Sometimes a few of the aunts would arrive for a cup of tea and a gossip. They usually brought sewing or knitting to work at while they supped their tea and caught up with family news. I always tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, because then I learned all kinds of interesting things, though most of it I didn’t really understand.

Aunt Clara (my grandmother’s elder sister) was a true Victorian, she must have been in her eighties by this time but she was a very upright well corseted lady, who always sat bolt upright and peered over the top of her glasses at me if I uttered a word without being spoken to. She was very much of the opinion that “children should be seen and not heard”. I don’t think I ever saw her without a hat on, usually a little round toque.

Her daughter, auntie Annie, was a rounder more comfortable lady who fascinated me because she snorted when she laughed. She also had the habit of mouthing some words instead of saying them out loud if she thought them a bit shocking, and as though she thought I could not lip read!

Aunty Cis usually only came into town at the weekends and sometimes she brought her banjo and taught me the latest songs such as Lilli Marlene and Maisie Doates, but she didn’t do this if aunt Clara was there because she knew aunt Clara thought she was a  “flibbertygibbet” even though she was about forty years old.

Sometimes I managed to sit in my favourite place, under the dining table which was covered witha heavily fringed chenille cloth between meals, so I was quite invisible and they would forget I was there and my eavesdropping would result in tasty snippets.

One of these snippets puzzled me for some time when I heard them discussing the childlessness of an absent member.

“Well it can’t be her,” stated aunty Louie. “All our family have had children, it must be him! Neither his brother or sister have had children either. I think he’s barren!”

I could hardly wait to tell my brother when he came home from school that uncle Albert was a Baron. He looked such an ordinary little man too, not half so imposing as some of my other uncles. 🙂

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