If there’s anything more testing than having Australian Aunt Gertrude staying with us for a (long) time it is having Aunt Philomena join us as well.
Let me explain.
Aunt Gertrude is from Australia and has not met her cousin Aunt Philomena, who lives somewhere in Wales with a long and unpronounceable name, for a long time. (That’s the place which has a long unpronounceable name, not Aunt Philomena – her surname is rather short: Tet).
Anyway, as I was saying before interrupting myself; the two Aunts have not met for many years. Gertrude went to Australia in her early twenties and Philomena married a Welshman and lived in Wales since she was a similar age. If I remember well, the two ladies are six months older than each other, but don’t ask me who is older than the other since ladies never reveal their age.
Have you noticed, by the way, that old people, men and women, never reveal their age directly. They say: I’ll be 79 next September, rather than I’m 78.
Anyway, I seem to have interrupted myself once again. Must stop doing that. It confuses my train of thought.
Have you also noticed how trains seem to run less frequently than in the past? They announced at the railway station over the loudspeakers that trains were cancelled due to shortage of staff. Why can’t they employ taller people?
As I was saying, or meant to say, the two Aunts are in their mid to late sixties and haven’t met for many years.
As soon as Aunt Philomena arrived Aunt Gertrude greeted her and then in her pronounced Australian accent declared “You don’t half speak funny cobber! Do you all speak like that in wheels?”
Yes, she pronounced Wales as wheels.
After a short period of greetings and reminiscing about the past, which lasted about half a day, the two ladies started to exert their authority like two animals marking their territory. Never mind my family and I living here in the first place. We became unwilling bystanders whilst the two Aunties sorted out who was boss.
Aunt Gertrude made the first move by declaring that she was the appointed nurse to look after the household’s “invalid”. That’s exactly what she called me. It was her way of saying to Aunt Philomena, “Keep out. He is in my care!”
Aunt Philomena hissed sotto voce in a broad Welsh dialect “No wonder he’s not getting any better!”
The rest of the family exchanged knowing glances and smiles and said nothing. Better not to interfere when two giants take centre stage on life’s comedic drama.
I must say though, the two Aunts, working independently, proved a great help to our family as they took on various household tasks. It allowed life to go on as normal even though I was often left at home alone with the two of them. I dreaded what they would say to each other, or do, to try to help me get better!
“You’re not giving him soup again?” said Philomena on one occasion, “you’ll have him run to the toilet every few minutes!”
“Better than the stew you prepared yesterday, cobber!” went the quick Australian response, “it looked like road-kill!”
“It was not road kill. It was the best cut of lamb!” was Philomena’s hurt response.
“I bet the lamb was quite happy to have it cut!” retorted Gertrude resulting in a game, set and match win to her.
On another occasion, a light bulb in our lounge reached its end of life. I suggested we leave it until the younger members of the family arrived and then it would be changed. The two Aunts would not hear any of it. They had to prove they were perfectly capable of changing a light bulb.
They fetched the step ladder – well, Gertrude went for the ladder first followed by Philomena with a replacement bulb.
They simultaneously placed the step ladder under the light fittings on the ceiling. I suggested they let things be, but neither heard my pleas. They were determined to get the bulb changed and each wanted to claim the credit for it.
Gertrude tried to climb the ladder first.
“No … let me” said Philomena still holding the replacement bulb, “I am fitter than you!”
This was like a declaration of war to Aunt Gertrude who replied “What do you mean cobber? You’re fitter than me? You probably meant fatter but I could not understand your wheelsh accent! I’m surprised your thin legs can carry all that weight!”
For a few seconds there was silence. I cowered in my seat and prayed for peace.
Gertrude climbed up the ladder shakily whilst Philomena held her legs to steady her as she went up.
“Let go my legs cobber!” said Gertrude “I’m perfectly capable of climbing by myself!”
“I’m only helping” replied Philomena as the ladder shook from side to side.
The inevitable happened. Gertrude lost her balance and as she leaned to one side Philomena attempted to help her by grasping at her hips. Gertrude fell pulling Philomena with her and both crashed onto the nearby couch which broke their fall.
They landed onto the couch with legs flying in the air. It was a sight not for the faint-hearted.
Luckily I was sitting on the easy chair opposite providing me with a vantage viewpoint from a safe distance. Had I been on the couch I would have been crushed by a surplus of Aunties!
I waited a few seconds to see if either of them had died or broken any bones or limbs.
To my surprise, they both got up and burst into fits of laughter.
I knew that all was well and my prayers had been answered. Peace had returned once again. From that day both Aunts became the best of friends. I dread their new found collaboration into nursing me back to good health.