I was raised on the Telegraph crossword. It was important to my mother that I didn’t sound like the area I was from, so she worked hard on my elocution, and filled me up with words that might be found in the Telegraph crossword.

I was like a tiny Penelope Keith.

Throughout my childhood, I did the crossword with my mother while my Dad did useful things, like repaving the driveway and changing tap washers. I have no knowledge of these things. These things are, however, the skills I really could have done with acquiring because if anything in the house starts leaking, all I know is I have to call someone.

Anywho, the Telegraph crossword.

With the passage of time, and the loss of all the practical people, my uncle used to visit more often. He arrived, usually a couple of hours later than he had said he would.

It used to be a family game. Craig ETA. He might have said 4pm. My Dad would guess with kindness, because that was the sort of person he was, and say 5pm. My mother, with a better knowledge of her brother, would suggest anywhere from 9pm. I would take a stab at ‘sometime tomorrow’. Usually, my mother was right.

When Craig finally appeared, with no particular explanation of where he’d got to, he would go straight to bed and appear with a cup of tea and the newspaper sometime before lunch the next day.

“Good morning,” my mother would begin, as if he was her bank manager.

He’d read a clue, and she’d rattle off answers until the thing was finished.

It was quite a number of years before she realised that the first two clues across made another word, or some sort of pun.

There was one where the first two clues across were:

Israeli port (5) and London airport (5)

My mother answered both at once, and made herself laugh for a week.

“Haifa Luton.” Like hifalutin.

Now, it was with some frustration that we came to the following thing across.

Help yourself dinner (6), Diesel (4).

Buffet, derv.

“What in the world is buffet derv?” we asked ourselves for hours before noticing the next line.

Help yourself dinner (6), Diesel (4), Electrical measures (7), For example igneous or a chicken (5)

Buffet Derv Amperes Layer

Say it fast.


Hours. It took hours.

I’m very thankful we never got into Sudoku. My brain can only manage so much.