A Week in the Country for the Gay Mother’s 86th Birthday

Sunday 28th February 2010

On Wednesday the Gay Mother gained 86. What an astonishing Gay Mother!  I really am thrilled with her. You may have noticed she has a curious date of birth – 24.2.24. Only two digits. I wonder what it means.

She wore a red jumper, the colour so strong it was surely alive. We went on a snowdrop walk. Now, there’s a thing. Simon Limpney at Massivebury, my arch enemy, was always ordering rare, rare snowdrops at £36 a bulb, then crawling over the February grass with a magnifying glass in the small hope of seeing the minute variations from the ordinary ones. Only last week Bruce MacBain was threatening to visit a snowdrop garden. The opportunity to be exceptionally particular is irresistible for the Poor Little Rich Gay.

The Gay Mother was having none of that. We strode into the woods. ‘They’re tough little things. See the way they grow under hedges and between stones.’ She’s right. They belong on the woodland floor or in the open part at the bottom of hedges, not really in gardens at all. And they must be massed, great swathes, the individual flower not the point. I tried to graph them, the brilliant white against the surrounding brown deadness.

It’s the same with daffodils. The Gay Mother becomes enraged on a spring drive if there’s, dot, dot, dot by the roadside, a bald-looking row, and even more so if they’re those fat modern yellow ones that don’t stand up properly. Daffodils must be in great streaming carpets.

The Birthday lunch was in the village pub. The Gay Mother didn’t want to go too far. We ordered whitebait. A pile of orange, deep-fried, hard, scab-like items about 2 inches wide appeared. But she enjoyed her pudding, some kind of creamy slice. Then we roared on to tea with our cousins at Maryleigh. It’s not exactly a country house but a crazy rabbit-warren, in parts Georgian, and, although in the middle of nowhere, four storeys high, famous for its freezing corridors and chocolate-brown gloss paint. Cousin Teddy showed me his studio. He is 92. Fascinating. Good landscapes, all sorts of other, more ambitious paintings, very unusual ideas. Easily enough for an exhibition, but he is above such things. His sister, Cousin Lunetta (their mother was half-Italian), also resident at Maryleigh, hasn’t been further than the village in thirty years. His wife, Cousin Paquita (don’t ask), whose parents were at Court, showed me her Gerald Kelly. But she couldn’t think what had happened to the other one.

So that was the Gay Mother’s birthday. You might gather that she is not showy. She did not rave at the centre of her birthday as a truer Gay Mother might have done. But I’m not sure I would have liked it if she had.

On the surrounding days she visited lawyers. She’s not in trouble. Just family business. We also inspected a house she is renovating for tenants. Replacement windows! Oh no!  What would Bruce MacBain say?  In the evenings, I sometimes heard her muttering to herself about the lawyers’ bills. It’s quite normal in our family. We all talk to ourselves. I was caught out a few times agitating aloud about a certain troubling situation involving a person resident abroad.

Snowdrops on the Gay Mother's 86th Birthday

Snowdrops on the Gay Mother's 86th Birthday

The Gay Mother's Floral Corner

The Gay Mother's Floral Corner

Posted Sunday, February 28, 2010 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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