Friday, 4 April 2014


Your auntie Norah he said, your auntie Norah’s so tight, you know what she does?
No dad I said, tell me.
You know those pop a point pencils I got given a job lot of?
And you know how she likes the crossword puzzles?
Well, what she does is she…
I think I can guess what’s coming next, dad.

So he told me how his sister only had one book of crossword puzzles, and that when
she had finished it, instead of putting it in the recycling bin and buying a new one she
would go through it with an eraser and then start over, trusting that at her age
memory would fail her and it would all seem fresh. And I thought that while being

tight with money was hardly an endearing character trait, she had probably suffered
enough in her seventy years, her equally tightfisted husband George the postman dead
from leukaemia the previous year, and that she should be allowed this one minor
and amusing eccentricity. Then I thought how she had seemed while I was growing up

in the 1970s, an indestructible chainsmoking sentinel, the 20 no 6 never far from her hand,
a deadringer for Elsie Tanner in Coronation street, the character probably modelled
on her, her beehive like a lighthouse to deter errant men, her cigarette smoke like
jungles burning.

Antimacassars were invented to defend against Norah Curtis,
and her beehive, and her lipstick, and her fags.
And her still going strong in 2014.
She had survived cancer, she would outlive all of us, she would bury all of us.
And I thought: crosswords, pencils, meh.