Thursday, 11 April 2013

Aunt Mary and Jamie Oliver

Aunt Mary and Jamie Oliver
9 April 2013

This is one of my very favourite stories ever.  The story of Aunt Mary and Jamie Oliver.

Aunt Mary was my brother-in-law, Robin’s, very aged aunt.  A grand old dame, set in her very colonial British ways, who lived in the suburb of Chelsea in London.  Apparently a rather exclusive suburb at that.  Aunt Mary apparently had quite a lovely little council flat and I marvel at the way the British look after their elderly.  It is really commendable and something for governments all over the world to strive towards.

And way back towards the end of October 2005, Katrine and Robin, decided to go and do a stint of living in the UK.  Naturally, Aunt Mary insisted that they lived with her.  Aunt Mary and Robin had a very close bond.  And though she never had children of her own, Robin filled the role of the son she never had.  And I do believe that she was an amazing mother to him in return.  She even took on the role of grandmother, particularly to young Kati, who often went on solo trips to the UK, to go and stay with her beloved Aunt Mary.

It stood to reason, that Katrine would simply adore Aunt Mary.  How could she not?  They both loved Robin and his kids too and therefore there was lots of common ground.  Furthermore, Katrine is one of the most likeable people you are ever likely to meet and I do believe that Aunt Mary fell a bit in love with Katrine too.  They got along splendidly and the co-habitation agreement worked particularly well.  Katrine and Robin cared for Aunt Mary in her old age and looked after her well.  I would imagine that she had been rather lonely before they came and I think that their presence in her life, and companionship, energised and enthused her.  And made her last year on earth a most enjoyable one.  She was surrounded by family who cared for her and about whom she cared deeply in return.

But Aunt Mary was very set in her ways.  Firstly she was very elderly.  Secondly, she had already been living on her own for years and years.  She was a very staunch royalist and absolutely adored her Queen and all that she stood for.  The monarchy meant the world to her and she followed their every movement with great interest.  It was probably one of her biggest hobbies.  She indulged in royal watching.

Now, Aunt Mary, also had a passion for good food.  And somehow or other, she found herself quite taken with the young Jamie Oliver.  A real homebred boy-done-good.  In fact, she adored him.  She watched his every show on TV and bought all of his recipe books.  She read up about him in the papers and magazines and keenly followed his life too.  I’m not entirely sure that she cooked even a single meal from one of his books, but to her it was important to support him and to have access to something that he had done.

Until the fateful day, when her beloved Jamie did something ever so wrong.  So dreadfully wrong, it was more than she could bear.  Unforgiveable  in fact.

He was bestowed the great honour of receiving an audience with the Queen in order to receive his MBE (Member of the British Empire).  A most prestigious honour indeed.  One not just given to anybody.  I imagine that Aunt Mary was delighted.  Her two favourite people meeting up.  It was perfection.

But then, the most awful of things happened.  Not only did her beloved Jamie not wear a proper suit jacket.  He never donned a tie either.  How dared he appear before her Queen not properly attired?  She was horrified.  Mortified and angry too.  The youth of today!  No respect for their elders!  Imagine that!  Meeting the Queen, looking like that.

Dear sweet Aunt Mary, was so livid, that she stormed off and took every single Jamie Oliver book off of her bookshelves.  She packed them far, far away, so that she would not even be able to glance at them per chance.  She was disgusted.  I think she spoke about it quite a lot.  And told him off in her head for his disrespect.  In fact, just like that, she washed her hands off him.

Now the funny thing, is that Katrine is a beauty therapist by trade.  And she got a very swanky job at the Chelsea Harbour Club.  A very elitist health spa.  An establishment that is frequented by socialites, some of the royals and many British celebrities too.  In fact, upon her employment, Katrine had to sign a confidentiality agreement.  Even if she recognized one of her clients, she was never to enquire about their life.  Or even acknowledge that she knew who they were.  Her job was to provide an anonymous service.  One that the clients paid dearly for.

This was a rule that was taken very seriously.  And in her time, Katrine had the odd famous person.  I believe she had Minnie Driver, Yasmin Le Bon (Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran), and who knows who else.  And Katrine played by the rules.  Small talk could be made with clients, but nothing personal could be discussed. 

And so the topic of conversation on most people’s lips at the time, was the fashion gaff made by Jamie Oliver.  I believe the British Press had a bit of a field day.

And in conversation, Katrine was talking to a random client about it.  The way one does when you make small talk.  She was marvelling at the client, how Aunt Mary was so incensed and that she had packed all of his books away.  To which the random client replied, “You can tell your Aunt Mary, that she can take out his books once more”.

Naturally, Katrine enquired as to why.  And so it came to pass, that Katrine’s random client was in fact Jamie Oliver’s publicist/agent.  And that after receiving his MBE from the Queen, Jamie Oliver sent a personal letter to the Queen, thanking her for the honour she had bestowed upon him.  Her kindness, generosity and for meeting him in the first place.  And would you believe that dear sweet Jamie Oliver, got a personal reply back from the Queen herself.

She declared that after years and years of bestowing MBE’s and OBE’s, it was the very first time, that someone had sent her a personal thank you note afterwards.  Apparently most people were normally so star struck by her presence and feelings of self-importance afterwards, that they simply received their medals and off they went.  Getting on with their now-even-more-famous-thanks-to-the-awards-life.  She also said, that she was the one honoured by his presence.

Oh happy day indeed.  Katrine could not wait to rush home that afternoon, to share her exciting news with Aunty Mary.  A very, very delighted Aunt Mary, who felt so very, very chuffed with the sweet gentlemanly Jamie Oliver.  A man who clearly respected not only his elders, but her Queen too.

And predictably, Jamie Oliver’s books were unearthed from their hiding place and lovingly placed on her book shelves once more.

Now isn’t that just sooo sweet!

Personally, given his nickname as The Naked Chef, I think they dodged a bullet.  At least he wore some clothes.

The casually dressed, brown jacketed, not black jacketed, tie-less, unbuttoned, unshaven Jamie Oliver - the horror of it all!!!
Jamie proudly showing off his medal after the much anticipated pinning-on by the Queen

Aunt Mary - many, many, many moons ago, when she was still probably in her twenties

Aunt Mary with her Dad - as the title says, Oct 1964
Aunt Mary was very camera shy.  This pic was taken with her husband Kirkwood, when Cory and Alex were still very little.  Probably about fifteen or sixteen years ago.


  1. Excellent Helene!! I had forgotten. It is a fabulous story that got such a rise out of Mary from beginning to end! And being a woman and a fan of little bit of was most amusing!

  2. Weereens so interessant! Maar waar is aunty Mary se foto?

  3. Very well written, look forward to a photo of dear Mary

  4. Hahahahahahaahahaha! Wat 'n great storie, Helene! Kat, ek's seker julle het HOPE stories oor Aunt Mary!

  5. What a lovely story. Aunt Mary never met me or my children- but she used to send them presents from England, just because I am Margaux's sister- Margaux was Robin's first wife. She was so kind and generous, sending the most brilliant children's books to us for years and years. I really wish she had visited South Africa- but there was absolutely NO chance of that ever happening.