agapanthus, Bosphorous, Bradford on Avon, Caracas, City of Eternal Spring, dianthus, Dux, emporium, entomology, flying carpet, grandiflora, Istanbul, Iznik tile, Jesse Tree, kelim, National Trust, Panama, Simon Bolivar, Turkish Delight
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,
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.
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
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
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!