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
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.