Monday, November 2, 2009

Aunt Charlotte and Miss Piggy

Aunt Charlotte has a fan club. The sharp-tongued English Great Aunt, the weather-beaten old orchid grower who does not suffer fools gladly and prefers wasps to butterflies in nature's scheme of things, has turned out to be a real character. Though, given her pedigree, she should. Right at the start of Orchid Territory I state that Aunt Charlotte is based on Dame Judi Dench playing Queen Elizabeth the First and my grandmother "playing herself."

When I hear authors talking about their plots and how they had NO idea where their characters will lead them and how they just take over the story... I've always been right there with the millions who just roll their eyes and switch back to Power 96.

But somehow Aunt Charlotte is out there now, like Norm in Cheers or Miss Piggy. We all know that Miss Piggy, though she does have a great set of pearls, is basically half a yard of felt and a swish of taffeta (I hear a snort) and yet, she is also definitely there. And no-one would be surprised to hear it had been Miss Piggy up on Capitol Hill, lobbying for swine flu to be called something else.

Aunt Charlotte certainly has the swoopy, commanding voice of a Miss Piggy, hers the old upper class English version that has all but died out. Even the royal family now talk "common" as we used to say. For a while I played with the idea of having Aunt Charlotte be a bit of a con artist- claiming her father had been an eminent orchid collector in the far flung corners of the British Empire - rather than a cockney working in the flower market in the old Covent Garden.
In the end, though he didn't appear, I thought of him as a middle-class banker, anxious and orthodox behind his quiet privet hedge, trying to keep a veil of respectability over Charlotte till she'd finished school.

Some of my friends have said to my face that I am Aunt Charlotte which bewilders me. I am, of course, the timid young English teacher. I am Mark, the Hugh Grant of Orchid Territory, who can hardly start a sentence without "..Um..." Although in the presence of Aunt Charlotte, who, indeed, would not stumble, or preface any sentence with a worried or tentative "...Um?" What a fascinating world this world of the imagination is! Back to Power 96.

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