Monthly Archives: October 2020

Lady Itchenor

My ears are bleeding. They ring with the alarming shrill of piercing agony. Banality of family history and distant relatives dying from lunacy in eighteen century London ticks boxes of things I desperately find dreadfully dull. 

If it were possible to stop Lady Itchenor, otherwise known as Maude; Sandra’s older sister from drowning out the sanity and sublime countryside serenity, I’d pay her five-pounds to draw breath. 

Lady Itchenor’s drawn-out, shattered children stare out from the speeding carriage window with wistful eyes of roaming the aligned empty fields as her husband, Frank steers their family vehicle towards their family home. Sandra promises a Jules’ French Horn recital in their back garden complete with a builders and a hobnob. I’m quietly questioning myself why her, of all people would invite a builder over for a cup of tea. Ashamedly, I distance myself from the thought of a hobnob. I would never consider such a topic of conversation to be raised in such close proximity to children.

If I were able to conjure up an out of body experience, I would find myself grazing with the cows in the distant fields. Meanwhile, Mariam their vibrant fourteen-year old child sits in the middle seat staring at me with a menacing grin. I keep expecting her head to spin in a circle and green bile to emit from her evil grinned mouth, spraying the surrounding plush interior.

The car took a hard left off the motorway turnpike and suddenly a glimpse of the village, Itchenor came into view upon the distant horizon. 

The Lady of the village squealed with delight how I would be thrilled with her invitation to a garden party hosted by Lord Giggleswick. I’m not sure if she were proud to know a man who had transitioned from straight to gay, (her words) or a Lord of the county had the support of the local women’s auxiliary having moved to her town (her words), to live in a converted fifteen century church. When she made the connection between transitioning as a person and converting a church, her snorting and giggling engulfed us all. 

I prayed she could incorporate Jules’ French Horn recital and any surprise for me when it comes to Mariam. As though my thoughts were broadcast through the car speakers, Lady Itchenor encouraged her menacing fourteen-year old to share a song she had written for her departing school teacher. It was at this point I hoped my time in purgatory would come to its blistering end with my heart to, ‘cesse de battre’. 

Alas, although somewhat irreverent my heart continued to beat and the menacing fourteen-year old took great delight in howling nonsensical tones and sounds akin to a cat mowed down by an electric lawn cutter. Like chipped fingernails dragged down a chalkboard. 

It is through gritted teeth and strained knuckles I encounter this attack on my delicate senses. To counter the pain I recall memories of my childhood, of strict Nanny Briquet, Frannie’s wheelchair-bound father and his wife’s six-month affair, my useless husband Andrew and even visiting Glyndebourne brings more pleasure than this howling banshie. Oh dear, I said the B-word.

I encourage children to follow their dreams and improve upon their basic artistic skill, yet this child’s lack of simple tempo and ear for tone, methinks her mother could spend more time on creating other inspirations for the wretched child.

Suddenly, without warning, the tight carriage in which we travelled from the long forgotten train station where I departed the public convenience back to London, to my home and some sense of sanity, came to an abrupt stop. 

Without any sense of subtlety, I placed my fingers in my ears and waited for Lady Itchenor to screech the announcement of having arrived at the family home. It was clear where we had landed as the display of garden adornments, figurines and gnomes drowned out the landscaped plants and shrubs. 

It was at this moment and only in this moment did Jules make a last-ditched effort to connect with me on an altruistic plane almost as if to make his final statement. We had an understanding of what it is to live his life.

An overbearing urge expelled me from the car as it did Sandra, Jules and Frank. Once in a while I share the same urges as men, yet it surprised me to see Frank move faster than sloth under water. 

I found myself taking in the air of Itchenor as Lady Itchenor shrilled at the mention of the Itchenor sailing club. Before I could stop my head from spinning, Lady Itchenor had her arm hooked into mine.

Sandra simply stood opposite with her mouth gaping as though she were half way through saying something slightly intelligent and suddenly forgot to close it.

At this point I knew Lady Itchenor and I were going to be the best of friends. I couldn’t stop her.

– Harriet

A Country Practice

Once again, whilst I were left to grapple with our bags Sandra muscled her way to the front of the queue and asked the lovely lady behind the bulletproof glass for our tickets. First class, I demanded. Nothing can unfasten the stain of indignant stares from the travelling masses when someone as loud, both in dress and demeanour, bellowing and flailing in motion and indigence pushes forth with an exaggerated view of one’s self importance and public convenience journey. The lady behind her bulletproof glass witnessed Sandra’s public display and reactions from the public. This is why I believe we find ourselves in third class steerage. 

I’m uncertain if my uncontrollable involuntary intake of breath is from the acidic stench exuding from the seats in common class of this public convenience or my instilled fear from last year’s accidental adventure into the countryside, but the audible sounds of a distressed large gregarious double-tusked marine mammal emits from my distended throat and into the general population of the great unwashed. 

There could only be one last resort to wash away the public stain of shame and drown out the stench, if not to calm my nerves as the outside view dramatically changed from terraced houses to cows and sheep. A little chilled tin, or two, of gin and tonic. I’m not sure if the lady with the travelling trolley would discover our position in third class steerage. Without a doubt our journey were not to be a pleasant one. Strangely, I found myself longing for the company of the old flat capped toothless urchin.

Sandra, with all her glamorous parties and shiny friends came up short in this adventure to visit her sister. Why I listened to her inane babble and why I didn’t stop myself from agreeing to this outlandish journey into the unknown, is something I shall ponder until the end of time. 

“You will love her children. They are talented beyond belief. The eldest boy is destined to attend the Royal College of Music. He plays the bassoon, french horn, trumpet and piano. He taught himself to play the guitar and only last week he took up the Ukulele.”

Love Sandra like a sister, but I thought of multiple places where I’d like to  place that Ukulele. I’m not sure what a Ukulele is, but I’m sure it is quite painful. 

As I wish-away my uses of a french horn, Sandra pushes my arm to bring me back to the present and announces with great shrill, “We’re here. Grab my bags, I’ll find my sister.” And before I could form a multitude of unlady-like words which shot across the front of my mind, she was gone.

Draping in the finest luggage, I found myself swaying in time to the movement of the public convenience as it departed the station platform. I’d be forgiven to think Sandra has an identical twin sister. Alas, she is a few years older, but similar in volume, appearance and stature. 

Standing beside this woman where two smaller, yet languishing persons of similar facial distinction looking either vacant, disinterested of under duress; I couldn’t determine which. And standing in the distance were another adult with as much lack of occupation were what I immediately assumed were the father of the children. When I gained my senes and smiled, a similar shrilled voice bellowed, “You must be, Hilary”.

Sandra corrected her sister with matching colour and vibrance, not only proudly stating my name to be Harriet, not Hilary, she also blurted out the names of her niece and nephew and then began to wave at the mouse in the distance. With a look of uncertainty he returned the wave. He gave a distinct impression he wasn’t allowed to interact, little-lone exist. 

Sandra’s sister turned her back and faced the little man in the distance. In an exact copy of Sandra’s performance at the train station in front of our fellow passengers, she bellowed out instructions to lift and carry our suitcases.  

When the man was in close proximity, liberating the suitcases from my hands, I wasn’t sure of the words he muttered in my ear to be, “run” or just an involuntary noise as he lifted Sandra’s suitcase. 

Upon approaching the children, I reintroduced myself, with my hand extended. The boy, Jules, seventeen years-old, showed little interest. Mariam, a vibrant fourteen-year old girl shone towards the slightest interest I showed. My first impressions of the children where to be that of typical teenagers of today, but there was something not quite right.

Sandra returned to my side as her sister continued to bellow instructors at her brow-beaten man. “He’s the local doctor.” I’m not sure what her admission was meant to instil in my opinion of her extended family, but to look upon him as a man to give comfort in a time of need left me pondering, maybe a doctor in the veterinary practices. I didn’t wish to come across as inappropriate.

We piled into the cramp family car and drove away from the only known place where I could make my escape, should I need to take the good doctor’s advice.

– Harriet