I watched my step father-in law as he re-tightened his tie once again. He stretched his arms in the air, and then clipped on his cufflinks. He careful put them through the buttonholes. The tiepin was the final touch. It seemed to be perfectly routine, as if he had done this same act every single day of his life, and in a single moment, you might have thought this to be the case.
He turns suddenly, and smiles a wide grin at me while pointing his right hand as if it was a military issued pistol. You can tell from the look in his eye that he is going to tell a story. His stories often came with no introduction, nor were they even relevant to whatever topic was being discussed. They were, at best, completely random.
‘Did you know, back when I was a young lad that we used to have a monkey?’ he would say it as if this was a question, but it was not a question, which he would wait for you to answer.
‘We used to have him tied to the tree, and my boy – that’s what we called him. He was a local boy, and he ran errands for the platoon and I all the time. He used to feet him white rats.’
I looked away hoping I was not going to hear this story again but it was obvious that he was in full swing.
Just as my mother in law entered the room, her hair was perfectly placed, she grabbed a cardigan and threw it over her shoulders. She grabbed a bottle of water.
‘Do you have some sky juice?’ she would ask as she drank some out of the bottle.
The bottle was re-used. I didn’t know how many times it had been re-used, but the plastic made a loud noise as it dented in when she drank the tap water, which she referred to as ‘sky juice’.
I waited patiently as they arranged themselves perfectly. Not a single hair would be out of place, and in a strange way, this made me think that this in itself was the hair out of place. Their refusal to allow any unexpected thing into their lives to cause some delay.
‘The queen is on!’ my step-father in law shouts as he sits on the sofa.
‘Is she?’ we exclaim in the hopes of avoiding the dreadful monkey story.
The moment is far from monumental as the queen discusses the events of the last year. Yet here we are, my in-laws are dressed to the nine, listening to the Queen give what appears to be a cleverly written speech which will be broadcast all over the world.
By definition I would call them as English as you could ever get. The Queen’s address is over. I watch as Julia, my mother in law stands up with her sky juice bottle.
‘Is everyone ready?’ she asks.
I stand up and follow her out the door, wondering why it takes them so long to get ready for afternoon tea. I have resolved to the fact that I may never know. They are just stereotypically English, and that is all I know about them.
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