Thursday, June 13, 2013
My dear cousin and the new baby
I have a cousin called Gay. She is and always was a person of great honesty. But on this occasion, it was put to a severe test.
There was a young woman in Calliope who was rather shy, so I won't mention her name. In the old days we would have described her (and many did) as "homely", which was a euphemism for one who isn't the most physically attractive. Now I think of it, its antonym would be "comely".
What a difference a letter can make! I suppose it derives from the idea that this is a woman who should really not venture out too much, but stay where her family were used to her.
Anyway, she must have ventured out at some stage, or her parents had managed to arrange a marriage for her. Regardless of how, she got hitched to a lad who was of equal homeliness in appearance.
Again, he was a nice enough fellow, but "possessing of no outward comeliness". (That, incidentally, is a description by a remarkably honest biographer of one of the Turki-Afghan sultans who ruled India a millennium ago. The biographer, charged by the sultan himself with the duty of telling it like it was, used this terminology for the sake of keeping his head on his shoulders, but went on very quickly to describe the inner comeliness of the great leader. He retained his job.)
In the fullness of time, an offspring was produced by the happy union, but let's be honest, the accent was well and truly on the "off" side of the ledger in the "spring" stakes. He was an heir of oddly mottled skin, a shock of straight dark hair even blacker than Eric Olthwaite's mother's black pudding ("Black pudding's looking very black tonight, Moother," you may recall from the Ripping Yarns "Denley Moor" episode, where "even the white bits are black").
This strange little creature had a nose that would distinguish it little from our forebears newly getting over the excitement of not dragging their knuckles.
Let me say at this point that I'm fully aware that it is unkind to make judgments about people based on their appearance, but that's what people do. And it's the only thing on which people can make judgments about a new baby. They don't sing, or do handstands or solve quadratic equations, or anything like that. Some ferociously ugly babies turn into amazingly passable — even good-looking kids or adults. Are we good? OK....
One day, the proud mother was downtown in Calliope (which meant Mylne's store) with the little creature only its mother could love tightly wrapped like a felafel roll on snow-white mattress in a shiny new pram. Calliope being what it was, there was no escape for Gay in passing by the new mother – and son.
His mother, not nearly so shy now that she had performed her maternal duty, stopped the carriage and its truly awesome contents more-or-less in Gay's pathway, and beaming with expectation, invited her to admire what she had brought into the world.
With some trepidation, Gay bent over and peered in. The inspection revealed what word of mouth had rumoured, only worse. But Gay, as I said, had never been known to tell a lie.
From what she could see of the babe, which wasn't much, no positive thought would come. He was lying on his side, unless in a cruel feat of black magic by You-Know-Who to match his own afflictions had allowed him born with head fixed at right angles to the rest of him. She continued to scrutinise the simian profile. Finally, inspiration came.
Looking the adoring mother straight in the eye, Gay smiled and said, with utter truth and before moving quickly on to the buttons-and-zips counter at Mylne's, "It's a beautiful ... pram!"