I hadn’t thought about Auntie Jean for ages, but the story of the storks nesting on St Giles Cathedral brought her to mind.
She wasn’t really my aunt. She and her mother lived next door to my mother and her family, and they became best friends, apparently tapping to each other through the wall of the cupboards under the stairs, where they both slept during air raids in WW2.
My mother’s parents moved from Bristol to Barry, South Wales, in the early part of the 20th century. My mum was born in that house in 1928, and Jean in the neighbouring house one year later.
We visited my grandparents most summers, and a highlight was going next door to see Auntie Jean and her mother, Auntie Teg (Tegwyn who was really Welsh, unlike my family). There was no father; I seem to remember he had been killed in some sort of industrial accident. Auntie Teg had a black range with a fire burning inside and gave us tea and blissful Jaffa cakes (we always had plain biscuits at home) and – I never needed much encouragement – she and Jean watched my ‘shows’ of singing and prancing and always clapped and said “There’s marvellous!”
I loved Auntie Jean very much. Her brown eyes sparkled and she threw back her head when she laughed, which she did very often.
Suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 42 Auntie Jean decided to get married. The only thing we knew about her huband was his name (Alan) and that he had a mural in his dining room. Nobody else we knew had a mural. What he and Jean had in common was that they both loved Scotland with all their hearts and so when Auntie Teg died some years later they upped sticks and went to live in Edinburgh.
Alan started work as a motorbike courier and Auntie Jean became a volunteer at St Giles Cathedral.
Follow this link to see the Cathedral:
So when we decided to visit Scotland, she offered us a personal tour and invited us for a meal in her flat, with Alan, and she would make her famous Atholl Brose for dessert.
Thrilled, we agreed to meet in Cathedral Café, left our campsite in plenty of time and Horst mentally prepared to steer my elderly blue left-hand drive Honda Civic through the Edinburgh traffic.
Crash! a car drove into us as we crawled around a roundabout. We called the police, who took down details but were strangely uninterested.
By now we were nearly late for Auntie Jean, so Horst said he would find a place to park while I ran to meet her. I told her about the accident while we sipped our tea and she told me that on that very day all one-way routes and priorities in Edinburgh had changed and there was a one month ‘no fault’ arrangement for any accidents, which were after all bound to happen. Oh.
We sipped and sipped and waited and waited. Auntie Jean told me that there was a lot of traffic in town that day as there was a huge Tina Tina Turner concert planned for that evening.
At last Horst arrived. He had had to park miles away, he said, next to some Palace or other, and while he was looking for a place to park he had somehow got in between a motorcade, there were lots of ladies sitting in the cars wearing big hats, and they were waving and people were waving back at them. And him.
Auntie Jean gasped. That Palace was the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the residence of the Monarch when in Scotland, and yes, the Queen was in Edinburgh that very day and oh crumbs! Our Horst, in my dented and damaged elderly Honda Civic had been part of the Royal Motorcade.
With the Queen.
The Cabin Fever part
Practise your Scots: