, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Great-Aunt Augusta unwrapped the Turkish Delight as she sat

in her velours recliner in the private area of the Recreational

Room of her Care Home.

Now, are you sitting comfortably? she addressed her great-niece,

Drusilla Fotheringay.

The exophoric reference wasn’t entirely lost on Dru, so she nodded

and gave the signal for the old bag to commence on the veritable

Jesse Tree of the family genealogy.

(Jesse Tree Chartres: Wikipaedia)

Now, your great-grandmother-also Augusta-was a bit of a goer, or

a flibbertigibbet, as I told you before.  She bounced around the

Bosphorous with her rug seller for a number of years, before settling

down in Istanbul and establishing a kitten sanctuary, once her partner

had flown off on his flying carpet, to that large emporium in the sky.

Your great-aunt Berenice, my elder sister (God Rest Her Soul!), was a

bit of a gadabout too.  In the genes, clearly.

She used to go to parties almost every weekend, in big, country


In Turkey?  Dru looked confused.

No.  We had both been sent to boarding schools over here.  She used

to frequent the Wyvern Estate and that was her downfall.  She GOT


Difficult in these days, no doubt.  Dru sympathised, as well she

might, given her own personal history.

Not difficult at all.  It happened all too easily. They were pressurising

Berenice to get rid of the ‘problem’.  They offered her a lot of money and

a contact in Knightsbridge.


The family of the alleged father, of course.  Augusta looked at

Dru as if she was somewhat dense.  But I persuaded her to have

it- your father, I mean.

But who was..?

No proof, but someone with an interest in entomology.


Yes, Berenice was a social butterfly and he netted her.  But he couldn’t

pin her down!  None of us could.  She wanted her freedom and so our

mother took the baby for a while, but she felt her own style was being

cramped, so eventually I arranged for your father to start prep school over

here as a full boarder, at St Birinus.

So, Father has spent his whole life at St Birinus?

Except for when he was at University- yes!  He’s completely


What happened to Berenice?

We don’t know.  She’s one of the disappeared.  The last we heard

of her she was in Caracas, City of Eternal Spring.  El Libertador

was one of her heroes.


Simon Bolivar.

Simón Bolívar 2.jpg

Ah. Dru’s South American historical knowledge was rather

vague. Who paid Dad’s fees?

The Wyvern Estate and, once my mother passed on, her demise

hastened by an infected feline scratch, I inherited all the antique

kelims and sold them off, as and when, along with some Iznik tiles,

to cover his ‘extras’.

Fascinating.  Did Berenice ever reveal the paternity of her son?

Not exactly, but she did take Gus to the estate very early on,

before she ran off, to meet some gardener or other.


He lived in a converted stable block at Wyvern Mote.

But that’s National Trust, surely?

Ah, yes, but I suspect that it was grace and favour ‘accommodation’,

in both senses of the word.  He wasn’t much of a horticulturalist; didn’t

know his dianthus from his agapanthus, from all accounts.

Maybe he was a natural son of the old duke?! Dru’s eyes burned with

revelatory fire.

Peut-etre, surmised her great-aunt, who now looked more favourably

at her visitor.  Look, she said, rummaging in a shoe box.  Oh no,

that’s your father aged six months, lying on a sheepskin in his birthday suit.

Dru averted her gaze.

No, here it is!  Augusta produced a faded sepia image of a man remarkably

like Gus.  He was reclining in a striped deckchair, wearing a Panama hat and

he had a glass in his right hand.  There was a large mansion behind him.

So this is possibly my grandfather?  Dru scrutinised the photo. I wonder what

his name was.

Oh, I call him Eamonn Teabag Grandiflora, Aunt Augusta scoffed wickedly.

All these men in Panama hats look the same- ie/ better when they wear

one.  Compare that Kermit MacDulloch who presented a ‘History of

Christianity’ and then the latest posho who is following him around,

probably with the same camera crew.  They visit the same graffiti and

make identical comments. They are all clones!


Well, Seaweed Millefiore, or Hymen Montezuma.  Whatever.  Anyway, your

possible ancestor, whom I call Grandiflora, almost certainly spread his seed

around.  Perhaps like the old duke himself.

So perhaps I have links to aristocracy?

Well, Miss Grandiose, I’d let bygones be bygones, if I were you.

But may I ask you one final question?  Dru was conscious that a storm

was predicted and that she had a long journey back to Bradford-on-Avon.

Fire away! replied the elderly one, nibbling on a cube of Turkish delight and

not offering to share any from the box.

What boarding school did you and Berenice attend? Dru asked.

St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl, of course.  But in those days

it was just St Vitus’ for anyone who could pay the fees.  My name is on the

Dux Board over the main stairwell.  Surely you have seen it?

Strange.  ‘Augusta Snodbury’.  Why had she never noticed it? And was there

something in her own genes that constrained her to repeat history?  She

hoped not.

And the way things were going, there may be a future titular amendment

to the establishment at which she earned her crust:  St Vitus’ School might

end up as an Academy for the Academically-Challenged.  Qui sait!