Friday, 16 October 2009

Eustacia. Such a sweetie.

I do think Eustacia’s mind is rather absolutely marvellous. She writes these superb stories for her writing group that come out of nowhere and go in unexpected directions, full of ideas that suddenly turn round and look at you and make you laugh. Like her spy thriller about the man who was pursued by men with guns in BMWs because they wanted his cream bun. Or the recent one about the reluctant father confronted by a tree in his own house.

Eustacia’s thinking has always had this kind of lateral drift taking it apart from the herd. She likes Earth, I think, but it would not be quite accurate to describe her as living there.

I remember her aged about seven, drifting down the stairs as she does, saying in that voice like an indeterminate breeze from somewhere else: ‘Daddy… I’ve knitted you a tulip’ (and so she had).

Lingering in the space between two worlds though she sometimes appears to be, Eustacia is not without passion – at times she can be quite fiery, and she swears dreadfully – make your hair stand on end! Especially in the car. Especially when Ponty is driving. Tearing insanely round the country lanes tootling his horn with the windows down and music like rending metal with a terrible itch blaring from his (rather good) sound system, sooner or later something gets in the way (a nice man with a Labrador, perhaps, or a godly matron out with her spaniels in an Aquascutum mac) and it is Eustacia sitting in the back, not Ponty (who is really awfully goodnatured), cross-eyed with rage screaming ‘Moron! Get out of the f****** way!’ So unexpected.

And Eustacia is terribly loyal. She cannot bear to see her dear mama upset, and if she thinks anybody has been cruel or even mildly inconsiderate towards the people she loves, Eustacia will launch into a blistering, excoriating attack annihilating their position completely – but almost invariably off the point because she has got the wrong end of the stick about the original problem.
So, for example, I may be sitting waiting for a telephone call from somebody simply frightful – let’s say Coleshaw Grimm, I can’t think of anybody worse – steeling myself to take the call and fruitlessly racking my brain for excuses to get me out of talking to him. Enter Eustacia, who immediately senses Something Is Wrong:

Eustacia: Are you OK?
Me: Yes, darling. I’m waiting for a phonecall from Coleshaw Grimm.
Eustacia (rightly perceiving this to be a source of distress): Coleshaw Grimm? Odious g*t! What an insufferable tw*t! How stinking rotten to say he’d call and then not bother! How filthy mean to keep you waiting like this and not even bother to ring! What an execrable intolerable mean b*st*rd!! [etc]
Me (feeling adequated supported but faintly nonplussed): But darling, I don’t want him to ring. I shall be glad if he doesn’t.
Eustacia (arrested in surprise): Oh.

Locked in a special chamber of delight in my heart is a memory of a summer day when Eustacia, then perhaps seven years old (it must have been the same summer she knitted the tulip) came wafting approximately into the room where I was embroiled in some intricate household task. Pleased to see a potential factotum, I cried: ‘Ah Eustacia! Could you run and get me the sellotape, darling? I think I’ve left it on the mantel-piece’.

Alerted to the possibility of a way to make somebody she loved happier, Eustacia vanished purposefully through the door. Time elapsed. She returned after some minutes, looking crestfallen (Eustacia loves to save the day wherever possible) and asking, uncertainly: 'Mummy – where is the mantelpiece?’

She is enchanting.

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