“She is definitely a lesbian, sure she’s not married”
“She’s pregnant and anyway, Aunt Margaret being married isn’t a barometer of sexuality”
“A what! It doesn’t matter if she’s pregnant. You can get pregnant on the internet”
“What!” – I shouted.
“She should be married”
This was a typical morning exchange. Aunt Margaret generally whipped up an Irish breakfast of bacon, sausages and white pudding. She very kindly always made sure she had cooked some for me. Which was nice. However she dismissively forgot that I haven’t eaten meat in a number of years.
“Well if you’re not going to eat that. I’ll just have two portions. But just this morning.”
After drowning the fried sausage in so much brown sauce, it resembled a turd, she gobbled it down with some more insight into people I barely knew.
And she’s pregnant and the baby is going to have no Father.
Why is he dead? – I asked
No. She’s not married!
Aunt Margaret, the baby will still have a Father even if the Mother doesn’t have a husband.
No. No. No. That’s not how the world works. – she said confidently as she gobbled down a sausage.
Have you ever heard of Socrates?
Who’s that? The Greek fella
Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.
Ah yeah. But sure, he didn’t do any work. Did he?
Philosophy wasn’t her strong point but it would be wrong to consider her stupid. She lived in her own world, it’s true. And whatever optic nerve connects the mouth to the brain didn’t always work. But she knew her stuff. In her early years she managed a pub on her own, at a time when few women would do that. In her life, she had a dealt with every kind of drunk man, the wobbly one, the sexist one, the violent one, the vomitty one and her the one with which she had the utmost contempt for, the adulterous one. She was tough and she knew about money. I laughed at her once when I was younger. My Mother had returned from a work trip to Paris and my Father asked,
Did you go to the Louvre?
Aunt Margaret quickly and totally seriously replied
Of course she went the Louvre. She probably went to Louvre a couple of times. Was there a Louvre in your room? That cheese will go through you.
I made fun of her for about two years for that, until my Dad told me not to.
When you run your own successful business and raise a family get back to me,
I tell this story so you understand this account of quarantine with Aunt Margaret isn’t as simple as, an account of a silly, funny, old woman. She’s old skool. From another time. She is something we will all eventually be, in form or another. The interest in acquiring new knowledge goes and the fear of saying the right thing at the right time evaporates. We are, all of us, a bit of Aunt Margaret, for better or worse.
Later that day while she was vacuuming the ceiling, I suggested we go for a walk. Any amount of writer’s block is cured within 5 minutes of talking to her. She is inspirational gold
No one ever thinks to clean the ceiling. And that’s where most of the dust goes.
I didn’t know. You’re doing a great job.
I wouldn’t need to use this chair if you could reach up there. But you got your mother’s genes.
This was true. As she perched on top of one of the chairs and looked down at me with the vacuum in her hand, I was reminded that I was, by far, the shortest of all my male relatives. A fact she really enjoyed waving in my face.
At least, I didn’t get the genes of whale, – I retorted.
That was a fact I think I have ignored until now and one I enjoyed waving in her face. She commented on EVERYONE. Their style, their look, their personality. But she could take it as much as she dished it as there was no denying, Aunt Margaret was huge.
Well, I’ll tell you, I won’t be a whale for much longer. There is nothing to eat in this house.
There’s loads to eat. – I replied
Not that bloody vegetarian stuff. I don’t know what it is.
Not that other stuff.
What, that black yolk?
That other thing. Don’t you go thinking I’m stupid. I know what a bloody avocado is. That’s what the gay people have for breakfast up in Dublin. I watch television. I know
Straight people eat it too.
I remember having the biggest argument with her as she constantly referred to straight, heterosexual people as normal people. She didn’t mean it in a bad way. Just imagine the complexity of trying to communicate that you can be Irish and not Catholic. I didn’t make any progress with that one either.
I’ll bring you to the supermarket if you go for a walk with me. Come on.
You’ll bring me where? You’ve no car. Sure, you won’t bring me anywhere
I’ll go with you
What would you do now, if a nice girl from around here wanted to go on a date with you. Or a nice man.
Man. Well, I would hope he had a car.
Yeah, it’s strange world. Isn’t it?
No. Not really. Do you want to make a list and I’ll go in and get it
Will you? I’m scared to go.
I’ll go in for you. But come for a walk with me. You’ll feel better.
Ok. But will you change your jumper? – she asked
What’s wrong with it?
I was wearing a 15 euro hoodie from H&M. Side note, their hoodies never make me look like I have man boobs. It was pink. Which I could tell, she didn’t approve of. Side note – I look amazing in pink.
I mean, do you want everyone from a distance to know you’re gay. Even the cows would know. Go, put a normal jacket on. And I’ll put the hoover away.
After our walk, which took place in non-gay clothes, we popped into Tesco. I had a list. It was like a wish list of a bus load of Weight Watchers prisoners. Pizza, peanuts, chocolate, ice-cream, it was essentially a recipe book for How to Become a Diabetic in 5 Days, scribbled on a piece of paper.
Aunt Margaret had the worst diet ever. My older brother would regularly take pictures of her eating habits and post them on Instagram. The photos have developed quite a following. For example, the previous night, she had half a lemon cake and 4 packets of crisps for dinner.
You go in there and get the food. I’m going to listen to the death notices.
Before I could argue with her, she had turned the radio on and pulled the drivers seat back, in a relaxing position. The death notices are a cultural phenomenon. If you’re reading from Ireland, I think you know what I’m talking about. If you are reading from abroad, I guess, in the simplest possible way, it can be explained as a daily announcement on local radio of everyone who has died and their funeral arrangements. This is totally pre-Covid. Margaret loves it. For me, it’s 30 mins of Judge Judy, for Margaret, it’s the death notices.
When I returned Aunt Margaret said what I believe to be the most shocking statement to ever come out of her mouth.
The death notices weren’t on the radio. But I heard that had an App, so I just went on the Google Play Shop and I downloaded it.
I put the shopping bags into the back seat in an utter state of shock
Where did you learn those words ?
Oh you think because I’m old. I don’t know this stuff.
No. I think because you tried to change the T.V with a calculator yesterday, you wouldn’t know that stuff.
Well, I have it now. But the wifi isn’t good
You always ask me to do things for you on the computer. I exclaimed
I know. But mostly I can do them. Besides, I like asking you.
She definitely had her sweet moments.
I mean, you’re not working now and I don’t see you on the phone to any friends and you’re single. Sure, you have nothing better to do than send a couple of emails for me.
I threw her a dirty look as I also threw her a packet of jellies.
Here’s your sweets. Your shopping list was gross. I only got half the sweet stuff on that list
My god, you’d be a great date wouldn’t you. Eh? Imagine you in a restaurant saying to your date across the table, I’m only going to let you have half the dessert.
What? You’re not my date Aunt Margaret.
I am not. I only had one man in my life
That moment was probably the only time she had made direct reference to once having a husband. Growing up we always thought he was dead. She never mentioned him and on the rare occasion my parents did, they always used the past tense. More about her family in the next post.
As we drove home, we stopped on the side of the road as Aunt Margaret had several fits of coughing. She told me some of the jellies were getting stuck as she gobbled them down. But obviously now, I know better than that.