The “abominables” – you can’t choose your grandparents

May 22 2016

Hi Mum

The smoke has returned, I could smell it all night and this morning, it has settled across the harbor, shutting out the sun on what should have been a really nice day. It is playing havoc with what is left of my internal systems and my detour is feeling short lived as I write this.

Ah well; there is nothing a stiff breeze won’t fix and I am getting used to good and bad days.

I was thinking about the “abominables” this morning; Dad’s parents and his spinster sister.

Visits to, or from, your grandparents, when you are a kid are meant to be joyful occasions, these though; were more like state visits by ruling monarchs, the smell of rosewater would overcome you as you were enveloped in the perfunctory embrace.

In fairness, I did not know them very well but the tension that preceded any visit was impossible to ignore. It was one more cloud on a marriage, already growing stormy.

I think it was Christmas 1954 during one of these visits, when we were treated to the breathless announcement of my Aunt’s engagement.

 I can remember some discussion as to whether children would be welcome at the wedding and I think as the youngest, I was meant to have some role in this production.

This would lead to the saga of the brown velvet suit.

I was just three years old, but I starkly remember the fitting sessions involved. You would have been heavily pregnant at the time, but your determination to hand sew this bloody suit would not be denied. I would have to stand still for what seemed an eternity, while you fussed around with pins sticking out of your mouth and more often than not, sticking into me. I was pushed and tugged interminably as you fitted the pants and top, you had painstakingly sewn on the old Singer treadle machine.

The wedding was held in August 1955, I do not remember anything of the ceremony, but afterwards as I stood with you, the perfumed Virago, full of false smiles, graced us with her presence.

She looked slyly at you, before grabbing me in what was hopefully taken as an embrace. I could feel her hands inside the back of my jacket and then rummaging at the back of my pants.

I remember looking quizzically upwards at you and seeing a look of pure, unadulterated, conspiratorial triumph on your face.

Even on her wedding day, she was obsessed with whether my suit had been store bought, not believing you could possibly have made it yourself and determined to embarrass you.

I was so proud of the role I had played in your triumph



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