Magazine article The Spectator

The Lying Game

Magazine article The Spectator

The Lying Game

Article excerpt

I hadn't seen cousin Claire for five years.

She was as lovely and as enthusiastic as ever as she welcomed me into her barn, where she was throwing a party for her mother and father's golden wedding anniversary.

She clocked the tie - the White Park Cattle Association tie - immediately. White cattle heads on a navy blue background. 'I recognise that tie!' she exclaimed, clasping her hands together and buckling at the knees with surprise. She'd kept several specimens of this ancient breed as a hobby for several years, but gave them up, or was persuaded to give them up, because they can be a bit touchy and she had young children around. 'I'm on the committee, ' I said. 'Vice-chairman.' She almost fell over backwards. 'No!' she said. 'I am, ' I said. 'Seeing yours ten years ago got me interested in the breed and I became involved, and last year I was elected to the committee.' She gaped as if it was the most astonishing thing she'd heard for a long time.

Except it wasn't remotely true. Before she could regain the power of speech I came clean and admitted that I'd borrowed the tie from her father, to whom she'd given it many years before as a birthday present. The power in Claire's punching arm was impressive.

qMost of the guests had already arrived.

These days I only get to see my country cous-ins at weddings and funerals. But I virtually grew up with them on my uncle's pig farm in Essex and there is a great sentimental attach-ment. Claire's husband is mainly in arable.

The three brothers are in pigs and free-range eggs. My uncle has exchanged pigs for orna-mental fowl. Of the four cousins, I'm closest in age and affection to Robin, whom I also hadn't seen for many years. I plunged into the crowd and there he was. 'Did you go, boy?' he laughed, crushing my soft hand in his calloused one. He supports West Ham and was referring to last week's West Ham-Millwall game. Before I could tell him sadly no, a woman neither of us knew interrupted.

'Your face is very familiar, ' she said to Robin accusingly. 'Where have I seen you before?' 'His face should be familiar, love, ' I said. 'He's on telly enough.' She was thrilled.

'On telly! I thought so! What are you on?'

'Crimewatch, ' said Robin. She raised her eyes to her Saviour heaven in love and grat-itude. …

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