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Great-Aunt Augusta: RIP


Mrs Connolly, the housekeeper at Murgatroyd Syylk’s pele tower,

was exhausted.  She had overseen the triple marriages- well, dual

marriages and one re-espousal- of Augustus and Virginia, Drusilla

and Nigel and her employers: Diana and the aforementioned Murgatroyd.

She had given Dru a lace-trimmed hankie when her mascara had

threatened to run, as the bride had welled up at the thought that dear old

Aunt Augusta would not be with them.  The old curmudgeon had loved a

good wedding, funeral or general family crisis.  She had been sorely


Gus had raised a toast to ‘Absent Friends‘ at the end of his father-of-the-

bride speech, by way of respect.

Curiously a feather had floated down onto the top table at this very point.

It was black, but was nevertheless pronounced a good omen as it

appeared to be exactly like one from Aunt Augusta’s feather boa which

she always wore- even in Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry, at

aperro-time‘ as she was wont to call that crepuscular, inebriation


Clearly, she was with them in spirit, if not spirits.

They had left a place at the top table for her, or for The Grey Lady whom

she had conversed with, though nobody else had had direct

communication with the resident phantom.

Mrs Connolly had kept a lid on the petulant Mrs Milford-Haven, mother

of Nigel, who had been confused by her lengthy, Corbynesque train

journey from Cornwall.

She had scarcely been over The Camel in her lifetime, but was naturally

acquainted with the concept of a hump.  This was no crude allusion, but

merely indicative of her tendency to sulk when she was not the centre of

attention. Maybe it was some kind of physiological Radon effect.

Mrs Connolly had handled her robustly.

Whit’s the matter with yon wifie?  she had enquired.  Has she peed on a


Soon she had calmed the situation down by introducing her to a Farrow and

Ball paint chart, which gave the peevish guest big ideas for Nigel’s post-

honeymoon guilt trip, to finish off the decoration of her bathroom.

Even Gus had been a tad emotional about his more-or-less step-brother,

Hugo, who was stranded in Venezuela.  He had been unable to leave the

country to take up his proffered teaching post at St Birinus Middle, even

after all the hard work Virginia had put in with visa application and so on.

A black market hawker was unlikely to be able to afford a trip to The


Bachaqueros was a romantic collective noun, but everyone knew that it was


Dru had been exasperated: Why doesn’t he just add billions of zeros to a

Bolivar note and turn up at the airport with a wheelbarrow of them?

It’s not that simple, darling, sympathised Diana.  We should have opened a

‘Generosity’ site to raise funds for him, I suppose.

Oh, I hadn’t thought of crowd-funding, Dru sighed.

Or he could have sold his Ford Pinto, muttered Gus.  Though we have lived to

see Voltaire’s comments on paper currency come true.

The Rev Finlay Armstrong had been aroused at the mention of this notable


Yes, it returns to its intrinsic worth, Snod explained, as if he was back in the


Flickr-Voltaire (marble) by Houdon. Nat Gallery Art, Chester Dale,


Author: Sarah Stierch


But he was not back in the classroom.  He was now to be a married man

and Virginia had suggested that he burn all his old teaching notes in the

new trendy, fire pit which Murgatroyd had installed so that his guests

could sit al fresco in the midge-ridden gloaming on the few Indian

summer evenings which were dry.

That was quick! she had remarked.  There was a few singed curls of paper.

Where is all the rest?  Had you shredded them?

No, Snod replied.  I am of the old school.  All my lessons were, and indeed still

are, in my head.

At least she was assured that there had been no incineration of erstwhile

love letters.  She still had a little explorative rake-through with

Murgatroyd’s self-wrought poker.

She was right about the non-incineration of the amatory epistles. Diana

still possessed them- including the Valentine card which had gone astray

like many a Messianic sheep, all those years ago and which had led to the

current denouement.

But this seemed to be all in the past.  Virginia had been reading Sandor

Marai’s book Embers and an apposite quotation from it had come to mind:

Time is a purgatory that has cleansed all fury from my memories.

We shall subsequently see whether this is indeed the case.

Meanwhile Mrs C was showing her fatigue in her usual Malapropistic

manner: So, when will you be back from Chipping Snodbury? she asked

Murgatroyd and Diana, who had planned a little antique-hunting

expedition in The Cotswolds.

Sodbury! they had exclaimed.