Carrie dropped in on her mother-in-law, the gin-swigging nonagenarian,
So, what is my son up to at the moment?
Your son, Gyles?
Is that his name? Ah, yes, him.
He’s filling out some tax forms. He said he feels like a reeve.
Reeves used to have to do the accounts before Michaelmas Day
and, if there was a shortfall, they had to make it up from their own
I expect no one wanted that job, pronounced the sharp old lady.
I didn’t want this job, muttered Magda.
Candia sent you some sloes, for your boutique gin, said Carrie,
handing a bag to Magda, Ginevra’s Eastern European carer, along
with a pot of Michaelmas daisies.
How you do? said Magda.
I think we’ve met, Magda, Carrie replied, puzzled. She thought the
girl’s English had improved recently, but..
No. How you make?
Ah- thirds. One third gin, one third sugar, one third sloes.
You’re supposed to wait until the first frost before you pick them,
Oh, I didn’t know that, Carrie sighed.
Weel, ye ken noo, as the Scots Worthy famously said. Sit ye doon,
commanded the old curmudgeon, patting the sofa beside her.
Carrie connected with something hard and cold which had been secreted
under a cushion.
Candia and I were discussing folklore to do with St Michael, Carrie began
as a conversational opener. I used to think that he was the patron saint of
underwear, as his label was on the back of my vest and South Sea Island
cotton knickers when I was at school.
Ach no. He’s the Head of Cosmic Intelligence, stated Ginevra. A kind of
angelic James Bond. The Real One. Sean Connolly.
Sean Connery; Billy Connolly.
Aye, well don’t get me started on him. He needed a good haircut.
I bet you don’t know some of the Scottish versions of the folktales, Ginevra
cackled, like an old spaewife. Your grandmother- Jean Waddell, as she was
before she married into the Pomodoro family, could reel all the old tales off,
nae bother, as she used to say. God rest her soul!
She shifted the tartan blanket over her knees and tried to conceal the
aluminium hip flask under it.
Is that a new tartan? Carrie asked.
Trust you to notice. Magda got it for me on that Internet thing. It’s ‘Made in
China’ actually. It’s the same tartan as that fishy guy, Alex Salmon, ordered
at the taxpayers’ expense when he forgot his trews, or breeks, as your granny
would have called them, for some function over there. He had them made
Like his policies, Carrie thought, but did not continue the metaphor, rich
though the ore of satire might have been.
Magda came in with a wee cuppa, as she had learned to call refreshments
other than the alcoholic ones.
Your grandmother was a dab hand at making the struan, Ginevra continued,
her eyes searching for shortbread.
Struan- what was that? Carrie was intrigued.
It was a cake which had to be ground in a quern-
Quern? asked Magda.
I’ll tell you later-in three equal parts-of bere, oats and rye. The eldest
daughter had to make it and woe betide her if it broke in the baking.
Quite a responsibility then? sympathised Carrie.
More than in yon Bake-Off rubbish, said Ginevra. This could be Life and
Changing the subject and getting back to reeves, directed Carrie, did you watch
How does that link to reeves?
Well, I was thinking of financial wizards and wondered if you liked Deborah
Not as much as Robbie, her partner, Ginevra pronounced. I suppose he’s like
St Michael. He’s taming the old Dragon!
And yet again, Carrie was impressed at the old biddy’s mental acuity.
Have you seen my winter fuel allowance? Ginevra asked.
She means this, said Magda, holding the hip flask out of reach.
It isn’t winter yet, said Carrie firmly.
But the nights are drawing in, protested Ginevra.
I’d better be off, Carrie said decidedly. I’m meeting Candia in
Costamuchamoulah, for a coffee quite soon.
Cheerio! Ginevra trilled, quite happy as Magda had handed over the flask.
I’ll tell you all about fallaid next time.
I can’t wait, replied Carrie, exiting right, but thankfully not pursued by a