Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk had dispensed with the second part of her
double-barrelled surname, since discovering that Syylk was not her
biological father. She was whole-heartedly embracing a new relationship
with her real pater, Mr Augustus Snodbury. Teaching was clearly in her
Her mother, Diana, was attempting to clear out her spare room, in order to
create more room for her computer and printer and so she had the inspired
idea of arranging for Drusilla’s harp, on which she had gained Grade 8 once
upon a time, to be transported to St Vitus’ Boarding House, where her
daughter just might take up her musical passion once more.
Diana came across a box file of cuttings and she had to blink back a tear
as she read the faded headline in the local newspaper: Fingers of an Angel-
pluck-y pupil pulls all the heartstrings at local festival. And there was the
young Drusilla receiving her certificate of commendation from no other than
the famous harpist, Marisa Robles, who had actually played the theme tune
to Narnia on Dru’s instrument.
While her mother valiantly made progress, Dru and her father were heading
towards Kent, to a nursing home in Snodland, to be precise, where Aunt
Augusta, or Great-Aunt Augusta was counting out her days in Premium Bonds.
She has checked herself into a hydro hotel in the first years of her widowhood,
but hadn’t been too keen on taking water in any form, so had decamped to a
gracious mansion with care staff.
Dru was curious to meet this relative after whom her father derived his
forename. She wondered if she would be anything like the Aunt Augusta
in Wilde’s play, or Graham Greene’s novel. She studied the black and
white photograph of this newly- to-be-introduced relative which Gus had
produced and she could clearly see the family jowls. In fact, she thought
that Augusta looked incredibly like Claire, Grayson Perry’s alter-ego. She
would have made an incredible headmistress, in Dru’s opinion- somewhat
in the style of Alastair Sim, in drag.
Gus explained that she had been richly left, as Portia had been, but although
the well-endowed widow had helpfully paid for his school fees, thus creating
obligation- there was no such thing as a free uniform-his parents had come
under a degree of emotional blackmail over the years. Indeed, she continued
to exert control even now, as she was always threatening to cut him out of
her will, if he did not visit every half term.
Gus had written his aged relative a letter to explain Drusilla and to express
her wish to meet her great-aunt. He didn’t want to give Augusta a heart
attack. Or did he? No, he really didn’t. Not really.
Dru had furnished herself with a box of Maxime de Paris choccies and a bottle
of Dewlap Gin for the Discerning Grandmother. She thought the authorities
might just let the old lady have a nip or two at aperitif time. The proprietor of
Pop My Cork! , the Suttonford wine merchant, had assured her- most
unprofessionally thought Dru-, that a female nonagenarian neighbour in High
Street adored the tipple and practically derived her entire nutritional input from
the potent brew and small, but regular, helpings of Lemon Drizzle cake.
Here we are, sighed Gus, putting on the handbrake and girding up his loins.
Oh, is this it? It’s very grand, isn’t it?
Dru refreshed her nude lip salve and powdered her nose. She wanted to
make a good impression.
Right! Lead on, Macduff! she said.
Lay on , Drusilla. Don’t they teach anything correctly any more?
She hoped this wouldn’t be a bad omen. She so wanted to get it right.
The importance of being earnest and all that..
But unfortunately she had left the bottle in the boot.