Bayreuth Festival, black sheep, BUF, cattle thieves, Covent Garden, Dowland song, Ivetta Lukosiute, morphology, Moseley, Parsifal, participle, Reeve's Tale, reivers, St Cuthbert's Shrine, William de Reavely
It was very late when Dru and Gus got back from the wake at
Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry. They were
almost beyond hunger, but Snod insisted that they collected
fish and chips and Dru reluctantly agreed that they could eat
in her apartment, even though she hated the lingering odour.
You know, what I have really become interested in is your
father’s line, said Dru, adding more vinegar to her chips. I mean,
I know all that bit about him being at Monte Cassino before he
took up his post as tutor at Wyvern. But who were his parents?
Did you look them up on Ancestry.co.uk, or The International
Genealogical Index? You said you were going to register.
She pushed her tray of chips towards him. She’d had enough.
(Once, in Yorkshire, she had been told that the ‘scraps‘ were
the best bit, but she was unconvinced.) Snod was less picky.
Well, Reavely, Reavelly- however you spell it- is from the same
root of the verb ‘to reive’. You’ve heard of ‘reivers’ surely?
He was getting into full magisterial mode and addressing
her as if she was in his class.
You don’t mean to tell me that our ancestors were all cattle
thieves?! laughed Dru. Loads of people say that, but we
can truly make the claim, can we?
You could try to ameliorate things by diverting people’s
interest towards ‘bailiffs’, or tax collectors, suggested Snod.
Oh, yes: The Reeve’s Tale and all that. Another occupation
guaranteed to gain one popularity. Like saying you are related
to a banker, or the taxman.
It gets worse. Snod finished the scraps before continuing:
You see, let’s do some morphology. ‘Reft’ is a …
Emm…participle. Think ‘be‘ plus ‘reft’. Meaning something has
been taken away from you.
Like Great Aunt Augusta?
I thought participles always ended in ‘-ing’?
You thought wrong. Just like adverbs don’t have to end in ‘-ly’.
I could say ‘wrongly’.
Oh. But isn’t ‘bereft’ an adjective? Oh, I remember-
there’s a Dowland song that goes: Wilt thou unkind thus
reave me of my heart?
It’s getting late for all this. Why couldn’t there be a bell
to go off and save him, just as it often had during those
difficult fin-de-matinee Grammar lessons he always
wished he’d never started?
Fortunately she was showing her feminine tendency to
become tangential and easily side-tracked.
Was that an intolerant thing to believe? He’d never
challenged himself before. No doubt Dru would say that
it was. Virginia certainly would. Contact with the fairer
sex was definitely giving him wider perspectives and was
challenging his self-knowledge. Cogito ergo sum.
Dru put the kettle on and cleared away the debris.
But why did you say it got worse? she persisted.
Well, I found that there was a Reavely who, although he
had a fine baritone voice and had sung at Covent Garden,
also had affinities with The BUF.
The British Union of Fascists.
Look! You’re wearing a black shirt! she teased.
That’s because I am theoretically in mourning. ‘Be- reaved!’
Well, everyone’s got black sheep in their families; skeletons
in their cupboards and all that. Dru didn’t seem to mind.
We can always concentrate on any positive characters we
come across. And, maybe that’s where you got your fine
voice from. So, there’s good in everyone.
Yes, I’d rather draw a veil over this connection, said Gus,
sipping his tea. I know my middle name is Parsifal, but
I’d rather not have found out that this relation was a friend of
Mosley’s, who, of course, went to The Bayreuth Festival. I
hope my father merely liked Wagner, without all the
Who knows? He might have gone too. It all leaves rather
a bad smell…
Yes, said Dru, spraying the kitchen with air freshener. But
there were other relations with that name who might have
been goodies, surely?
Snod brightened: Yes, there was William de Reavely and
his saintly wife, Ivetta, who were benefactors of St
Well, just stick with them, advised Dru and then added
as an after-thought. Ivetta? I thought she was the
man-eating dancer on Strictly?
No, she spells it with one ‘t’. Definitely no relation.
And it was true- there didn’t seem to have been any
dancing genes passed on down the line, as far as Gus
Dru was surprised that her father seemed to know
all about Lithuanian dancers, but then he had also
seemed engaged with the Eastern European AA
assistant they had encountered earlier in the evening.
There must be life in the old dog yet.