Aunt Maisie

My daughter likes working for Miss Felix, serving teas, selling cakes, washing dishes. She even managed to meet Lady Brender, the proprietress, a stately lady of eighty-two who still goes on cruises in the Mediterranean. “And she’s only just come back from Switzerland,” my daughter told me, full of admiration. Aunt Maisie was mighty impressed. How did my daughter meet Lady Brender? Through somebody called Miss Felix, I explained to her. It turned out, Aunt Maisie knew Miss Felix. Having worked in a gentleman’s house for over twenty years, I suppose one meets people. Lady Brender was one of them. “I enjoyed serving the gentry,” Aunt Maisie said, “everybody praised me for speaking well.” Aunt Maisie likes her visitors to turn up in big cars. She can see mine is old and rusty, but “it’ s huge, isn’t it” she says admiringly. I used it the other day to see her. I was in a terrible rush, but wanted to let her know that I wouldn’t be able to pay her the usual visit that week. She was surprized to see me at an unwonted time and I sat down for no more than a few minutes – such was my intention anyway. However, I didn’t even have to stay that long, because Aunt Maisie turned on her radio to listen to the weather forecast – probably a matter of routine, it was lunchtime – and I felt justified in leaving her on the spot.

She remarked to my daughter who brought her a birthday card a few days later, that I had barely stopped. My daughter laughed knowing full well why not. “Your mother is sweet,” Aunt Maisie then said, “not being a member of any charitable organisation and remembering my birthday, coming to see me. And she has the Orms, too”. Not like the Vicar. He hasn’t been once to see her! I had given him her address and reminded him twice. Keep on reminding me, he said, but I left off.

When I saw her next, she told me her neighbour was a “nasty old cat”. She looked most indignant at the thought of the worthless person and was waiting for comment. Here is what had happened. Her neighbour had told the Warden that Aunt Maisie’s drains … smelt! And not only that. She had also maintained that Aunt Maisie did her washing in the bathroom sink – hence the smell. “You know how big a bathroom sink is,” Aunt Maisie said, “I couldn’t wash my sheets in there. In any case, all my washing is done by my nephew’s wife.” Aunt Maisie shook her head, not knowing how to express her anger in a dignified way. The Warden had mentioned the problem to her. They had had a good laugh about it and her nephew had put a strong dose of disinfectant down her drain. “I’m just waiting for the wind to come from the East,” she said gleefully “and all the smell from the disinfectant will be wafted to my neighbour’s door! Funny old woman – she’s eighty-six or eighty-seven. Irish, too!” I told her these matters couldn’t be taken seriously enough. She laughed.