“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be;” said the cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Mad means something different to English people. It does not mean insane; that archaic interpretation died with those horrible old gothic lunatic asylums that crawled into the 20th century and died. In 1774 a Madhouse Act of Parliament instigated the requirement that licensed practitioners ran these places, and yearly inspections would take place: but they were barbaric old hovels in truth.
No: mad has long since wandered away from that old meaning, and now represents the eccentric. The quirky. The downright odd. The pop group, Madness, is a case in point. It’s edgy and right on trend to be mad. And when you join a new group of people you are often told that someone odd will fit right with them in because they’re all a bit mad, there.
Mad is a badge of honour.
I wonder just how mad one is allowed to be before one makes all the other mad people feel a little uncomfortable?
Maddie had a dentist’s appointment on Wednesday. I think the Dentist has been watching Marathon Man. He tightened her braces for the very last time before they are removed in about 12 weeks’ time; and by the time she sat down to tea that night she was in agony.
Bedtime saw her miserable. Could she have an ice pack, she pleaded?
We have never had such a thing as an ice pack. But we do have about four open packs of frozen peas. I buy them, I forget they’re there, I buy another pack, and so on until, were peas currency, we would be millionaires.
I pottered downstairs to the freezer and inspected its contents. The fridge freezer is unconscionably old. In April it will be gone, along with the rest of the kitchen. We are marking time, watching the ice wage war on the door and the dribbles trickle occasionally across the kitchen floor.
I selected a bag of peas. I did not put it in another bag, but flew happily upstairs to administer cold to my daughter, who gratefully accepted them.
Time wears on, and inevitably all peas must melt. By nine they were thoroughly defrosted. And not only this, but my daughter had dozed off.
The peas, not content with their Florence NIghtingale bag stance, had made a bid for freedom. They had populated the bed, and not with lovely hard frozen easily retrievable peas, but with green squishy peas which left little round green pigmented calling cards. As I picked each one, individually, from its chosen place on the duvet, I wondered briefly how many mothers had ever done this before.
I went downstairs, passing the cat on the bicycle.
The cat has a post-Olympics obsession with the bikes in the porch. He seems not to want to go out of the door, but to climb to the handlebars of a big man’s bike and ride like the wind, absolutely nowhere.
He has a wild and questing face, there at the controls of a human bike. Anyone would think he has opposable thumbs.
He may be hiding a few, I thought, as I arrived in the kitchen to find yet another sachet of cat food on the floor and ripped expertly open with a claw. That very morning, musing as to how he managed to steal the sachets in the first place, Felix and I stopped short a we watched him jump onto a kitchen surface, open the high cat food cupboard with his paw and stick the paw in to test for loose sachets. He was stood up on his hind legs like a small child. It was odd. Uncanny.
Sound like a Lewis Carroll novel to you?
And you must be mad too. Or, as a wise, slightly crazed old cat once said, you wouldn’t have come here.