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23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

The Facts of Life

Jane's late night phone calls generally developed quite conversationally, but sometimes she had a definite topic in mind right from the start. "Have you heard about the Facts of Life?", she began on one occasion (early 2013). "Well, dear Aunt," I replied cautiously, "It's a bit late in the day to be asking me that – I've already found out, one way or another."

"No, not you!" she replied, a bit testily, "About how Frances and I found out. There was a perfectly horrid girl in Frances' class at school called Harriet, and one day she accosted Frances with a very lurid and frightening story about how babies began. So Frances, in a state of great distress, came home and asked Grannie [ie Frances' and Jane's mother] whether this dreadful tale could possibly be true.

"Grannie ushered Frances into the bathroom, so that they shouldn't be disturbed, and began to impart the truth of the matter in a calm and measured way. I of course, being the nosey little girl I was, listened intently from the outside, with my ear against the door. Grannie's voice rose and fell, against a muffled background of convulsive sobbing from Frances, so that I couldn't really make out all the facts of the matter, but enough to get the gist of it.

"Eventually there was a long pause, and then the door opened and out came Grannie, followed by a very red-eyed and damp-faced Frances. "Well, dear," said Grannie, turning to Frances, "I've told you all about it, and now you can tell Jane."

"But she never did!"