Whilst Aunt Gertrude from Australia is staying with us for a while we thought it a good idea to invite Uncle Herbert from Dundee in Scotland to come and visit for a few days and meet her for the first time. She of course having emigrated to Australia all those years ago; or was she deported from Britain? I don’t know. Anyway … the two have never met.
Now most people tend to think before speaking. Not Auntie Gertrude. She has been fitted with a delay mechanism which makes her speak first and then a few moments later think about what she has just said.
Of course, when this occasionally happens to most people; they realize what they said and apologise, or quickly change the subject. Not Auntie Gertrude. When the delay mechanism makes her realize she said something wrong she continues talking without thinking and makes a bad situation worse.
Uncle Herbert on the other hand is a kind old soul who is always welcome with open arms whenever he visits us. This is because he is always carrying a bottle of the best single malt whisky, which I appreciate very much, as well as various well-chosen presents for the rest of the family. Generosity must have been his middle name when he was christened!
Unlike Auntie Gertrude whose presents from Australia were a few bags of boiled sweets from Adelaide as well as a half-drunk can of Foster’s amber nectar which she had opened on her flight to soothe a dry throat. Or so she said.
Don’t misunderstand me; she is a kind old lady really. But not from this planet somehow. She seems to live in a world of her own totally unaware of life around her.
No sooner had we welcomed Uncle Herbert and thanked him for all his presents than Auntie Gertrude’s delay mechanism came into effect.
We were all sitting in the large living room when Auntie opened her mouth and her stomach gurgled; as we say in our family when someone speaks without thinking.
Uncle Herbert, I should point out here, wears a hair-piece because he is somewhat self-conscious about his bald patch. It is not well-fitting but hey … he’s always worn it and no one has ever said anything about it.
Not Auntie Gertrude.
She started the conversation by asking “Was your wig expensive cobber?”
Uncle stuttered and said “Ehm … well … I … I …. I paid quite a sum for it, ye ken!”
One of the children innocently compounded the difficult situation by asking “What is a wig?” Fortunately the situation was defused by taking the children out to help prepare the dinner table for lunch.
I remained in the room with Uncle and Auntie. She was the first to speak and interrupt the awkward silence.
“The reason I ask,” she said, “is because in Adelaide they make them made to measure. They fit very well and you can’t tell it’s a wig!”
“I … I … I see. Aye …!” stuttered Uncle embarrassingly.
“If you want, I’ll order one for you and send it when I get back home!” she continued in her screeching Australian accent which has given me nightmares ever since she arrived, “all I need is your hat size cobber!”
I changed the subject by talking about the weather. Something which we often do in Britain when we have nothing else to say. It’s a neutral subject and more often than not leads people to agree on the matter.
“Oh it’s been pissing cats and dogs ever since I set foot here!” screeched Aunt Gertrude, “not like back home. It can be quite dry for months it can.”
Uncle and I mumbled and I was silently thankful that the conversation had moved on.
“What’s the weather like in Dundee?” she asked Uncle, “is it often windy? ‘Cos you’ll need a hat to stop your wig from flying off!”
What was I to do? I felt like screaming “For pity’s sake SHUT UP!!!” But you can’t be disrespectful to your old Auntie can you?
I changed the subject once again by asking if they wanted an aperitif before our meal which should be ready presently.
Well … as you’ve guessed, the refined relative from Australia asked for a can of Foster’s amber nectar; whereas Uncle and I enjoyed a drop of 12 years old single malt.
Thankfully, lunch proceeded peacefully and every one kept their hair on. But I’m sure it’s early times yet and Auntie will find other opportunities to embarrass herself, and us!