I know that Auntie May can be rather prissy about her cooking – with rules and regulations on quantities, proportions, when to chiffonade her vegetables and so on – but she didn't come up the fjord on a banana boat, and while her recipe books, her own handwritten ones, have become palimpsest with overwriting, usually when she has decided that Eve's Pudding has become passé, or Duck with Orange is really too twee, so they were rubbed out and replaced with something Vegan until that bored her, but she knew how to feed an army, which was just as well when my cousin Pru Montelimart (nee Goldfish) and her eleven daughters: Lola, Pola, Cola, Nola, Rola (aged 16) Dara, Hara, Kara, Mara, Bara (aged 14) and Joan (aged 12) turned up at the house a few days after my operation; they brought bunches of grapes, bottles of Lucozade and twelve different magazines for me to while away my convalescence, which was thoughtful – if not imaginative; but I dare say that Pru doesn't really have enough time for imagination, having had to provide shelter, food and clothing for her brood single-handedly since Gustave did a bunk before Joan was born – he probably assumed it would be another multiple birth and felt he couldn't cope with another five girls – which, as he was not much use with the first ten was rather perceptive of him, but don't get me started . . . . .
The staid, rather bored-looking legionnaire, with only another year's service freezing his balls off here in Caledonia before returning to his home in Tuscany, stood at the dark end of the scutchell, leaning into a shadow of the wall, waiting, patient, for he knew that this was the route the two boys would take back home, confident, because the action would be ephemeral and he would be out of the ginnel almost before their bodies hit the ground, pleased that his pay for such an inconsequential act would be the same value as a year's service, yet also curious why the job was worth so much to his employer; but long service in the Legion had taught him one thing above all else: never question an order, simply do it!
"Shall we play the Betteridge's Law version?" asked Aunt Maude, but Aunt Daphne shook her head: "no! in Mornington Crescent it's called Betteridge's Contract, isn't that right, Father?" at which Father Mungo looked askance: "no, no," he said, shaking his head gravely, "that can't be roit sure tae guidness, isn't it Betteridge's Authorised Version?" and he looked to me for support, but all I could think of was the Arnold Palmer Putt, by which one could move, without challenge from Parson's Green to Green Park, thanks to a chip from Palmer's Green, which as everyone knows, is one of the few British Rail-only stations that can be played, and even win an extra turn, which was why I said: "no, father, that's the King James Bible; you're thinking of the Arnold Palmer Putt, isn't he, Aunt Maude?" but she gave me a look of such asperity, that I thought she must have a secret stash of Acid Drops in her bag: "no!" she spat, quite taking me aback, "how long have you been playing this game, young woman, five minutes?" and I cast my eyes down: "no, Aunt Maude, I started when I was five, so thirty years, I do believe I've mastered the rules by now, isn't that right, Aunt Daphne?" who laughed out loud: "oh, no, ho, ho, ho, your win in the last round was obviously beginner's luck! the Romans could build straight enough roads and compact the surface, so that their army could move quickly, but it certainly wasn't macadamized, it took a Scot to think of adding tar, and you've still got a lot to learn about Mornington Crescent, Theresa, hasn't she, Father?" but Macaneny put down his glass of Laphraoigh and looked Aunt Daphne straight in the eyes, and said: "no, bejasus! that last turn was a master-stroke, like the one Jack Nicklaus used in the Open, furst time he won it, Muirfield in '66, sure wasn't I his caddy that year and we both ended up flat on our backs outside the Clubhouse, efter everybuddy else had gone, starin up at the stars lightin the way tae Heaven, ah, dose wis de days, me frenz, d'ye remember 'em Daffy?" and she grabbed his glass, downed the contents in one and with a stony set to her face said: "NO! not the way you do, Macaneny! through decades of alcohol fumes! you don't fool me - when you mix yourself an Arnold Palmer, using whisky instead of flat lemonade in the tea! and never, NEVER, call me that again!"
Me: Bond Street
Father Macaneny: "Goldhawk Road"
Aunt Daphne: "Green Park"
Aunt Maude: "too Disneyfied, Marble Arch"
Me: "ooh, turn turtle, Mansion House"
Father Macaneny: "that's a prodigious leap in the dark, begorrah, Mavourneen, Bakerloo Extension, Elephant an Castle"
Aunt Daphne: "Goodge Street"
Aunt Maude: "I see you're playing the Manhattan Project, dear heart, South Kensington"
Me: Tooting Bec
Father Macaneny: an there wis me about to shout Balham, right, now, Victoria
Aunmt Daphne: East Finchley
Aunt Maude: "don't be reckless, sweetheart, Wood Green"
Me: Baker Street
Father Macaneny: Monument - oh how I love a Monument!"
Aunt Daphne: "are we playing the Ducklands Light Railway Variation?*
Me: "go for it"
Aunt Daphne: "Watford"
Aunt Maude: Chorleywood
Me, isn't that Running Close? Hanger Lane
Father Macaneny: Bugger me Backwards, Bromley-by-Bow
Aunt Maude: "Mudchute"
Me: "too much flerovium there – Mornington Crescent!"