Hi Everyone. I shall be hovering rather erratically around this blog in the next few days. So I thought I would say why and prevent the thousands of you from going into a period of excited anticipation in the hope that some terrible thing had happened to me and would I ever recover etc etc. I’m fine!
Yesterday morning (3rd May) one of my brothers, Rick, had a sudden heart attack and died. So I shall be doing my best to get to his funeral on Friday which is a four-hour drive away.
Four years ago Rick caught a viral infection in his eyes and went blind in one eye and largely blind in the other. Two years ago he had both legs amputated and was just now learning again to walk on his artificial limbs. He was having a race with his youngest grandson as to which one of them would learn to walk first! His passing, despite these setbacks, has naturally come as a big shock.
So all in all I shall only spasmodically attend to comments and the like – if at all. There are stories waiting in line to be posted so these will still appear, but the numbering will be a bit messed up!
With Covid doing its thing, income here has been a little tight, so this year Rick had been paying my rent – so I owe him one.
When Elaine and Charlie announced their marriage engagement everyone knew instinctively that it was a relationship concocted in heaven. They were perfect for each other. Both were mean. Both were snarky. Both could be malicious. In no time they’d knock the rough corners off one another. It wasn’t so much cruelty of action; it was cruelty of tongue. Both could make ground meat out of a tough steak simply by verbal lashing.
The engagement period seemed to go well. There were no volcanic eruptions – much to everyone’s disappointment. Then the wedding day arrived and they had chosen a simple wedding in a little country church, with just a few friends and family members. They returned from an extensive honeymoon even more convivial than when they left. The pundits’ disappointment continued.
Next came a baby, and another, and a third. This was getting ridiculous. The relationship wasn’t meant to last. Pre-nuptial common sense demanded a marriage breakdown.
And then one day Elaine lost her job as a school secretary. Apparently she had expressed an opinion that favoured the wrong political party. That was when the waspish habits of bygone years leaped back into gear. Both Charlie and Elaine stood in front of the principal’s desk.
They hadn’t lost the touch. No indeed!
That was years ago. They’re grandparents now. Many of their acquaintance’s marriages have disintegrated. One never knows.
Congratulation, Elric, you have the job. We were delighted with the quality of your experience and expertise shown in both your interview and your CV.
Your ability to cut through nonsense and get straight to the core of the matter was the singular feature of your interview that stood out from all the other almost eight hundred applicants. Your Harvard degree certainly helps but it’s not everything. It’s how you use your degree that matters.
So we are delighted to welcome you to the team. You start tomorrow. Dad said to say “Well done”. I was wondering when you go home if you can tell Mum that I’ll be a bit late home for dinner this evening.
Catriona had put a lot of work into her family photo album. It wasn’t so much an album; it was more a family tree. Each old photo was accompanied by a brief biography of who was who and what they had achieved in their lives. Catriona nonchalantly kept the album on her coffee table. Visitors would dip into it while Catriona was out in the kitchen making the tea and quickly baking a batch of edibles.
Here was a picture of her great great grandmother who single-handedly had confronted a whole tribe of warlike natives demanding money.
Here was a picture of a great uncle who used to ferry people in his rowboat, one person at a time, across the raging Lualaba River in the Congo.
Here was the highest in command saved when his ship was torpedoed in the war. That was her grandfather.
There is no doubt that Catriona’s ancestry was riddled with heroines and heroes. It was extraordinary how bravery can be passed on from one generation to the next. Was it Nature or Nurture?
“Perhaps it’s a bit of both,” Catriona would say, “although there are some people in my tree that are not yet in the album. If the truth be known, they were quite ordinary!”
Indeed! If the truth be known! The whole thing was a fiction in Catriona’s world. She had been adopted at birth. She had no clue who her biological parents were. Murgatroyd, a visitor from Little Ivywood Hamlet, pointed this out.
“Heavens to Murgatroyd!” exclaimed Catriona. “This is the family tree of my adopted parents. Family is not in the genes; it’s in the heart. And this is an album of my family.”
It seemed like just an ordinary old photo. Granddaughter Natalie was showing it to her grandmother. Grandmother Lilianna had been born in Poland but had come to her new country with her parents and siblings when she was nine.
Which one are you? asked Natalie.
Lilianna had not seen the photograph before. Where did you find it?
It was with a pile of stuff in a box, said Natalie. What are the names of your brothers and sisters?
Lilianna pointed them out as she named them. There’s Franciszek and Filip. And there’s Zofia and Maria. You know great-aunt Maria. And I don’t know who that other little girl is. She must have been visiting at the time.
But, said Natalie, it’s written in Polish on the back. Daddy translated it for me. It says “Our six children”.
The photograph had taken Lilianna back to that terrible day. She knew who that fourth girl in the photograph was. It was her sister Dominika. Dominika was still alive and living not too far away. Dominika was ostracized. She had never been spoken about for decades. And now her photograph had emerged. It brought back extraordinary memories of… of…
Can I keep the photo? asked Lilianna.
Of course, said Natalie.
After Natalie left to go home, Lilianna threw the photograph into the fire.
Claudéric de Moulins d’Amieu de Beaufort was just an ordinary bloke. He was unmarried and lived in Illkirch-Graffenstaden.
Asceline de Pardaillan de Gondrin too was an ordinary of person. She lived in Krautergersheim.
They fell in love. They had met at a Social Justice Convention. With Asceline and Claudéric, modernity and moderation went hand in hand. They were a thoroughly modern couple.
Asceline de Pardaillan de Gondrin decided to keep her own name when she married Claudéric de Moulins d’Amieu de Beaufort. But what if they had children? What family name would each child use?
It was a conundrum that was easily settled; they would join their family names. Many years later, Renaud de Pardaillan de Gondrin de Moulins d’Amieu de Beaufort married Marguerite Dembélé- Vallée-Boutet-Aubert-Caillat-Gainsbourg-Ouvrard-Chéreau-Cazenave-Auvray-Bourdon. They too were modern and moderate. They changed their name to Smith. It was so foreign and exotic.
It was Thanksgiving, and Fred and Jaime Burtwhistle had much to be thankful for, although they couldn’t agree on what their next step in life together was to be. Fred’s Great Aunt Donnabelle, whom they loved very much for obvious reasons, had died and left them a gigantic fortune. It was such a pleasure to be able to spend money and not have their nosy great aunt overseeing. Waiting for her to die had taken years.
Then there was Jaime’s Aunt Mabel to be thankful for. She would never shut up. Talk talk talk. She had a motor accident at some stage during the year and lost the ability to talk. What a relief! What a blessing!
Jaime’s father was a chronic alcoholic and they had put him in a care center of some sort for drunks. It was going to be good not having him around on Thanksgiving to ruin everything.
Fred’s mother, a widow, was a nut case. She had been “institutionalized”. Hopefully in a padded cell. You’ve no idea how embarrassing that woman could be.
So indeed there was much for Fred and Jaime Burtwhistle to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. They had no children, so it was to be just the two of them. Of course, they couldn’t agree on how best to spend Great Aunt Donnabelle’s inheritance. To solve this disagreeable problem Fred had poisoned the cranberry sauce, and Jaime had poisoned the pumpkin pie.
The Innes Family of Stockton Street were excited. They were sponsoring a distant cousin from England. Tommy was eighteen years old, had no brothers and sisters, and his parents had passed on. Mr and Mrs Innes had met him (years ago) on their trip to the Old Country. How would he like to live with us and start a new life in New Zealand?
Tommy was more than capable. He organized everything possible from his end. Meanwhile, the Innes Family repainted the spare bedroom, made new curtains, and generally made his room as welcoming as possible.
Oh the excitement among the Innes children as the day drew near!
“We don’t want to rush things,” said Mrs Innes. “Just take things slowly. Tommy will need time to adjust to his new country.”
He arrived! It was as if he had been part of the family all his life! It was a perfect arrangement!
On the first Saturday (with grandma as well) they packed a picnic, crammed into the old car, and headed for the river.
“A picnic at the river, a swim, fresh air, will do us all good,” said Mr Innes.
I’m just a slave around here. I always end up cleaning the dishes. It’s not fair, especially since there are so many who could help.
First of all, there’s Mum and Dad. They could do the dishes quite easily but they are in charge and people who are in charge never clean up. That’s what they have kids for – to clean up after their parents.
Then there’s Toby. He’s the oldest. He’s always texting his girlfriend and there’s no time for him to clean up plates.
Next there’s Hetti. She can be quite absent-minded at times and usually wanders off at dishes time because she has to do homework or something.
Then there’s Flynn. He thinks he owns the world because he’s all of fourteen and obviously cleaning up is beneath him.
That leaves me, the only slave around here and the one nearly always given the task of cleaning up. Unless we have visitors. I never get to clean the dishes when we have visitors. Everyone pretends they clean the dishes all the time. But no! No visitors and I get to do the work. They just dump their dirty plates on the floor and I get to lick them clean. There’s no rest being a dog in this household, I tell you.