Late Spring, and up pops Uncle Adultery for his biannual visit. At the station we get off on the wrong foot immediately as I try and wave away a brassy blonde who is inexplicably hanging round. Far from naffing off however she yanks me into a hug of such bosomy intensity that I’m instantly transported back to my childhood, a non-stop round of cleavage-clasps from my numerous interchangeable Mittel-European aunties.
Uncle A beams at me. ‘Niecey, may I present Charlene?’
Charlene calls me ‘Niecey’ too, and giggles when I try and formally shake her hand. I miss Uncle A’s previous austere lady-friend who would soon as wear cheap underwear as clasp me to her narrow chest.
‘What’s happened to Emmanuelle?’ I whisper later to Uncle A, as Charlene powders her nose in the little girl’s room. I didn’t even know I had a little girl’s room.
‘Ah, mysterious are the whims of the fairer sex,’ sighs my Uncle, flinging his panama hat across the room to indicate that mere words won’t suffice.
‘Dumped you again did she?’
‘Like a hot frittata. But am I downhearted? I am not. Met Charlene on a rival dating agency’s books. She’s such fun.’
Charlene enters, her va-va-voom ratcheted up a notch, and sits on Uncle A’s lap in so fun a style than I discreetly leave the room. I suppose this is Uncle Adultery’s mid-life crisis; he’s recently become a grandfather, which must challenge his belief that he’s in his early forties. I give them a little time – I take the opportunity to put together an IKEA rocking chair – and when I return Charlene is painting her nails leopardskin and watching GMT with George Alagiah. George is on the telly, I mean, not watching with her. My uncle is fast asleep on the sofa.
‘Niecey hon,’ says Charlene, ‘Girl to girl, I need me some cowgirl boots.’
‘Why, sure you do Missy Charlene.’
‘I hear Lewes don’t good for essentials, so lets vamoose to Brighton.’
‘No need - you can get them here!’
‘You can?’ Charlene’s mid-Western drawl veers into Wigan but she recovers quickly. ‘Well whadda we waiting for?’
I don’t see what she does to him but Uncle Adultery wakes with a squeak and we head off to the Union Music Store. A delighted Charlene buys a pair of midnight blue Daisy Cowgirl boots and strides proudly ahead, yee-ha-ing at passersby. She has obtained a lasso from somewhere.
‘So what are your fun plans for later, Uncle A?’ I ask. ‘Eagles Tribute Night at the Komedia? Curst Sons at the Volunteer?’
Uncle A grabs my arm and pulls me into Church Twitten. Charlene, oblivious, saunters away up Friars Walk, swishing her fringed hotpants. My uncle’s eyes are wild, and very tired. ‘Niecey, how about this? I buy you cocktails and dinner at Pelham House, and in return we lose Charlene for a bit?’
‘That sounds like fun,’ I say, and he shudders at the very word.
Beth Miller, 8th June 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Daisy Martin