Roll out the red carpet hang the bunting in the street, Auntie Jen is coming home. For those of you not lucky enough to have met her Auntie Jen is my little sister. Although not so little these days – she had the misfortune to turn 30 a week ago. It’s interesting to note that whilst my own 30th birthday left me relatively unmoved I am deeply distressed that I am now the big sister to a 30 year old. If my sister is old what does that make me?
Jen is like a minor celebrity on Colonsay. Luckily I have a very thick skin otherwise I might be rather upset by all the people who demand to know when she’s coming home. She is one of these people who seem to generate buzz and excitement. Whilst I am rather more staid. It’s not uncommon for me to introduce myself and then for people to look slightly puzzled and then say ‘Oh you’re Jen’s sister’. I then see them waiting patiently for me to do or say something funny – sadly I generally disappoint in this respect although Jen is a great catalyst, around her even I am funny.
I don’t want to make her sound like a saint but she is also beloved of children. I actually had to have one of my own in order to make a child pay me any attention and to be honest I’m not sure I was that successful. I think Jen’s repertoire of funny voices and ability to fart on demand may well have overshadowed my own rather paltry efforts comprising 9 months of safe passage in my womb, 72 hours of labour and two and a half years of loving parenting. Sally succumbed even more quickly than Helen and from the age around one week preferred to be put to bed by my sister over all others.
As I write this I want to say that Jen is a ski instructor in South America or that she is a professional mud wrestler. Every time I am asked what she is up to (and at this time of year when Colonsay is swollen with visitors this tends to be several times a day) I am mildly surprised to hear myself say ‘she’s a chemistry teacher’. Not only is she a chemistry teacher she is by all accounts rather a good chemistry teacher although one with a penchant for setting herself on fire.
Jen has had a variety of colorful jobs before she took my Dad’s advice and accepted that the time had come to do teacher training. She managed to graduate from university faster than anyone else I know despite not attending the correct lectures for one of her courses – she did attend the correct exam and was rather puzzled to find she couldn’t answer any of the questions. Even more puzzling is the fact that she still passed.
My favourite of her positions was one which required her to dress as a giant bee and visit local schools to inform children about honey production. In order to enable her to visit these schools she was given the use of an enormous van and I always imagined her driving around Glasgow in her bee costume buzzing with enthusiasm. A less glamorous job was the year she spent as a bank teller a post which could have been rather well paid had she not actually negotiated her salary downwards before she started.
Jen is one of these people to whom exciting things always seem to be happening and strangely teaching fits in very well with this. During the school year she is a pillar of respectability leaving 12 weeks of holidays for adventure. This summer alone she has spent a week in Greece – economic crisis be dammed, a week supervising her pupils on an activities holiday in France and a few days in Sheffield. I think she was visiting her boyfriend but it could be that she simply had a raging desire to visit the steelworks. She’s now heading home to spend a week sleeping in our spare room (AKA the tent in our garden). Is she worried about the monsoon like weather and the fact that this is the wettest June in the history of the Gregorian colander? Of course not. She will arrive and stay for long enough to be co-bridesmaid at Mairi’s wedding before jetting off for the next bit of excitement. I think she might be playing the fiddle at a wedding in France but you can never be sure with Jen. She may well be training horses in outer Mongolia.
I’m picking her up from the boat tomorrow night and as she was about to hang up the phone she mentioned casually ‘oh yes I’ll be bringing my paddle board’. For those of you not in the know a paddle board is a bit like a surfboard if surfboards were the size of a small caravan. I’m not quite sure what you do with it. Perhaps stand on it and punt it along rather as if one were a Gondolier in Venice? It is quite honestly the most enormous piece of equipment I have ever seen. It weighs about as much as a small elephant and I don’t want to dash her hopes but if it floats it will be a miracle. Furthermore Jen is tiny. She is short of stature and slim of build and if it comes to a fight between her and the paddle board my money is not on little sis. I will not be at all surprised to receive a phone-call tomorrow informing me that she is lying on the Pier on Oban trapped beneath it’s mighty weight. How she thinks she is actually going to get to Oban is another cause for concern. Her car (ancient and very rattly Ford Ka which still smells rather questionable from the days we used to drive Max around in it) is as small as she is and considerably less reliable. I can only assume that she has some sort of system of cranes and winches by which she is going to maneuver the mighty board onto the roof. She would probably be safer strapping the car onto the paddle board and punting herself round the West Coast of Scotland. Of course ever the economist she’s not bringing her car over to Colonsay so she is actually going to have to carry the behemoth onto the boat. It’s lucky she’s not bringing her car really as I would be afraid that the combined weight of this and the paddle board would be enough to sink the vessel.
I look forward to seeing it in action if she makes it here alive.