You get one word wrong and it can make all the difference. Doesn’t even have to be a bad word.
Yesterday we went to the Families’ Day at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire, marking 100 years of flying from the base.
The Queen’s birthday flypast came over and there were various displays, but most special thing about the day was that it was my youngest granddaughter’s 3rd birthday.
It was for family of station personnel only, so there weren’t huge crowds and even the rain and grey skies didn’t spoil it.
I managed to embarrass myself a couple of times – I shan’t go into detail, but one time was walking all the way to the fire engine at the far end assuming it was part of the display and wondering why the firemen were all sitting inside.
I walked all round it and peered inside thinking my husband might be sitting in there with my 2 year old grandson! Yeah, I know – I’m going red just thinking about it. They were somewhere else, looking at cars. Who’d know?
The other thing I did - well I haven't even told my husband about that!
Earlier that day my 8 year old grandson looked at me and said “You look quite nice today.” It was the addition of that word “quite” that made us all laugh. Bless him.
When I was about his age, my grandad’s big sister, my formidable Great Aunt Olive came over from Australia on the Oriana. I rushed home from school, eager to meet her and all the way I practised what I was going to say.
“Good afternoon,” (cringe). “How does it feel to be back in England after all these years? Do you find it much changed?” (cringe cringe).
What I said when confronted with this old lady sitting on a dining chair by the window with her glass of beer was a very breathless, “Hello! How do you like England?”
Now my little mind has probably embroidered and exaggerated this over the years, but I remember her sitting very upright and speaking in a Miss Marple voice.
“My dear gel! I was born and raised in England! How do you think I like it? It is my home.”
Never mind that she’d left England in 1925! I felt completely told off.
She and her daughter, my mum’s lovely cousin Marie rented a flat for their stay. Needless to say by the time she had to leave to return to Australia, I had become very fond of her.
Olive is on the far left in this photo and her daughter, Marie on the far right.
Olive and Marie brought some wonderful gifts from around the world. I remember in particular a gold silk dressing gown with little Japanese ladies embroidered all over it. I wore it for years until the ends of the sleeves were up round my elbows and it was bursting at the seams – literally.
But what I remember most is that first meeting when I got my words ever so slightly wrong.