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Drusilla had a precious free weekend before Christmas

and had selflessly decided to motor down to visit her

Great-Aunt Augusta in Snodland’s Nursing Home

for the Debased Gentry.

Great-Aunt Augusta had pronounced herself a little under the

weather and had decided not to make an unseasonal journey

northwards to the draughty pele tower in the Borders, to join

the rest of the extended ‘family’ for the celebrations.  In any

case, she didn’t want to miss the Residents’ Wassail Evening.

Dru had wrapped a generous bottle of Dewlap Gin for the Discerning

Grandmother and some Bridge Mints and also took along some back

numbers of magazines which the school library had been about to


The old virago was rather rude.  She immediately started reading a

copy of Country Life magazine (October 2014), leaving her great-

niece to engage a doddery old man in what could only

optimistically be called conversation, or conversazione, by

pretentious writers in similar publications.

Ha!  Hark at this!  Augusta screeched, causing several biddies in

proximity to adjust their hearing aids.  These estate agents are

the limit.  They’re offering property in York for cultural aficianodos and

the best adjective they can employ to modify the Minster is:

‘pretty’ cathedral.  They’re fortunate that their offices are not struck

by a bolt of lightning for committing a bigger faux pas than the Bishop

of Durham once did. Ha! That showed that The Almighty was not

housed in man-made constructs and is not necessarily C of E.

What do you mean? Dru asked.  Her aunt was referring to something

beyond her personal ken.

Just that God is no respecter of persons and does not dwell in buildings

made of stone.  I remember how we all marvelled at the cathedral being

struck by a coup de foudre after Bishop Jenkins’ trendy pronouncements.

Let’s play a game, she continued.  Who would you like to see being

struck by lightning?

No, Aunt.  That is not a very Christian idea- especially at this time

of year.  (Dru was shocked that certain colleagues came

immediately to mind.)

Oh, you young people have no sense of fun.

She flicked a few more pages, slightly in a huff.  Then she brightened


Can’t I  propose people who exhibit portraits of their debutante

daughters while slipping in an advertisement for their own atelier

businesses in Mayfair?

No.  Have a Bridge Mint.

Augusta took two.  She didn’t offer one to Dru, or to the doddery


Picture of Beyoncé

I see poultry prefer Beethoven to Beyonce, she mused.  She felt

she was on safer ground.  Not a terrain that usually attracted

her footfall.  However, the noumenal realm was still in her mental

grasp and she liked to show her powers of acuity. It’s a bit like

Bentham saying poetry is no better than push-pin, she pronounced.

Or was it Pushkin?  I can’t recall. Ceteris paribus, I don’t see any

reason to prefer one over the other.

She read a little more of the article….

There’s something called ‘Top of the Flocks’ that you

can play in your chicken run.  Hens lay 6% more eggs if you play


They’d lay 7% if you played Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, the

doddery old man piped up as he leaned toward the open box.

Clearly he was not aurally challenged, or socially reserved.

Chirpa, corrected Aunt Augusta, moving the box of mints closer

to her sphere of jurisdiction.

Do open one of your small prezzies, Dru invited her, in a vain

attempt at distraction.

Augusta put the bottle-shaped one under her chair in a

particularly acquisitive gesture.  She looked at the label

on another, smaller parcel.  Hmm, from Gus.  It feels

like a flower pot.  I hope it’s not one of those veg-tan

leather articles shown in here, starting at £130, she

scowled.  I’m not leaving my estate to a spendthrift!

Aunt, it’s an Amaryllis bulb from Poundland, Dru sighed.

Ah, I can see my childhood training has paid off,  Augusta

beamed, carefully rolling and conserving the ribbon and

folding the wrapping paper for another occasion.  She

set her lips in a Borgian smile when she saw the

designation: Belladonna.  Might come in useful.

At least they still allow us flowers in here. Not like in that

hospital ward where floral tributes were banned in case

patients drank water from vases on their bedside lockers.

Shocking! Who drinks water nowadays? That’s why, my dear-

she paused for maximum effect and then produced her hip

flask from somewhere under her clothing- I always have a

stand-by.  I don’t intend to let the beggars do me down through


I’ll come back tomorrow morning, Dru promised.  She was

worried that someone would think she had given Augusta

the hip flask.

Don’t look so anxious, her aunt responded.  We all have

them in here.  How do you think we survive on the Liverpool

Pathway to nowhere?

And Dru had to admit that it didn’t seem to do them any harm.

Quite the reverse.