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

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