Harnesses are really what it’s all about. Harnesses, hairnets and harassment. I harness up before I go out the door: the various packs and baggagings strapped to any aperture or extremity I can find across my ancient, craggy, creviced and stentorian form. Hairnets: well, of course. I made a promise to mother – and she made a promise to me that I was going to keep it, on pain of mutilation (she who hasn’t stood in the corner with the word ‘dunce’ scratched across her forehead with mummy’s best chisel hasn’t stood for much) – that I would never cut my hair, and naturally I have kept my side of the bargain. The resultant folliclage weighs eleven times as much as me; sometimes I must say I feel like that little acorn at the end of the carrot bush. It needs a net not just to keep it all in, but also to keep others out: rats, cats, bats and all the other hair thieves whose eyes are specially trained to find and steal beauty. And harassment? Yes, and harassment. Harassment of that codger Old Rogers who needs to get my harnesses and hairnets and of course the hamper of tuck and the horse to haul the heavage of things we need to get us there. He won’t grumble – oh no, he’s too devious – but he will insist on being methodical and persistent in the most irritatingly capable way which makes one sigh with exasperation. ‘Old Rogers,’ I will snark, ‘must you be so competent?’
‘Ay, ma’am,’ he will respond, ‘beggin’ yer parden, it’s a quirk I can’t over… over… ‘ow you say, overcome.’
‘Well it certainly leaves little for me to do,’ I respond, ‘except complain.’
‘And that, m’lady, is what meks the worl’ go roun’,’ Rogers will observe. ‘Each doin’ what ‘e or she do best.’ (He’s not being sarcastic: the fool doesn’t have it in him any more than I could notice the implicit criticism).
Such is the quality palaver whenever the Lax entourage hits the road. I often wish we had some amanuenses to write down the banter that goes on between us, but fortunately it was all scripted by a special bard in the year of our respective births, and all we have to do is read off pages.
One thing that isn’t scripted is my trip to the stables prior to any journey to select a steed. I knew we were planning a foray to cold and miserable climes, so I was looking for the furriest and most plush of our equinities, something I could snuggle up against in a snowstorm. Our stablemaster is a comedy Italian, Old Badgers, with one of those corkscrew moustaches and a latin temperament. When I got there he was romancing a gondola with a bottle of vino. ‘Wotcher, M’lydy,’ he greeted me, ‘by which Oi mean, arrivederci.’
‘Oh, Badgers,’ I laughed. ‘I don’t understand your woggy talk. I suppose you are trying to say something flattering to me.’
‘No doubt, ma’am!’ he tittered. ‘I am arrivederci.’
‘I wish to select the warmest horse in your stable,’ I went on, acting out the international sign language words for ‘I’ (pointing to the eye), ‘wish’ (producing a wishbone), ‘to’ (holding up two fingers), ‘select’ (producing a copy of the 1980s-90s British music magazine Record Mirror… no, that’s not it… Select), ‘the’ (a French cup of tea), ‘warmest’ (electric blanket, on for an hour) ‘horse’ (a syringe full of heroin), ‘in’ (something in something else, in this case, a finger in a nose), ‘your’ (something from the days of yore – in this case, my birth certificate), ‘stable’ (a table, with a large ‘S’ placed in front of it, and a sign on the same end of the table indicating this is the front of the table).
‘Zo-a,’ said Badgers in his inimitable style which I am imitating so well, ‘you-a wanna da junkie coffee shop is it?’
Somewhere off to the left I thought I could hear audience laughter, or perhaps it was the sea.
Eventually (or, as Badgers would have it, ‘coupla days’) we sorted out the issues. I was to take Damson, the noble stallipony with a wild nylon mane, and Rogers would get Tamsin, a strong and handsome donk with one silver horn. We would show the locals when we rode into town. Who knows, with fine rides like these, we might even find ourselves dispensing some justice!
There we were, Old Rogers and myself, and the fine horseflesh between our thighs. It was a crisp, clear morning or, as Rogers would say, mornin’. The mist was being pumped surreptitiously from small tubes behind the heather. The dew glistened on toads as they leapt thro’ the valley. Atop a mountain I could see a crofter burning his possessions for warmth. A solitary eagle flew o’er, not that solitary as she had another smaller eagle in her talons. All was still and silent, except for Old Rogers’ wheezing.
‘Old Rogers,’ I said. ‘You’re ruining the moment with your breathing.’
‘Ay, ma’am’ quoth Rogers, and he bestilled. Yet still there was a perturbing growling sound.
‘Sounds like someone squashing a horse,’ I mused. ‘Rogers, I think you’re squashing your horse. Get off.’ He did. I got off mine too, just for symmetry.
Still the groaning noise. And it was getting louder.
‘It’s a demon,’ said Old Rogers, always quick to assume something is a demon.
‘No… it sounds mechanical-a’ said Old Badgers.
Before we knew it, it was upon us. A colossal black motored-cycle, all chromium and exhaustedness. And behind it that sat that squalid scrawny upstart Young Rogers, fringed jacket, mirror shades and stacked platforms. ‘Wotcha peeps,’ he yelled above the roar of Old Rogers’ resumed wheezing. ‘Ders ex masheena. Only comin’ wiv ya, en’t I?’
‘You?’ I gasped. ‘Most unprecedented, really…’
‘It’s a project, ma’am,’ he cheerily outlined, ‘with no great justification’.
Who could argue with that?