Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scene 4: Parma Violet Tea, The Movie. Enter Aunty Margaret

The time has come for a little light relief, I feel.  Time to introduce some new characters into this love story, which is limping along in a manner more torpid than torrid. Scene 4 takes place in the parlour of a small, neat miner's cottage.  Miss Underscore is visiting her octogenarian Aunt Margaret. Margaret is a shrunken, desiccated woman with a cauliflower perm and lips that can purse as tightly as a cat's bottom.  She looks like she would be most at home knitting under a guillotine.  Despite her age Aunty Margaret is as feisty and snappy as a jack russell.

Even though it is a warm Spring day there is a coal fire burning in the grate. A clothes horse, strewn with Aunty Margaret's voluminous undergarments stands in front of the fire.  Miss Underscore and Aunty Margaret are sipping tea and nibbling Mr Kipling French Fancies.

Aunty M:  He's been here again, Miss Underscore.  The BEAST,  (she shudders) with his grubby hands and his weasel eyes.  Every Monday it's the same. I've got the measure of HIM.  I know his SORT. Oooh,  even the rustle of his anorak sets my teeth on edge.

Miss U:  (sighing) Are we talking about Great Uncle Percy again?

Aunty M:  Who else?   I'm his sister in law.  I'm not interested in the likes of him. Vera must be spinning in her grave.  He stays for hours, but he's got no conversation.  He sits in that armchair there, brooding, like a corpse in moccasins.  His eyes are burning all the time though.  Staring, like the devil himself.

Miss U:  Staring at what?

Aunty M: (triumphantly, pointing to the clothes horse) AT MY SMALLS!  Monday is my washing day.  He knows that.  That's why he comes round on a Monday, see?  The dirty villain!

Miss U: (smiling) Your smalls?  They're not exactly small, Aunty Margaret. They're enormous  (nodding towards the clothes horse). Your smalls are so big they're probably visible from space,  like the Great Wall of China.

Aunty M: (laughing, despite herself)  The GREAT SMALLS OF CHINA! You are wicked.   Your Uncle Bert was the only man for me, Miss Underscore. No one else will ever take his place.  Have another French Fancy, you're wasting away over there.  Have you got a tape-worm? You're malnourished. You've not gone vegetarian again have you?

Miss U:  No, I haven't. That was 20 years ago.  I don't think anyone has EVER accused me of looking malnourished Aunty Margaret.  It's just as well you didn't opt for a career in medicine.

Aunty M:  Well, the National Health Service's loss was the Co-Op's gain, I suppose. I could have been a great nurse, I think.  But my vocation was hosiery.  (whispering conspiratorially)  I managed to  squirrel away king's ransom of American Tan support tights.  That's my legacy, Miss Underscore.  I'll see you alright in my will, don't you worry. You'll just have to let me know your size.

(pause for Mr Kipling nibbling)

Aunty M:  So, tell me about this man you've been seeing. Senor Boldon, is that his name?  What is he like?  Please God, tell me this one has a job, not like that 40 year old student you dated for years.  What a fool. Can you tell me, Miss Underscore, what is the point of having a PHD?  What was it in again?

Miss U:  Contemporary History and Sociology

Aunty M:  (scathingly) Neither use nor ornament.  That time I asked him to fix the latch on my gate he couldn't manage it!  What USE was his 'ology then?   What COULD he do, Miss Underscore, that's what I'd like to know?

Miss U:  Well, he was adept at using the word 'discourse' in everyday conversation. He was good at wearing rumpled linen grandad shirts.  He proved extremely competent at impregnanting first year undergraduate students.  He was good at all those things.  But, yes, I take your point.  He WAS a fool.  Senor Boldon does have a good job, he's a burger executive. He has a nice house, two cars and a second home in Spain.

Aunty M:  Hobbies?  

Miss U: Scowling, swearing, perpetuating uncomfortable silences.  

Aunty M:  How old?  What does he look like?

Miss U:  A few years older than me.  He's a rather brooding.  He always wears black.

Aunty M:  Ooh, like the Milk Tray man?  Is he a good person though?   Does he go to church?  What football team does he support?

Miss U:  He doesn't go to church, doesn't like football.  He's quiet really.  Quite grumpy, some would say.  A bit serious.  Sweet though and a decent man I think.

Aunty M:  Ooooh, that all sounds good.  I like a quiet, dignified man.  A bit like your Uncle Bert, eh?  He was a serious man.  Loyal.  Decent.  I can't be doing with these buffoons who are laughing and joking all the time, those jolly Liverpudlian types,  that SORT would drive me to drink. So, you like him?

Miss U:  Yes, I do, I like him a lot.

Aunty M: Good.  I don't like to think of you alone.  No mum, no dad, alone in that big old house of yours.  You'll have to bring him round one day. Not on a Monday mind!  I don't want him ogling my smalls as well. I'll get some extra Mr Kipling in. Maybe even some custard slices.

Miss U:  We'll see, Aunty Margaret.  There is still lots of time for everything to go horribly wrong.

Aunty M: Well, if it does just let me know.  If he upsets  you then come to me. I've still got your Uncle Bert's WW2 pistol at the bottom of the wardrobe (gleefully) It's buried under the tights! I like the sound of Senor Boldon.  He's a man of few words.  A Humphrey Bogart sort.  Just like Bert.

Miss U:  Senor Boldon has carpet in the bathroom, Aunty Margaret.  Is that very Humphrey Bogart do you think?

Aunty M: That shows wisdom and common sense.  You can get a terrible chill in the bathroom. Or have a nasty fall.  I have carpet in the bathroom.  Humphrey would have had carpet in the bathroom, I'm sure.  Although, I bet poor Lauren Bacall was forever hoovering up his cigarette ash.

Miss U:  I'd better be going Aunty Margaret, I'll see you soon.  (they hug)  I am so pleased you had Uncle Bert to look after you.  I am pleased you picked your own Bogey.

Aunty M:  (cackling) You are a terrible girl, Miss Underscore.  Remember, I've got the pistol, if you need it!

(Miss Underscore exits, smiling)


  1. The part of Aunty Margaret has got Julie Walters written all over it. No, that's a bit too obvious. Sue Johnstone is a bit young for it, but could be very good. Mirren's performance in The Queen will have prepared her well for this sort of challenge. Caroline Aherne could make a decent stab. Just as long as it's not Liz Jones.

  2. I love Aunty M. That SORT, indeed. HA! Love her, I tell you.
    Judy Dench, maybe?

  3. Aunty M is like a social anthropologist, with her many SORTS. I am kind of hoping, if we pay her enough Mr Kipling, that she will play herself.