Alex Wild, austerity, bob-a-job, bus pass, cockles of heart, death by thousand cuts, Dick Turpin, fix the roof, fox and grapes, gin, government waste, importunate widow parable, juniper berries, Liam Fox, Ponzi Scheme, Robin Hood, Taxpayers' Alliance, Whist Club, winter fuel allowance
(Liam Fox- allegedly ‘The Enemy’, though apparently he said the
equivalent of ‘it wisnae me’ to Andrew Neil.
Image uploaded by Russiavia. Image by Chatham House.)
What’s wrong with Mum? Carrie asked Magda, the carer. I’ve
never seen her so apoplectic…eh, annoyed.
She actually poured the nonagenarian a premature snifter of Dewlap
Gin for the Discerning Grandmother, in spite of having imposed a pre-
6.30pm ban. Then she poured one for herself, but not for Magda since
she was on duty, though Carrie suspected that she helped herself.
Ginevra downed the shot in one swig, That jumped-up whippersnapper
has really got my goat! shrieked the venerable curmudgeon.
Carrie re-filled her out-stretched glass, fully knowing that her mother-
in-law was exceeding the recommended quota of units, in one session.
Who are we talking about? she asked.
Alex Wild. He makes me wild-no, livid! He’s trying to snatch my pension.
Magda rolled her eyes. She had been accused on numerous occasions
of snaffling Ginevra’s pension book, but it was usually discovered down
the arm rest of the old crone’s favourite chair.
He’s the meddler from The Taxpayers’ Alliance, spluttered Ginevra.
He suggested that I might not be around at the time of the next election,
so my vote wouldn’t be in the equation. Then he had the effrontery to hint
that we oldies are an example of government waste. It’s Dick Turpin in
reverse, or do I mean Robin Hood? Anyway. it’s daylight robbery, whatever.
I fully intend to live another ten years, just to spite him. We pensioners will
never forget the party who intended to treat us all so shabbily. We’re like
elephants. We never forget. In 1940 my sister-in-law made a derogatory
remark about my shoulder pads and I waited thirty years till she…
But you spend your winter fuel allowance on Dewlap, Carrie pointed out,
in an attempt to be even-handed.
This did not go down well.
It warms the cockles of my heart, Ginevra expostulated. I doubt he has
any cockles, or a heart. He’d better not try to teach grandmothers to suck
But you don’t even use your bus pass, sighed Carrie.
That’s not the point. And if I don’t use it, it saves them money. It’s my
prerogative and my human right. I worked all my life and paid my taxes and…
I know! I’ll have a funny turn and you can call out an ambulance. That’ll
cost them for upsetting an old woman.
Carrie sat down on the chintzy sofa and picked up the newspaper. It was
marked with a biro asterisk at the title of an article which reported that
Liam Fox had said that it was time to fix the roof. She read aloud the section
where he was alleged to have said that we were all borrowing from the
next generation in some kind of Ponzi Scheme.
And to think we went up in Spitfires for these ungrateful… It’s death by a
Hi, Grandma. What are you on about now? Tiger-Lily sauntered into the
sitting room and, without averting her eyes from her phone screen, planted
a kiss on the old lady’s brow. I didn’t know you were a pilot in the war.
What do you want? Ginevra rasped, rather rudely.
Grandma, remember you promised to give me £50 so I can go to ‘The
Did I? I don’t remember that. Anyhow, it’s out of the question. I have to
fix my roof, apparently.
It’s metaphorical. Don’t they teach you anything nowadays?
Carrie threw her daughter a disapproving look, but she persisted,
like the importunate bread seeker in the parable, but with a less
You said… Here, for effect, Tiger actually made eye contact with an adult.
That was before Brer Fox stole the grapes, countered Ginevra. Or the juniper
berries. Whatever. Soon I won’t be able to afford my favourite tipple. You’ll
just have to do a ‘Bob-a-Job’, like your father had to, at your age. You know,
collect some lemonade bottles and return them for the deposit. Get a
Saturday job; do chores for old ladies. Oh, you can take this bottle to the
re-cycling and get this old lady a new one.
Carrie interrupted: They’re not allowed to purchase alcohol, Mum.
Aren’t they? At her age…
Carrie gesticulated to Magda, who managed to find some dregs to pour
into the empty glass.
Listen, clarified her somewhat mollified mother-in-law, addressing them all:
Everyone has to make economies now. We are in the days of austerity, so
She found a coin down the side of the sofa and proffered it to her grand-
daughter. If you don’t like it, suck it up and blame it on Gorgeous George and
the poncey party.
She sneezed and took out a lacy handkerchief from her sleeve.
Grandma, there’s the knot in your hanky- the one you said was to remind
you that you would give me the money.
No, dear, I’m sure that’s the one I tied this afternoon, to remind me
never to vote for these highway robbers. And I’m going to tell everyone
at the Whist Club to follow suit.