Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Recollections of a naughty grandmother

An old friend of mine came round for supper last week and was reminding me of stories about my very naughty maternal grandmother. Far from baking cakes, Kate used to give me whisky and cigarettes when I was a small child and my bed time stories would be about antics in nightclubs where waiters were bitten by pet tigers, or lovers that tried to double cross her and failed. She was tall and glamorous, never with a snag in her tights or safety pin for a button. Even at 80 years old, her legs would be the best in the room and she'd sit in the corner while people flocked to talk to her.

In her earlier years, for almost two decades, she had an affair with an Earl in Scotland. They wrote to each other daily and he gave her an owl. He promised he would wait for her to divorce so they could marry but then suddenly he met someone else and arranged to marry her within three months. She said later she was demented with heartbreak – which means that perhaps we may forgive her the next part of the story. But perhaps not.

On the eve of the wedding, she wrote two letters. One, to her former lover, said: "Darling R–, I am so sorry that you have been forced into marriage with this terribly plain girl...How awful it will be for you to be forced to look upon her plain face when you wake in the morning...What terrible circumstances have brought you to this. My poor love. Etc." The second said: "Dear M–, What simply wonderful news of your marriage. How happy you will be. With very best wishes, Kate."

And then she put them in the wrong envelopes.

Deliberately? But, of course.

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