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The Object of Uncle Abe's Desire

teacupAunt Ethel, married, Odsall born, Abraham Costello. A small compact lady with a shining face that had never been sullied with even a wisp of makeup. Kindly, but determined, a serial small business owner that had at some time included, a chip shop, and a public house, she incidentally, a confirmed teetotaller. Born in Salford in nineteen hundred and six, her values definitely late Victorian to early twentieth century. It was a code of living from which she never deviated throughout a very long life.

Ethel and Abe, were I am sure, a contented pair, ,she bestowing upon her husband the compliment of being the titular head of the house, the reality, she being very much the power behind the easy chair. Some people do have a capacity to embrace change, but not Aunt Ethel. Following on from The Second World War, and particularly into the sixties, social mores experienced radical change. My Aunt Ethel just ignored these heretical attitudes or regarded them with disdain. Her pronouncements regarding the markers of respectability, held fast, to patterns of behaviour that had changed beyond recognition, if not having disappeared completely.

Visiting my home, which she did, usually on a Sunday afternoon, our custom of drinking tea and coffee from pottery mugs was a very specific bête noire. Did she know that drinking from mugs had lost earlier social connotations? In the contemporary world, everybody did it, from dustbin men to dukes. On one particular afternoon, drinking her tea from such a mug, no doubt with marked inner distaste, she looked at my wife and myself, the pottery mugs, and then at her husband, and stated "Abe always wanted me to buy him a mug to drink from. But I would never allow him to do so". Such a modest, but ultimately thwarted ambition.