Oh, My Giddy Aunt!

       ‘I have always maintained the importance of aunts.’

Jane Austen

‘Aunts are not bad but they are inclined to be soppy and call you darling chiz chiz chiz.’

Nigel Molesworth

‘Aunts,’ someone said recently, ‘seem to have starring roles in all of your stories.’

Do they? Well yes, I suppose that they do.

I think the stiff-as-sticks Beatrice and Eugenie, from An Englishwoman’s Guide, were probably summoned-up by Lady Bracknell – Algy Moncrief’s awful aunt in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Lovely Leonie, from The 20’s Girl – who taught her niece to dance the hoochie coochie and the turkey trot, while wearing ostrich feathers and waving an Egyptian cigarette in a long ebony holder – is possibly more like Auntie Mame, who sent her nephew to a school where all classes were held in the nude, under ultra-violet ray!

I adored my own aunts. I was the first girl in my mum’s family, and her sisters completely spoiled me – sitting me on their knees,  twirling my curls around their fingers. Sigh.

June Aged 2

PG Wodehouse seemed to have a thing about aunts, too. As a schoolboy, he was passed around between quite a few of them, apparently.

In his stories, they keep being blamed for all ills and failures.

‘Behind every poor innocent blighter who is going down for the third time in the soup,’ Bertie Wooster moans, ‘you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.’

Then, there are Agatha and Dahlia – sister’s to Bertie’s father in The Mating Season. Agatha, according to Bertie, ‘is the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.’ She has ‘an eye like a man-eating fish and wears barbed wire next to the skin.’

Who could resist characters like that?

AuntiesThis picture of my mum and her sisters, Nell and Kath was taken in  Somerset, when they were all in their late eighties. We were spending a few days together at a hotel in Somerset. I have never got through so much brandy in my life. ‘Ooh, just another nip, ducky! Helps you to sleep, y’know.’ All three lived well into their nineties. 

I think of them every day.

Eccentric, exotic, mad, bad or dotty – for me, aunts do seem to offer a new angle on the world and on my writing. Does anyone else feel the same attraction?!







Posted on January 12, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. Hilarious post, June. I too had an aunt I adored but oh, she would insist on vice like hugs and slobbery kisses. I longed to see her as she lived ninety miles away, but the actual meeting I dreaded and always had a hankie in my pocket 🙂 I loved your first novel and look forward to reading 20s girl. Your fabulous understated humour shines through everything you write.

    • Ah, thanks for that, Liz.
      Some aunts seem easier to get on with than others. Mine always seemed to be laughing! They do seen to keep popping up when I’m writing!

  2. June, a fabulous blog post. Just the right amount of anecdote peppered with literary allusions. Just like your engaging novels where aunts feature large. I think out of the characters/aunts in your two books, it is Aunt Leonie who captured my heart. I thoroughly recommend 20’s Girl to anyone who enjoys a great read written with inimitable style and elan. .

  3. Hi June, first comment disappeared in mysterious fashion. I blame my new pc. Here it is again. I didn’t have many aunts in my life – I had lots of young uncles who did their damnedest to turn me into a fearless tomboy. They have succeeded a little in that. Aunts (nowadays) can be pretty cool and NOT intimidating but back in the day they were the matriarchs of the family – LIKE THE FEMALES IN lalst of the summer wine… I also love Prince Charles’s description of Kensington Palace (where many of his aunts lived in grace and favour apartments) as: THE AUNT HEAP. LOL. A great blog post, written with the right mix of erudition and humour – just like your novels. (LOVED Aunt Leonie, BTW)

  4. Thanks, Lizzie!
    The aunts you mentioned – from Last of the Summer wine and those royals – are just the sort of batty eccentrics that I’ve always loved.
    So interesting that you were more affected by uncles. That’s why you’re so fearless!

  5. Great post June. I so loved Aunt Leonie in your twenties’ novel, you bought her scatty character to life with such a light and affectionate touch. I had several aunts, but the one I remember most with affection and amusement was a spinster who swore like a trouper!

    • I’m so glad you liked Leonie, Margaret.
      I like the sound of your aunt, too – the one who swore! Children are always drawn to the naughty grown-ups, aren’t they – I suppose because they’re always supposed to behave themselves.
      There’s an aunt in your Dangerous Decisions, of course, who has quite an impact!

  6. Lovely post, made me think of my aunts – I have several, from the very fashionable pretty one to the downright speaks her mind one. Thanks for reviving the memory of those interesting women.

  7. Thanks for that, Lynda.
    Your own aunts sound FABULOUS! You’ll have to tell me more.

  8. June, I do so relate to your sentiments about aunts – an absolutely awful thing to say, but as a child I found my mother’s two younger sisters, Dora and Edith, and my Great Aunt Em so much more interesting and more fun than my poor old mum. The three of them spoiled me rotten when I was a small girl. All childless at the time, they doted on me. Even after Ede and Dora had children of their own, they seemed to keep a soft spot for me. Oh dear, probably explains a lot.

    • Ah, what a lovely story, Mags. It sounds like something out of Dickens! Even the names – Dora, Edith. and Em. It summons up a wonderful picture.
      (You don’t need any moderating, you’re fine as you are!)

  9. Margaret Cullingford

    P.S. Meant to say also, love the humour, as always. Oh and my original comment is awaiting moderation apparently. Why?

    • I think it needed approval because you went into the blog via Facebook and not your wordpress account. Have now moderated it, Lizzie xx

  10. Fab post, June. I love that picture of your mum and her sisters – they look fantastic fun. I’m not really that close to any of my aunts, unfortunately, but as an aunty myself, give and
    receive lots of love and laughter from my own nieces and nephews 🙂 Xx

    • I bet they love you for it, too, Jan. You must be the very best sort of Aunty, full of fun and great to be with! (Like you are with us.)
      When they were together, Mum and Nell and Kath never stopped laughing!

  11. Margaret Cullingford

    Thanks, Lizzie – Yes I went through FB because WordPress played me up. Must say I loved Aunt Leonie in 20’s Girl too – she reminded me of my granny, who tried to teach me to dance when I was four. Thought June’s second novel just carried on giving long after you’d finished it.

  12. Hi June.
    Happy New Year.
    Interesting post. I used to say that everyone should have an aunt May because my aunt May
    was a wonderful lady. All of mine have died, but aunt May was special and we all loved going to see her. She had a way of lifting your spirits.
    Best of luck with your latest novel June.

    • Thank you, Cathy.
      Happy New Year to you, too.
      Lovely to hear about these wonderful women. Aunt May -didn’t they have great names.

  13. Great post June, I love aunts, I have eight ( you’ve met at least four ) and knew a few Great Aunts too! And being totally in awe of PG Wodehouse I actually address my aunts as One’s Aunt, on birthday cards as such.

    Neither of my Mom’s very young sisters had daughters so my sister Reta and I filled that gap. My aunt’s taught me how to makeup, paint my nails and do the twist. Aunt Alice taught me how to blow smoke rings, she looked just like Julie Christie at the time, and Auntie Tricia showed me how to stick on false eyelashes and communicate with cats! She was the image of Dusty Springfield and sings like Billie Holliday.

    And the others are just as fabulous and fun …totally blessed I am, they even read our books! I loved your latest and related totally to Aunt Leonie, she could be one of my aunts, or me!

  14. That’s just fabulous, Adrienne!
    Yes, I must have met at least four of your aunts – they all looked great and were fantastic talkers! ( Who do they remind me of?) Runs in the family. I would have loved Alice and Tricia – being with them must have been a dream for yourself and Reta. All those important life lessons, (smoke rings, make-up, the twist!)
    How absolutely fab to have those memories.

  15. June, I had one beloved aunt who gave me back my humanity at the age of 13 when the rest of the world had entered into a conspiracy to destroy me. For me the word aunt is a blessed one

  16. Fabulous topic. Wodehouse’s ‘Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen’ is one of his most memorable titles.

    • Hello, Honoria – and thank you! (I love the idea of you having a good rant.)
      Were all his aunts eccentric and prickly, do you think? I don’t like to think of him having a hard time as a little boy.He’s a goldmine, though, for a good aunt quote!

      • That’s a good question. I don’t know about his real life aunts. He had a lot of them and some must have been good ‘uns, but the best comedy material is in the scalier kind.

  17. Both my aunts are as mad as hatters and I adore them. Great post, June!

  18. Brilliant post, loved the photos too. I would love an aunt like Leonie in The 20’s Girl. In fact I would quite like to be a bit like her as an aunt myself!

    I have two wonderful aunts who have both, over the years and through hard times and good, been absolute rocks and great confidants. We have had our share of fun and giggles too.

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