My Australian Aunt Gertrude who has been staying with us for a while is a really peculiar person; and it has nothing to do with her age or the fact that some elderly people can be eccentric or odd.
Ever since I have known her she has been that way, apparently. I remember as a child hearing my parents saying that she is very tight-fisted when it comes to spending money; and if she were ever mugged she’d convince the mugger to give her his wallet.
This attitude, and others, have manifested themselves since we’ve renewed her acquaintance after so many years of living apart since she emigrated to Australia all those years ago.
For example, not that we’re expecting any gifts from her, let me explain and emphasize … but her choice of welcoming gifts has been “economically eccentric” not to put too fine a point.
She brought the children bags of Australian boiled sweets … and one packet was open because she needed something for a dry throat whilst on the plane.
When I met her at the airport she came towards me holding a can of Foster’s amber nectar; one of the best things to come out of Australia. I was delighted at the prospect of such a generous gift … turned out it was her lunch.
What she actually gave me was a book on how to make your own boomerang. Well, I exaggerate; it’s not a book but in fact a ten-page pamphlet.
Every time I threw the book away it came back.
The first time I left it semi-deliberately on the sofa so that the dog would pick it up to play and destroy it. It was retrieved and put on my bedside table for safety.
The second time I left it outside in the garden in the hope that it would just fly away. Again it found its way to the bedside table.
I finally put it in the waste paper basket and was told this is insensitive and that I should keep it in case some day, when I’m old and retired, I might want to make a boomerang for the grand-children. What an unlikely prospect!
Another example of her meanness was portrayed in church last Sunday. During collection she put in £1 and took out some change from the collection plate. She complained afterwards that she only managed to retrieve 85 pence whereas she wanted to collect 90.
Anyway, Aunt Gertrude’s peculiarities are not confined to the not spending-money variety.
Our house faces a beautiful park leading to pleasant country walks amongst the valleys and hills beyond. When Aunt Gertrude arrived we gave her a front facing bedroom so she could see the beautiful views from her window.
I got home the other day to find the largest pair of white bloomers hanging out to dry from a makeshift rope out of her window. The underwear was so big that it would have been used by Captain Cook as a sail for his ship on its way to Australia. Next to her pants was the largest bra I could ever imagine.
I was speechless … I mean … is this what they do in Australia? Hang their under-washings out of the window for the whole world to see?
What would the neighbours think or say? It is bad enough the way they look at me when I’m wearing my red tartan shirt, green trousers and cowboy hat with a feather in it. Now they have the huge white under-garments as an additional subject of conversation.
Fortunately, as I am not renowned for my diplomacy, I was forbidden to mention the objectionable items, and a quiet word in her ears quickly removed the clothing to the washing line in our back garden.
“Will the birds poo all over it in the back garden?” enquired Auntie Gertrude.
“No … they only poo at the front,” I replied … diplomatically of course.