When I was a lad, our house always seemed to be full of grown-ups, our small living room bursting at the seams with friends, neighbours, strange relatives and relative strangers, the rent man, the Man From The Pru, the bailiffs . . . all of them larger than life and full of bonhomie.
Or, in the case of Aunty Glad, full of Dubonnet.
I’d sit under the dining table – which wasn’t easy as I was five feet tall at 12 – and ear wig the fascinating conversations buzzing back and forth around the room.
Politics, religion, nuclear war, what should go on a scone (pronounced ‘skown’) first – the jam or the cream? No subject was deemed too controversial to discuss in front of me.
As people tended to talk over each other, sometimes I didn’t hear clearly what was said.
For example, I misheard a neighbour say, “Neither a borrower or a Brenda Lee”, and thought she was criticising the ’60s pop singer who these days we only hear on the radio in December, singing “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’.
Then there was Uncle Hugo, who’d explored many previously unexplored regions of the world that were no longer considered unexplored regions because he’d gone and spoiled things by exploring them.
I was convinced I heard him say, “There are flies, damn flies and stick insects”, referring to one of his trips along the perilous upper reaches of the River Tawe.
In fact, he’d said, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”, and I thought about my late uncle (he’s not dead – just always late) recently when I read that by 2050 the number of people over 60 in the world will top two billion.
Imagine the queue in the Post Office on pension day!
And, with so many old people around me, I’ll have no chance of getting a full house at Bingo.
Dear, oh dear. It’s all very worrying.
I wonder if Aunt Glad drank all the Dubonnet?