pot that sat in the stove in the kitchen.
Every Monday, Wee Margaret would empty a big tin of beans in the pot and heat them up.  After Monday lunch, there would be a line above the beans, showing the original cooking level. On Tuesday, she’d cook the same pot of beans, so after Tuesday lunch there would be two lines.  As the week went on and more beans were served, there would be more lines. Strappy and I both knew people who only knew what day of the week it was after consulting Wee Margaret’s Bean Calendar.

One quiet night in the bar, Strappy was doing admin in the quiet of the kitchen, while I stood reading magazines in between periodic bar tending.
Two men came in and ordered a Guinness and a gin and tonic. They hadn’t been in the bar before, but I recognized them at the same time that they recognized me. It was my Mum’s Minister, with the Assistant Minister. Though we all exchanged smiles,  there was a moment where we all had an expression of “holy crap”

As soon as they took their drinks and sat at a corner table, I hurried into the kitchen to tell Strappy what was going on. Strappy, smoking a cigarette, was completely unfazed.
“We get Bishops in here. Rabbis. Even a couple of Archdeacons.”
“No, but the point of it is that it’s my Mum’s Minister.”
“No, the point of it,” said Strappy, “That it doesn’t matter who he is. This is a safe space for someone who currently doesn’t have many safe places. You’re freaked out? Believe me, he is moreso. So, go out there and make sure he knows that he’s alright.”

So I went back out front. It was a very quiet. There was nobody to serve, so I cleaned the bar.And then all of the glasses. And then I decided to wipe down the tables. I had cleaned everything,  but I still didn’t know how to approach things or what to say. So, eventually on the pretext of cleaning their table, I said to the Ministers, “I just want you to know that everything is totally cool, and that this is a safe space and…and I won’t tell my Mum.”
And my Mum’s Minister smiled and asked, “Are you one of us as well?”
To which I replied nervously, “What? A Minister?”
They snorted with laughter, and then so did I.

Though I had promised him I wouldn’t tell my Mum, I did.
It came out in the middle of an argument. When she said, that she didn’t know any real gay people, I told her she did.
It wasn’t my proudest moment.
And yet it didn’t surprise me at all, when she replied, “Well, that in no way changes the way I feel about him.”

In the end I was glad I told her. In the late 80s, a gay Minister was still big news, and when the newspapers came after my Mum’s Minister, my mother fought his corner with gusto.
“Wasn’t he the same man who sat with your daughter? Wasn’t he the same man who visited your father every week in hospital? What business is it of yours if he likes men or women? He’s a good man, and a fantastic Minister.”

So, I told my kids, it wasn’t that she had any problem with it, she just took a while to catch on.

My 10 year old didn’t really understand the story.  He couldn’t see why anybody would have a problem with anyone being gay.
My teen explained that people used to be really against it, and that in some places some people still are.
People who know what day it is by using Wee Margaret’s Bean calendar.

Crisis averted, my eldest wandered off to his computer to talk to someone much more groovier than me on Skype, and my 10 year old tried to concoct more reasons why he shouldn’t have to do homework. I resumed trying to find ‘that piece of paper I’d just put down for five minutes.’
“Man,” said my eldest, talking to his friend online, “I am never eating beans in a restaurant again. Well, maybe on a Monday.”

So, though my house may be coming apart, my classes are coming back together. I have two spots open for the Solo Show storytelling this Sunday, and I have finally put in place dates for the LIVE storytelling class. So, if it’s time for you to work on your own solo show, or you’d like to tell a story live, sign up now.

And of course, if you’ve any questions, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

Peace and love and a bean free week.


The Finish Line

Years and years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was at Drama school, we were doing a Brechtian chorus as part of our end of year show.  (Don’t be intimidated by “Brechtian chorus.” Basically, what it meant was there was a speech by Bertolt Brecht, and each of the students was given one line to say  as we stood as a chorus.)Continue reading

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