Liverpool memories #3

I had a second cousin called Geoffrey Selby with a broad Yorkshire accent. His lovely mother Ruth from Bradford had been my mother's first cousin and for a while lived with her in Swansea during the school holidays. When Geoffrey was a student, he stayed with us from time to time even though he did not, to my knowledge, go to Liverpool university to study dentistry.

Two things I recall about his visits. One I will never forgive him for. He let me fall. We were playing tizzy in the front room. I must have been 10 or 11 when he whirled me round, let go of my hands and thus I fell on my back. I bruised the base of my spine and could not sit down for a week. After that I couldn't stay seated through the double cinema bills in the days of the B film. It was too long for little Gillian to sit without moving for 3 hours or so. I would always think and curse cousin Geoffrey because I went to the cinema every Saturday afternoon.

Another memory. My cousin arrived one weekend with a university friend called Mike Abrahams who was handsome with black curly hair and a very dark hairy chest. I used to tug at his chest hairs who knows why and even got into bed with him one early Sunday morning for a cuddle and to play with his hairs! I must have been a precocious child because on another visit I recall going into the 'sewing' room where Geoffrey was sleeping and to wake him up, threw a jug of cold water on his feet. He sprang out of bed in his pyjamas cursing me using the 'F' word!

The years rolled by and I lost contact with Geoffrey. However, I became friendly with his chatty mother Ruth in London at a time when I needed a bed having just come back from a wonderful two months hitching in Spain in the late 60s. I stayed with cousin Ruth for a week or two before I got a delightful flat in Bayswater. I recall we were invited for dinner in Anson Road near where she lived in Cricklewood. But that fateful evening Geoffrey fell asleep in his armchair as I was telling him something that I considered important. Obviously my story did not impress my cousin so I was very offended. Later I found out from Ruth that he had been up all night with an emergency patient.

Ruth, who had a cheery disposition, thought her 3 successful sons were wonderful and would often speak about Geoffrey and Orna, their super intelligent children and how he had defied the NHS Dental Board by advertising his 24 hour emergency practice in Anson Road, Cricklewood, London NW2 at a time when dentists were not allowed to advertise their services. Geoffrey did not care and advertised in the Yellow Pages. The Dental Board were up in arms. Geoffrey just told them to sue him but of course the Board never did!!

Years later I dealt in dental prints and traded them with my Einstein-esque loveable magical dentist Lionel Russell in exchange for dental treatment. Lionel would decorate the walls of his waiting room with my French prints bought in Paris having had them famed. In former times the dentist was seen as a quack who was found at street fairs as the tooth drawer and selling dubious liquids for toothache. There was an overlap with street magicians too. A non conventional dentist, Lionel was an inventor, conjurer and the librarian at the London Magic Circle.

During my trading years in Portobello I came across a character called Tony Share whose wife was a dentist in the late 80s. Tony had a stand in Portobello where he bought, sold and repaired walking canes and old scientific instruments.

How the subject of Geoffrey came up, I know not but it appeared he and his wife were friends of Geoffrey and Orna. Eventually via Tony I was invited for dinner - an evening I shall never forget! 

Geoffrey invited an unattractive large dominant cousin of his called Leah Rothman so I suppose she was some kind of distant relative of mine too. Leah decided to verbally attack me at the dinner table basically demanding to know why I, a relative, had appeared out of the blue and what did I want! She seemed to be envious of my life style in the international antique collectables world which Tony mentioned explaining how we had met. Leah almost wanted to know my bank balance, what my husband did for a living and why didn't I have children? Mein gott, what a harridan!

Geoffrey's lovely homey Israeli wife Orna was up and down serving her guests and family. She told me that she had met her dear husband on arrival in London decades earlier via a friend of a friend.  It was raining and all she had was his phone number so she called him from a public phone box and demanded he come and collect her with her suitcase there and then. The rest is history! 

Next their nerdy teenage son, who was sitting to my left, asked me why I was there for dinner as he had never heard anyone mention my name before. Their daughter who managed some accommodation nearby owned by her father was not especially friendly either and I don't recall her name. It was not a welcoming repeatable family dinner for sure!

Then disaster struck. The meat was burnt. In front of everyone bully Geoffrey called his lovely wife an idiot. She ran from the dining room in tears. I saw the mental abuse scenario and decided never to see Geoffrey again. I didn't like the way he treated his wife and remembered my fall and the ensuing nagging ache over the years.

In 2016 I was told via grapevine that Geoffrey had had a heart attack. I googled him but found nothing. Good riddance to bad rubbish! Relatives I can do without.

Written in Hotel Mesquita, Córdoba 7/5/17.