Rattling closets

Yesterday I attended a small supper party at the home of old family friends. What I expected to be a rather dull evening very quickly turned into a somewhat enlightening affair.

The who thing was a send-off for young Charles who is going away travelling for a year before taking up a job in his family firm. I have known Charles since he was a small child, but we became quite close during his colourful college days. He stayed with me for almost a year whilst his parents did some travelling of their own.

As far as I was concerned, Charles’ family has always been one of the most stable of my acquaintance. I have never known his parents to disagree over anything and they are very rarely seen apart. Charles and his three sisters are the kinds of young people that give one hope for the future. But it seems that every family has its little secrets; the skeleton in the cupboard that rattles away quietly, waiting for its opportunity to burst forth and spill the beans, so to speak. It was only the excess of alcohol, the atmosphere of bonhomie and the conversation about Dorothy and Angela that finally let this particular skeleton out for a bit of an airing.

Well, last night, with the drinks flowing rather too freely, the conversation drifted to my housemate and her girlfriend.

You see, I was asked, quite innocently I believe, about the arrangement I had made with Dorothy and her lodging with me. I think that more than one person in the room had assumed that we were “an item”, so to speak. Obviously, I promptly dissuaded every one of that particular notion fairly quickly. But in so doing I revealed her relationship with Angela, a revelation that some of the guests were not too happy about, and once that particular avenue of discussion was opened up, things began to take a very interesting, if somewhat surprising, turn.

I can’t recall exactly who said what to whom, but at this point in the proceedings, things began to get rather heated. Several of the older members of the party were showing open hostility towards Dorothy and her relationship. Whilst I was well prepared to defend her honour, it was, in fact, Charles’ mother, Mary, who sprang to Dorothy’s immediate defence with a fervour and depth of understanding that quite took me back.

I have never seen Mary get so angry and animated before. I have known her for more years than either of us care to remember and in all that time I don’t think I have ever heard her raise her voice to anyone, not even me. Well, last night the drink must have got to her because she really let rip. Denouncing those who had been critical of Dorothy’s sexual choices as bigots, she went on to identify several members of her own family circle, alive and dead, who had been gay. For some of her guests, including myself, these revelations came as something of a shock, particularly as two of those mentioned were in the room at the time.

At one point, just before we finally gave up on the dessert (a rather fine looking trifle), Mary actually had hold of one chap by the lapels. It was so out of character that I found myself unable to do anything but stand and stare. Quite honestly by this point, I had begun to feel like I had wandered inadvertently into the filming of a reality TV show. I was almost tempted to search for the hidden cameras because I could not think of any other reason for normally mild and meek Mary to behave like someone possessed.

I think it is safe to say that at that particular point in proceedings the party came to a very abrupt end. Obviously, it is not my place to tell everybody about their little secret, but let’s just say,  I didn’t see that one coming. I mean, who would have thought that a man with four children could have been hiding such a thing.

It has to be said that as supper parties go, last night’s was one of the most memorable of the year. It is certainly an evening that those of us who attended will remember for quite some time. I stayed behind until everyone else had gone, primarily to keep an eye on Mary. Her husband, Ian, had been very shaken by the events of the evening and was about as much use at this point as a bicycle in a flood.

Surprisingly Charles seemed quite upbeat about everything. Maybe it was the excitement about his impending world tour, or maybe it was because he was roaring drunk, but he seemed to hardly notice the state his mother was in as he stood amongst the ruins of the party. I believe he was the only one to get any of the trifle, and that was only because he helped himself.

In the end, I didn’t get home until sometime just after 2 o’clock, so I didn’t see Dorothy until this morning as she was packing to leave – she and Angela move into their own little flat today. When I told her about what had gone on she was quite shocked, but also I think a little amused. I like Dorothy very much, but she does have a mischevious side and I think it is just as well that she was not there herself. I can only guess at how Mary and her family are feeling today. I had intended to call on them to say my goodbyes to Charles, but I think, for my own safety, I am better staying away. I can imagine there are going to be some bad heads and recriminations.

The who affair got me to thinking about my own family and the skeletons that may be lurking in our old a battered closets. It goes without saying that any family that has managed to hold on to a particular place in society has to have its own secrets, those misjudgements, misdemeanours and malpractices that no one really wants to see brought forth to face the light of day. My own research into my family tree has raised a number of questions, but so far, very few answers other than those one would expect. There have been one or two black sheep, individuals who, for one reason or another, have found themselves ostracised by the family, cast out and stripped of their inheritances.

Nigel is convinced that if we dig deep enough we will find something juicy, which would not surprise me in the slightest. I suppose that in a way I have a few of my own, but nothing worth getting excited or anxious about. I am sure Nigel has a few. His latest business venture has a ring of the unsavoury about it, although I could not say why I get that feeling. And what little secrets does Hope have, I wonder?

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