Drusilla was back in Blighty after her week in Turkey. Now she
had to post last minute cards and mark a load of mock papers.
Thank goodness her mother was doing all the Christmas cooking
down in Bradford-on-Avon. She was enjoying being looked after by
Diana, and her father, Augustus, would arrive for Christmas in a few
days, bringing a goose, apparently, as his festive contribution.
Added to the seasonal burden of activity, she had to make a visit to
Great-Aunt Augusta in Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry.
She had let her father off the hook, as far as accompanying her,
as he had a prostate appointment, but the demanding self-appointed
materfamilias really preferred to have a one-to-one session with her
new-found female relative, Dru suspected.
Dru telephoned the care home beforehand, to check that the old
battleaxe was still in the Land of the Living. No use in wasting petrol.
She spoke to switchboard and was connected to her aunt’s room
Yes, dear. Did you get that money? I never trust postmen nowadays..
Yes, thank you. I’ll be down on Tuesday afternoon.
You bought the Turkish Delight I asked you to get me?
Good. Edward Pevensie’s favourite!
Who is Edward..? (Maybe it was some old codger she played
Haven’t you read the Chronicles of Narnia? her aunt broke in.
I give sweet things to the staff here. That’s what The White Witch
did. Good for controlling minions.
Drusilla began to have serious doubts that she should have indulged
the old bat’s whims, especially if she was going to be manipulative
with the spoils.
Like The Queen of Narnia, her great-aunt had no children of her own
and was probably making a move to adopt her grand-niece. Great-Aunt
Augusta seemed to share the evil child enslaver’s regal propensity for
focussing on the negative aspects of others’ characters and playing
down any faults of her own. But the aged relative was actually openly
admitting to corrupting others by creating sugar cravings.
Dru realised that she was genetically linked to a witch!
The next thing will be that she starts to blame lying fauns for her
detected wrongdoings, Dru mused, while the old fiend rattled on.
I’ve looked out all the old photos, Aunt Augusta continued. There’s
one of your father lying naked on a sheepskin rug, aged about six
Can’t wait, lied Dru. Oh, someone’s at the door. Must go! See you
She wasn’t lying. A member of the allegedly untrustworthy Guild
of Hermes was holding out a contraption on which she had to inscribe
an identifying mark. He was standing in a veritable Laocoon of elastic
Merry Christmas, love! he smiled, holding out a padded envelope which
should have been able to have been slipped through the letterbox. He
was lingering just a fraction too obviously, in keeping with the time of
year. Ah no, to be fair, it required a signature.
Thanks! replied Dru. Same to you. And she shut the door somewhat
For once, the package was actually addressed to her and wasn’t for
the neighbours. It had been re-directed from the school boarding
house. Gosh! The office staff must still be working.
What could it be and who was it from?
At least the postperson hadn’t put one of those wretched cards
through the letterbox, necessitating a scurried trip to the office to
collect whatever it was.
She took a creased fiver from her purse and hurried out in her slippers.
He was easy to spot in his luminous waistcoat.
Merry Christmas! She tipped him just before he chalked some esoteric
symbol on their gate post, which would have meant that their mail
would possibly have been permanently re-directed to Lapland.
Cheers! he grinned, dropping a couple more elastic bands on the path
in his adrenalin rush of greed and pushing his trolley into the lane.
Oh well, Aunt Augusta’s over-generous paper flourish had come in handy
after all. Yet, every gift seemed to be a bribe of one sort or another.
She looked at the sender label on the back of the package. Cryptically it
only read: “Caligula” and was postmarked as having originated in Cornwall.
She ripped the padded envelope open. A little black velvet pouch with
drawstrings was revealed. She pulled the knotted strings and a fine gold
chain with a tiny gold harp slid into the palm of her hand. A card
accompanied the gift and it said:
To My Angel xx
What is the subtext? she asked herself.
Dru! Who was that?
No one, she lied. Just something for the neighbours.
Candia? Brassie asked,
picking up my napkin in
I cannot help doodling
and I had certain things
on my mind as it neared
What is this Magical Baby
all about? she persisted.
Well, the first frame shows
a plan for a picture of the
baby surrounded by animals
from Down Under. The baby
is on the other side of the
world from its grandparents,
which makes them sad.
Frame 3 shows Grandma
logging on to Skype and the
picture appearing which
illustrates MB and her
MB has mush round her mouth and is sucking a toy monkey. When she
sees Grandma, she smiles and the monkey drops out of her mouth.
She dribbles and drools and then she screams.
Grandma instinctively holds out her arms and MB steps right through
the screen and into her arms. Now Grandma can pat her big nappy and
Mummy wonders how MB did that amazing feat!
Grandma smells her head and tickles her and MB blows bubbles and
gives Grandma one of her BEST smiles.
Grandad is looking over Grandma’s shoulder.
Suddenly MB’s face changes colour. She grows redder and redder,
more and more purple and madder and madder.
Grandma hands her back through the monitor to Mummy and
In the 15th frame Mummy asks again how MB managed to do that.
Grandma tells her that all babies are magical and in the 16th she adds
that all mummies and daddies are too.
Finally, she asserts that all Grandmas and Grandads are also magical.
That’s really sweet, Candia. Most unlike you. I think it’s a great idea,
especially for a book which grandparents could send to their distant
grandchildren. It would express their longing to hold and touch their
loved ones. Why don’t you approach a publisher? It looks as if you could
practically illustrate it yourself.
No, it was just an idea. But maybe if I put it on my posting, someone will
be interested and might approach me about it. It kind of fits in with Alice
through the Looking Glass, or going through the wardrobe to Narnia sort of
Next you’ll be selling your doodled napkins, like Picasso! Hey, maybe you
will be able to offer the proprietors of Costamuchamoulah a drawing in
exchange for a couple of Flat Whites and a Florentine or two! over-enthused
And maybe not! I replied, scrunching up my drawings and stuffing them in
(copyright Candia Dixon-Stewart- except for the name ‘Magical Baby’, which I have since discovered has been used by someone else commercially, although I thought of it independently. I suppose if a publisher was interested, I could think of an alternative title.)
Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk had dispensed with the second part of her
double-barrelled surname, since discovering that Syylk was not her
biological father. She was whole-heartedly embracing a new relationship
with her real pater, Mr Augustus Snodbury. Teaching was clearly in her
Her mother, Diana, was attempting to clear out her spare room, in order to
create more room for her computer and printer and so she had the inspired
idea of arranging for Drusilla’s harp, on which she had gained Grade 8 once
upon a time, to be transported to St Vitus’ Boarding House, where her
daughter just might take up her musical passion once more.
Diana came across a box file of cuttings and she had to blink back a tear
as she read the faded headline in the local newspaper: Fingers of an Angel-
pluck-y pupil pulls all the heartstrings at local festival. And there was the
young Drusilla receiving her certificate of commendation from no other than
the famous harpist, Marisa Robles, who had actually played the theme tune
to Narnia on Dru’s instrument.
While her mother valiantly made progress, Dru and her father were heading
towards Kent, to a nursing home in Snodland, to be precise, where Aunt
Augusta, or Great-Aunt Augusta was counting out her days in Premium Bonds.
She has checked herself into a hydro hotel in the first years of her widowhood,
but hadn’t been too keen on taking water in any form, so had decamped to a
gracious mansion with care staff.
Dru was curious to meet this relative after whom her father derived his
forename. She wondered if she would be anything like the Aunt Augusta
in Wilde’s play, or Graham Greene’s novel. She studied the black and
white photograph of this newly- to-be-introduced relative which Gus had
produced and she could clearly see the family jowls. In fact, she thought
that Augusta looked incredibly like Claire, Grayson Perry’s alter-ego. She
would have made an incredible headmistress, in Dru’s opinion- somewhat
in the style of Alastair Sim, in drag.
Gus explained that she had been richly left, as Portia had been, but although
the well-endowed widow had helpfully paid for his school fees, thus creating
obligation- there was no such thing as a free uniform-his parents had come
under a degree of emotional blackmail over the years. Indeed, she continued
to exert control even now, as she was always threatening to cut him out of
her will, if he did not visit every half term.
Gus had written his aged relative a letter to explain Drusilla and to express
her wish to meet her great-aunt. He didn’t want to give Augusta a heart
attack. Or did he? No, he really didn’t. Not really.
Dru had furnished herself with a box of Maxime de Paris choccies and a bottle
of Dewlap Gin for the Discerning Grandmother. She thought the authorities
might just let the old lady have a nip or two at aperitif time. The proprietor of
Pop My Cork! , the Suttonford wine merchant, had assured her- most
unprofessionally thought Dru-, that a female nonagenarian neighbour in High
Street adored the tipple and practically derived her entire nutritional input from
the potent brew and small, but regular, helpings of Lemon Drizzle cake.
Here we are, sighed Gus, putting on the handbrake and girding up his loins.
Oh, is this it? It’s very grand, isn’t it?
Dru refreshed her nude lip salve and powdered her nose. She wanted to
make a good impression.
Right! Lead on, Macduff! she said.
Lay on , Drusilla. Don’t they teach anything correctly any more?
She hoped this wouldn’t be a bad omen. She so wanted to get it right.
The importance of being earnest and all that..
But unfortunately she had left the bottle in the boot.