Family matters

This morning I made one of my irregular visits to see my dear old Aunt Murdock. I have not seen a great deal of her recently as she has been a little unwell and has not been to the office or dragging me to see her latest theatre projects. I don’t think she is seriously ill or anything like that, but she is not getting any younger and even a tough old boot like her has to slow down eventually. The old Mad Duck has been trying to run my affairs for so long now that it feels rather strange her not being around all the time, poking her nose into my love life and wittering on at me incessantly about my behaviour.

Not that I am badly behaved you understand. But Aunt Murdock does expect certain standards to be maintained. The major positive of her slow down has been to stop trying to marry me off to one or another of her seemingly endless stream of eligible young ladies of her vast acquaintance. And it may well be endless as she seems to know just about all the good – and some of the bad – families. In fact, her acquaintance is so large one can only wonder at the stories she could tell if she were so inclined.

But she isn’t that way inclined. Excentric she may well be, informed she most definitely is, but loose-lipped? Never! Aunt Murdock does not gossip and would rather die than divulge a confidence. Indeed, I have heard one or two people say that one’s confession is safer with her than with the Pope!

Uncle George, on the other hand, is very much the family gossip. If there is anything juicy to be had then he will be only too pleased to pass it along. I have often wondered how two such totally different people have managed to stay married for so long. Dorchester says it is because George is far too afraid of his wife to even consider leaving, but I think they are actually rather fond of each other.

Anyway, I called at their flat a little after midday, just in time for a light lunch and one of George’s fine brandies. Aside from being a little pale, Aunt Murdock seemed to be in fine form. George hovered around her as if he expected her to collapse, or physically fall apart at any moment. He is obviously very concerned about her, but she just shoed him away and told him, in no uncertain terms, to stop fussing. Once we had exchanged the usual pleasantries and ascertained that we were all quite well, my dear old Aunt began her usual third-degree interrogation about my love life – or lack of it – and news from the Club and the office.

Aunt Murdock’s sole aim in life at the moment seems to be marrying me off. She may have felt unable to play the active matchmaker recently, but that does not mean she has given up. Indeed not. If anything I believe that her recent ill-health seems to have strengthened her resolve. I know she means well and has my best interests at heart, but it can be rather embarrassing at times. Hope seems to be her current hopeful though I don’t think that she is the only candidate on the current “potential future Mrs Dimbelby-Smyth” list. And like Father Christmas, she is checking it twice.

Once the initial interrogation was over the three of us enjoyed a very pleasant lunch and a drop or three of Uncle George’s very fine brandy. I stayed for a couple of hours, allowing me to catch up with some family news and bits and pieces from the office. I was particularly interested to hear that one of my cousins is getting married early next year to an old school chum if mine. I haven’t seen either of them for years, which is probably why I hadn’t heard about their impending nuptials. Knowing the families I am sure it will be a lavish affair. During the afternoon I found the opportunity to invite them to join me at the house for Christmas, which they have accepted. Just as I was about to take my leave and head down to the Club, I told Aunt Murdock that Nigel and I had been to see Mrs Dalton, in Brighton, and mentioned the cryptic message about needing to speak to her. She asked what about and I told her that other than that is was connected to my mother, I couldn’t tell her anything else. At this point, she became awfully defensive and Goerge very dismissive. Neither of them seemed prepared to admit they knew what Mrs Dalton had been talking about. So, rather than upset them any further I made my excuses and left.

The more I think about it the more unusual and out-of-character the conversation had become. It is obvious that there is something they did not want to discuss, which I can understand from Aunt Murdock. Maybe if I get George on his own at some time he will feel able to tell me. For now, it is time to get back to making arrangements for my Christmas trip to the country. So much to do and so little time…

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