Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Can I help you?
I ought to mention - for one last time - Sis's send-off, for all you who have been kind enough to wish us well on the day, and that day was yesterday.
As predicted, all went fine and I hope that the highly personal and emotional address given directly to her boxed mother will draw some sort of line under recent events for Niece.
Pulling up in the car-park, I found myself shaking hands with elderly strangers who turned out to be relatives, and an old family friend and I suddenly became reacquainted after a period of about 45 years. Only when she smiled I realised that this was the slightly older girl who I had a teenage crush on, developed during long and boring visits to her parents by mine - me in tow because I was too young to leave behind. It made me realise that I am now over this crush and - quite unsurprisingly - I never noticed the passing.
Sister-in-law gave an address which highlighted the humour for which Sis will always be remembered, and one story involved me - well almost.
I was reminded of the time when Sis - expecting me to come home at a particular time without a door-key - stuffed a small pillow under one shoulder of her jumper and contorted her body into a rough parody of Charles Laughton playing Quasimodo in Notre Dame.
Sis had a remarkable, comic control over her own face. At will, she could make her eyeballs rotate independently of each other, and her mouth stretch diagonally to such an extreme degree that it seemed that one corner of it would be just below her left ear-lobe, as the other would be just above her right jaw-bone.
She had a similar control over her voice, and was the only amateur singer in the Waynfleet Choir to effortlessly cover three octaves and still stay in perfect pitch. I once saw (and heard) her practicing hitting as low a bass note as she could muster, and - believe me - Willard White would have been proud of her.
So hearing the doorbell ring that evening, she slowly shuffled to the door and made a great show of un-sliding bolts and chains (yes, we did have bolts and chains on the doors of our big, old house) and - having adopted the hideous face and posture - slowly opened it to allow for as long a creak as possible, then vaguely looking up in the direction of the stranger on the other side, said in a low, cracked and strangled voice, "Can I help you?"
We never did find out who that visitor was or what he wanted, because he spun around and actually ran away from the house, never to return.