The poem begins with a series of warmly drawn, affectionate childhood memories. Aunt Julia speaks Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
The speaker states
I could not answer her,
I could not understand her, immediately establishing one of the main themes - frustration at barriers in communication.
However, despite this language barrier he goes onto draw a picture of a strong, capable and passionate woman who created a haven of safety and security in her house for the young boy.
Clarity and lucidity were qualities MacCaig constantly worked for in his poetry and they are evident in this opening stanza with its series of straightforward statements.
The poem has freshness and charm which stems from the fact it is with the eyes and ears of a child that he remembers Aunt Julia. The repetition of
I could not reinforces the idea of the barrier in communication.
However, despite this inability to understand or be understood, the tone is affectionate and emphasises that, even without a common language, strong bonds can be created. Already in this vivid description we have the impression of Julia as a dynamic, vigorous and forceful character.