Alliance Francaise, Bernard Ingham, Black Bun, Crunchie, Dewlap Gin, doghouse, Hogmanay, Jumelage, Maggie Thatcher, Memory foam, multum in parvo, NASA, Pet Nappers, Richter scale, Sherpa Bone pillow, shortbread, Slumberland, snorterino, Top Paws Fashion pillow, Tupperware, Ugg boots
Pooh-Bah, Algy and Humbug, the Brewer-Mead family pugs, were
snoozing on their new Tempur-pedic loungers and nothing was going
to persuade them to move for a post-Christmas waddle through the
churned-up byways of Suttonford. Once they had settled on their
Memory Foam, it would have taken something about point seven and
above on the Richter Scale to displace them.
Santa had been over-indulgent. They had their Top Paw Fashion
Pillows (chewable-resistant) and the odour of polyurethane was
already fading. They should have thanked NASA for their new-
Mrs Hatch-Warren, the femme-de-menage, as Carrie called her was
on her two week break, so Gyles was clearing up in the kitchen while
his wife and sister, Victoria were hitting the sales.
Victoria had travelled over from The Charente, where she ran a
reclamation business, but had been stuck for sixteen hours on a ferry
which couldn’t berth. She was stocking up on items which were difficult to
find over there and was seeking next year’s Christmas cards, in particular.
She would sell them to expats at Alliance Francaise parties next December
at 100% profit. Sante!
Gyles checked his ninety plus mother who was ensconced in the sitting
room, finishing her e-book. Her carer, Magda, was visiting her predecessor
in Normandy. Ola had bagged the remaindered widower on the Jumelage
Exchange between Suttonford and Bric-a-Brac. Magda wanted to see their
new baby, Georges, born at the same time as The Little Prince.
Ginevra, Gyles’ mother was awaiting the visit of her old friend, Sonia, from
High Street. When she arrived they could progress through the Maggie
Thatcher spectrum of drinkies as reported by Sir Bernard Ingham-ie/
opener, brightener, lifter, tincture, large gin and tonic without tonic; snifter,
snort, snorter and snorterino.
Tiger-Lily walked into the kitchen. Hi, Dad, she smiled, uncharacteristically.
Take those muddy Ugg boots off before your mother goes ballistic, Gyles
cautioned. I’ve just washed the floor.
Chillax, Tiger muttered. She balanced one hand on the edge of the granite
island and tried to kick an Ugg off. Dad, in despair, came to the rescue and
Three yapping pugs leapt out of their Pet Nappers, discarding their faux-fur,
ultra-plush throws and formed an excited circle round the extended limb.
Gerroff! Tiger shouted in an extremely unladylike fashion, which only
What’s to eat? she addressed her father directly. She started to open tins
and Tupperware containers.
The boys finished the Christmas cake, I’m afraid.
Great! I didn’t even get any, she complained.
Well, Grandma Morag sent us some shortbread, but Mum’s keeping that
for New Year.
Hogmanay, corrected Tiger, who knew the difference.
Whatever, said her father, And don’t eat the Black Bun. She’s keeping
Tiger surreptitiously helped herself to a Crunchie from her brother, Ferdy’s
Selection Stocking. He’d never notice, she reasoned.
Go and speak to your grandmother, Gyles suggested. She’s in the sitting
Do I have to?
Gyles threw her a meaningful glance, so she went.
Ah, Tiger! Would you like a Dewlap Gin? her grandmother asked
I’m not allowed.
Oh, I forgot. Well, could you top my glass up, darling?
Tiger hopped back into the kitchen, still wearing a single Ugg.
Humbug! she yelled.
A naughty pug crawled out of her fleecy boot and leapt back onto
his monogrammed coverlet, putting his little head onto his Sherpa Bone
Tiger retrieved her Ugg and found it curiously heavy. She turned it upside
down and a mass of black currants and pastry crumbs cascaded onto the
Dad! she screamed. Dad!
But Gyles had retired to the marital Slumberland mattress which was
more than a decade old and considerably less supportive than the
deep dish slumber divans on which the pugs reclined. He was fast
asleep and snoring like one of his brachycephalic pets- or like all three of
There was nothing for it but to sweep the remains of the Black Bun into the
wheelie bin and she just hoped that her mother wouldn’t notice.
Drat! Coming, gran.
She took a little swig of the Dewlap Gin for Discerning Grandmothers.
And through the haze of the unaccustomed fumes, she saw her grandmother
in a new light. They said that owners sometimes began to look like their pets
and, to be sure, Ginevra was very wrinkly, short-muzzled, not to say, stubborn
in character. Tiger had read that the breed were often described as multum in
parvo and, thanks to her GCSE Latin. she knew that this indicated that
one got a lot in a little package. Certainly Ginevra had a
remarkable personality for her size and, though lovable, like the pugs, she
was definitely high- maintenance and attention-seeking.
Actually, that sounded very like the implications in Tiger’s summative end-of-
term report from Miss Fotheringay. Golly! Maybe she was inbred!
Oh no! That must be the other old biddy.
Yip, that must be Sonia.
A Red Red Rose, Andy Stewart, Billy Connolly, Brassica, Burns' songs, Dambusters, Donald Where's Your Troosers?, Ginevra, Glasgow, haggis hurling, Highland games, Hogmanay, Maggie Smith, Quartet, Rigoletto, Tom Courtenay, White Heather Club
You bag the seats and I’ll get the order! volunteered Brassie. Carrie,
Clammie and I miraculously found a table in a corner of
Costamuchamoulah café and pushed the previous occupants’
detritus to one side.
What was that about a bag? asked Clammie.
Oh, nothing. She was just referring to securing the seating. Just
before we came in she said she had noticed a poster in the window of
the beauty shop, offering 20% off to old bags. She must have had it
on her mind, you know, subliminally.
Was the notice serious? There is definitely a target market here,
commented Carrie, cheering up a little.
Oh, I think we are all practising for the day when we can achieve the
discount! But no, when I looked at the notice more closely, it
referred to an actual company called The Old Bag Company and
Raquel in Beauty and the Beast must stock their products, I
There you go, said Brassie, placing the little table number on the
cleared surface. She sat down opposite Carrie and then jumped up.
She had sat on a jumbo crayon left over from the toddler art club
that monopolised the tables in the afternoon.
Right, I said. We are all ears. What happened?
Carrie sniffed a little and began:
I appreciate you guys’ support. Well, as we all suspected, Grandma
Jean’s broken hip was really curtains for her.
(We knew that Jean Pomodoro had suffered a bad fracture on
Hogmanay in her nursing home in Glasgow on Hogmanay.)
They have been brilliant, actually. The staff always encourage the
residents to put on a mini White Heather Show, with those who are
able doing little turns.
And the others having funny turns, joked Clammie. I glared at her.
Well, they like to see in the New Year and it is all good fun. Of
course, they vet the acts so that dirty old men don’t get too raucous
over renditions of Andy Stewart’s Donald Where’s your Troosers?
Anyway, Jean loved singing. She used to perform duets with
Gianbattista- Grandpa- and they blended so well. She had just
finished A Red, Red Rose and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Amazing for 91. Although a little unsteady, she had stood
throughout and was about to be led back to her wing armchair, when
a naughty old boy who looked like Billy Connolly, apparently, said he
would follow on with another Burns’ song: Eight Inch Will Please a
Lady. Jean was so shocked that she fell over.
I’m not surprised, Clammie said.
I don’t get it, said Brassie.
Carrie explained: She was shocked at the impropriety.
Clammie blurted out, I’m not surprised.
No, explained Carrie, she was offended by the fact that he had got his
facts wrong. It’s nine inches.
What is? asked Brassica, still none the wiser.
I decided to protect her innocence. It’s the maximum permitted
length of the missile in a haggis hurling competition at The Highland
I still don’t get it.
Never mind, I whispered.
Clammie butted in: Hey, that’s a bit surreal. I saw Quartet last night
and Maggie Smith has a poorly hip and she has to lean on Tom
Courtenay for support in the piece from Rigoletto that they all sing
together in the nursing home for ageing divas.
Yes, said Brassie, but she didn’t have the problem of falling over did
No, and I wouldn’t call it a problem if I had to lean on Tom Courtenay
either, quipped Clammie.
What is wrong with her? Clammie, I mean. She isn’t usually so
insensitive. We are supposed to be empathising with Carrie’s sad
So, when is the funeral? I asked.
Not till next Friday. They’re putting her on ice so the Italian relatives
have time to organise themselves.
Maybe I don’t have to worry about sensitivity then.. On Ice?! She
sounds like a bottle of Bolly! Speaking of which, how is Ginevra going
to cope when she hears of the demise of one of her closest friends?
It’s the end of an era!
Ginevra: I wonder if they do 20% off for Old Bags at the cremmy?
Ginevra: Allegedly, there was once a huge ‘Glasgow Mafia’ funeral at the crematorium
and the organist was busking it as they all filed in. He looked over his shoulder at the
coffin, to estimate how long he would have to keep playing and there was a huge floral
wreath with what he thought said: Biggles marked out in red roses. So, thinking the
deceased must have enjoyed aviation as a hobby, he..
Carrie: Didn’t! Did he launch into The Dambusters?
Ginevra giggled: You got it. Jean told me. She was in the congregation. She was in
C: So, why was it so funny?
G: Because what it really said was : Big Les!
And she laughed so hard that Carrie thought she was going to fall off her perch
and that would make it a double funeral. (An economy that Grandma Jean would
have approved of – coming from Glasgow!)