“Put it away, Nigel,” said his aunt. “Kites is not genteel.”
Nigel stared defiantly at his Aunt Zinnia. Genteel. Such an annoying word.
It was a large box kite he had been flying, trimmed with a flowing tail, the envy of all the other boys. Who was she to say it wasn’t genteel?
Aunt Zinnia waited, arms folded, tapping her foot. The kite continued to fly, describing glorious multi-coloured circles in the gusty wind. Nigel could only just hold on to it. It would be criminal to bring it down when it was flying so well, aunt or no aunt. He had contrived a wide hook as a convenient hand-hold.
“I shall turn my back, Nigel, and count to twenty. I expect that kite to be on the ground when I turn back.”
In later years, Nigel often wondered what had come over him at that precise moment, for when Aunt Zinnia turned and began to count, he had stepped forward and thrust the hook into her vast hat. The kite took off at speed, taking with it both the hat and the wig to which it was pinned. The sight of her dashing about the park, scrappy grey hair flying, shouting ‘Come back’, all thoughts of gentility forgotten in the urgency of the moment, was one that recurred often in Nigel’s memory. As did the thrashing he received later. But, at least, he never heard her use the word ‘genteel’ again.