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Aunty Joan

 

I have always admired my Aunty Joan. A tall slim woman with an imposing presence, and someone who spoke as she found. She was my father’s sister and mother of my cousin. She was a widow with long thick white hair that she wore in a bun at the nape of her neck. She was a heavy smoker which gave a depth and rasp to her voice and a nicotine coloured highlight to her hair.

 

But I feared I was not her favourite nephew. At her house she had a big picture in the hall showing a silhouette of the city of Rome. Most of the buildings and their distinctive roof tops had discrete numbers on them and at the side of the picture there was a list telling which building was which. However, there was one that Aunty Joan could not find.

 

One day my family drove down to visit her and while the adults drank tea and chatted, I crept into the hall and studied the picture. After scanning all over the picture, checking the known ones, I suddenly I called out “I’ve found it!” They all came from the other room to see what I was shouting about and said, “Well done.”.

 

The next time we went to visit her, as we walked in through the hall I noticed that the picture wasn’t there anymore. When I asked her about it she told me, “Oh. Now all the buildings have been found there was no puzzle anymore and so and so it was of no interest to me, so I have binned it.” I was stunned. I felt as though I had destroyed the picture, that it was my fault it wasn’t there anymore. I was very quiet all the way home.

 

Another time, Aunty Joan came to see us and we children were allowed to sit quietly on the floor between the soft chairs in the lounge as the adults talked. She told Dad that she had joined a creative writing class and was rather proud of an essay she had written. Father encouraged her to read it out.

 

She fished out the sheet torn from her spiral bound notebook and began to read. It was a descriptive piece about life flowing through a new shopping centre in Bristol. She described some of the crowd walking from shop to shop and talking to each other as they went. She said they were sharing social intercourse.

Suddenly a pre-pubescent teenager’s head exploded. Alarms went off, lights flashed, sirens wailed inside my head. Aunty Joan was talking about SEX - in public! She said intercourse’. The alarms continued to sound and the rest of the reading of here essay was drowned out in my teenage head.

 

She finished reading and all the adults made appreciative noises, and the pre-pubescent me had recovered my equilibrium enough to nod and make my own appreciative noises, not that the adults bothered.

Gosh, so perhaps not everything is about sex.

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