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Reading Aloud 2

Aunt Maisie

She told me all about the W.I. last time I saw her. She is an honorary member, the oldest member of her group in terms of membership, not in years, apparently there is one lady even older than she, not active like Aunt Maisie who regularly attends the monthly meetings, somebody takes her.

She knew that the President of the neighbouring W.I. had retired because she wanted to move to the West Country. Do you know her? she asked me. I was pleased to be able to say I did, if only by hearsay, Aldous’ wife had told me about her. Aunt Maisie knew her very well. She remembers the old-time dancing they did years ago. Who knows nowadays what old-time dancing is? she mused, good times they were.

Fancy who’s their new President! she said next and again I was pleased to show that I was in the picture: the Orms’ neighbour! She nodded approval. Yes, she said, aren’t they lucky. A wonderful lady. Full of energy. She’s going to take things in hand. Do you know, does a President get paid? I hadn’t the faintest idea but thought that ‘probably not’. She was satisfied and carried on: The President has an awful lot of work. I remembered Aldous’ wife saying something like that, she would accept the Vice-Presidency, she had explained, but no more. Too much hassle. Of course, Aunt Maisie went on, she has the Committee to work for her, no less than nine and no more than thirteen committee members and she raised her right forefinger to stress the point. Then she asked, did I know Mrs Soandso, I didn’t this time, a very busy member of the last committee. They had had several meetings in her house and her husband always used to help with the tea. Another committee member had a different type of husband, I gathered, who invariably took the dog for a walk as soon as they arrived. A long walk it must have been, Aunt Maisie said, slightly piqued, for they never saw that gentleman again all afternoon. Anyway, he was dead now, she informed me.

She came back to the neighbouring W.I. and said that the members of that group were all ‘quite ordinary people’. She paused and I wondered what she meant by that. I had no suggestion to make and she helped a little by saying: Well, in our group there are quite a few ‘so-calleds’. She paused again, looking expectantly, until at last the penny dropped. Did she mean they had a few … Ladies? She nearly had me excited because this particular phenomenon is unknown in my country. Yes, she said, pleased to be able to give me the information, we do, and very nice ones! According to her, many people think Ladies are stuck up. But they aren’t, you know, she said, I’ve worked for the gentry, real gentry, not the ones that came in after the War with nothing but money to show for it, I know what the real gentry are like. They – are – very – nice! I told her I believed they were.

At this point the subject seemed exhausted and Aunt Maisie passed on to her doctor who I knew already was a wonderful man. All the things he’d done for her. Even making her ulcer heal. All the different treatments he’d tried out, until at last it started healing up. The district nurse who was looking after her said it would have cost her a fortune paying for it out of her own pocket! Who knows, Aunt Maisie said to me, he might not have done it for everybody. She rather liked the idea.

I had to go home and she said she hoped I wouldn’t dispense with her. I hadn’t been to see her last week, and remembering that I had given up shopping for the Orms’, she probably wondered how I felt about her. I reassured her I wouldn’t dream about giving her up. You don’t shop for the Orms’ any more, do you? she asked slightly suspicious. No, I told her, just see them occasionally, once every three weeks or so. She said I certainly mustn’t do too much and I had started looking better already. I was surprized to hear it, she had never said anything to the contrary. No doubt she meant that visiting her wouldn’t do me any harm. I shall go on seeing her when I can.