Family: Janet Christie's Mum's the Word

Where's the poetic justice for Aunt Julia and Piggy?


Youngest and I are about to eat when Eldest arrives hungry from his band practice. Uncanny, his timing.

“Oh, are you sitting with us?” says Youngest, pleased.

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“A family meal,” she says, and smiles.

Only middle is missing, hammocking in the Algarve.

“So, I’m doing a poem in English,” she says.

“Oh good, who’s it by?” I say.

“Somebody MacSomething.”

“Norman MacCaig?”

I reach round and pull Middle Child’s A4 sheet copy of ‘Hotel Room 12th Floor’ off its fridge door home. He’s labelled all the figures of speech then illustrated it with images from the poem. There’s the Empire State Building, the damaged insect helicopter, a spiral eyed stoner smoking a massive dooby. Oh.

“Different poem. We’re doing ‘Aunt Julia’,” says Youngest. “About his aunt. Upset the family,” she says, mouth pursed. “They didn’t like the way he made their aunt sound.”

“Oh. I suppose that can happen,” I say, as Eldest and Youngest exchange A Look.

“Anyway, what do you have to write?” I take her copy of the poem.

“She was buckets, that’s…”

“Metaphor,” says Youngest.

“And ‘getting angry, getting angry’,”

“Repetition. I know, figures of speech… But you have to say more about it!” Youngest’s literary style tends to the haiku.

“OK, something about location?” I say. “Luskentyre.. sounds lovely.. ‘sandy grave’, it’s by the sea.” I flip open a laptop, “Look Luskentyre, Harris, amazing, let’s go!”

“Ya-as!” says Eldest.

“It won’t be like that picture,” says Youngest.

“White sand? Yes it really will.”

“Sunny. It’ll be rain and wind.”

“Winds pouring wetly? Allit-...”

“And we’ll be stuck somewhere without wifi.”

“OK, maybe next summer? Running around on the beach...”

“Oh yeah we’re doing Lord of the Flies as well.”

“Did you hear they’re doing a girls’ version?” I say.

“Yeah, me and my friends were saying in the girl one they won’t kill Piggy, they’ll just talk about her till she does it herself.”

Eldest blanches. “So do you think girls are just as bad?” he says.

“Worse,” she says. “Less violent... but definitely more cruel. And to be honest, that Piggy does kind of get on your nerves…” n