I suppose they were no better or no worse than any other family. Taken individually. In small doses. It was when they were all together at family events, like weddings and funerals and Christmases that my family’s little eccentricities wove themselves into a tapestry of Bayeux proportions.
Take Cousin Myron, for instance. “Bloody Nancy-boy!” Uncle Jeffrey growled into his moustache every time he saw Myron pliee-ing about, posturing theatrically.
Myron was not his given name. His parents, known for their “domestic disharmony,” had apparently begun their warring before he was born, arguing over names. Aunt Ellen favoured Stephen( with p h, not v ) after her wealthy grandfather. But Uncle Graham, from a long line of Rugby players, entered “Jeffrey” on the birth certificate. Uncle Jeffrey was, that year, captain of the local team.
Poor Myron grew up being called Jeffrey by his father and that side of the family, while his mother and her side called him Stephen. He came home from school one Christmas and announced that, henceforth, he wished to be known as Myron. He also said that he was dropping sports next term and taking speech and drama and dance. Uncle Jeffrey’s eyes bulged, he slopped his scotch down his Counties tie and a dangerous flush spread over his face. Uncle Graham’s face was totally blank, but Aunt Ellen was positively delighted.
And then the entire Christmas party erupted in a family row. Insults were hurled and taunts flung. “I always said there was something weird about your family!” “Well,at least we’re not like you thugs!” “Ruddy hooligans!” “Sissies!” The Royal Broadcast was unheeded, a fact which further fuelled the argument when the “loyalists” realised they’d missed it!
Dorothy, who normally never drank more than one small sherry(“it isn’t ladylike to get tipsy.”) was double-you-ising her r’s in a tipsy toast to “dear, bwave Jeffwy. Just like Wudolf. Auntie Dowothy’s pwoud of you.”
Several sherries had confused her – she was toasting Uncle Jeffrey!
Unheeded by the squabbling grown-ups, the smaller children had slipped out to the kitchen and were stuffing themselves with pudding and sweets and cordial. The twins, who did everything together, were both sick in the coal scuttle. Daniel-the-Spaniel was found next day cowering in the neighbour’s wood shed, his ears glued back with bubble gum.
I will say for Myron, he took it all with great aplomb.