Charli Mills tagged me as the source of the prompt she has given us this week:
February 4, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a nutty aunt. What makes her nutty? Is it the situation she’s in or a quirky habit? She can be anybody’s aunt. Maybe she’s really somebody’s uncle but wants to be an aunt. Maybe it’s the name of a cowpoke’s horse, a hockey team or a village pub. Follow where the prompt leads.
It was PG Woodhouse to whom I was referring in my conversation with Charli and if any of you have not yet enjoyed Woodhousian humour, well you are in for a treat. It might be a little dated but Bertie and Jeeves are as fine a pair of comic characters are you’ll ever find. They were brilliantly portrayed in my youth on TV by Iain Carmichael and Dennis Price and more recently by Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.
Unusual for something to translate so well over more than one generation. Even more amazingly a piece of fan fiction ‘Jeeves and the Wedding Bells’ by Sebastian Faulks is a truly spiffing read, wot? Worth a dabble, doncha know?
The title to this blog is one of Woodhouse’s great books and to give a little flavour of aunts as understood by Woodhouse he wrote (for example)
“It isn’t often that Aunt Dahlia lets her angry passions rise, but when she does, strong men climb trees and pull them up after them.”
And what of my experiences of nutty aunts? Well, as I said to fellow blogger, Irene Walters (check her out here, do) Aunts are a good counterpoint to parents, giving us, in the best way, a subversive experience of adulthood.
My aunts unlike troubles came not in battalions but in single spies, spread over time.
To start it was great aunts I recall, formidable women of large coats and hats of monumental confection and immovability. The Archaeologist and I were fascinated by hats. Why for instance did these dusty faced women, smelling oddly of wardrobes and toilets, take off their coats and shoes yet leave on their hats? Were they bald beneath? Did they fear their rigid and highly spun hair might make a bid to escape if released from the weight of the hat? Was something extraordinarily interesting kept underneath, a marmalade sandwich perhaps or one of those odd shaped rubber things mum had in her bedside table, hidden under a tangle of stockings, Pond’s Cold Cream and spare soap?
They perched too, did great aunts. They never sat back in any chair, unlike great uncles who contoured to each chair and used their stomachs to balance everyday equipment such as teacups and tobacco pouches. Great aunts did a lot of disapproving. They had a range of tutts that accompanied another aunt’s conversation, like mood music for their complaints. I’m sure I read that certain tribal languages amongst aboriginal peoples which comprise whistles and clicks were used during the war as unbreakable codes; the vocabulary of the Tutting Aunt could have been used with equal facility.
Great Aunts were possessed of things like rheumatics and water works and a variety of bowel problems and ate in small pecks though they never left anything. And they all seemed to have ill fitting teeth that the swilled around inside their mouths as they spoke, ate or drank tea.
Great aunts were often generous, bestowers of chocolate treats and hard peppermints that blew your sinuses apart. They belched and farted but woe-betide any comment, or worse snigger; in such a case fingers, gnarled like hundred year old beech and forged from titanium would unerringly catch you close to or on the ear, leaving no mark but inflicting searing pain.
One great aunt, Rose, was a staunch high ranking officer in the Sally Army. Even my gran, her sister, behaved impeccably in Aunt Rose’s presence. We had tea once a year at her small cottage near the harbour in Whitstable and the Archaeologist and I were begged to behave for the two hours we were there. If we did then on the way home we were treated to a go on the diesel powered boats on the lake at Hampton just outside Herne Bay. I wish I remembered what the adults talked about but I do remember the mood – sombre, funereal. I suppose someone, somewhere had died and their lives must have been picked over critically with their chances of a swift pass by St Peter dissected, probably leading to the conclusion that they would be sent to the back of the queue.
Aunts, by comparison to Great Aunts were ace. I had two – well two I know about. There is a third out there somewhere but my uncle’s marriage to said aunt was so short and so unsavoury that she went back north somewhere and of her and her child I have no clue.
But of the two remaining, they are – as they are both alive – entirely splendid. Nutty? Maybe.
Ann is by any definition an utter loon. Well meaning, impulsive, manic, ditsy, generous (and sometimes mean) in the same sentence, and with the most outrageous sense of humour. My mother was a lovely lady but she never really ‘got’ my aunt thinking her rather fly and if not fickle then prone to flights of fancy that were destined to end in tears, though they seldom if ever did. But despite being of different temperaments and outlooks, my mother was grateful to my aunt for her unswerving loyalty to first her husband, my mother’s revered brother and second her beautiful and equally barking daughters, my cousins. My aunt was also the most caring and dedicated sister in law in a time of need that anyone could have which my mother, in her somewhat churlish way admitted and for which I and the Archaeologist will be eternally grateful.
My father, unlike my mother, adored my aunt but never quite coped with her relentless teasing and flirting. He thought himself a man of the world but she bested him always, much to everyone, and secretly his, delight.
My other aunt, Gill, was much younger when she appeared in my life as my uncle’s girlfriend back in the mid sixties, all mini skirts and tight tops which frankly wasn’t easy to handle as a ten year old beginning to wonder at the different geometry between men and women. Was Gill nutty? No I don’t think so; she has the sort of warm generous disposition that makes you feel special (still does, come to that), and it will remain something of a family sadness when she and my uncle divorced that our families were separated until the last few years. Pleasingly the gaps have now been closed and Gill still has time to prove me wrong on the nutty front.
And so to this week’s flash. Mary and her family have been going through a lot recently. Will a visit from Mary’s aunt prove to be a welcome relief? If you want to catch up with Mary’s story, have a click here.
Aunt you worried?
‘Aunt Gloria, can you really read tea leaves?’
‘Yes, Penny. Easy.’
The girl watched while she made a pot and poured four cups. Mary stared outside, lost in her own world. Paul, Penny’s dad smiled as he drank.
‘You will have a new boyfriend by May.’ Gloria smiled; Penny scowled. Gloria looked at Paul’s dregs. ‘You’ll lose something important. Probably the second time.’
Penny smiled, ‘Your wallet! Again.’
Gloria eased Mary’s cup from her. She frowned. ‘Mary, you must ignore her.’
‘Who?’ Penny looked anxious.
‘Sharon. Mary’s imaginary friend.’
Mary looked amazed while Paul sighed. ‘Please no. Not again.’