AS I’ve said on numerous occasions in this column over the years, I love my dear old mum to bits.

However, there are times when I’m left wondering if the feelings are truly reciprocated.

Being a dutiful son, I call her every day to check that she’s OK, but I’ve lost count of the number of times she mistakes me for my brothers.

“Hello, Paul, are you OK, son?” she’ll say, almost without fail, when she answers the phone.

“It’s not, Paul, Mum, it’s me,” I sigh for the umpteenth time.

“Oh, sorry, is everything OK, John?” she replies.

“NO, MUM, IT’S PETER – YOUR MIDDLE SON!” I end up shouting.

I should stress that she remains as bright as a button, despite recently turning 90. And calling me Paul or John, isn’t something new – it’s been happening for as long as I can remember.

As galling as it is, I’ve just had to come to terms with the inescapable truth that she automatically thinks of me last.

Oh, and by the way, it’s also not unusual for me to be rushed off the phone in favour of Bradley Walsh if ever I make the cardinal error of calling during The Chase.

Having said all that, I’ve never been as offended as I was when I rang her at the weekend. The conversation started in the usual way, but then it got a whole lot worse.

Once we’d got through the inevitable confusion about whether I was Paul or John, she stuck the knife in by saying: “I can’t stop on – Blackie’s tapping at the window.”

Blackie, I should explain, is a tame blackbird that regularly calls on my Mum whenever he’s hungry. He taps his yellow beak on her patio window, then perches on an ornamental squirrel until she feeds him.

He even has his own special bowl, and she doesn’t just give him a few old seeds. Oh, no. He gets a nice mixture of chopped ham, peeled apple, and oats.

Anyway, back to the phone call: “I’ll have to go, Blackie's getting impatient,” she went on. “Was it anything important?”

“No, not really,” I groaned before adding: “I can’t believe you’re rushing me off the phone because you’ve got a bloody blackbird tapping at your window.”

“Yes, but he relies on me – I’ll speak to you later,” she replied.

I started to ask why he couldn’t dig for worms like other birds, but the phone line went dead before I finished the sentence.

I’m so far down the pecking order, I honestly don’t know why I bother.


MANY thanks to John Rusby, of Bishop Auckland, for getting in touch with a Christmas memory from when his daughter, Helene, was four or five.

John took Helene with him to Hamsterley Forest to buy a Christmas tree and shoved it in the back of his van.

When he got back in the cab, Helene was crying her eyes out, so her dad asked: “What’s the matter? I’ve bought the biggest tree I could get in the van, and even had to bend it so I could close the doors.”

“I know,” sobbed Helene, “but I wanted one with lights on.”

MEANWHILE, Madelyn, aged five, sent the following letter to Father Christmas: “Dear Santa, I have a qweshdin. Am I on the good list or the bad list?”

Here’s wishing you all a very happy, peaceful and safe Christmas with your families…