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Olga's Daughter: Sydney And The Cook

...There’s been a terrible scandal in the family. You just won’t believe what happened last Saturday morning when we came down to breakfast...

Marie Campbell continues her deeply moving and wonderfully detailed family story.

To purchase a copy of Marie's highly filmable book please visit www.olgasdaughter.wordpress.com

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Letter to Vivie, Miami, USA
Olga, Kingston, Jamaica.

Dearest Vivie

There’s been a terrible scandal in the family. You just won’t believe what happened last Saturday morning when we came down to breakfast.

“That’s strange; I can’t smell any burnt toast”. Dolly said. You remember how Aggie Burns insisted we eat burnt toast, because for some reason she thinks it’s good for us. Mammie said Aggie hadn’t turned up for work and she asked Pearl to go to Aggie’s house and see if she was alright.

Pearl said “No, Mammie, I get frightened when I go near that house, it’s full of voodoo stuff”. Pearl’s right. If we have a boiled egg for our breakfast, Aggie Burns makes us smash the empty egg shell because she said if we don’t, then witches can use them as boats and control the winds. What’s wrong with that, I wonder?

“Aggie lives alone and maybe she’s ill or hurt, after all it’s very unusual for her not to turn up for work”. Mammie was clearly very worried about her.
But, as we all know, she doesn’t really live alone. She lives with talking peacocks, voodoo dolls, three scrawny chickens, a pet mongoose and that whopping big black cat of hers, called Lucifer, which follows her just about everywhere she goes.

Do you remember when Aggie first started working for us it used to follow her here and, because Mammie wouldn’t allow it in the house, it used to curl up under the cotton tree out the front and wait for her to leave at the end of the day. I tried to stroke it a couple of times but it would hiss at me.

I certainly didn’t want to go to Aggie Burns house and neither did Ruby, so Mammie said she’d go, but in the meantime Cassie was to get breakfast ready while Ruby went upstairs to wake Sydney, because he hadn’t appeared either. Well, within minutes Ruby came running down the stairs and into the kitchen very excited and announced that Sydney’s bed hasn’t been slept in all night.
Now that’s quite unusual for Sydney I know, but I told Mammie that Sydney had probably been working late and fallen asleep on the couch in the office at the back of the bicycle shop.

“I expect he’ll come home shortly to wash and change his clothes. After breakfast I’ll go with you, Mammie, to Aggie Burns’ house” I said.

So, just as we’re finishing breakfast in walks Sydney and we all heave a sigh of relief.

He sits down and says “I have something to tell you” and without even pausing for breath he says “I’m getting married”.

Mammie throws her arms around his neck and gives him a big hug; there’s lots of excitement and laughter. And then he says
“I’m going to live with Aggie Burns”.

Well, I don’t mind telling you, Vivie, there was silence, a big silence. He’s not serious I thought. Never mind she’s black, she’s a witch for heaven’s sake.
How can the head of the Browney family live with a witch? What will people think? What will Father Butler think? It’s quite common for Jamaicans to just live together without being married, although respectable people are expected marry. But Sydney is still married to Janetha and the Catholic Church doesn’t allow divorce so that’s why they’re going to live together.

Our faces must have shown the disbelief and disappointment we all felt.
Ruby got up and quietly left the room. Dolly and I followed leaving Mammie and Sydney to talk, but the talk didn’t last long or go well because Sydney came roaring out of the dining room saying he would never set foot in the house again and slammed the front door as he left. He was in a big rage Vivie. Mammie started crying and in between her sobs she asked me to contact Cissie and Dyke in Montego Bay. So, I left and sent Cissie a message.

Telegram to Cissie, and Dyke, Montego Bay fromOlga, Kingston
Urgent. Come quickly. Sydney gone off with the cook .

Dolly ran to Boysie to tell him what had happened. He came round straightaway and gave Mammie a big hug and told her not to worry, he would talk to Sydney and everything would be alright.

Later on, who do you think walked in, Vivie, none other than Aggie Burns herself, all dressed up and wearing, I must admit, a very nice straw hat with flowers all round the brim.

“I’ve come for some of Sydney’s possessions”.

“Why would you want Mr Sydney’s things, Aggie” Mammie asked her.

“Because we are in love and he’s living with me now”. Honestly, she was so cocky I wanted to hit her.

“I’ve brought a suitcase with me so I’ll just pop upstairs and get a few things”.

“Pop upstairs” sounded funny coming from Aggie Burns, it’s so English and she’s so witchy.

And then she said to Mammie
“He won’t be giving you any more money. He will need all his money for the family I will give him”.

As she turned to go upstairs, Mammie jumped up, rushed over to Aggie Burns, put her hands on her shoulders and pushed her away from the stairs. Dolly, Ruby and I joined in and the four of us pushed her right out the front door and told her never to set foot in our house again.

The next day Cissie came up from Montego Bay and took charge of the kitchen. She did lots of cooking, baking bread, bulla cakes and biscuits. Oh, she was wonderful and she gave Mammie some money to stop her worrying.

Boysie and I continued to go to the shop but Sydney didn’t appear for about a week and when he did he and Boysie went into the back office to have a little chat. Boysie was concerned that even though we were giving Mammie nearly all our wages now, we were still short of money.

“It’s not like you can’t afford it”, Boysie told Sydney. But Sydney wouldn’t budge. He said he was going to start his own family now and was not prepared to support us any more. Boysie was horrified, and what started off as a calm conversation developed into a huge quarrel with Boysie finally saying he was ending their partnership and wouldn’t be coming to the shop again.

Now Sydney was coming to the shop every day but Boysie wasn’t. I wasn’t happy working there and wanted to leave, but, couldn’t. I’m trapped here, Vivie. I hate him. All my love, Olga.


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