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Bedeviled by aunties


I’ve started and abandoned several posts tonight. I’m sick of the sound of my own voice, I guess. So, here…here’s a picture of something.

Who is she? No idea. She has a sweet face, hasn’t she?

Years ago, I had a friend who was a photographer; his work sometimes took him abroad. When it did, I looked after his cats for him. He paid me with bits of junk he picked up in his travels. I love me some bits of junk.

There’s a flea market in London he liked particularly (note to self: why have I never been to this alleged flea market in London?); picture frames were something I liked particularly (I like to start with the frame and then paint the picture for it). Hence, this.

Only, he bought it with the photograph in. And every time I tried to throw the picture away — or at least take it out of the frame — I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t. What if this is the last vestige of this lady on earth? What if I toss it and there’s nothing left to prove she even existed? It would be like she never was. Like I’d wiped her right out of human history with my own fair paw. That’s a heavy burden to hand a weasel.

So she lives on my sideboard, next to my actual family. There are no notations on the photo (people! Be kind to the strangers who inhabit the future! Write names on your stuff!), but the photographer was Edmund Wheeler, 43 Western Road, Brighton.

Brighton! I don’t know from ‘Western Road’ but I’ve left Brighton headed West a time or two. Maybe we crossed paths, Aunt Fan and me.

Aunt Fan. I made that up. And the book she’s reading: it’s Wuthering Heights. She thought it was rubbish. And tosh. She liked to say “rubbish” and “tosh”. She also liked port in the evening. I made all that up, too.

You live with somebody else’s Auntie on your sideboard for twenty years, you have a right to her biography, I say.


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: May 31, 2007, 8:26 pm

Old Aunt Fan? We knew her well down at the Bricklayers’ Arms, in Brighton.

Not that she drank there, y’unnerstan…. But she’d gather outside on a Sunday evening with the rest of the hallelujah brigade and sing hymns. Never seen anyone in my life who could do 9/8 time on a tambourine like old Aunt Fan.

They’d get to the bridge on Jesus Wants My Gerbil’s Ass – the bit where the trombone drops to C# – and everyone else looks around, like, ‘who did that?’ – and she’d just let rip! Ha! Dear old Aunt Fan. The best fantasy rhythm section I ever heard.

Damn shame about the smack. And the goats.

The goats were bad.

Comment from whitishrabbit
Time: May 31, 2007, 9:07 pm

at least she didn’t…

…you know….

…smack goats.

Comment from Billygoat McGoo
Time: May 31, 2007, 9:13 pm

I’ve seen the descendents of those goats – the ones that survived, that is. They were on TV.

All you have to do is say “Aunt Fannie!” to them and they spontaneously drop into a coma with their rear legs crossed protectively.

A study was done as to why it occurs, but the Principle Investigator in charge – a devout Quaker – was simply too embarrassed to publish the results.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 31, 2007, 11:49 pm

Well, I just had to say thats very cool that you adopted the lady in the photo. An example of cosmic kindness, whatever that is. I get the same feeling when I go to antique shops. You see the objects of someones life. I can’t remember the poem but it says something like every gust of wind carries the dust of those that were here before. W.B.Yeats maybe, sounds like Yeats. I wonder if thats one of the things I like about antiques,now that I think about it, they have a past. Anyway, I liked the poetic nature of the cosmic adoption. BTW I also enjoyed the travel log very much.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: June 1, 2007, 12:18 am

I found out who she was, she was the duchess of Staffordsureshire. A Royal who spent her latter life running a sugar cane plantation in the British Islands. She was kind like you said, she would knit sweaters for all the slaves on the plantation. They liked her so much they would wear them, of course this was a disaster as it gets very hot in the cane fields. So the plantation failed and she ran away with a slave named Mabatoo. Mabatoo had a thing for angora sweaters, and an incredible tolerance for heat. The Royal family removed her name from the records and to this day they will deny she ever existed. I would hide that photo as it could be embarrassing to the Royal family.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 1, 2007, 2:55 am

That’s an amazing bit of detective work, Leeuwenhoek. All I could find was that the photographer – Wheeler – had two studios: one at 33 Clarence Square from 1871 to 1902, and one at 43 Western Road from 1873 to 1907.

So if I mention the D of S to the Royal family, will they immediately fall comatose with their legs crossed protectively?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 1, 2007, 3:36 am

McGoo, you’re psychic. Or psychotic. Or something.

We had a herd of those goats when I was a…dear me, I almost said “kid.” It’s early. Anyhow, we had a dozen of those epileptic goats. Seriously.

They were given to my dad by somebody at Vanderbilt. They suited his sense of Olympian self worth. He would step into the back yard and go “WROAH!” and they’d all fall over like bowling pins.

I always thought they were developed at Vanderbilt to study epilepsy, but I just dug up this article in the Robertson County Times which says a Bolivian named Tinsley who didn’t speak any English brought them to Lewisburg in the early 19th Century. A likely story.

Then I stared into the eyes of Lana Osborne and had a Tennessee flashback. I can’t be sure, but I think I fell over like a bowling pin for a second there.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: June 1, 2007, 5:20 am

Mr. McGoo I have to admit, I made some of that up. 😉

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 1, 2007, 6:42 am

Aw – Leeuw’, ya burst my bubble! I bought all of it – hook, line, and sinker, and was in awe of your scholarship. I was looking a bit askance at the Mabatoo episode though, until I found a reference to the name on the net. Something about blacksmithing in Marble Falls, TX – a town which (by coincidence) I know well.

Weasel – yes, I am. So are you, since I see that the next post (Next. Post. !!!) is about a subject I really like: Krakatoa.

We two musta evolved from the same patch of blue-green algae.

Those goats are really strange: I really did see a TV show about them, and I assumed that shouting “Aunt Fannie” (or anything else) really would set them off. A form of Narcolepsy, isn’t it?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 1, 2007, 7:21 am

Epilepsy. Brief, startle-induced seizures. Their legs lock. Sometimes they fall over. Sometimes only the front or back legs lock and they drag themselves around until it passes. Pathetic, really. In a cruel and hilarious sort of way.

I wandered into their pasture one day, forgetting the fact that I was small and not particularly startling, and the billygoat threw me up against the barn and butted my ass black and blue. So, you know, I paid my dues.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 1, 2007, 12:26 pm

Ah-ha. I thought they passed out/went to sleep, like…well..narcoleptics.

So, I guess its really true that billygoats can be a pain in the ass. Good to know. Did you name him Butthead?

Comment from Gnus
Time: June 1, 2007, 12:28 pm

The revenge of the billygoats is a terrible thing.

Comment from Missourian
Time: June 1, 2007, 8:52 pm

I’m so digging that frame. Keep auntie in it. It is probably worth more that way.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 1, 2007, 9:05 pm

The frame isn’t quite as nice as it looks in the picture. It’s old, but it’s a cheap brass thing and a bit clumsy.

It’s part of a pair. The other had a picture in it, too. That one didn’t have a photographer’s mark or anything. The woman in the picture is a sour-faced consumptive cow.

Yes, I kept that one also. I couldn’t wipe a human being off the page of history just for looking like she smells something. Could I?

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: June 2, 2007, 3:18 pm

Ok, ok, I made all of it up. lol 😉

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 2, 2007, 3:26 pm

Are you saying the Duchess of Staffordsureshire didn’t really knit sweaters?! Pull the other one!

Well, Mr. smarty-pants, then just WHAT did she do on that plantation all those years?

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: June 3, 2007, 11:26 am


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