AIDA AUSTIN: ’I would like to get into your car without feeling like Velma’

FRIDAY, 10pm, and I’m in Cork Airport, anticipating the moment of my sister’s arrival from London with the feeling that this wonderful moment cannot come quickly enough.

The airport police are prowling the forecourt kerbs for unattended cars and I am not in mine, only looking at it from my vantage point in the doorway of arrivals. 

Even when parked legally, it looks intrinsically criminal, on several counts.

10.05: My sister arrives and I force her immediately into a very brisk trot. 

“How splendid it would be,” I think, breaking into a canter, “if I had time to savour the moment of her arrival more fully.” 

But, what with the length of rope — an eye-catching beacon-blue — hanging villainously out of the car boot, I don’t. 

“One day,” she says, hurling her posh luggage into the back seat, “I would like to get into your car without feeling like Velma.” 

“Get in,” I command, releasing the handbrake, “and for god’s sake, just look innocent and relaxed.” 

“F***ing Velma,” she pants, “every time.”

10.07: We have made our getaway and I am now disposed to savour the moment of my sister’s arrival retrospectively. 

“Velma?” I enquire, smiling at her with the deepest affection and warmth, “from Scooby-Doo?” 

“Thelma, you stupid ****wit” she says, “from Thelma and Louise.”

11pm: I’m showing my sister to her sleeping quarters — a mattress on the floor in our newly renovated studio.

It has all been thoroughly arranged, with my sister’s highly specific neuroses and thread-count requirements factored in.

“Your pillows are new,” I say, “and guess what!” 

“What?” she says, coming over all stern Aunt Polly and marching off to examine fixtures and fittings in the bathroom.

“They’re duck-down,” I say. 

All goes quiet in the bathroom. I find myself thinking, “funny how silence can emanate through a wall,” and, “even if she did go into the bathroom with her stern Aunt Polly face on, she might yet come out without it.” 

To this end, I shout with absurdly excessive optimism, “look in the cupboard above the hot-tank! I bought new hand-towels!” 

“All right, all right,” she shouts. “Chrissake, bring it down, Pollyanna.”*

She comes out of the bathroom; her expression mollified by the new hand-towels but never mind that, I am firmly stuck on Pollyanna.

“I’ve given you my favourite duvet cover,” I say with the utmost cheer. 

“It’s that Tricia Guild one I bought in a sale five years ago. Just look at the roses on it. We can sleep up here together, I thought. It’ll be fun!” “I need wine,” she says.

11.30pm: My husband and daughter have walked up from the house. 

“So what’s the verdict?” he asks my sister. 

“You’ve gone up a notch,” Aunt Polly says. 

“Gone up a notch from what?” my husband says. 

“Wild-camping,” she says. 

“To what?” he asks. 

“Glamping,” she says, “have you got any wine?”

11.30: My sister is in the bathroom again, having gone to brush her teeth. 

“Funny,” I think again, “how silence emanates.” 

“I don’t f*****g believe it,” she shouts.

11.31: I am rummaging in the car-boot for loo-roll in the dark. 

11.32: Running through field.

11.32.05: Racing through sitting-room down in house, past husband. 

11.32.06: Taking sitting-room stairs, two at a time. 

11.32.07: Racing back past husband, loo-roll in hand. “How’s glamping?” he says, but I have no time to lose. 

11.33: Back in studio, collapsed against the bathroom wall. “It’s outside the door,” I gasp.

Midnight: My sister and I are tucked up in bed. Another silence falls. A big one: I think she might be falling asleep. 

“I am so unbelievably cosy,” she says. 

“Really?” I say, “it’s only a cheap mattress.” 

“Much nicer than mine,” she says. 

“It can’t be,” I say. A bigger silence descends. 

“It’s not really the mattress,” she says, “you’re missing the point.” 

“What point?” “I am emotionally cosy,” she says, “I always feel like that with you.” 

“All right, all right,” I say, “bring it down, Pollyanna.”

* Pollyanna, an annoyingly optimistic orphan and title character of EH Porter’s children’s classic. Aunt Polly is Pollyanna’s stern adoptive aunt.


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