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RelativesI hope you know what I'm talking about. I could be talking about "who", "which", "whose" and so on, or I could be talking about aunts, uncles and cousins. That's the trouble with English. One word can have two quite different meanings. Well, in this short piece I'm going to talk about both that is primarily aunts, uncles and so on and with a bit of luck the other "relatives" should be there too.
Anyhow, there are those members of the family whom you regard as part of the family and it never occurs to you that the chap whom you call Dave is also someone to whom you could give the title "uncle". You know him so well that it never occurs to you that he is in fact a relative. Then there are those that you only see on special occasions, which don't take place very often like weddings and funerals. In the former you're usually enjoying yourself so much that you don't take much notice of them and in the latter you hardly talk to anyone because it's a time when you don't talk much to anyone and a place where you don't normally go out of your way to be sociable.
Then there is that special category of relatives which you hardly ever consider and whose names you only vaguely remember because they did something terrible or left the country in a hurry or who have funny ways which most of us can't accept.
I had one like that, an aunt whose name was Enid. In fact whenever I hear the name spoken or read it in a book, I always conjure up in my mind that aunt who must have been the strangest member that my family has produced. As a child I had heard stories about her that may or may not have been true. The best one I remember was when she ended up in hospital with a broken leg. Apparently she was very proud of her house, which she kept in an immaculate condition, and in this particular incident that illustrates her eccentricity, she had seen a mess on one of the rugs she kept in her sitting room. As she was expecting a visitor, who was due any minute, she opened the door to the garden and threw out the rug that was causing the trouble and whose stain was upsetting her. Unfortunately she forgot to get off the rug first and threw herself out into the garden as well. That was how she ended up in the hospital with a broken leg. There were endless stories like those, which were probably exaggerated and that had been added to over the years. Nobody really knew what was true and what was complete fabrication. The one thing that nobody could understand or explain was why she had gone to live in another country where she had stayed for more than twenty years. Everybody had something to say on the matter: she had had an unhappy love affair with a man who was married, she wanted to make a fresh start in a place where no-one knew her, she wanted to get away from her family whom she couldn't put up with. Such stories, which grew in number as the years went by, fascinated me. The strange thing was that not one of these stories fitted with the generally accepted belief that Aunt Enid was supposed to be a very shy person, who wouldn't have the courage to say boo to a goose. This was an enigma that I wanted to resolve and when I heard that she was returning to the place where she was born, I hoped I might have the opportunity to meet this living legend and get to the bottom of these stories.
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