Thursday, 27 June 2013
Father Ignatius looked out of the window and heard the electrically-motorized milk van driving down the hill as it slowly approached the Parish House. The distinctive whirring of the battery operated motor, and the clinking of the glass milk bottles rattling against each other in their crates as the vehicle started and stopped every few yards, enhanced the musical dawn chorus as the sun woke up gently from its sleep.
Clink … clink … clink … sang the milk bottles as the birds chirped merrily amongst the trees greeting a new day. Clackety clack ... clackety clack ... clackety clack ... responded an old steam train in the distance as it danced past slowly on the metal rails.
The priest came down the stairs from his office and opened the front door just as Len, the milkman, put down two pints of milk on the doorstep and collected the empty bottles left there the previous night by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.
“Hello Len …” he said, “please do come in … I have a list somewhere of other items which Mrs Davenport asked for. I believe she wants an extra pint of milk, some cream, butter and cheese. Come sit in the kitchen whilst I find her list!”
The milkman sat down by the warm stove in the kitchen whilst the priest searched for the list prepared by his housekeeper.
“That’s an odd poster you have here …” said the milkman pointing at the wall, “To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see … What does that mean exactly?”
“Well … it means what it says I suppose. To have Faith is to be sure that things will turn out exactly as you hope they will. To believe in something without seeing it …” replied Father Ignatius, “It’s from the Bible, Hebrews Chapter 11.”
“Yeh … I guessed that much. It’s still odd though” mumbled the milkman.
“What’s odd about it?”
“Well …” Len hesitated a little, “I’m not a religious man Father, a bit above my head all this religious stuff … but it is a little difficult to believe in something blind like … without proof … without seeing it with your eyes!”
“I agree … it is more than a little difficult. Very difficult I would say. That’s why they call it Faith." replied Father Ignatius handing Len the list.
“I believe in God … I haven’t seen Him of course … but I believe He exists. And in more ways than one I have proved it to myself, or He helped in proving it to me, that He exists all right.
“Now I can never prove His existence to you …”
“I would agree with that,” laughed Len.
“I could not prove it to you …” continued the priest gently, “but God could prove His existence to you … if only you’d be willing to take the first step … to dare to believe without any proof.”
“I can’t see myself doing that Father!” said Len reading the list prepared by Mrs Davenport.
“God asks us to trust Him … and He’ll do the rest” said Father Ignatius, “let me tell you a story … have you got a few minutes?”
The milkman nodded.
“There once was a very famous tight-rope walker. You know the kind …
“He’d walked across many rivers and ravines and canyons on a rope stretched between two points; and every time he attracted great crowds who came to see him. He was always successful, of course, and kept his balance despite the weather, the high winds and other difficulties which made his act both dangerous and exciting.
“And over the years he became very rich just by walking on a rope!
“One day he decided to retire. And for his last performance he decided to cross the Niagara Falls on a tight rope.
“Well … on the day in question the whole world and his uncle was there to witness the event.”
The milkman smiled.
“Before performing his walk the tight-rope walker picked up the microphone and thanked his audience for their support over the years.
“He then asked them … ‘Do you think I’ll be successful crossing the Niagara Falls?’
“The audience cheered enthusiastically and said ‘Yes …’ in unison. After all they’d witnessed his many walks over the years.
“So the tight-rope walker continued, ‘this time however it will be a bit different … I’ll walk across on this rope but I will also push a wheelbarrow in front of me … do you think I’ll be able to do this successfully across to the other side?’
“The audience shouted again ‘Yes …’ with one voice.
“OK, said the man … ‘I need a volunteer to sit in the wheelbarrow … who will come across with me?’
“Not surprisingly … nobody volunteered … the crowd remained silent. They had seen him perform his walks many times over the years … but not one of them had the courage to go across with him.”
The milkman looked at Father Ignatius rather puzzled.
“You see Len,” continued the priest, “they did not have Faith in him, even though they had seen him walk on a rope many times.
“And that’s what God asks of us … to have Faith, even without seeing for ourselves.
“To dare to trust Him without any proof. To dare to sit in the wheelbarrow and be carried by Him.
“A little difficult you think? I say it is … it is very difficult to trust and to believe without any proof whatsoever.
“It’s very difficult indeed to have Faith … but the rewards are really worth it!
“So it’s up to you … whether you want to sit in God’s wheelbarrow or not.”
As Len went to his milk van to fetch the items on Mrs Davenport’s list, Father Ignatius brought a small booklet of St Matthew’s Gospel from his office.
“Here Len …” said the priest, “have a read of this … I hope it sets you thinking. And when you finish it … I have another booklet for you if you wish!”
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Sunday, 23 June 2013
I’ll admit that I have never liked dancing. Not the slow dancing when you hold a lady tightly, or the faster dances like the samba, cha cha cha, or the modern dances where people stand in front of each other and shake like demented chickens.
The reason I don’t like dancing is because I am not good at it. I’m all uncoordinated and my feet are too big. Dancing partners always trip over them or get trodden by me. And should I ever stand on tip toe like a ballerina my head hits the ceiling and dislodges some tiles.
You can imagine therefore my dread and fear when Aunt Gertrude read in the newspaper that there was a dance meeting at the local town hall featuring music from Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and other big bands from years gone by.
“Och aye … that would be great fun!” encouraged Uncle Herbert who is also visiting us from Dundee to meet Auntie from Adelaide.
“We should all go cobbers!” she enthused looking at me for support.
“Yes … I agree.” I said, “we should all go except me because someone should stay at home just in case the phone rings and needs answering …”
My reasoned argument was dismissed and we all went to the dreaded dance.
As soon as the band played “In the Mood” and I definitely wasn’t; Aunt Gertrude insisted that I take to the floor with her. She pulled me by the arm so hard that I heard it break off my armpit joint. There was no stopping her. In her loud Australian accent she insisted that I “lighten up” and “stop getting my underpants in a twist”.
To humour her, and just because I’m such a gentleman, I agreed to dance with her. But I didn’t know what to do. How do you dance to “In the Mood”?
I stepped accidentally on her feet twice. She grimaced the first time and said I danced like a pregnant kangaroo the second time.
The tune went on for ages, followed by Chattanooga Choo Choo, Pensylvania 6-5000 and then Moonlight Serenade.
I don’t know where she gets all her energy from. I was soon out of breath and yet she was as light on her feet as someone half her age. Thankfully, after the first tune Uncle Herbert came to the dance floor and took over from me.
“Och … these young ‘uns are not so sprightly as we are!” he joked.
“Fair dinkum, mate!” she agreed as they both danced together admirably.
It was a long night. They enjoyed the dancing. I enjoyed the beer. And I was right … when we got home the phone had rung twice and the answering machine had to do what I would have done had I been there!
Friday, 21 June 2013
Old Mrs Robinson felt a little faint in church today and passed out for a minute or so. She was helped to the sacristy where she sat down surrounded by concerned parishioners.
“I’ll get her a glass of water” said one.
“No … give her brandy!” said Tom.
“Perhaps a warm cup of tea with plenty of sugar” suggested someone else.
“I think she should have a brandy” repeated Tom.
“Maybe we should call for an ambulance” interrupted another parishioner.
“A brandy will sort her out” insisted Tom.
“Perhaps she should be lying down for a bit of a rest.” someone suggested.
“I have some smelling salts” said another.
“Brandy is better” said Tom.
“Will you all shut up and listen to Tom” said Mrs Robinson in exasperation.
The world is full of people crying out in need of something or other. And there’s always plenty of philosophers, scientists, economists, and experts on all sort of things expounding their theories and advising everyone on what should be done.
What they don’t realize is that what the world really needs is a bit more love.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Last Saturday I was volunteered to go to the supermarket with Aunt Gertrude from Australia who is staying with us for a while. The rest of the family wanted some respite from her grating Australian accent and slang.
I must admit, since she’s been with us I’ve started to acquire a slight Australian lilt in my speech as well as a few of her words. The other day, unintentionally of course, I said to the postman “G’day to you cobber!”
He replied, “I didn’t know you were Canadian!”
I did not dignify his comment with a response so as not to promote his ignorance to total ignorance.
Anyway, off we went to the supermarket accompanied by Uncle Herbert who has come to see us from Dundee in Scotland, and to meet Auntie Gertrude.
That Saturday, Auntie had decided, on the strength of half-an-hour of sunshine that day, that we should have a barbecue in the back garden. She started choosing bits of meat when Uncle Herbert suggested a few packets of the best Scottish smoked salmon would go down a treat.
“Ye can’t have stinking fish on a barbie,” she screeched loud enough for the whole supermarket to hear, “you’ll fumigate the neighbourhood!”
“Och aye …” he responded calmly, “ma wee bairn grand-daughter had a Barbie!”
“Did she get burnt badly on the barbie?” enquired a distraught Auntie.
“It wasnae burnt … it was a braw wee doll ye ken!” he replied.
“Your grand-daughter is called Ken? That’s a strange name for a girl!” responded a more confused Auntie.
And so it was that, once again, this time in the middle of a supermarket, I became international interpreter between Scotland and Australia, both countries purporting to speak in English and here we have two nationals who can’t understand each other.
At least at the liquor counter they both agreed – no wine.
She chose a dozen cans of Foster’s amber nectar, whilst he chose Tennent’s lager and Irn Bru.
“It’s made in Scotland from girders, ye ken!" he said proudly.
“Why does he keep saying Ken?” she asked me in a loud voice for the whole shop to hear.
“G’day cobber, fair dinkum, mate!” I replied as I moved the shopping trolley towards the checkout.
Monday, 17 June 2013
This time Aunt Gertrude has gone too far. Her mad antics are beyond redemption and forgiveness.
It happened on Saturday. I was looking forward to a peaceful day alone as the whole family, including our visiting Aunt Gertrude from Australia, planned to go to London sightseeing and no doubt shopping.
On the day in question, for some unknown reason, Auntie decided to stay at home. She made a joke about “baby-sitting” me and said no more about it. After the family left she retired to her room to write some letters to her friends back in Adelaide.
I sat in front of the TV to watch a business programme. I must have been very tired because I soon fell asleep on the sofa.
About an hour later I was awakened by the door bell. I answered the door and it was the postman seeking my signature for an important letter he’d just delivered. As he gave me the letter he smiled and said “G’day!” in a mock Australian accent.
I smiled and said nothing. I made myself a coffee and then decided to walk to the newsagent down the road and get some papers.
On the way there I met Mrs Groggins who lives a few doors away. She was in her front garden pruning her roses. We spoke for a minute or two and as I left she said “G’day!” I thought it somewhat odd of her and went on my way.
At the newsagent I picked my newspapers and decided to treat myself with my favorite chocolates. I also, against my better nature, bought a small box of best chocolates for Auntie Gertrude.
As I paid for the items the cashier smiled at me and said “G’day!” as she handed me the change and receipt.
On my way back home I was somewhat puzzled at this sudden Australian epidemic in our town. Perhaps they’d all met Auntie Gertrude and they were emulating her accent and sayings. After all, she’s very noticeable is Auntie; especially with her loud voice and distinctive accent. Coming up the street were a young couple. As they approached me they looked at each other and smiled.
Auntie Gertrude was still in her room. I read my papers and had two large cups of coffee and not a few chocolates.
A bit later I went to the bathroom.
As I looked in the mirror, there on my forehead, written in bright red lipstick was the word “G’DAY”
I nearly burst a valve as my blood pressure reached new heights.
Auntie Gertrude laughed and said “I didn’t know you’d go out looking stupid, cobber!”
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Father Ignatius was in the back garden pruning the rose bushes whilst one of his parishioners was cleaning the pond and checking that the goldfish were in good health.
It was more to start a conversation than anything else when the parishioner asked: “Father … is it a sin to fear death?”
“That’s a strange question …” replied the priest, “what brought that on?”
“Well … it’s not so much death that I’m concerned about,” said the man, hesitating a little, “it’s what comes afterwards.”
“You’re concerned about Heaven?”
“No Father …” continued the man standing up from the pond and drying his hands on an old towel, “Purgatory … that’s the real problem.
“The Church tells us that our souls will go to Purgatory until they’re made clean of all sins.”
“Yes … that’s right …” said Father Ignatius stopping what he was doing for a moment.
“The way I see it …” said the man placing the old towel on one side, “we all have some sin or other on our conscience at any one time. So whenever we die not one of us will escape Purgatory. No matter how much I try … the chances are that I’ll die having committed some sin or other … and I’ll spend time in Purgatory.
“I don’t even know how long I’ll be there … it could be years … and I don’t like it.
“I’m not even sure what’s in Purgatory … is there a fire like in hell … only not as hot?”
Father Ignatius laughed.
“What’s so funny Father? What is in Purgatory anyway? It’s never quite explained in Catholic teaching; all I remember from my Catechism days is that it’s a place where we’re spiritually cleansed … sounds more like a car-wash to me!”
Father Ignatius smiled again. He stopped pruning the roses and sat down on a nearby chair.
“Jesus certainly told us about Heaven and hell … and He certainly described hell as a fiery place … but He never mentioned Purgatory,” said the priest cautiously.
“So it’s a Catholic invention then?” retorted the parishioner, “because I know that other Christian churches don’t teach about Purgatory or believe in it.”
Father Ignatius took off his glasses and cleaned imaginary specks of dust to gain some thinking time.
“You accept, do you not …” he asked eventually, “that after you’ve confessed your sins you should do a penance?”
“Yes … sure.”
“Well …” continued the priest, “those who die with sins on their soul, venial sins that is … have to go to Purgatory as a penance until they are spiritually cleansed. That’s what the Church teaches …
“The Catholic Church bases its teaching from Scripture. In Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 27 it says ‘Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.’ So, strictly speaking, if we die with venial sins on our conscience we’re not spiritually cleaned … and that’s why we go to Purgatory.
“The belief in the existence of Purgatory goes back to the early Christians; and other Christian denominations, though not all, do also believe in such a place where souls go before they are ready to enter Heaven.
“As you know … we Catholics also believe that if we pray for the souls in Purgatory, or offer Mass for them, it shortens their stay there …”
“That’s exactly what I’m scared about Father …” interrupted the man somewhat agitated, “I have no family whatsoever … when I’m dead and gone I’ll be forgotten there in Purgatory for years on end … it’s just not fair!
“Having accepted that I’ll die with venial sins I’ll then spend time in Purgatory with no one praying for me or offering Mass for me … I just can’t escape the fact that I’ll end up in Purgatory … totally forgotten.”
Father Ignatius sympathized with the man and his fear of the after-life and what was in store for him there. He had to tread a thin line indeed between the teachings of his Church and the realities of life as he faced them right here and right now.
One of his parishioners believed so much in Catholic doctrine that it frightened him to death, almost literally so.
“Hey … don’t be scared …” he said gently, “let’s consider this a bit more …
“As I’ve explained, the belief in Purgatory and the need to purify our souls before we enter Heaven goes back to the early Church.
“Over the years … you can rest assured that many wise heads have pondered and argued about this time and again. And it is still a matter of contention between various denominations today … As you rightly say, some Christian denominations don’t believe in the existence of Purgatory as we Catholics do.
“Now … you wouldn’t expect me as a Catholic priest to tell you that Purgatory doesn’t exist … it’s all a Catholic invention … as you put it … would you?”
The man shook his head. “No Father!”
“Good … as a priest I can tell you what the Church teaches about Purgatory.
“But I can also tell you this … and I believe it because Jesus taught us so …” continued Father Ignatius gently.
“God our Creator loves us very much … so much so that He sent Jesus to die for us …
“Those who love God and believe in Jesus as His Son will certainly go to Heaven … as Jesus promised us so many times …
“God is a loving, forgiving Father whose wish is for us to be united with Him in Heaven.
“I don’t believe that He is so callous and uncaring that He’ll leave you forgotten in Purgatory for years on end … He loves you too much to forget about you.
“He knows your soul as well as He knows mine and everyone else’s. When we die He knows how pure we are; and He’ll decide when and how we will go to meet Him in Heaven.
“If there is such a place as Purgatory, or a means through which we have to be cleansed spiritually before we enter Heaven, God will make sure that this happens to us as is fitting and appropriate to our individual circumstances.
“So don’t fret so much about going to Purgatory but concentrate more on being at Peace with God. Trust Him to do the right thing.
“By all means, pray for those who died before you … put in a good word for them with our Lord …
“But most of all Trust Him to guide you and welcome you to Heaven rather than worry about how you’ll get there.”
The man nodded silently and continued cleaning the pond. Meanwhile, Father Ignatius prayed silently that the Church’s teachings serve to up-lift those put in its care rather than frighten them as in this case.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
I was at the computer working. Aunt Gertrude picked up the phone and rasped in Australian “Mornin’ to ye. What can I do for ye t’day?
… … …
“He’s busy right now … can’t it wait cobber?
… … …
“Important? I tell you mate! The Good Lord Himself took six days to make the whole universe and what’s in it; He then put His feet up and had a rest on the seventh day. What could be more important than that?
… … …
“You fellas are always rushing around in a hurry like a wallaby with diarrhea. I always told my second husband not to rush, but would he listen? Then one day in his rush he fell down the stairs, broke his neck and died, and I was left to raise the kids alone. Now is that worth rushing for, I ask ye?
… … …
“As I said, he is busy. He will phone ye back when ready ma darlin’. He's such a fusspot you know, and ever so slow. He’ll never be the first fly on a dog’s poo … not him!
… … …
“Fair dinkum mate. I’ll get him to phone ye!”
I asked her who was on the phone as she finished talking.
“Some fella called Robbie MacNamara … Told ’im you’ll ring back when you’re less busy!” she replied.
“Robbie MacNamara?” I cried, “that’s my boss. He is the Director of Finance. You don’t talk to him like that!”
“I thought he was a telephone marketing person selling you something or other,” she replied nonchalantly, “seemed a nice fella, must have Australian ancestry I shouldn’t wonder!”
I rang my boss immediately to apologise for my aunt’s outrageous behaviour. He said that she was charming and amusing.
I bet he only said that to annoy me!
Monday, 10 June 2013
Having Aunt Gertrude from Australia visiting us for a few days, and Uncle Herbert from Scotland coming to meet her, made me wonder about accents.
My neighbour is from Glasgow and his accent is totally different from the more “delicate” tones one hears in say, Edinburgh’s Morningside.
Now these are two cities not very far apart. Why should their inhabitants have such different accents?
The British Isles aren’t that big compared to other countries like America or Australia.Yet despite their small geographical areas they have many different accents. The people from Liverpool sound differently from those in Cornwall, Norfolk or even different parts of London? Why is that?
What does create an accent anyway? Is it the food, the water, the weather or what?
And when did accents first start? In the Middle Ages?
Did the Knights of the Round Table speak with different accents depending on where they came from? They all seem to speak perfect English in the films and on TV.
Do animals have different accents depending on where they come from, I wonder?
Does a French poodle or a German shepherd dog bark with a French or German accent? We wouldn’t tell the difference of course; but do they notice a distinction when dogs from different countries bark at each other? Does a dingo, like my Auntie Gertrude, bark “Woof woof cobber”?
Does a Manx cat sound any different from a Siamese?
How about birds? Especially migrating birds like swallows, ducks, geese and so on? When they arrive on the Continent do local birds say, “Aha, here come the Brits to spend the winter here again”?
I’ve spent sleepless hours at times wondering about this. And one thing I noticed; when I’m traveling on business and spending overnights in various hotels up and down the country … whilst I’m counting sheep to help me go to sleep … yes … they do “Baaaah !!!!” in different accents depending on where I happen to be.
Saturday, 8 June 2013
The Seminar was held on the grounds of the Parish Gardens providing plenty of time for the participants to spend time together re-assessing their married life, in preparation for a Renewal of Vows Ceremony to be held after Mass on Saturday evening.
The two Parish priests were pleased that they managed to get twenty married couples to attend the weekend event and looked forward to a successful Seminar for all involved.
The same cannot be said however for Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the eccentric friend of Father Ignatius and very generous benefactor of St Vincent Church.
Theodore preferred to be well away from “organized love-ins”, as he called the Seminar and would not have attended for one moment had he the choice. But his lovely wife, Rose, convinced him otherwise and he, being an old romantic, albeit he hid it well, acquiesced to her request.
After lunch on Saturday the group met at the Church Hall and was addressed by Father Randolph.
He spoke about the necessity of working at a marriage to make it successful, and explained how very often couples tend to drift apart because of the pressures of modern living and having to work hard just to keep body and soul together. He went on to stress the importance of “being aware of the other person in your life”, the importance of “listening” to their feelings, and “showing love” by saying something nice every now and then, by holding hands, giving a hug every so often and not taking one’s spouse for granted.
“Love doesn’t end after the honeymoon” declared Father Randolph, “it’s a precious flower which needs nurturing and feeding every day if it is to flourish for a lifetime!”
At this point Father Randolph noted Theodore Luxton-Joyce raising his eyebrows and looking in the distance out of the window, no doubt wishing he was anywhere else but here.
“What do you think Theodore?” asked the visiting priest, “Do you think it’s important to tell your wife, Rose, that you love her?”
“Every day?” asked Theodore.
The Group laughed and Fathers Ignatius and Donald, sitting at the top table, looked at each other silently.
“Yes … every day … why not?” continued the Franciscan priest after the laughter died down.
“I don’t see the point …” replied Theodore, “Rose knows that I love her very much … (then looking at his wife) … you do know that don’t you?
“What’s the point of all this adolescent childish talk … it goes without saying that I love her … what?
“I wouldn’t have given up a weekend of good fishing and come here, if I didn’t love her … don’t you think old boy?”
The Group laughed again.
“Fifteen – love …” Father Donald whispered quietly to Father Ignatius.
But Father Randolph was not to be beaten so easily.
“No … it does not go without saying …” he responded quietly, “it is important to tell your wife, or husband, that you love them. That they are not taken for granted. It is important to say it … and say it often. It’s important to be nice and to compliment one’s spouse every now and then.
“Very often I’ve seen couples drift apart yet deep down they do really love each other. They just don’t bother, or don’t have time, to say it. With time, they forget what first attracted them to each other. And every time we forget … love dies a little!
“Let me challenge you Theodore if I may …”
“Fifteen all …” Father Donald whispered softly under his breath. “A good return from the visiting priest!” Father Ignatius sat quietly and said nothing.
“I want you to answer quickly without thinking,” Father Randolph challenged Theodore. “Are you ready? Without thinking … what first attracted you to your wife Rose?”
“She makes a decent steak and kidney pie … what?” declared Theodore.
The Group broke down into hysterics.
“Thirty – fifteen to your eccentric friend!” Father Donald said to his colleague Father Ignatius.
Father Randolph was astute enough to continue with his talk rather than get into a pointless debate with Theodore. Minutes later he asked the Group whether anyone had personal knowledge or experience of marriages breaking down after a long period together. He called them “mature divorces”.
Theodore raised his hand.
“I bet you regret inviting him …” Father Donald whispered to Father Ignatius.
“Years ago … when I was in the military, one of my people got divorced after twenty years of marriage …” said Theodore.
“I asked him why … and he said his wife was violent what? Apparently she threw things at him in an argument … Anything … Cups … saucers … cutlery … crockery … anything that came to hand.
“Turns out she threw things at him throughout the marriage … twenty years of it.
“I asked him why he took so long to decide to leave her.
“He said her aim was getting better … what?”
The Group burst into laughter to the embarrassment of Rose, whilst Father Randolph tactfully decided to call a short tea break.
“Game … set … and match!” declared Father Donald as he got up from his seat.
The rest of the weekend proceeded without further difficulties for Father Randolph, albeit Theodore was the most popular member of the Group.
As they drove back home he asked his wife, “You don’t think it necessary to say ‘I love you’ every day … do you?”
“It’s nice to hear it every now and then…” she said, “It’s reassuring you know. Women like reassurance!”
“Tell you what old girl …” he replied, “I’ll write it down big on a piece of paper. You can read it as often as you want when you need reassurance … what?” he chortled heartily.
She smiled; knowing full well that he was the world’s biggest romantic, yet his up-bringing did not allow him to show it.
More stories about Theodore Luxton-Joyce in the book of the same name. Download yours FREE - check the tab at the top left of this Blog.
Thursday, 6 June 2013
I tell you … as much as one has to like one’s relatives, Aunt Gertrude makes it very difficult indeed. For years I have loved her as I love the sun … from afar! Us living in Britain and she in Australia has been the ideal relationship and for a very long time the love between us has really blossomed.
She sent us one of her re-cycled Christmas cards once a year and that was enough love to last us a whole 12 months, until the next card.
By re-cycled, I mean that for years she sent us cards other people sent to her with the original message crossed off and her love and best wishes scribbled in. But it’s the thought that counts. They weren’t always Christmas cards. Sometimes it was birthday cards her friends sent her and she scribbled “Merry Christmas” and sent them to us to “save destroying trees” in the rainforest somewhere or other. On one occasion years ago she sent us a sympathy card she received after her husband passed away six months previously. She scribbled over the card “Best Wishes for Christmas” and that made it cheerful in an instant.
Her eagerness to save money whenever she can has been a source of family amusement for years.
Personally, I can live with that as long as it does not affect me directly. It’s her life and she can live it as she wants. But since she came to stay with us for a holiday her antics have directly affected me … especially this morning.
The family was out and for my sins I had to stay at home to finish a report I was writing and listen to the interminable nattering of my Aunt’s Australian accent. Perhaps this is a penance for “time-off” Purgatory; I don’t know.
I tried to ignore her as I typed away furiously trying to beat the time-deadline when I have to up-load the report to my boss.
I hadn’t had any breakfast and had been working since 7:30am. She got out of her room at about nine and suggested she makes me something to eat. How kind of her. I smiled and thanked her.
A bit later she came in with a nice cup of coffee and toast with grilled cheese and a meaty paste on top. The cheese was hot and melting, just as I like it, and the extra layer of meaty paste on top, bubbling because of the heat, made it divine. I devoured it thankfully and suggested that she makes some more.
“We have no more meat, cobber!” she screeched as she does normally, “it was a small tin and it’s finished!”
“It was lovely,” I said appreciatively, “what’s it called so we can buy it again?”
“It had no label, mate!” she screeched back showing me a small tin she had bought cheaply from the supermarket. It was cheap because it specifically had lost its label and had a small dent in it – that’s why!
I looked at the tin suspiciously and went to the pantry. It looked like tins we’d bought before. In fact it had the same serial number ink-jetted at the top like tins we’d bought before. Identical in fact to our cat’s tinned food.
She had just fed me cat food on toast !!!!!!!!
What mental type of relative have I got?
What possessed her to buy a tin with no label just because it was a few pence cheaper?
What was she expecting to find inside? Peas? Caviar? Grilled kangaroo liver marinated in Australian lager?
She is definitely totally mad.
And I note that she did not have any of the appetizing grilled breakfast toast.
Perhaps not that mad after all !
When I told her what she had just done she laughed and said “It’ll grow hair on your chest, cobber. Or should I say fur?”
I really wish I could love her from afar once again.
Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Whilst Aunt Gertrude from Australia is staying with us for a while we thought it a good idea to invite Uncle Herbert from Dundee in Scotland to come and visit for a few days and meet her for the first time. She of course having emigrated to Australia all those years ago; or was she deported from Britain? I don’t know. Anyway … the two have never met.
Now most people tend to think before speaking. Not Auntie Gertrude. She has been fitted with a delay mechanism which makes her speak first and then a few moments later think about what she has just said.
Of course, when this occasionally happens to most people; they realize what they said and apologise, or quickly change the subject. Not Auntie Gertrude. When the delay mechanism makes her realize she said something wrong she continues talking without thinking and makes a bad situation worse.
Uncle Herbert on the other hand is a kind old soul who is always welcome with open arms whenever he visits us. This is because he is always carrying a bottle of the best single malt whisky, which I appreciate very much, as well as various well-chosen presents for the rest of the family. Generosity must have been his middle name when he was christened!
Unlike Auntie Gertrude whose presents from Australia were a few bags of boiled sweets from Adelaide as well as a half-drunk can of Foster’s amber nectar which she had opened on her flight to soothe a dry throat. Or so she said.
Don’t misunderstand me; she is a kind old lady really. But not from this planet somehow. She seems to live in a world of her own totally unaware of life around her.
No sooner had we welcomed Uncle Herbert and thanked him for all his presents than Auntie Gertrude’s delay mechanism came into effect.
We were all sitting in the large living room when Auntie opened her mouth and her stomach gurgled; as we say in our family when someone speaks without thinking.
Uncle Herbert, I should point out here, wears a hair-piece because he is somewhat self-conscious about his bald patch. It is not well-fitting but hey … he’s always worn it and no one has ever said anything about it.
Not Auntie Gertrude.
She started the conversation by asking “Was your wig expensive cobber?”
Uncle stuttered and said “Ehm … well … I … I …. I paid quite a sum for it, ye ken!”
One of the children innocently compounded the difficult situation by asking “What is a wig?” Fortunately the situation was defused by taking the children out to help prepare the dinner table for lunch.
I remained in the room with Uncle and Auntie. She was the first to speak and interrupt the awkward silence.
“The reason I ask,” she said, “is because in Adelaide they make them made to measure. They fit very well and you can’t tell it’s a wig!”
“I … I … I see. Aye …!” stuttered Uncle embarrassingly.
“If you want, I’ll order one for you and send it when I get back home!” she continued in her screeching Australian accent which has given me nightmares ever since she arrived, “all I need is your hat size cobber!”
I changed the subject by talking about the weather. Something which we often do in Britain when we have nothing else to say. It’s a neutral subject and more often than not leads people to agree on the matter.
“Oh it’s been pissing cats and dogs ever since I set foot here!” screeched Aunt Gertrude, “not like back home. It can be quite dry for months it can.”
Uncle and I mumbled and I was silently thankful that the conversation had moved on.
“What’s the weather like in Dundee?” she asked Uncle, “is it often windy? ‘Cos you’ll need a hat to stop your wig from flying off!”
What was I to do? I felt like screaming “For pity’s sake SHUT UP!!!” But you can’t be disrespectful to your old Auntie can you?
I changed the subject once again by asking if they wanted an aperitif before our meal which should be ready presently.
Well … as you’ve guessed, the refined relative from Australia asked for a can of Foster’s amber nectar; whereas Uncle and I enjoyed a drop of 12 years old single malt.
Thankfully, lunch proceeded peacefully and every one kept their hair on. But I’m sure it’s early times yet and Auntie will find other opportunities to embarrass herself, and us!
Sunday, 2 June 2013
He lived with his parents in a small terraced house and went to work at the same factory as his father.
One day, in his spare time, he was helping Father Ignatius paint the wooden fence at the very end of the back gardens; the one separating the Church grounds from the fields beyond.
In conversation, Harvey explained to the wise priest how his parents really knew very little of the modern world. How they lived in ancient times. How their expectations and ambitions were out of sequence with reality. Harvey felt that his parents held him back somewhat. They insisted on his being at home at a certain time … “Can you imagine that? I am 19, and they still want to know who I go out with and where! Archaic or what … I tell you!”
Father Ignatius put down the pot of paint he was holding and sat down on the small step ladder they had brought with them to reach the top of the wooden fence.
“When you look at your parents, Harvey,” he asked, “what do you see?”
Harvey looked at him in puzzlement and replied “I see Mom and Dad … of course!”
“Silly question, I suppose,” continued the priest, “but I’ll ask it again … what do you really see?”
“I don’t know what you’re on about … you’re a bit like them at times Father … you don’t speak straight!”
Father Ignatius laughed.
“It is natural, and a good thing of course, for children to see Mom and Dad when they look at their parents.
“Mom and Dad brought them into this world. Mom and Dad took care of them when they were young. Mom and Dad were involved in their up-bringing and their education. They took time off to attend all the school events such as sports day, music evening and whatever else.
“Your parents did that for you; am I right?”
Harvey nodded. The priest continued.
“Your father often drove you in his old battered car wherever you needed to go to … like the Saturday football games.
“Your mother made sure you had a packed lunch every day at school, and you had clean clothes every day …”
"Yeh … I understand …” Harvey interrupted.
“I am not criticizing you Harvey,” said the priest gently, “what I’m saying is that our parents care for us. I know mine did … even after I left home and went to Italy to study for the priesthood. My mother used to send me packets of a special cake she used to bake in case Italian food was not nourishing enough!”
“And your parents care for you too … they always will. It’s in the genes as they say.”
“But that’s not what I meant when I said what do you see when you look at your parents.” continued Father Ignatius.
“Most people would say, just as you said … I see Mom and Dad.
“Not many people see an individual human being. A woman and a man. People, no different to you and I.
“People who at one time were children themselves. And they grew up with their own hopes, their own worries and their own fears. People, like every one else, struggling in this world to make the best of their lives, and that of their children.
“We do tend to see our parents differently than anyone else. We see Mom and Dad … we don’t see the people beyond Mom and Dad … the people who are Mom and Dad.
“Our parents are people with their own personal abilities, limitations and foibles. People with their own personal emotions and characteristics and personalities; developed and honed through years of circumstances and experiences which life threw at them.
“Our parents may well curtail our freedoms somewhat … they may well appear ancient and from a different age … but I’m sure they mean well. They behave the way they do because they are human and they have their own human characteristics.
“I know my parents meant well when they tried to teach me right from wrong. Do you think yours do?”
“I suppose …” mumbled Harvey.
“Of course they do,” confirmed the wise old priest, “the thing is … parents too tend to see their children as children … they seldom see beyond the child, and see a growing young man or woman with their own characters, weaknesses, needs and so on. A child your age is eager to explore the world around him … nothing wrong with that. But sometimes parents can’t see that … they forget how they were at that age.
“For a parent, a child is always a child … it’s often very difficult to let go. But they do it out of love.
“Do you think your parents love you?” the priest asked directly.
“Yes … of course.” said the young man emphatically.
“Good …” replied the priest, “you’re right of course.
“… And I’m sure you’ll remember that when in turn one day in the future, you too will become a parent and you’ll love your own children just as your parents love you. You too will not be able to let go … And I suspect your children will think you’re an old relic from times gone by worthy of an exhibit in a museum!”
“Now let’s get on with the painting …” continued Father Ignatius.
Harvey smiled as he dipped the paint brush in the pot of paint.