An old lady called Elizabeth

Last night I met a traditional old lady called Elizabeth. She spoke in proper clipped Queen’s English – each word carefully measured and pronounced, with pauses in the right places, no wasteful useful of language, and sentences punctuated with phrases like grand, lovely, and dear.

Her heritage spoke of generations of Cambridge scholars. I can imagine her as a small girl in India when her father was in the military service or a young lady in Nigeria teaching economics, or a middle aged woman in Zambia when it was still Rhodesia extolling the virtues of trade links, or in Eastern Asia prophesising the growth of the tiger economies. She choose a scholar’s life – teaching, researching and writing about economics, never marrying but instead adventuring out to native colonial lands. I pictured her family home in Cambridge a large Victorian styled manor with a sweeping staircase, a music room with a grand piano, family portraits and large antique oil paintings of gentlemen fox hunting, precious figurines and dollies on all the furniture, stacks of battered books in fine oak book shelves and dusty papers stacked high in the study. I also pictured an old woman sitting quietly by a dusty window, drinking her Earl grey tea, and eating her cucumber sandwiches, while petting Archibald, her cat. Alone with her memories.

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