Perfect Family Tales And Other Trivia

The art of the short-story writer is that of the cartoonist. It is the magical craft of creating entire worlds with a few simple strokes of a pen. Tales told by an idiot? Maybe! But my tales are also a mix of reality and fantasy; truth and lies; some based on my own family; others, not. Readers must guess which characters are real; who are inventions - and who are an amalgam of both. Please draw the boundaries for yourself.

Monday, 24 November 2014

‘Aunt Lucy’s Last Stand’

(With apologies to Michael Bond and friends!)

Paddington.Bear.Aunt.LucyAunt Lucy snapped back the brim of her  favourite black hat, then looked very hard and cross at her reflection in the mirror.

“This won’t do”, she said. “Things may not be good in darkest Peru. But - my word - they’re much worse in London!

“So while I’m far too old to go gallivanting, when I learn that my favourite nephew is in need of ‘parental guidance’, I know that I have no choice”.

So without further ado, she wrapped her grandest shawl around her shoulders; pushed her feet into wellington boots left unworn since she’d become resident at the Home for Retired Bears, and double-checked the contents of her outsized reticule:

  • Half-dozen 16oz jars Darkest Peruvian Vintage Coarse Cut Marmalade (suitable only for persons aged 18 years and over, not to be supplied to anyone below that age)
  • Two score and ten bars 70% extra-bitter, plain chocolate (suitable only for persons aged 15 years and over, not to be supplied to anyone below that age) 
  • Three dozen clean pairs unmentionables in case of accidents (please don’t ask!)
  • Assault rifle and floor plan for use at Natural History Museum, London (violent content warning)

At last Aunt Lucy felt she was ready to leave for her arduous journey. But native good manners made her reach for her telephone to make an urgent call.

It took her a few minutes to find the correct number. But with help from a  gentleman at international telephone enquiries, whom she discovered was a distant cousin and spoke excellent Spanish plus an array of minor Amazonian languages, she was connected to  a line in London.

A friendly voice answered almost at once.

“Hello, Paul King here. May I ask who’s calling?”

“Hello, indeed!”, said Aunt Lucy, sounding most imposing. “If you don’t know who I am, what could happen next doesn’t bear consideration”.

“Oh, Aunt Lucy, said King, his voice oozing like melting butter on hot toast. “I thought you’d be with us by now. You know that our bio-pic, Paddington,  devoted entirely to the exploits of your wonderful nephew, is due to open this week. We do hope you can join us. It’s going to be so much fun”.

”I don’t know how you can say that, Mr King. I understand you’ve – well – given my bear ideas above his station. Up to now he’s always led a sheltered life; first with me; then with the Browns in their quiet suburban house. I don’t know whether I want him mixing with Hollywood riff-raff. I find it all highly irregular”.

“But, Aunt Lucy. I – er, I mean we - ”

“Please don’t interrupt, Paul, there’s a good boy”, said Aunt Lucy, using his first name as her patience began to fray. “I really can’t bear that sort of behaviour. It’s not seemly of a film director and writer.

“I simply want to speak to you before I arrive in London as I don’t think we’ll have a chance for serious conversation amid all the razzamatazz. What I must emphasise is that I don’t want ‘Paddington’ - as all you British folk insist on calling him – to be exposed to any dangerous behaviour, threats, sex references or bad language. No matter that it’s all ‘mild’. The word’s very subjective and as I must keep reminding everyone, he’s still very unworldly for a lad who was born in 1958. I  suppose it was the era as much as anything. But never mind that, now”.

“Please don’t worry”, said King, relieved to get a word in. “There’s no ‘sex’ – just ‘innuendo’; the bad language is only infrequent and anyway, everyone says the film is bloody marvellous”. Paddington.Bear

“That’s what I mean”, said Aunt Lucy, exasperated. “I think this is the real reason why that Colin Firth chappie said – what audacity – ‘he simply doesn’t have my voice’. Surely, Mr Firth means that he doesn’t have my nephew’s voice. But never mind. This is what happens when people lose track of who they are. In my day, there were places for everyone and everything, with all in their proper place. Now, while I’m in the mood, I’d like to speak to Michael Bond. He’s got my bear into a terrible scrape here and I want to know why. Mr King – Paul – are you still there … ?”

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Author’s Note: Paddington opens in London on Friday 28 November 2014 with a ‘P.G.’ – ‘Parental Guidance rating.

It premieres in Israel with the title הדב פדינגטון  (literally, The Bear Paddington) on 26 March 2015 with a Universal rating.

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Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood – 24 November 2014)

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