Funny Kids Holiday

It’s funny what you remember from your childhood. I certainly remember starchy, ancient Great Aunt Eva.

I was always surprised we called her Eva; Her name was, after all, Evangeline and formality followed her, closely, at a trot, wherever she went. My first memory of her was at her door. She was quietly but firmly berating her maid who had transgressed some vital social code by answering my aunt’s door with her sleeves rolled up. The poor maid had presumably just come from washing dishes. The tirade seemed excessive, especially for rural Suffolk. I doubt, though, that the maid ever transgressed again. I was a small boy, grasping my mother’s hand, but it stuck in my mind.

When she visited us in Southampton the next year the sudden imposition of formality and strict adherence to manners made good sense to me. The appearance of good tablecloths for every meal, the correct use of cutlery, the conversational niceties made sense. No one said, “Oh mum, really?” or “Do we have to.” We were in the social trenches together.

It was a hot summer that year. The holidays were one sunny, slow walking, idle day after the other. The bottoms of tee shirts were pulled up to wipe sweating brows every few steps. Shade was sought mechanically, without words. Bicycles were the preferred mode of transport, with built in breeze.

So it was that Tim had left his splendidly new, three gear Raliegh on our front lawn to join us reading comics in the shade of the back shed. Comics supplied by Geoff, from four doors up the street, who seemed to have an endless supply. He would sit reading with his thumb in his mouth and the other hand twisting the front tuft of his hair for the entire day. The three of us had spent a number of shed shade, comic reading days that pavement melting summer.

Really, it was when the call for tea came and Tim slouched to the front of the house that the Eva story really starts. Tim’s bike pump was gone. It was a shining, new, blue, metal pump.

“I just got it; it was brand new.” He lamented with sadness and annoyance; shoulders slumped.

It took relatively little, low level sleuthing to deduct that Nigel Beasley had taken it. The Roger’s kid from up the street saw him take it. Him and two accomplices. Now excitedly named by us, ‘The Beasley gang’.  A gang seeming a more worthy adversary.

I ran inside to tell the adults I had important business; an important contest of honour could not be postponed by tea. Even high tea on the best tablecloth with Great Aunt Eva in attendance and homemade Battenberg on the menu.  

It took me by surprise when Great Aunt Eva sprang into action. Metaphorically sprang that is, she actually slowly eased herself out of the best armchair, which she had commandeered from my father on her arrival. First she confirmed the story.

“This boy brazenly stole a new bicycle pump from your friend’s  bicycle, in front of witnesses, on the front lawn?”

“Yea, I mean, yes.” Speak properly.

“Introduce me to this Rogers boy.”

I wasn’t sure why she wanted to know more about it, but no one argued with Great Aunt Eva. She was led to ‘the Roger’s boy’. who confirmed the events.

“Thank you dear and do you know where this Nigel boy lives?”

“Ambleside, number ten I think”

She turned to me and commanded, “Show me where Ambleside is”

So we set off, a strange procession. Great Aunt Eva was a tall woman, upright and she walked at an impressive speed for her age. She wore some sort of well cut, floral, floaty dress which could easily have come from the nineteen twenties and she seemed immune to heat. A line of small children followed behind. We had to almost jog to keep up with her. I was in front, then Tim, the victim, Geoff and then the Roger’s kid and his small sister bringing up the rear. To my shame I can’t remember his sisters name, it was Lisa perhaps? She had long straight black hair and although she was skinny even as a kid I knew she was angelically pretty.

Fate decreed we never even got as far as Coniston Road, certainly never reached Ambleside. We scarcely got to the end of Windermere Avenue. There it was that arch criminal Nigel and the Beasley gang were spotted riding toward us.

“That’s him” Tim shouted. His comrades could sense trouble coming and rode on, abandoning him.

My memory wants to tell me Great Aunt Eva, as she stepped into the road in front of Nigel, shouted, “Halt!” In truth it may have been, “Stop,” but it got results all the same. She grabbed his cycle’s handlebars.

She questioned him, with what seemed like a simmering rage. “Did you steal this boys pump?”

He shrugged, grinning slightly.

Tim had by now spotted the key exhibit for the prosecution and piped up, “That’s it, That’s my pump.” It had found a new home attached to the frame of Nigel’s bike.

Great aunt Eva snatched the pump and let loose a scary lecture about decency at a pretty high volume.

Nigel made a foolish mistake. “Leave me alone, I’ll tell my mum about you,” he said.

It was at this point the pump, clutched tightly by my Great Aunt, started to beat Nigel across his back, shoulders and head. He raised his arms in defence but the blows continued with a fierce frequency and strength. He was straddling his bike, which Eva held firmly. It made it difficult for him to move away from the volley of blows.  Nigel’s grin fled, much to our amusement. We stood in a row along the pavement, well entertained.

Tim was a little concerned. “She’s awesome,” he said with glee, “but she’s gonna break my pump.”

Great Aunt Eva, while striking Nigel, told him she’d love to meet his mother. “I’ll give her my opinion of her children and their morals too, tell me where you live and we shall go together, shall we?”

The onslaught eventually drew to a close and Nigel, after being forced at pump point to offer sincere apologies to all concerned, meekly made a hasty escape.

The next time I met Eva was a few years later, again at her house in Suffolk. She asked for my help, “You’re a strapping young man, perhaps you could help me move my dressing table.” No one said “No” to Great Aunt Eva.

In her bedroom, full of mysterious lavender smelling objects, I noticed the top of her bed side table. Curiously, there was an ornate china pepper pot and a large brass school bell there. A poker with a well-worn brass handle rested against it. She explained she was worried about intruders. She was getting older, she said. I feigned surprise. She was over eighty when she had assaulted Nigel. Her age was incalculable to me now. She explained her plan should an intruder breach the outer defences of the house – several heavy bolts on each door – She would throw pepper into their eyes and strike them with the heavy metal poker while ringing the school bell for assistance. I worried about the conversation for some time. What if someone was to make it to her bedroom? She would kill them for sure.

Eva left me a little money when she died, I bought my first car with it. I was sad she was gone. I named my car after her. It was a large comfortable Rover two thousand with an old fashioned beige, leather interior. My friends said it was an odd choice, but it had a beast of an engine.

Yea, its funny what you remember from your childhood.

I really should have remembered the Roger’s youngest’s name because a few years later I would walk her home and on her doorstep, in the shadowy light of the streetlights kiss her. It was the sweetest kiss. She would say in amazement, “Oh my god, I just kissed Vid Weeks on my doorstep, you used to push me on the swing!” Rushing inside, she reappeared and showed me a photo of her and I, grubby and in our scruffy summer attire next to the swing in a pub garden. I remember that too, it was under a railroad bridge. I remember the taste of the lemonade and salted crisps and pushing the swing for hours to cries of “More!” Broke my heart she married someone else.

August 13, 2023 10:29

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Sam Mars
14:24 Aug 22, 2023

Loved the line - formality followed her, closely, at a trot


Vid Weeks
15:36 Aug 22, 2023

Thanks Sam, appreciate the feedback


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Tom Skye
22:23 Aug 16, 2023

Such a good mood running through this one Vid. A kind of mix of whimsy and nostalgia. The final paragraph about the girl and the way it linked to an earlier tangential thought really made the whole story feel like a fleeting memory. Quality work.


Vid Weeks
12:10 Aug 17, 2023

Thanks so much Tom, I really appreciate your feedback. I vacillated about including the last paragraph, but in the end felt it fit, so it was great to hear your take on it.


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