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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


The name Maud has been following me around all week. You know the kind of thing: you never saw a specific car before, and suddenly, everywhere you turn, it's staring you in the face.

In my case I think, it's because my cousin Maudie emailed me out of the blue, saying she was in NYC, and would I like a job?

Once I got my breath back, and emailed her, "No thanks. You are a queer duck, you know that, don't you?", she replied she had landed me a possible at a kind of concierge service, which the fine folks at A Small World would instantly recognise as one of their own.

The firm is called, Quintessentially. Oh dear. How Hyacinth Bucket.

Maudie was all agog that I should join, and though I had to gently remind her that I wasn't at a loose-end, thank you very much, she said I would be in my element since they even had a South Florida office AND Tom Parker-Bowles, the firm's partner, sometimes visited it.

That's all I needed to know. The Rotweiller's son. Next.

In many ways, Maudie reminds me of our dear old Aunt Maud, for whom she is named. She loved name-dropping, less as a starry-eyed reader of Tatler, than a participant of the right type of social set to which their readers aspired. This Maudie and that Maud knew tout le monde, and seemingly, tout le monde knew them.

One of my favourite Aunt Maud anecdotes was a rollicking story she herself told whenever she dropped by for tea, conveniently so just before 4 o'clock every afternoon (and to those of you unaccustomed to full teas, they are not just petit-fours and tepid teabags, but often a substantial meal). My grandmother wryly observed that fact, since she was the one feeding her every other day.

But like all good moochers, Aunt Maud had a bag of tricks which to entertain her hosts. Her spirited guitar renditions of "Viva España!" are a family favourite to this day.

At the end of her life, when female alopecia was doing its worse, she wore a red wig on her balding pate, and every time she VIVA!'ed, it would go slightly askew, sending us in peels of laughter from the room. She sang on, completely unchastened.

Afterwards, she would reminisce about her friends in high places. My grandfather, her brother, and she would sally back and forth in the conversation, whilst the family were laughing into their hankies. It was as good as a play.

"This reminds me of that time when the Duke of Windsor and that awful woman were staying at the Everglades Hotel in Miami", she would start, àpropos of nothing.

"Does it, indeed", said granddad, not looking up from his teacup.

"My dears, too awful. He came down the staircase, without a STITCH." (Snort from granddad) "And you'll never guess what he had in his hands!".

"The British Boy's Annual?".

"NO! A twelve-bore!".

"That American woman was certainly a lucky lady."

That was Aunt Maud, and is Maudie today, all over. God bless 'em.


  • "Her spirited guitar renditions of "Viva España!" are a family favourite to this day."

    I'm trying very hard -- without success -- to tell whether you're pulling our collective leg with this very funny bit.

    By Blogger JSU, at Tue Mar 22, 05:12:00 am GMT-5  

  • Nonono. It's Gospel truth.

    I have a slew of Aunt Maud anecdotes which I had to choose from, but this one is THE most famous one in my family.

    Aunt Maud in turn had a sister-in-law called Hilda, but who called herself 'Carmen' because she had a gypsy mania (she even learnt Romany at some point in her life).

    Since they all are long since dead (helas), I have no way of checking, but I personally feel it was thru' this Aunt Carmen that Aunt Maud became proficient in guitar. It was not beyond her to get lacy doilies and put them on her head (and thereto, wig), in lieu of a mantilla, when she sang, either. Priceless.

    BTW, both these ladies shared an amazing facial similarity, and were frequently confused with each other -- the basis for even more hilarious anecdotes which alas, are beyond the scope of this reply, although this bit below brings a smile of remembrance to me:

    Aunt Carmen (obviously not my own aunt, but I still referred to her thusly) used to call her children her "miscarriages" for some unknown reason.

    "And this is Jeremy, my oldest miscarriage."

    I love my family.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 22, 01:25:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Please please may I retrospectively adopt your aunts?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Mar 23, 12:38:00 am GMT-5  

  • Sarah, you would've especially been in heaven with both aunts since they loved Glyndebourne, rarely missing a performance there (which as you know, is damn difficult to do since it's impossible to get in).

    Both these ladies were deep lovers of music, a great family legacy. In fact, BOTH sides of my family are highly musical (my dad plays the flute and violin, my mother the piano and the accordion), yet I had to go and come out unmusical. :(


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Mar 23, 01:07:00 am GMT-5  

  • Wonderful story Vicky! I love colourful characters and await your interpretation of Viva España! with bated breath.;)

    Well I still remember a bit of the clarinet so we're 2/5 of the way to a wind quintet.

    By Blogger Renato, at Wed Mar 23, 11:33:00 pm GMT-5  

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