He does not visit home often. So it is a big deal when he does. On Tuesday as I waited for him to arrive, I actually got butterflies at the thought of seeing him again. The last time he came was over a year ago for Mum's Ashes Ceremony.
There has been a week of fuss and phone calls about his travel arrangements. Here is a man who has travelled the globe on business and pleasure but cannot navigate a journey from London to the frozen North. We are asked to provide the times of trains, weather reports and advice on what to wear. It amuses myself and my husband and irritates my Dad.
Needless to say, we arrange for him to be collected from the station. He arrives at the new house and, despite himself, is impressed. It shows on his face. How have they managed this?
On arrival we chat pleasantly enough and then he goes into Dad's annexe for some one on one time with him. The children arrive home and are so excited that their absent Uncle is present for once. Just like an absent parent, he is idolized from afar and tends to turn up with pressies to impress. This time, they don't even notice that he has brought nothing for them. Such is the cult of the absent Uncle.
Teas and dinners are had. Stories are read and children are bathed and put to bed. Two of my three accept this willingly enough following their normal routine. My oldest is up and downstairs like a yo-you wanting to be a grown-up and sensing a party atmosphere in the making.
My husband is dispatched to the local off licence for supplies. Many bottles of good red and white wine. It feels odd to be drinking out of crystal glasses rather than our "from Asda cheap and cheerful so if they break it doesn't matter" equivalents.
It is a night to talk of memories as the wine flows freely. I know my brother's flaws but it is very hard not to enjoy his excellent company. He is a great raconteur and has stories to die for having mixed with Royalty and celebrities in his time. He has "insider knowledge" on many famous names through the work he did not to mention his spell in The Priory a few years ago.
We recall in vivid detail as if we are reliving the moments
1. My flamboyant Uncle Lawrence - a tap dancer, gay, an alcoholic, an accountant, a laugh, a buyer of magical gifts. So many stories of party nights with his friends at his Shepherd's Bush flat and of joint holidays.
2. The time I was cross with same said Uncle so waited until he was in bed in a gin-sozzled state and then dropped a Family Bible on his head.
3. The time my brother threatened to cut my throat when I would not wash up at a family party. So I went into the room where all my parents' guests were and told them what he had said. To this day, he feels I was in the wrong and not him.
4. The time my other brother was posing on a sun-lounger and I went up and poured a bucket of cold seawater over him.
There are many other stories, some that are reassuring in some way as have been told many times over the years and others that are new and give fresh insights.
The next day, I am told by my Dad that both myself and my husband fell asleep in our chairs between 4 and 5 in the morning. Both Dad and my brother laugh and say we lack stamina.
How we managed to dress, breakfast and dispatch three young children to school the next morning I will never know.