A few short weeks ago, sobbing with relief, I finally waved Uncle Adultery off after his extended Lewes sojourn. He’d been resident on my chaise longue since October when he broke his ankle running away from an estate agent, and I’d been dutifully nursing him back to health, which is not my strong suit. I began strongly with, “Dearest Uncle, can I tempt you with a little homemade chicken broth just like Booba Baumgarten used to make in the Stoke Newington shtetl with her own fowls?” But this palled almost immediately, and for the best part of three months our interactions were more along the lines of, “Whaddya want NOW?” “Merely the finest quails eggs lightly poached upon a gold-plated loaf from Flint Owl, dear Niecey.” “Here’s some beans on Kingsmill 50/50 you rotten old malingerer,” [chucks plate onto Uncle’s lap and turns up telly].
It’s been indescribably wonderful having my house back. So imagine my face when I answered the door yesterday to find Uncle Adultery looming on the stoop, wearing a startling tartan suit in the style of the Bay City Rollers. “Greetings, favourite niece!” he cried, and made as if to enter the hall, but I blocked his passage with the elephant’s foot umbrella.
“Did you leave something here, Unc?” I asked. “Just text me the details and I’ll post it to you instanter. Bye!” I went to shut the door but his early experience of flogging the Encyclopaedia Britannica meant he was already in the hallway.
“I fear I rather overstayed my welcome recently, Niecey,” he said, stepping into the living room with a proprietary air. “So I’ve decided to make amends by throwing you an authentic Burns Night supper. Oh dear, you’ve moved that picture, I don’t like it there so well.”
“Comments and questions, Uncle. One: A Fortnums hamper would have been adequate recompense for my nursing stint. Two: How can you do an authentic Burns supper, never having been to Scotland or indeed, knowing where it is? Three: Burns Night is 25th January which is a worrying several days away.”
Uncle Adultery pulled from his sporran-shaped manbag a tam o’ shanter and planted it on his head. “Och, dinna worry your little heid, hen.”
“Stop that please.”
“Sorry. Just getting in the spirit. To answer in order. The haggis is from Fortnums. My dear friend Hamish McDougal will be running the ceremonies in his kilt. It’s going to take several days to make all the necessary preparations.”
“You’ve made up Hamish McDougal haven’t you?”
“That’s not his real name; it’s his Highland persona. He’s much in demand for his readings of Address to a Haggis.”
Uncle A put down his – I now noticed – suitcases and sighed happily. “Good to be back, Niecey. Emmanuelle’s needing a teensy bit of space right now. I’ll just make up the chaise and then I’ll get cracking on the invitations.”
Beth Miller, 19th January 2012. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith