Friday 30 November 2012

Windsor Hotel, Nassau. 196-

The red snapper had been excellent, the company less so, and even on the veranda of the Windsor Hotel he had been ambushed.  Dark as it was the old man had sniffed him out though Jonty had cupped his cigarette as if concerned about snipers.
            ‘Didn’t bring a newspaper, old man?’
            Jonty apologised. He could hardly have failed to notice, once rowed to shore from the seaplane he had hired, that he was a newcomer to Bermuda. Quite what a figure of interest this had made him had only become apparent once otherwise happily settled at the bar of the hotel. Strangers had introduced themselves and the more so as the first spoke to the second and the exile telegraph went into a higher gear. Nassau was doubtless the worst for it, but in Nassau for the moment he would have to stay. Bermuda one of those specks of dust on the map that represented the overseas colonies of Great Britain. And still they were that, outposts of a nation that no longer existed and certainly having nothing to do with dull old England. The Dutch and Japanese might enjoy their Empires (and commensurately their wars) and Jonty certainly hoped the Spanish countries and colonies liked fighting one another for they had been at it for decades now. But Bermuda was British since the establishment of St George’s nine years into the House of Stuart’s rule in 1612.
            ‘Not to worry, not to worry...’
            The man made no move to leave and saying nothing more only coughed every minute or so until Jonty introduced himself.
            ‘Overton, old man,” he replied. “Major, retired of course. Whole bloody regiment retired. Dissolved, lost I suppose. After my time of course but don’t tell the others. A chap can run his slate long when they think he’s a true Royalist hero.’
            ‘And were you?’
            ‘No old man. But then nor were you, eh? Get you a drink? Rum matches the place. Always drink local I say, Governor certainly does. Like a fish, only they don’t do they?’
            ‘Don’t they?’
            ‘No, and he does, so silly thing to say really. You’ll wait whilst I get the drinks. Be bloody silly to be running about at this time of night. And chin up, takers a rogue to sniff a rogue.’
            Perhaps arranged to be so or more likely by coincidence, the sound of boots signalled the arrival of the guard across the square. Whilst many had fled England (or just as Jonty well knew, been allowed to leave) and to places like this, so too had gathered every loyal British soldier, sailor and marine in the Caribbean, Atlantic and later even those few that had been in the Pacific. Those that had not understood what had happened back home, or did not care or as now knew they were on to a good thing being paid if not well, then as ceremonials only. Those Jonty watched were typical of those he had seen since arriving. Six come to change the guard like they were duty at Windsor Castle, all corporals but for the one sergeant, all about his age, gone to fat and mightily whiskered.
            Overton returned with two glasses that he held in one hand, in the other a cigar just lit. He did not offer to toast Jonty. He drew on the cigar and perhaps therefore summoning a waiter who fetched the two men an ashtray neither had thought to collect themselves.
            ‘Another,’ said Overton knocking back his glass. Jonty did the same and presently with their glasses refreshed the older man seemed satisfied by something and so announced that he was going to let Jonty in on a secret.
            ‘Where did you school?’
            The question surprised Jonty, who lied. Overton seemed satisfied but did not return the gesture as would have been common amongst gentlemen. And Jonty, having been nowhere for many years where he might be allowed to be considered one, missed the niceties more because of it. His expression he kept neutral.
            ‘I was a spy and a good one too,’ said Overton. He knocked off an inch of ash and the tray too recently washed hissed a little. ‘By which I mean that I betrayed people. A spy as I say, not an intelligence officer or a gentleman of the club, or whatever the vernacular is nowadays. A bad sort all round. Oh, there were reasons. When you break old man, you break all the way. I betrayed so many people and then I betrayed one more, and that person much to my dismay returned a few years later to remind me of what I had done.’
            ‘Quite so.’
            Overton hesitated. He drank down his second which was not, Jonty thought, only his second of the evening. Jonty saw him shake before eyes closed he stilled, reminding the comparatively younger man of a high wire act he had once seen. Overton waved away the moment with his cigar.
            ‘And yet here you are,’ said Jonty.
            ‘I went to Scotland first, but the loyalists had all gone. The Scots had never liked them much and whilst they liked to wave their flags they had never regretted exporting the Stuarts. Crossed the ocean before she came back for me, I suppose I should have just dropped out for a while, but I never felt comfortable in Columbia. All that religion, like the Spaniards although not quite of course, and they will insist on knowing a chap’s business.’
            ‘And you’re not a fellow to just tell a stranger his secrets?’
            Overton took a handkerchief and chuckled into it as he wiped his nose and brow. He said, ‘But surely you know all this?’
            ‘Why ever should I?’
            ‘I’d say because you’re here to kill me? Mme Roux sent you?’
            ‘Ah, why should that you think that?’ he said, more interested now because the old fool was absolutely correct save for the fact that Jonty had not the first idea who he was. The name he had given had meant nothing.
            Overton signalled for the waiter and after a brief whisper and the passing of folded notes a bottle was brought. For a moment neither spoke as Jonty looked out over the narrow streets with their clapboard houses. Pretty with the gables and balconies that were so very Nassau. Concerned over what Overton had said, Jonty expected trouble. When Overton paused to splash two large ones he accepted.
            ‘Tell me Mr Hood, do you like stories?’
            ‘I prefer a good song.’
            Hearing this Overton obliged in a good baritone, ‘No more chant your old rhymes about old Robin Hood, his feats I do little admire.’
            ‘I’ve heard this one.’
            ‘I’ll sing the achievements of General Dick, now the hero of old Yer-hork-shire!’ sang Overton. He coughed, ‘I forget the rest. But that’s not the only song I know, how about another?’
            Jonty smiled thinly. He ran a hand through his hair squinting as he did so.
            ‘Oh one morning when I woke up, O bella ciao, bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao. Oh one morning when I woke up and I found the invader. Oh, handsome Jonty, take me with you...’
            ‘I’ve changed my mind, I’ll take the story.’
            Overton did not answer immediately. He paused before hinting strongly that not only did he know Jonty was a figure of folk song and tales, but so too was he. General Dick the first of them really, the strike maker and the union organiser back when that meant the price of a bullet charged to a man’s new widow. General Dick had been for votes. They still called votes Dicks back home. He the pamphlet celebrity for democracy, for equality, or so the songs went but Jonty, who had been in a few songs of his own, knew how accurate they were; which was not. The older man was wearing a decently stiff lip considering he was convinced Jonty was here to kill him. A mixture of conceit and reputation, Overton’s conceit and Jonty’s reputation. Neither of which saw fit to pick up the conversation and dust it down.
            ‘I don’t suppose you might see fit to...’
            ‘Who is that?’ said Jonty. Inside and an extraordinary woman watched them.
            ‘I can introduce you?’
            ‘General Dick, would it be an awful imposition to ask if you would instead just piss off?’

Tuesday 27 November 2012

The Slides Align

I’ve ignored the signs for a while now; a little snow by a gutter in August, the path by the garage that is not there now, the crow in the old ash every day and this morning a letter. Plain brown envelope, my hand writing, empty.
            The slides are falling together again. I’ve resisted it before now but there’s too many. The stars aren’t there behind the clouds. There’s this jumper of mine. It’s green, stripy, hand knitted and I’ve not seen it in years. And it’s in my wardrobe. There’s no way around it, the slide are aligning and too many and I can’t resist. I hope I walk it, I hate waking up and things have gone. And I hope, more than that, beg if you will that my daughters remain.
            There’s this fire in me, this bright and pure light that is my children. My youngest loves me, but my eldest needs me. She’s not quite right, but with me we can turn the world so that all else is twisted, not us. I’m finding the keys and ignoring the locks. Days tick by and I can see to the end of the year but the next is cigarette smoke by an open window.
            I don’t know where I’ll be. I’ll be me, and perhaps years before and knowing where I’ve been will fade, a conversation reminded of but not recalled, only puzzled at. The slides turn about us, all things turn liquid. I’ve retrod the last five years, the same each year, day on day but that year’s grown too thin.
            The slides align and they’ve found me.
            I don’t how long I’ll be here. I don’t know if there’ll be a... this.
            All that we have woven now frays.  

Saturday 24 November 2012

Hobbits Don't Sparkle

Hard-core Hobbit fans are said to be unhappy at the changes that the film has taken with the much loved story.
            First published in 1937, The Hobbit tells the story of an ancient pie-eating warrior who having lost his one true love whilst killing hundreds of orcs turns his back on the Valar and is forever cursed to walk Middle-Earth as an immortal monster. Since the 1980s fans have  taken to dressing in black and swanning about three stone lighter as a sop to the inner turmoil of their beautiful souls, eating big pies, and wishing they had super powers so that in order to balance a bit of bullying in their youth they could kill their former tormentors completely dead until they’re sorry.
            The current adaptation however shows a different take on the theme. Fans have objected to the idea that Hobbits, far from catching fire if getting out of bed before noon now ‘sparkle’. The doomed-loved motif is replaced by telling the story from the point of view of a terribly-thin girl that chews her lip a lot, and though who really wants to eat pie will die if she does so. Die, die, die!
            The Hobbit theme of big pies and eternal youth was more recently explored in the best-seller Fifty Slices Of American Cheese which itself started life as Hobbit fanfic.
            Robert Smith of the Cure had been unavailable for comment, seeing as how he ate all the pies. 

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Steampunk, Dita Von Teese, and Debenhams

Got dressed in a hurry again.

As an answer to the piece a few weeks backs (Oct 25th,  Memory Knickers, Viking Wine and Tyranny!) renowned burlesque artiste Dita Von Teese has announced her own range of vintage lingerie to be produced through that renowned corsetiere Debenhams. The announcement comes that Miss Von Teese wishes to ‘make women feel glamorous and sexy’; which is very kind of her I’m sure.
            At least there is a name that matches a product. We’re all used to celebrities putting their moniker to whatever can be boxed and sold, and here so close to Christmas. It probably makes more sense than the Kate Moss brand of articulated lorries, or Norman Tebbit’s range of feminine hygiene foam (‘Norman...’).
Already though there has been scepticism from the all-important steampunk LARPers, cosplayers and genuine Martian lady-explorers market. Currently the largest slice of the corset industry, for those that do not know of what I speak steampunk is a science-fiction genre based upon an alternative Victorian milieu. Whilst in both the feminine garb relies upon heavy skirts, blouse and restrictive whale-bone underwear it differs from the historical in that by some quirk the latter is worn outside the former. Gentlemen explorers to keep in character strut about with their underpants over tight leather trousers. Von Teese hopelessly misjudging the market has produced a range designed to be worn next to the skin.
Ever having been a slave to fashion I type this missive with a string vest worn over my coat and a pair of Superman boxer shorts over my jeans.     

Sunday 18 November 2012

Mme Roux: High Tea and a Submarine

There was nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in submarines.
            Mme Roux in sunhat and cotton lace toyed with a Russian revolver newly cleaned and set amongst the tea things. Parasols shadowed the deck and not so far to either side the sea, too hot to bother with them, went by on its own lazy tide. Several of their young captain’s sailors did whatever it was that sailors did, on hands and knees, to the other side of the conning tower. But this side it was flannels and boaters, and with a flat bang one of the boats Belgium self-loading rifles. They had been here long enough for tea to be served and it seemed to attract a little attention.
            ‘Did you hit him?’ said Mme Roux peering now through a pair of small binoculars. ‘I don’t think you did?’
            ‘Only the pedalo. Not sure it’ll sink much so hopefully he’ll have gotten the message,’ said Jonty. He let the borrowed rifle rest where his boots crossed the submarine’s rails now to take a plate from Mme Roux. The smells might have been of the coast, rot and creosote, but it was rather splendid he thought to enjoy a summer picnic without wasp or fly. He toasted his hostess with a macaroon (but she still with binoculars to eye missed the gesture).
            ‘I don’t suppose he can fail to. He’s a silly ass, isn’t he?’ Across the water and the pedalo started to turn about. Stumbling in the little boat the fat figure with the speaking trumpet (that had been demanding they leave or surrender) shouted without it at the pair that now pedalled the faster back towards a pier.
            ‘It’s his sort, pumped up prig with a little gold braid and a funny moustache; a bank manager in uniform. Gods knows why he bothered at all. King and country I suppose.’
            ‘Maybe Bolshevik refugees? Menshevik agents? Pankhursts or just plain old Communards  -  so many flavours and all of them cabbage. Socialist, fascists and Telegraphists. What they need is a decent civil war. Let’s oblige them.’
            ‘They’re a bit early don’t you think? Word of the King must have spread fast. Indeed, has it even happened yet? And here we are, and as ever you have chosen such a very interesting spot for your cloak and dagger adventures,’ he fetched out a cigarette case from his jacket where it hung on the back of his chair. ‘Will you be running up a flag? Or have we yet to decide which to choose?’
            ‘I only like the one but perhaps another will choose you?’
            ‘How very Fabian of it, so should we clink glasses then and laugh like chickens?’
            Mme Roux smiled slightly. She replaced the binoculars. She took up the Nagant revolver to load it with polished cartridges taken from an empty butter dish. Jonty watched her with studied indifference. Indifference studied indeed many times in the mirror. He lit his cigarette. Two conservative looking maids cleared away the tea things. Jonty inspected his rifle. He looked about for an oily rag but saw not a one. The sea air would be doing the gun no good at all. The cigarette was only half smoked when he flicked it over the side. Sailors were now breaking down the table and he rose to let them at the chair, jacket in his now free hand.
            ‘Can I ask if there is any purpose to our being here? I understand about the King of course, but there can’t be many boats like the Jormungand. Friend speaking-trumpeteer might be anyone, and so know someone, and someone might be able to do something about us. By us, I of course mean you.’
‘Does it trouble you, Jonty?’
            ‘Trouble me?’
            Mme Roux tugged at the ribbon of her sun hat as she picked her way up the side of the submarine’s conning tower, button-boots ringing her progress. A maid caught the hat and then the boots too as they too were dropped a moment later. Above and another, Jonty could just make out, held a blanket to conceal his host. Jonty having lit and smoked another half cigarette joined Mme Roux only after she had changed. Below and all evidence of tea had vanished. Even the maids had descended within and Mme Roux gestured that he should follow. She had dressed somewhat Prussian, but for yellow silk at the throat. He saluted her smartly.
            Below and their Captain waited, the rapping of his fingers on brass the only sound below not mechanical. With that hand he gave up on his impatience to tug at a beard thick, full and forest black. He grunted a greeting to Jonty. The captain had the Jormungand because he in their company had stolen it. Big as he was, he stooped. It seemed to Jonty a post-command for jockeys.
The air was close, warm and as fresh as it would ever be. Damp too for the air in the boat was mostly steam. Jonty (whose experience with submarines involved theft and two voyages, this the second) did not like them. He did not understand them. And this boat where the scent of lavender fought that of wet dog was one of the very latest. A new Dutch O Boot that on seeing it as they had escaped from Prussia they had just simply had to have.
            ‘Captain Ewerlof? We may depart,’ said Mme Roux.

Friday 16 November 2012


Evolution just as certain
As the nose upon your face
Quite enough well proven
For us all, the human race
Evolution jolly certain
Understand the meaning of  ‘theory’
Some brainy chaps have proved it
Now I’m off to have my tea

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Coming In One Month's Time

The Dead Screw Letters

It’s shit being dead.
            Which is apt because for the most part that’s what I have to shovel. Effluence, honey, guano, call it what you will but shit is shit and it has to be moved and there’s not much labour to be had else, not when you’re dead; which I am, as I may have mentioned. It’s all right. I wasn’t stretched out for the birds. I didn’t have a funeral. I didn’t die. I was born like it. My da was dead, my ma was dead. I was born dead. I was raised dead. Lots of us were, down here.
            There’re a lot of birds. A lot of fish too, as you know. Both in fact. You can’t miss the birds. You won’t have missed the birds. They’ll not have missed you I’d be prepared to bet. Up there on top of the rock, king of the island, high and proud. Everywhere there’re birds. Eggs and meat, feathers and bone, and shit, lots of shit. It’s the basis of our whole way of life. You know that, you just don’t care to think about it. It bleaches your clothes, it makes the steam. It makes the crops grow on the rock. So we shovel it, cut cakes of it, and life goes on. Only not for us because we’re dead, I’m dead. Born like it. Breathing and farting and laughing, but dead.
            Only not for much longer, shovelling shit that is. The dead thing kind of sticks though. I done my time. I made my coin. I saved. I’ve spent it too. Three days ago. I’m out of the shit, or will be.
            You’ll not like it. They’ll not like it. The picaroons with the tawdry splendour, sword and wand, live today and die tomorrow. Only dead-dead, not dead, not like me. The sustantivo with that inherited trade, that task. The gaity ladies, and more. All so proud, all so frail, all that dignity and station. With the music, and the fish, and the cages. We’re all together-together, my friend. Or you are, not me. All together and looking down, and quite literally from up, on us, on me; on the dead.
            But I’m out of the shit, soon. And I’ll be a crawler. Because there’s task and there’s talent, and no one wants to crawl. No one wants to ask questions, no one want to insist on the truth. No one wants to explore, to test, to tease out the truth. It’s base, and it’s crude. To crawl, and I’ll crawl, and I’ll crawl the truth. I’ll ask and I’ll test, and find the truth of it.
            I’ll find out who did what, to whom, even why. That’s what a crawler does. And you’ll despise me for it. For seeing to the laws, even as they change, hour on hour.
            I’ll be on to you, my friend.
            And no one likes a crawler. No likes us when we detect, and trouble.
            That’s all right, I won’t give a shit.
            Trust me, I’ve shovelled plenty.
            Call me Screw. It’s shit being dead; and there’s plenty to go round.
Christmas Tales across ten days.
Starts this 14th December.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Womble, Fat Boy, and Dog Eggs

Click for full article.

There’s this place in the woods where the litter goes.
            My sprouts young Catnip and Bosswell think I’m a Womble. I’m a habitual litter picker-upper. There’s not that much in Tolly Maw so I don’t have to pick the awful stuff up often but the sight of a plastic bottle or a crisp packet in a hedgerow or lane will see me bend and pluck and put in the next bin. The covered ones you get nowadays so that nothing blows out. Most of the dog owners perhaps seeing me always pick up their dog eggs. But there’re one or two that dart into the bushes whilst I go by since for they will insist of leaving the mess on pavements when I’m not around.
            It’s not hard is it? Put it in the bin. It’s one of the things I notice in Big Town round here and heaven help me in the smoke where hunched rows of the stuff sits wet and miserable in every crack and corner. Years ago I was in a car with a fat boy who having filled the floor of his van with crap, and stopped at the lights, opened the door and heaved it all out on the road. That was a sharp, direct sort of conversation which followed.
            I don’t really mind when it’s found in bus stops and other congregating places for teenagers. Sat there texting and updating their status about the bus stop they’re in to their sticky friends also in the same bus stop. They don’t even notice the flakes of rubbish that just slough off them when, if ever, they move. It’s the adults that irritate me. Fat boy’s justification for sending a van’s worth of crap across the road was that, and seriously, he was ‘keeping someone in work’. As if by introducing the world to pie wrappers, fag packets and burger papers he was just doing his bit for the economy.
            But there’s this place in the woods here where all the litter goes. It’s off the road in its own little dell. Chairs go here to die. Tins and scraps and dead pets pile atop magazines and sweet wrappers. Stig’s very happy, but this isn’t a dump. Yet somehow the rubbish finds its way there and most don’t even know it’s there at all. Most people have magic bins that if you put them out on a Thursday night they’re empty after work on a Friday. Yet still there’s this place in the woods where the litter goes.
            My sprouts call me a Womble, but they don’t drop litter. They give it to me. They bring it home to give to me. I’m going to wallpaper their room in newspaper, and everything I do I can hear Bernard Cribbins describe. At 5.55pm each day. Right before the news.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Old Ink: Let It Be

One more of many pieces found stuffed in a folder.
I didn’t much like it then, and I’m certainly not happy with it now. It’s the piece that didn’t work at all to the extent that I had a good hard look and worked out why eight years ago – and because of which I stopped trying to fill every blank space on a picture (and just leave them be).

Thursday 8 November 2012

Celebrites Not Getting Out Of Here


Complaints have been made in the House regarding the news that one of the contestants on ITV's I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is, or certainly was, a serving member for the Tories.
            The show which, as far as I can make out, sees people of fame (past, present and hopefully future) spending time in a controlled sort-of jungle, being miserable. There’s an old one who just gets on with it, someone who shouts, some crying people, and a few bikinis that wash in a waterfall. Whilst this is probably not the sort of thing a Tory MP should be up to then at least in this case he’s probably not been planning to do much else otherwise. Formerly dead since the mid-19C, Sir Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington KG GCB GCH PC FRS is being vaunted as ‘guaranteed to put some dandy glamour into the camp’.
            Wellesley, perhaps most famous as being the big-nosed beetroot constantly damning the eyes of Richard Sharpe, is reported as declaring to his fellow contestants ‘Hard pounding gentlemen,  let’s see who pounds the longest’, assuring all there that the contest had already been won on the playing fields of Eton. Where he explained they were very used to having grubs eat them, and of taking showers in tiny bikinis.
            The Duke’s inclusion has been widely condemned by the internet, which has demanded to know what will happen if the French invade in his absence? Also that he’s overpaid, a bit foreign, and then a lot more about immigration and the unemployed for some reason. And that Dad’s Army should be shown again since Clive Dunn died.
Which it is, and has been for months, every Saturday night on BBC2.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Sausages For Tea

Myra loved Wednesday afternoons.
 Arnold’s office worked to the same hours as the shop and warehouse. Half day closing meant that not only did he return early enough that the fireplace in the parlour could be lit, but he always returned with one or two little treasures as he liked to call them. One of three clerks in the shipping office Arnold was neither the most senior, nor the more junior and old Mr. Farnsdale was due for retirement in two years time. Besides, it was Arnold that dealt with the men and so on Wednesday afternoon there were the little treasures. Today it was a four pound tin of real butter and much to her delight a pair of authentic stockings still sealed in their cardboard packet. They were American of course, and how Myra delighted at the picture of the smiling housewife that adorned the upper side; the price in cents, not shillings. They were not exactly on ration, but supply made for its own and Myra only had two pairs visibly without runs and one of them had gone at the toe.
The kitchen neat still Myra moved the bread tin to check for crumbs. There had been a mouse in the trap that morning. Its little grey body had then still on the tiles of the larder floor it was now discarded but not forgotten, wrapped in brown paper in the dustbin out of sight but not of mind. She looked at the larder door now. Despite the door she could see where the mouse had gotten in. Know where it had scrabbled about dirtily. There she kept ships biscuit in the greaseproof paper. Three different sizes of tinned meat and twenty one jars in which carefully prepared were pickles, preserves and jams all made on the smart new gas cooker Arnold had saved for and had installed just two years before. She fetched up the matches from the spot by the best milk jug and slipped them into the pocket of her pinny. The parlour would need to warm for tea. It was cold outside and Arnold was in the potting shed, preparing for the thaw. The evening meal was to be sausages, potatoes and the last of the carrots till Friday. All dressed with her mother’s gravy (God bless her soul) that made any meal special, though Myra well knew they had it better than many in Oldbury Road. She paused before leaving the kitchen to glance once again at the larder door. The paint was a little yellowed. She would speak to Arnold about that and he would unhang the door on Sunday to give it a fresh coat. Yes, she would speak to him after tea.
In the street children were playing with more screams than laughter. Myra slipping into the parlour and twitched back the net curtains to make sure they were not abusing her little front garden, just ten by five between door and street. Satisfied she bent to the grate to light the fire already laid Monday morning after clearing the ashes and soaping the iron from Sunday. Some only used the parlour for visitors (but they had few enough of those). But here the parlour was for Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon. She had thoroughly dusted it that morning as she did every day. Indeed Myra spent the four hours of every morning once Arnold had left for work with the kiss on the cheek, the nod of the head and the three steps to the door as it was every morning, never on Sunday.
The kindling caught quickly. Myra scattered coal in the grate, careful not to spill between bucket and fire. Sunday, Myra liked Sunday most of all. The children outside ran by. They had never been so blessed and if that had once made knots in her conscience then time had mellowed that too. One, either or both of them was wrong it seemed; inside. Arnold had decided those years ago that they would not see the Doctor on the matter. To his mind to know if which of them was wrong inside would only make blame. It was better that neither knew. That was very Arnold. At times talking as she did with her sister Myra had heard that children were no daisy-bright wonders, perhaps things were better this way. Perhaps. The grate warmed the parlour quickly. Wednesday and Sunday only.
On Sunday Arnold would rise as he always did at a quarter past six by his father’s clock on the mantle (God rest his soul). Myra would, as she had every Sunday since the first after they had been married, remain in bed. For twenty minutes she would enjoy the warmth no matter the weather and Arnold would return with tea and toast. Always tea and always toast. Dark and well buttered. They would eat together in bed (and oh how later she would hunt the crumbs) and by seven they would make love.
In this and on talking to her sister, Myra felt herself lucky. She and Arnold only ever made love on Sunday morning. Church they would attend at Evensong. If they lived lives now that saw them passing to meet it seemed only at regular mealtimes and for bed, then on Sunday morning and just as regularly they made love. Myra had not been nervous on her wedding night. She had married late for her family, nearly a spinster at twenty four. Arnold, the funny little man that worked the office where her uncle (God too rest his soul)| had worked the warehouse. He had courted her at first nervously and then with only a little more confidence.
They had both been virgins on their wedding night, she believed him when he had admitted it, and there had been a certain amount of awkwardness but unlike her sister who seemed to regard the whole thing as distasteful (‘his wickedness’) Myra had come to enjoy it greatly. Indeed and over twenty years of marriage what had once been a not unpleasant duty now was something she looked forward to and indeed at times now lead. For all his reserved ways and dedication to order, Arnold had as her own vigour increased sought to match it. Working in a shipping office he was able to acquire French pornography and in the same manner he would read the instructions for anything else, had committed himself to mastering such as was described and illustrated. Her sister would be scandalised to learn of the occasions when whilst Arnold was down the stairs preparing tea and toast Myra had inspected the pornography,  pressed and bound in the potting shed as he might later in the day his seed catalogues. The very thought caused her to spot. It was Wednesday however, not Sunday. Myra rose and placing the guard before the fire went to begin on the tea.
“Bother!” she said. The thought had quite put Myra’s thoughts elsewhere. Come bed and she would have to wait for Arnold’s snores before turning over to attend to herself. Her pillow had a particularly agreeable corner where the stuffing made a ridge.
The sausages she set to one side, potatoes and carrots to be peeled first. With her grandmother’s knife (God rest her soul) Myra stripped the vegetables with practised and perfect efficiency. The peelings went into the tin pig bin. No, they lived better than most. If Arnold was only a clerk then better a clerk than a labourer. And every Thursday a small postal order would arrive. Myra did not know from whom it was sent, surely not the young man for whom they looked after the golf clubs, but a lawyer most likely. One of those stiff, severe men whose wives looked at Myra rather as she looked at the wives of those as common as they ought to be. The postal order for three shillings three pence and all because in Arnold’s potting shed there was a golf bag. Myra pretended to herself it held clubs. Whenever Arnold was in the shed she knew he would open the bag and maintain what was within. He cleaned and oiled (she had smelt it upon his hands before carbolic and water had made that right again) and made sure that what was sealed, remained so. That was as much as he had said.
If one day the golf bag was ever gone and the key kept under the blue stone in the rockery was left in its place then neither she nor Arnold would wonder. That nice young man (in need of a haircut to her mind) would have retrieved the parcel and no more would be said. Such a nice young man, so mannered, so charming. Myra had liked him immediately the only time they had met, when Arnold had returned from the office with the unexpected guest. Myra paused as she remembered the young man.
Yes, she would definitely have to make up the pillow tonight.
There were sausages for tea.        

Friday 2 November 2012

Not On Rex Manning Day!

G. D. Em. C.
D. C. D. C.
G. D. Em. C.
            Mme Roux wants to know what I’m doing. Or rather she wants to know what I’m doing with a guitar. Or more to the point – why is there a tune coming out of it?
It’s often irritated me that I can’t play an instrument. And by play I mean get a tune just mentioned. However badly. Not just thrash away at G, and E, and a chord I made up that’s a bit like a G. I write, a lot. I draw, for fun. I can’t play an instrument. That’s somehow wrong. Less so than when I was a young man when just as people assumed my beloved Q was a vegetarian (she never was, she and I were about the only ones who weren’t – and proudly so) people sort of assumed I could play something.
I’ve had a guitar and a bass for twenty years now. And only in the last few weeks have I done anything with them. Other than G, and E, and a chord I made up that’s a bit like a G. I like to take an evening class each year. I like the break from pace, I like the long walk home in the dark. And this year it’s music, or more particularly guitar. We’re a very mixed bag of ability but the teacher is very good. It’s very laid back. And it’s nice to be beyond Happy Birthday plucked out interminably, and whilst Don’t Stop Believing sounds nice, and Whisky In The Jar means I can go busking whilst pissed at 8am I today made a bit of a breakthrough.
The breakthrough came because having a song in my head, I looked up the chords. That’s them above. For Sugar High from Empire Records.
“Which is a teen-movie,” says Mme Roux, and she should know since she watches John Hughes movies in order to shout at Mollie Ringwold. Once she shouted back.
She’s right. It is, but the best of the lot. Everything else being not very good at all, and yes Kevin Smith I don’t care how much tits and arse was in your last film, that was a bloody teen movie too. But Empire Records is so much better and even grumpy old me when it comes to such things am always cheered when I infrequently catch it.
So, G. D. Em. C.
D. C. D. C.
G. D. Em. C.
And those’re probably wrong. But they sound about right, even on Rex Manning Day.
So damn the man, save Empire Records.
And G. D. Em. C.
D. C. D. C.
G. D. Em. C.
Sugar high!