My Elderly Aunt

Barbican, Going Postal
Spider, Pascal CC0 1.0

As she is so old now and we try to dredge up our shared history, she tells me things I never knew about our family.
Her parents, my grandparents fell in love, got it together and had to get married. Their love endured and, without access to birth control, Elderly Aunt was the fifth of their eight children. Being the fifth wasn’t exactly a good place to be.
EA recalls her maternal Grandfather saying, as she and her siblings arrived, “Oh no, not that one”. Apparently, she was a little sod as a child. Always causing trouble, being a nuisance and trying to draw attention to herself being the fifth of eight. Hardly surprising as I now realise.

As we’ve talked about this over our recent years of being close, I asked her “Is that why, when I was a little kid, you’d call me into the bathroom at Granny and Grandad’s house and hold me over the bath where there was a great big spider and make me terrified of spiders?”
“I’m so sorry now that I did that. It was so mean of me”.
We cleared the slate and I began asking her about her life.

She left school at 14 and went into service as a kitchen maid. She learnt a lot from the cook there and, when the cook went off on a week’s holiday, teenage EA had to take over and do all the meals for upstairs and downstairs.
When she told me about that, her sense of achievement shone through, “I didn’t have a clue really, I just followed Cook’s recipes and Mrs Fortescue came down and thanked me. It was the first time I’d ever been thanked for anything I’d done”.

One of Cook’s recipes was the Bread and Butter Pudding EA cooked for lunch one day as she was caring for her youngest sister who was dying from MRSA, courtesy of the NHS. It was superb and the trick was a layer of bay leaves laid on the bottom of the dish. We all complimented her on this dream of delight and her riposte was “A meal without a pudding is like a train without a Guard’s Van”.
She is a star and I am no longer afraid of spiders but, since European Mouse Spiders began to appear in my house, and one bit me, I’m wary.
I trapped one in a jar and showed it to Elderly Aunt and she said “That’s an ugly looking bastard”.

* * *

When I was a kid my Daddy and I would be engrossed by watching our favourite genre on that new little box in the corner, the Western, and for us, it was “Rawhide”.

My gender was never unclear as I thought that Rowdy Yates was the next best perfect man to my Daddy and I wanted to marry him because he was also a fine horseman and I loved horses and was learning to ride plus all of the practical stuff like grooming, picking out hooves, cleaning out stables, scraping their poo off fields, cleaning tack and making the bits, stirrups and buckles shine as much as the horses.
We also loved John Wayne and I remember watching “Stagecoach” with my heart in my throat as I realised that so many of the poor horses used in those films did die. Sadly, that was the way it was and poor little unloved, by his mother, Marion Morrison, went on to re-invent himself time and again, not least with his new name, John Wayne.
What was his mother thinking of, calling her eldest son Marion?

The years rolled by and it became frightfully unfashionable for those of us who were at the tail end of the wonderful Grammar school system to be fans of Westerns and the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood
The sea change came when John Wayne won the Oscar for “True Grit”.
It was well deserved for a truly great movie. Not forgetting Kim Darby or “Little Blackie”, the pony who died as Rooster rode it to death to save the girl. Gut wrenching.

I got a job in London and kept in touch with all of my old buddies from school who’d poo-poo’d my love of the Western genre.
Imagine my surprise when one of them asked me out with him to see “The film that’s going to win the Oscar” and I asked; “Which one’s that then and he said Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”. “Oh, you’ve changed your tune. Thanks but no thanks. I saw it last week when I was down in Cornwall and it will win best film and best Director”. It did.
It was about then that our fightback against their groupthink and Cultural Marxism began.
I knew which side I was on.
It was around about that time that I began dumping those types.

© Barbican 2019

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file