Our lockdown began much the same as anyone else’s. On the first day, there was confusion but a bit of excitement and fear. I had indefinitely lost my job but I was probably going to be paid for a while so it was kind of like a nice relaxing holiday. Except, of course, for the looming possibility that EVERYONE I know would die and civilization would crash . That was merely a distant thought for the first couple of days until Day 4. That’s when she turned up. Her. In all her glorious annoyance. Someone, I can’t remember who, referred to her as a walking, talking dilapidated house and I can never get that image out of my head. She definitely did have an air of ‘thatched roof’ about her.
I have been writing for years about all my adventures, embarrassing events, and funny stories but I have never written about her. I have with her, a similar relationship as Shakespeare had with Macbeth. She’s cursed. I wrote about her just once, in University, in London and barely passed the assignment. My tutor remarked,
It’s a good story. The narration is good but as a work of fiction you need to work harder on character development. This character is not realistic.
I was quick to point out that she was real. Very real.
Your Aunt Margaret is real? I don’t believe that. You’ve based her off a real person but exaggerated her a lot, I’m assuming.
No. I replied. The assignment is more of a witness statement than a work of fiction. She is, very much, real.
I still barely passed the assignment. If this is not your first time reading something I’ve written then you know spelling isn’t my strong point. I’m guessing I lost some marks there. But the point is, please be advised this person is very much real and without Aunt Margaret, I wouldn’t be the beautiful mess of a person I am today.
Day 4 crashed into our schedule the way an ice-cream truck slowly crashes into a gathering of cows. I didn’t hear her car pull up as I was watching Judge Judy ( oh my God, I love Judy, more about her later).
Here. Here. Will you carry the case up to the room?
Hi Aunt Margaret
Don’t worry about banging it around. It’s not really Louis Vuitton. It’s fake. But I don’t want anyone to know
You’re here! With a suitcase!
She glides right past me, leaving me to carry the bag. She didn’t walk in like she owned the place, she waddled in like she feckin built the place.
Next door Nuala has a fancy suitcase and thinks she’s better than everyone. So, I went down to Moore Street and got one. No difference at all. Stupid woman
There was a wheel missing but I elected to say nothing.
I’m so scared about this coronavirus.
Her big beady eyes staring up at me. She was cute and adorable… at times. She reminded me of Benjamin Button. Let’s just say, if you played hide and seek and she went to hide under a coffee table, she probably wouldn’t need to bend her legs.
It’s the Chinese
Aunt Margaret bursts into my room. Imagine nightie, hair curlers in full Medusa mode, thick glasses.
Aunt Margaret I’m sleeping
It’s the Chinese.
Through the invasion of privacy, I see a blurry image of her starring at her screen
It’s the Chinese
Did you order a takeaway? What time is it?
The Chinese invented it
They invented lots of stuff. They’re great like that
They invented Corona
The Swedish did
I shouldn’t be cruel and it’s important to not apply hindsight to an evolving situation. Most people with a brain have accepted that this is utter nonsense. But remember a few weeks ago when some people saw this new “It was made in a lab stuff” and some of us, temporarily were like… could it be true…?
I wake up and go down to the kitchen and herself is sitting at the table with a coffee cup and on the phone
Yeah. Yeah. I know. I know. It’s everywhere. Apparently, it’s the Swedish. My nephew says it’s the Swedish
I was joking. I meant the beer. I was talking about the beer. They made Corona, the beer
I’m on the phone.
She ignored me the same way she regularly opts to ignore reality or common sense. So, I just begin to prepare my hipster breakfast of overnight oats with all kinds of organic wholemeal shit in it. Out of the corner of her hawk-eye she sees me pottering about
Put the kettle on. Thanks.
I know. I know. Well I saw this on Youtube. A friend sent to me on Whats Up
A few years ago, my Dad was watching a documentary about how the Trump campaign created misleading adverts in the lead up to the 2016 election.
I don’t understand any of this. He exclaimed. How can you influence how someone chooses a president on Facebook or on the internet? Sure, that’s just for putting pictures of their holidays, isn’t it. Do people really look for news there?
On this day, as he occasionally glanced at Aunt Margaret and drew his attention away from the television, he totally understood how that worked. How Fake News worked and how certain people, despite all their virtues couldn’t fact check on the internet.
After a while my Dad’s glances turned to stares. A stare that very clearly said
Shut up Margaret and get off the phone.
She had this fantastic quality to answer calls at the dinner table and tell everyone else to be quiet until she finished. She never walked or moved with her phone. In fact, she didn’t even call it a mobile. She referred to it as her ‘pocket phone’. I’m not sure if she ever realised you could move with them. If I ever answered the phone in front of her, she was pretty quick to tell me to move away but never did it herself.
I better go. My nephew has coffee on. Oh I know, I know. And is he dead? Right. Ok. I see. But he will be dead soon. Do you think he’ll be dead soon? Yeah. Yeah. Right. I’ll pray for him. He’ll probably die as well. Isn’t it awful!
She looks over at me.
Two sugars in my coffee. Big spoons. Table spoons, not that tiny little thing.
My Dad shoots me a look, to say, ‘just dump the whole bloody sugar bowl in’
Later on, you’ll discover she is adorable. I make her out to be a monster, but she wasn’t really. It was rare that she ever made you feel really angry. I say rare. Next time you’ll see why. Most of her antics were so bizarre, that rather than react to it, I would store it as mental note to later include in a blog post or her obituary.
And, they’re a very dishonest country. I know. I better go. You wouldn’t know what they would do over there. I know. Sure they make everything. I think this phone is Chinese. And the chair I’m sitting. I know. I know. Oh before I go, guess who died. No. No. No. Yes, but a long time.
Ah for feck sake Margaret, I’m watching the bloody telly.
Dad was the only person who could occasionally challenge her. It’s also worth noting, in any circumstance, how annoying is it when you listen to someone on the phone, constantly say, ‘well, I better go’ and then continue to converse?
Eventually the conversation came to close, Dad continued to watch Sesame Street, I gave Aunt Margaret her coffee and she repeated the entire phone conversation, word for word, utterly ignoring the fact that I had been privy to the entire thing. She told me she was going to pray for a man who hadn’t died but probably will. He was a dear friend but at least that was something to look forward to. Aunt Margaret loved funerals. They were the ultimate social event for her.
That moment drinking the coffee, we had no idea, we would be planning hers, in under a week.
Is this coffee? For God’s Sake, I asked for tea not coffee. You never listen. Boil the kettle again. I’m gonna take out your hoover and do that corner. It’s awful lookin.