Sunday, January 24, 2010

john lennon we hardly knew you

I knew John Lennon in the early days in Liverpool. I was his headmistress at Chive High, as well as running the tuck shop, and he was often sent to me for chastisement. I was nearing retirement at that time (it was 1958) and he was soon to leave the school for pastures unknown.

I remember once I had to tell him off for putting a runny pudding in the geography teacher’s sandals, which of course failed to hold any of the mess which of course spilled out onto the geography teaching room floor of course. ‘John, John’ I sighed. ‘What are we to do with you?’ He was typically brusque, declaring it made no difference to owt.

I continued to detail his crimes. ‘You drink in class, you have no respect for school camping equipment, and your arse is spongey,’ I said.

‘’Ere, you nutter,’ he then outcried, ‘I don’t mind what you care about.’ There followed some hours of caning – him, by me.

‘I know you have a propensity towards visual art,’ I squeemed, ‘and you are always making us laugh with your mangled, goon-like language in the local rag. Perhaps you could put these two together, then leave the school and never come back?’

My constructivity seemed to be both surprising and refreshing to John, who quickly agreed this was a fine solution. He was wearing a chinese worker’s cap, as I recall, and had just impregnated his soon-to-be wife, Cynthia, a few hours earlier (their son, Julian, would not be born for four years: such was the British talent, perfected during wartime, for holding it in. ‘It’ being a fetus).

He left and never came back: later that afternoon, he wrote one of his best loved songs, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ which I often think was somehow connected to our little conversation. And no, it wasn’t yellow matter custard!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

daddy, we hardly remember you

Had my dear father lived, he would have been 200 years old this very day. He was a charming fellow, all laughs and toffees, until it all went sour, about 1830. Here is a beautiful picture of him by Whistler, who was a pal at Cambridge (tea rooms):

As you can see, he was given a fright while the picture was being painted. But I really think this portrait captures his eyes (shifty blue) and his moustache (though it was properly captured by the Royal Society in 1922, having got away from Daddy himself the previous year while he was swimming in the London Aquarium).

As a boy, he was a marvellous inventor - the Joe Meek of his day, really, including the murder but not the suicide. He invented stereo, but could never quite eliminate the slobber aspect. Here he is demonstrating a prototype while standing on the balance knob.

In 1878 he married Mummy, a rare beauty, though curiously as I was looking through my old albums I could only find pictures of her as a ghost:

Broken by his cruel and unhappy marriage and the unfortunate birth of myself, who took all their time by being too brilliant for a mere two parents to manage, Daddy ended his life as a ruin. Always appropriate in everything he did, he made sure to also live in a ruin:

He lived on the third floor, so as you can see it wasn't a very cheery arrangement. He died alone and friendless in 1957. I prefer to remember him in his heyday: the parties, the drinking, the feather dusters, the STDs. Men knew about balls in those days! And so did women.

Monday, January 11, 2010

journey to the outer islands - XOXOIIII

Let me draw a veil on what next transpired, dear reader. I know you have followed this story long and ardently in the hope that Old Rogers and I would ‘get together’ in the end, like some kind of Sculder and a sort of Mully. Well, as the poor people have so often said, it ain’t goanna happen. Indeed, I am afraid you have somewhat been the victim so to speak of non-canonical Grace and Rogers fanfiction, and the ending of the story contains both Buffy and Tom of Finland. I hope you like it. When I find it. I think it is possible that I accidentally typed the last few pages on greaseproof paper and then used it to turn out some cupcakes on. At least, I am sure the cakes we had last night were covered in some sort of queer porn, and I remember quizzing Cook about it. She said dildo or dildon’t it was all the same to her, which maden’t sense to me, and I’m a woman of the world. Which reminds me, have I ever told you about the time I went to the Outer Isles?

You see, every year, ever since I was a gel (short for gelding) the Laxes have travelled to survey their kelprote – that’s right, it’s a key ingredient in emprote, and much better for you and even tastier than the final product, but what can you do? - properties at the ripe snout of the known world, the Outer Islands. The enormous riches I generate from my property, fat deposits, the three wishes I got where one of them was that I had all the money I ever wanted, and Grace Lax scare-the-children-into-goodness posters are not, you see, sufficient for me to retain my all-important status as a rich person, so it behoves me to run other greenhouse gaseous enterprises elsewhere wherever possible. Just as my readers are dependent on me for instruction, I find it most appropriate to run industries in remote places where I can extort maximum kelp from people with poor union representation; it works so well, frankly, I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it.

To be continued if and whenever, though possibly not.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

journey to the outer islands - XOXOIII

The sun shone so brightly on the ocean that we squinted at the glare, and our squints made us seem like we were glaring; with our partially-closed eyes it seemed as if the sea was squinting back at us, which completed the whole synchronicity or as some might have called it, the squintronicity. It was way rad.

Suddenly I saw Old Rogers in a new light. He had always been there, somehow – indeed, I had known him since he was a baby with the darlingest red hair; Ginger Rogers, we used to call him. The name came from his tendency to express trepidation, that is, to approach things ‘gingerly’. And it occurred to me that I did know him as a baby; he is considerably younger than I. Then, he had not seemed so particularly lovely; all whingeing and wailing, as though he were some kind of incapable being. Now, I noticed little things about him: the playful freckles dancing round his cheeks (admittedly they might have been potato bugs); the cheery way he used one half of his divided beard to wash the plates, and the other to dry them; the careful alignment of snot stripes up and down the sides of his pantaloons; the mellifluous sound of his ‘aye, ma’am’ and ‘that it is, ma’am’ as he cheerfully agreed with everything I have ever said or thought.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

journey to the outer islands - XOXOII

Within a few days we found ourselves with more than passable furniture for the interior of the home. Carlo and I had two beds each because Rogers, who had never spent a night in a building with a floor before, felt (he said) ‘mos’ peculiar’ about doing so at his advanced and, frankly, ancient age.

Nevertheless, we were comfortable in our home, and Rogers was, in his way, comfortable in the blinding sleet that fell for many days outside where he lay, weeping.

‘Now, Rogers,’ I quoth, ‘we must cook some food, to eat.’

‘I’ll fetch Cook, ma’am,’ he volunteered, and up and left. I was most amused, of course, as we had left Cook at home, and there was really only he and I. He was gone some hours, and returned jubilant. ‘Cook says dinner will be ready at five, ma’am.’ He made to exit.

‘Where are you going, Rogers?’

‘Going to kill me’sel’, for lyin’ to ye, ma’am,’ he cheerfully volunteered.

Rogers, don’t be silly. If you go, who is left to look after me? We’ll have to cook our own food, in the kitchen.’

Friday, January 8, 2010

journey to the outer islands - XOXOI

The processing of kelp is possibly one of the most fascinating things ever seen, heard of or thought about, even in the abstract. I can confidently say if I did not know anything of the production of kelp-oriented products, such as ankelpracelets and kelpee records, I would probably have such an empty and idle brain that a rapid tap on my skull would shatter it to tiny dusty pieces. I am equally certain your own tiny intelligence could not cope with it. It would be like trying to record a television program onto a turnip by shoving it into a sock, so let’s just say kelp processing is really good. Having thoroughly inspected (and, in Old Rogers’ case, named) all the kelp, we returned to Lax Lodgings in need of refreshment and succour. But it transpired we were the succours! Particularly since, as it was entirely made of glass, I should have noticed that there was not a stick of furniture in the entire building. ‘Oh, Old Rogers,’ I gasped. ‘How could you do this to me?!’

He said nothing, having not come in the door yet so he hadn’t heard me.

Rogers,’ I said, this time ensuring he would be in my presence when I spoke, ‘there’s no time to waste. What we need is some wood and some nails, or an upturned turtle.’

‘Is it for furniture makin’, ma’am?’ he wheedled. ‘I packed some very fine furniture afore we left, so…’

Rogers!’ I snapped. ‘I need to fix your error post-haste. Find me some wood and some nails, for we are making chairs, tables, four beds, a sideboard and a new hat for me to travel to town on Thursday.

‘Aye ma’am. Ma’am?’

‘Gammon! What is it now!’

‘Could I just break up the chairs, tables, beds and sideboard I already brought over? There’s not much wood on the island, so…’

Rogers, please keep your sentences concise so I don’t have to continually break into them! Yes! Do what must be done!’

Thursday, January 7, 2010

journey to the outer islands - XOXO

‘What on earth is the good of you, man, when you bottle this knowledge up and don’t use it for the good of others?! All my life, I have sought to instruct and inform on the appropriate way of doing things. Rogers, now is the appropriate time to put that brake on. Now is the time, Rogers, and even one so servile and submissive as yourself should see that, in truth, you perhaps need not even ask me whether you are allowed to put the brake on, when it will quite surely save our lives, or at least – for we may become compressed into cardboard-thin wall-hangings in our own shape and appearance suitable only for scientific investigation – save a rather beautiful piece of modernist architecture designed especially by Mies van der Rohe for the Lax family, and worth millions.’

We sat in aggrieved silence as he mulled this outburst.

‘So may I, Ma’am?’ he finally asked.

‘May you what?’ I harrumphed.

‘May I apply the brake, Ma’am?’

‘Gammon! Confound the man. Yes, please, if you would be so kind Rogers, apply the brake.’

He did so, and we stopped at the glass door of Lax Lodgings in precisely the nick of time.

Overcome with relief at seeing what a hideous fate we had been spared from of, I did something I must admit I was rather not expecting. I fell on Old Rogers, my man who ‘does’, weeping. ‘Rogers,’ I cried. ‘Rogers.’

‘Ma’am,’ he responded, as is his wont, usually.

Rogers,’ I said. ‘We’re safe.’

‘Don’t thank me,’ he said. ‘I simply asked moiself, what would Jesus do? And of course, Jesus would ask your permission to apply the brake, Ma’am.’

‘Yes!’ I laughed, ‘Yes, Rogers, I do believe he would!’ I patted him fondly on the cheek, as though he were a person of my own standing, an action which I think surprised both him, me and you, my reader, who knows that in general, I am prone only to appropriate behaviour, rather than the inappropriate behaviour that this action signified. I gathered my wits, my Wad, and my knitting and stepped down from the carriage.

Rogers,’ I now stated, firmly and back in my familiar stentorianness, ‘I am glad we arrived here in good time. Well done, man. Please attend to unpacking Carlo, and then we will inspect the kelp processing works, if you please.’

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

journey to the outer islands - VIIIIII

Rogers!’ I snapped. ‘I cannot believe that you knew there was a brake on this vehicle all this time and you did not mention it until we are seconds, literally seconds, from death!'

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

journey to the outer islands - VIIIII

We continued to approach the house rapidly. The continuation of this rapid approach went on, and extended to the fullest degree, as it was ongoing. The speed of the coach was unrelenting, and suspensefully, it seemed – because this was, in fact, what was happening – that the distance between our noble vessel and our destination was decreasing very fast. The moment of impact seemed to be looming, as though, having now gone on for what seem’d like a long time, was in fact a short one, making one hope to abbreviate words like ‘seemed’ in the hope of stealing a little, just a little, more time before the moment of collision with a large, fragile house which was sure to collapse on us and obliterate us with large, jagged shards when we did, in fact, hit it.

I looked at Old Rogers, and he looked at me. Then we looked at Lax Lodgings, becoming increasingly larger in our field of vision as we hurtled unwittingly towards it. It seemed like a moment for action of any type, though what?

‘Keep your legs and arms from straggling, Rogers,’ I cautioned.

‘Yes’m,’ he said, and I noted with admiration that he had abbreviated the usual form of respectful address, ‘Ma’am’, to a simple appendage on his concurrence. ‘I mean, “Yes’m, Ma’am.”’

There was silence as we observed the continuing increase in possibility that we would in seconds be slaughtered by this unfortunate chain of events. The silence was intruded on only by the sound of the rampant wheels of the carriage, the noise made by the appalling lack of an axle-tree, and the screaming of a rather jumpy and stressed-out donkey.

‘Permission, Ma’am,’ said Rogers.

‘Permission what, Rogers?’ I snapped.

‘Permission to slightly straggle, Ma’am’ he responded.

‘How are you proposing to do that, man?’ I asked. ‘What is your plan?’

‘Permission to straggle moi arm to the extent of putting that brake on,’ he murmured.

Monday, January 4, 2010

journey to the outer islands - VIIII

He turned and addressed me. ‘I can see Lax Lodgings from ‘ere, Ma’am. What a lovely building – even I know that, and I’ve only seen three. Tell me ma’am, what material is it constructed of?’

‘The building is entirely made from glass, Rogers,’ I uttered. ‘As you may appreciate, there is very little wood in these islands, and in earlier times the only source of timber for house construction here was a shipwreck. The roofs and doors of many a home here depend on the flotsam of the ocean.

‘Seen from inside, one notices all sorts of extraordinary devices to supply couplers, and old oars, parts of boats and parts of masts are in common use. The thatch is of great thickness, and in view of winter storms is secured by old fishing nets, by means of which the roof is literally tied to the chimney, and pegged down to the projecting wall all around the house. Inside, the houses are warm and comfortable, the system of double walls, if somewhat clumsy, being probably warmer than that of mortar and hewn stones, in a climate which, though not cold, is as boisterous and humid as one might expect....’

‘I’m sorry to interrupt, Ma’am, but…’

‘What is it, Rogers? I wish you’d pay more attention, I thought we were making a little progress in terms of you learning something, anything.’

‘Moi only concern, ma’am, is that we are approaching a large glass house at a very convincingly acceleratin’ speed, in a horseless coach what is turned somewhat into a projectile by the extreme weight of a donkey placed atop it laid down with all your fine cases and other items of baggage, includin’ that kelp you picked up down at the docks and the lead you are carryin’ for the purpose of me relinin’ the edges of the windows in an extremely large glass house which we are approaching at a very convincingly acceleratin’ speed, in a horseless coach what is turned somewhat…’

‘Oh, Rogers,’ I quoth. ‘I wonder if this is the end?’

Sunday, January 3, 2010

journey to the outer islands - VIII

‘Are you, Rogers?’ I smiled, breaking a tooth in the process. ‘Are you, really? And how is that at all possible, as you are back here with me?’

‘Well, Ma’am, it’s simple,’ he laughed. ‘Oi told them horses where to go, and set them to it, and off we went, and soon we’ll be there, all because of me and my very good sense of doing things. Oi asked meself, as you so often told me to, “what would Jesus do?” and answer came there to me, from me own ‘ead, “he would do whatever he felt like, as ‘e is Jesus, and has magic powers that meant nothing could go wrong and ‘e would not die, so at the end of the day it’s all good.’

‘Bravo, Rogers, bravo!’ I smiled, showing some of my better dentures. ‘You’ve come along marvellously.’

‘We really are speeding up,’ he said, worried at the same time he was pleased for being so correct. ‘I… Oi think we are on an incline heading towards the Lax Lodgings. We are sticking to… yes, we are sticking to the path, but we are building up speed at an alarmin’ rate, ma’am. Alarmin’. If Jesus weren’t protectin’ us.’

Saturday, January 2, 2010

journey to the outer islands - VII

‘Are we speeding up, Ma’am?’ enquired Rogers, inquisitively. I realised my words were having an effect on him, as indeed they do on all who I address, and that the intimate machinations and rules of wider society were coming alive for this simple soul who, until recently, had merely been a kind of tree with a head and arms around the Lax property.

‘Never jump from a rapidly-moving vehicle,’ I went on, ‘unless (supposing it impossible to slip down behind) you see a precipice in front, in which case any risk of personal injury is preferable to remaining still.’

‘Oi’m sure we’re gaining speed, Ma’am’, Rogers insisted, insistingly. ‘And the closer things are going faster than the things further away – now, that’s a concern.’ He sat back and tapped on his pipe – he’d started smoking dried kelp since we came to the Outer Islands and pronounced it far superior to peat moss, peat and Emprote – content that I would look after him, as indeed I always had, though admittedly while subjecting him to appalling tortures purely for my own amusement or financial gain.

‘The worst accidents to coaches, Old Rogers,’ I continued, ‘arise from broke axle-trees, and wheels coming off on the road. The axle-tree should, therefore, be very carefully examined every time it is fresh greased.’

‘Exmained it moiself this mornin’, a contented Rogers mused, ‘huge – I mean huge – split up the middle, which Oi greased rather noicely, even if Oi do say so mesel’. Are those the horses what was pullin’ us?’ He pointed at a couple of drays who appeared to be running off in another direction from our own carriage.

‘Can’t be, Rogers,’ I foofed. ‘They’re pulling us now, and very swiftly if I may say so, towards our digs. Now, that axle tree should be removed every ten days, a string being put through the bolt that receives the linch-pin, to hang it up and cleanse it; the person doing this should then strike it with a hammer, when, if uncracked and sound, it will ring like a bell.’

‘So it did, Ma’am’ Rogers agreed complacently. ‘Then it shattered into little bits, so I fashioned a new one from wax out me ear.’

‘The coachman should then see that it is properly screwed on,’ I went on.

‘Bugger never showed up!’ laughed the old Rogered one. ‘Oi’m driving the coach in ‘is absence.’

Friday, January 1, 2010

journey to the outer islands - VI and a green1/2

Once we arrived at the dock, we were conveyed via coach to the Lax Lodgings. Rocking from side to side, travelling up a mountain path that zig-zagged ludicrously and meaninglessly, I fell to wondering what would happen if the coach went out of control. Of course, being me, I didn’t so much fall to wondering, as fall to knowing. I decided then and there I’d mention it to Old Rogers, who of course had never been in a wheeled vehicle before, aside from the time we accidentally gave him a funeral (and then it was just a bicycle). ‘Rogers,’ I began.

He turned to me, his eyes alight. ‘Ma’am?’ he enquired.

‘Should the horses run off in defiance of all restraint while you’re in this coach, sit perfectly still and, in anticipation of the possible overturn, keep your legs and arms from straggling.’

‘Like this?’ he said, straggling his legs and arms with vivacity.

‘Exactly like that, only the opposite,’ I instructed.

‘Like this?’ now, he was entirely unstraggled at all limbs.

‘Yes, that’s right Rogers, only I think normally you say ‘loike’ for ‘like’ and I can’t imagine what has made you drop your usual speaking manner. If this is a repeat of the coffee house incident I’ll…

‘Oi’m sorry, ma’am,’ he apologised sorriously. ‘Oi’m so unused to this strange land, Oi keep forgettin’ I’m… Oi’m just a crofter. Such a simple crofter, in fact, Oi’ve forgotten what a crofter is, and whether in fact I am one.’

‘”Oi”, Rogers, “Oi,”’ I corrected him.

‘Oi Oi Oi’, he agreed, smiling impishly and giving two thumbs up. I noticed one of his thumbs had a toadstool on it which I flicked off. It flew out of the carriage window and bounced off a canyon rim. ‘Oi was savin’ that!’ Rogers whinged. ‘That was my supper!’ I ignored the fact that he was becoming slightly less subserviant. In fact, I rather liked it.

‘Sit easily and compactly so that, when upset, you will gently roll over in the direction you are thrown,’ I went on. ‘Ladies, in these circumstances, scream wildly, and throw their arms out of the windows, thus exposing themselves to the chance of broken limbs. If run away with in a gig, either sit still collectedly – you know how to do that, don’t you Rogers? – or drop out at the back, so as to fall on your hands.’