A repost from back when Al was a little boy….
It is essential that every perfect upbringing should have some slight flaw in it; if only to round off a prodigy’s education.
Much as a pearl must have sand to become perfect, a life is not, in the best circles, considered rounded, unless it has met with aspects of life to which it may be wholly unaccustomed.
Thus every perfect, well-connected family should have an unhinged relative: a dark horse, if you will; to provide the necessary abrasion: to afford the opportunities for puzzled bafflement and sometimes even, Reader, mirth, in the face of one who walks to the lopsided beat of their own sagging drum.
Even our own Royal family here in the UK has its idiosyncratic eccentric: a fact made more puzzling by the fact that he need never have been part of the House of Windsor. For Prince Philip was the choice of one of the sanest, most level-headed women in the world: the Queen herself.
Reader, she married him.
It is fabled that the Duke of one of Scotland’s great cities, Edinburgh, once met a driving instructor during a walk on the Scottish island of Oban.”How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them past the test?” he enquired breezily.
Ever the diplomat, there are whole pages devoted to his bloopers. A University of Salford space travel exhibition was the scene of a screamer: 13-year-old Andrew Adams was manning the display when the Prince struck up a jovial conversation with him.
Would the youngster like to be sent into space on holiday? The Prince inquired, affably.
Oooh yes, the boy replied. So far, so good.
The Duke retorted: “You could do with losing a little bit of weight.”
We trust and believe the latest royal consort-in-waiting will be the soul of diplomacy.
My sister has a set of Cornish relatives-in-law. Some are sane, others’ behaviour is worthy of much comment. I love stories of a Granny and Grandpa who have ceased to worry about social niceties to such an extent that not only does Granny spend an inordinate amount of her time breaking noisy and demonstrative wind as she entertains rafts of guests: she provides a running commentary on the whole process too.
But the guests continue to come and wonder, partly for the entertainment value, and partly because she is reputed to be extremely wealthy. One can put up with a lot of gas if there is something in it for one.
On a Thursday and a Friday a set of china-doll-like children lose their Mummy to a teaching job in a posh school, and they must be ferried to their Aunt’s house for games with cuddly toy owls and lots of cutting and sticking before school.
I have always thought of them as the Two Princesses. They are dainty and well-dressed and feminine in every way. If you put them on top of 100 mattresses and put a pea underneath the bottom one, they would end up black and blue after a night’s sleep.
It must indeed be a culture shock to leave the sanctuary of their beautifully decorated family home, packed to the gunnels with toys for every occasion, and arrive at the doorstep of some half-crazed aunt, ready to while away the minutes before the school bell rings.
This morning I woke at six. They arrive at eight. But my capacity for time whittling is endless, and at ten past seven I was still chatting.
The ironing pile was beginning to call in rasping tones. I knew uniforms must, as always, be mustered, and my own hair was lank beyond description. There was much to fit into fifty minutes.
Sorry, forty. Where did that ten minutes go?
By twenty to eight the children were dressed and I was taking care of myself. I stood in the shower lecturing myself sternly in not wallowing: this was not time to enjoy the comforts of limitless hot water. I must fly, for it was five to eight.
At two minutes to eight there was a knock at the door. I had progressed some way towards my goal. I had jeans on, but no top as yet. I had streaming hair which I had wrapped with a towel which hung down my back much as Rapunzel’s would do.
At the knock, every muscle tensed. I attempted simultaneously to holler “Well, someone go and get it, then!” and haul a black top over my head. And then I headed off down the stairs.
Someone had gone and got it, then. A beautiful woman and two princesses stepped tentatively across the highly volatile threshold. They saw a mad aunt half way down the stairs, gibbering. I was trying, in my own way, to express how it feels to have a wet towel threaded inside one’s t-shirt and then hung beneath it, to mid-calf length.
I was also squirming inexplicably as I tried to extricate myself from said towel.
And then the humour of the situation struck me and I giggled uncontrollably as the Princesses watched me with level, tolerant, gazes. Poor, mad Aunt Kate.
This was not a passing moment. It took quite a long time to get the towel out. My sister, who has known me for most of my life, gazed at me with something akin to resignation.
Remember this: a life is not, in the best circles, considered rounded, unless it has met with aspects of life to which it may be wholly unaccustomed.
My nieces have a full and rounded life.