I had heard about his mother’s 42nd cousin, twice removed, and we were set to meet her and her husband in their home on the west coast of Scotland. I had heard hints of “royalist” and “talkative” but nothing prepared me for the day we would spend in her company.
We arrived at her wee croft that nestled on the water, sapphire blue Scotland at its finest. We picked our way down the steps to the front door where we were welcomed by a warm, effusive and enthusiastic Scottish woman. I’ll call her Betty. She hugged us and told us she hated what we were wearing. Look, it was the 80s but not everyone loved the big, permed hair, flowery pants and pink, plastic shoes of that era. And my husband, mulleted and moustached, was dressed in his Miami Vice best.
We were invited indoors and soon saw that “royalist” was no exaggeration. “Talkative” took no convincing either. Her little home was beautiful from the outside but sadly tasteless inside. The brightly patterned, textured linoleum flooring screamed in competition with the striped and floral wallpaper, and every corner of the house was filled to bursting with recent royal memorabilia.
The walls were adorned with framed photographs of the royal family, her kitchen boasted tea towels bedecked with smiling monarchs, and a glass-fronted dresser groaned heavily under the weight of her prized possessions. Charles and Diana smiled from mugs, plates, cups, scarves, towels and pictures, while Elizabeth and Philip, along with the Queen Mum, greeted us from more. Betty giggled with excitement at her forthcoming trip down to London for the wedding procession of Andrew and Sarah (Fergie, as she was fondly known).
“Ma frend’s go’ us a seat on the route,” she told us. This, evidently, was access to an office or apartment that overlooked the road along which the royal wedding procession would travel.
Betty talked. Non-stop. For the entire day. When she was wondering what to say next, she would think on her feet and say, “Och, well, so there y’are, well, I don’t know, so, tell me.” That usually stretched sufficiently to bridge her to the next thought, and so she would continue. Sometimes she would just repeat “Och, well, so there y’are ….” until another thought popped into her head. And that way no-one else could get a word in edgeways either.
Mr Betty arrived home from work at 5pm. He walked in the door and, without saying a word or greeting anyone, went through to his bedroom, undid the top button of his work-shirt, removed his shoes and replaced them with slippers, and returned to the dining room table. He sat down and waited for his tea (evening meal). That’s what happens every day. She took him his tea, talking to us through the house as she did so. He said nothing. He never does, apparently.
Betty returned to the sitting room and perched herself on the arm of the sofa, where my husband’s long-suffering aunt with whom we’d travelled that day, was sitting. Betty sat next to her and began her segue-monologue. While she did so, she took out her handkerchief from the cuff of her cardigan and, with a hint of drama, shook it out in front of aunt’s face.
“D’ye like ma perfume? …. It’s a new one. …. It’s called Fergie.”
Och, well, so there y’are …. the colourful tartan of my married-into family. I just love it.
Sunshine signing off for today!