Visiting My Aunt
Boiling. She was always boiling chicken bones for soup.
Basil, coriander, sprigs of thyme lacing the air, always
freshly picked from her garden. Butter surrendering into
steaming new potatoes like a lover’s kiss.
Her kitchen was a gourmet’s paradise,
every imaginable utensil hanging from hooks under shelves;
copper plate ladles, stainless steel sieves an colanders
bought with meagre savings in the 50’s, stored with stealth
and pride in the the gunnels of her larder.
Visiting my aunt was a treat best kept for Sundays,
homemade shortbread an indulgence which rendered the
drudgery of the school week almost bearable.
In her parlour we’d perch cross-legged, hands folded on laps,
in faux Regency armchairs purchased from George St
Auctions. The chaise longue was understood to be for
decorative purpose only. There were faded prints of Degas
ballerinas on the lightly patterned walls; glass fronted cabinets
containing fine bone china teacups and dainty little saucers
lined in pairs like well behaved children.
Everything was in order in that house.
We were incredulous that my cousins’ Easter eggs lasted till
June, at the porcelain dolls still with their wrapping, and the
teddy bears neatly stored in a velvet hat box.
Mealtimes were always at the table. Cutlery correct in hands,
Demerara cubes for coffee, cream poured from a jug.
Waiting to be served; enough food to eat, and spare.
It was like another universe to us, as though we had been
transported from Dickensian slums to a rich benefactor’s
For all her bastion of order and routine, my aunt was warm
and generous to a fault. She took us in, dirt-faced and ragged
when my mother disappeared on her frequent wanderings.
To know the calm assurance of my aunt’s pristine bungalow
with its central heating, its chicken broth boiling on the hob,
and its pre-set bedtimes, we understood if only for a short
while, what it was like to feel safe, happy and warm,
to feel like proper children.