I sometimes feel that this 50 Lunches thing is a bit more trouble than its worth, but today reminded me what it was all meant to be about. Despite having never lost touch with this lady, years had gone by since we had spent any time time together. Without the catalyst of this project, many more years might have gone by, and that would have been a real shame as today reminded me of what a thoroughly lovely person she is and how much I enjoy her company.
Cynthia is a first cousin; our mothers were sisters. Our mothers were close when I was growing up and I saw a lot of Cynthia and my Aunty Gladys, who was always very kind to me. When I left town I saw less of them, especially after my kids were born, but we never lost touch. Aunty Gladys died 14 years ago, but Cynthia still lives in Barry and is very much alive and well.
We had arranged to have lunch in a nearby pub, but when I arrived in Barry, I went first to Cynthia’s. This was partly to remind myself of the wonderful view she has – Barry docks, the islands of Steep and Flat Holm and the Bristol Channel, and partly to meet Gucci, a chocolate brown Standard Poodle.
In the event, we didn’t go to the pub at all, Cynth cooked me a magnificent three course lunch and we spent the afternoon catching up and playing with Gucci, who turned out to be a really lovely dog. He was quite the high spot of the day, although the rhubarb crumble for pudding came a close second. Rhubarb crumble for a midweek lunch – wow!
I had forgotten just how big our family is. Our mothers were two of eleven children, most of whom had a number of children who have since had children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Chatting to one of Cynthia’s neighbours, an older lady who told us that she has no cousins, we were asked how many cousins we had. We looked at each other blankly – neither of us has any idea. Having said that, Cynthia has kept much better tabs on the family as she has never left our home town. She reminded me of a whole section – a cousin, his wife and their six children that I had completely forgotten about.
I’ve always been aware that there is a difference between how I behave with my siblings and my friends, but I didn’t realise that this also works with cousins. We hadn’t seen each other for at least ten years but within minutes we were completely relaxed; we chatted and laughed all afternoon.
I was reminded of the coincidence of how our fathers had first met a few years before my father had met my mother. Both men were on active service during World War II. They were both in the Royal Engineers though in different battalions (my dad was from Manchester, Uncle Fred was Welsh) but they both ended up building the same bridge over the Rhine in pursuit of the retreating Germans. It must have been very strange some time later, when they met again and realised they had married two sisters.
One final thing which entertained me: my very vocal Siamese cats tend to announce themselves when they walk into a room by ‘saying’ “Oh…” in a harsh, nasal voice, very much like Nessa or Dave Coaches from Gavin and Stacey. This series is of course set in Barry, and so it has become something of a meme for me and my kids that Siamese cats always speak with a Barry accent, regardless of where they’re from. Speaking to my cousin and her neighbour, both of whom have had Siamese cats in the past, I was amazed to find that they too assumed all Siamese cats speak Barry. They were surprised at the idea that some people maybe can’t hear the Barry accent in their cat.
Friday 9 January 2015
Cynthia’ s house, Barry