IN FROM THE COLONIES

135My great aunt, Lady Merriweather, came to stay on Cheyne Walk last week. “Just in from the colonies” is how she describes her quarterly visits from “darkest Oxfordshire.” Aunt Merry is of ancient lineage, broad acreage and wiry frame. She smokes like a chimney, making her unwelcome in some quarters. “I take no prisoners,” she laughs in defence of her abrupt manner.

Aunt Merry is always keen to visit the Red Cross Shop on Old Church Street. “Only place to find anything decent to wear these days,” she sniffed. Even though Kate Middleton was often seen there, for the aunt it’s a no nonsense shop for “proper people.” So off we went with Bambino, my Scottie, looking very handsome in his new beaded collar.

Unlike Paris where dogs are always welcome, London has become very snooty about dogs. The other night at the Park Walk Art Evening where free drinks and canapés are served in the street, most gallery owners insisted that poor Bambino wait outside on the pavement with a cairn and a dashund. Only Jonathan Clark Fine Art welcomed him in. Happily we looked at the Hitchens, Mintons, Nicholsons at our leisure.

Kathy the manageress of the Red Cross couldn’t have been friendlier and showed us wonderful ear rings in from the British Modern sale at the V&A. They were 1930s black hoops. The aunt tried on a black velvet pillbox with a black veil. “Elsa Schiaparelli, peut être? It took twenty years off her tragic – comic face. Unfortunately, Bambino failed to recognize her in a hat and began a terrifying snarl. We left with our bargain treasures, and all for a good cause.

Dogs, like maiden aunts, are life enhancers. They both enjoy brisk walks, a quick snooze, and the occasional growl. Aunt Merry has a way of clearing her throat very like one of Bambino’s mezzo barks.

Atticus put his head around the door to ask if we wanted tea. “Martinis, more like,” snorted the aunt, settling into the comfortable chair in the bay window, overlooking the Thames.

It was a sultry June evening but a splash of cool water cheered up the tired yellow gladioli in the vase on the chiffonnier. “I’m just going up to splash my face with cold water,” boomed the aunt. She marched back down looking as fresh as the gladioli five minutes later.

Thank God, for aging aunts, I thought as she sat snoozing in the chair with Bambino snoozing at her feet. The mantle clock chimed seven o’clock and I tip-toed off to water the garden before she awoke for martinis. It was a miracle she could sleep through the bells which ring for forty-five minutes every Thursday at the Old Church.

— Mrs M

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