In an almost unheard of break with our family’s long-standing tradition of avoiding one another, my parents are currently staying with my Aunt Poodle-Perm and her husband Under-The-Thumb.
This, I cannot help but feel, will be a precursor to some pressure to invite them to our wedding. An invitation that will be issued over my stiffening corpse.
Why? Well, put simply because I love pearls and therefore I loathe my aunt. The two are causally connected; bear with me.
I love pearls because they make me marvel. Really, how extraordinary it is that a creature as completely unprepossessing as an oyster can create a thing of such iridescent beauty out of an irritant. To make a pearl from a grain of sand by patiently wrapping it again and again in layers of the best of itself. I love that.
I loathe the aunt in question for both general and specific reasons. Let’s start with the general: she is, to put it in the vernacular, a right cow.
More particularly, she made off with my Grandmother’s pearl necklace out of spite when she died. It was expressly intended to be passed to me, and that is, I suspect, what pissed her off (she could never understand the bond between her mother and her niece) so she just ignored her mother’s wishes and kept the necklace.
The pearls are not intrinsically very valuable but my Grandmother wore them every day, even though she ran a farm. She was like that – she was a strong, pragmatic woman with a real sense of understated style who did not compromise her standards and was always well turned-out and I admired her immensely. The necklace was an engagement present, and she is wearing them in pretty much every photograph I have of her, including the one I keep by my bedside which was taken the day she first met me. I am a tiny baby, no more than a few days old, and she is holding me and looking as tender and delighted as any woman who has just been handed her first grandchild. I should very much like to have worn those pearls myself and, hopefully, passed them to my own grand-daughter one day. The fact that they now presumably adorn the fat neck of Aunt Poodle-Perm does not endear her to me.
So, when I’m asked if we’ll be inviting this aunt, her drippy husband and her daughters, my cousins, to our wedding the answer is no. I have nothing against my cousins – I wouldn’t recognise either of them if they passed me in the street, having not seen them in 20 years, though I’m sure they’re lovely people – but The Cow is not welcome at our wedding. I simply don’t have it in me to dissemble enough to her face to achieve anything like politeness, let alone familial warmth.
I cannot imagine what my parents are doing there. My father cannot stand his sister any better than the rest of us.