Core Curriculum

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Dru stood back to admire her boarders’ display board.

She had organised them to produce a poster advertising the Apple

Bobbing Evening.  Some, who had northern roots, had wanted to call it

Ducking’, but she went with the Standard English appellation.

Isolde had drawn a very sophisticated Pomona, which she had copied

from a William Morris illustration.  She was nearly as good at Art as Juniper

Boothroyd-Smythe had been.

Of course, fertility goddesses had been in her own mind ever since she had

heard that companies such as Apple might consider freezing their female

employees’ eggs.

Everyone was becoming excited but she had had to discipline a Sixth Former

who had quoted Dorothy Parker in her hearing- whether deliberately or not

she was unsure.

Ducking for apples-change one letter and it is the story of my life.

How could someone so young be tainted with such a degree of

Schadenfreude?  Or was that emotion only connected to an absorption in

the misfortune of others?  She would have to look it up in one of the girls’

German dictionaries.

The girls had decorated the borders of the poster with pentgrams, which

apparently are the shape you see around the seeds if an apple is cut

horizontally.  Dru had checked with the Religious Studies Department and

had been assured that these were shapes used in Christian amulets long

before they had been appropriated, or misappropriated by Aleister Crowley

et al.

One could never be too careful as parents were so litigious nowadays

and anything that they disapproved of was difficult to implement.  Dru told

some that the activity was part of the core curriculum, which seemed to

satisfy them.  She drew their attention to Carmenta- a version of the

goddess Ceres. The former had invented the Roman alphabet and so

was educationally relevant.  This damped down the fires of protest.

She had had to resort to hanging the fruit on strings, however,

as there had been an objection as to the potential exchange of body fluids

if girls opened their mouths underwater while trying to bite and secure a

Cox’s Pippin, or whatever.  The aggrieved parent insisted on there being a

First Responder in attendance in case her precious darling choked.

Drusilla did not intend to be pipped to the post, however.  She was going to

go first and, if successful, she would be the first to marry.

Thankfully Nigel had answered the invitation in the affirmative and he

promised to bring some gingerbread men and a couple of carved

pumpkins.

Bless.

Gingerbread men.jpg

Frozen

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Frozen (2013 film) poster.jpg

Mum!  Hi!  How’s it going?

Drusilla had to snatch a chance to phone her mother.  She was on the

go all day, every day, at St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl‘s

boarding house.  Still, it would be half term soon.  She would have to

start baking all those farewell Brownies.  She felt that the girls should be

baking them for her, but they made such a mess in the kitchen.

The Juniors were in the common room, watching Frozen.  It was a treat,

as everyone was up to date with their prep and it gave Dru a chance to

catch her breath.  Her Deputy was on maternity leave, so the lot fell largely

upon her.

Things had been quieter on the whole since the brazen Juniper Boothroyd-

Smythe had left and gone to Glasgow School of Art.  It had been a real

challenge, keeping her on track.  Still, her father had been very grateful

and donated a case of Pop My Cork! wine to the staffroom.

Great, dear!  Murgatroyd and I were contemplating a little cruise.  I quite

fancied The Norwegian Fjords, but forgot that they would be in darkness at

this time of year.

I suppose they might be illuminated by The Northern Lights? suggested Dru,

not really focussing on what she was saying, because she suddenly noticed

a paperback on the coffee table in the hall.

Wait a minute, Mum.  Look, I’ll phone you back.

Dru snatched up the offending title and stuffed it under her jumper.  Lady

Chatterley’s Lover!  She would have to have words with the Upper Fifth!

Oh, hi, Miss Fotheringay.  It was Isolde Percival, Scheherezade’s younger

sister. She was having a taster sleep-over to see if she liked boarding.

Have you seen my English reader?

Dru thought that Isolde might spread it around that the Boarding Mistress

of Weston House was in a state of infanticipation, if she were to notice the

bump under the magisterial sweater.  It would be a historical re-run, as Dru’s

mother had once been a boarding house mistress, and she had left with a

very pronounced bulge, namely Drusilla herself. That was in the days when

you implicitly signed away your fertility in your acceptance of your terms and

conditions.  However, the responsibility for the latest sprog entry on the

school waiting list had been passed on to Diana’s unwitting new beau,

MurgatroydSyylk.  Yet now all appeared to be forgiven and they were

planning to see what floated their current boat.

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Aaaaaaaaaaatishoo! Dru utilised some kind of method acting which might not

have impressed Stanislavski.

Sorry,dear.  Just a moment.

She propelled herself into the staff office and pretended to look for a box of

tissues while she gave birth to the banned text.

Just my allergy, she apologised.  Oh, was this the book you were looking for?

Someone must have handed it into the office.  Is your name inside it?

Isolde looked inside the front cover.  Yes, Miss Fotheringay.  It’s definitely

mine.

It felt curiously warm.

Isolde, emm, is this a reader that you have been given as a whole class?

Yes, Miss Fotheringay.  It’s on the syllabus.  Mum’s been reading it too and

we discuss it at home.

Dru felt frigid, never mind frozen.

Very well. Run along and tell the Juniors that they need to stop the DVD

now and get their jammies on.

A chorus of Aaaaaws!! reached her ears.

D H Lawrence passport photograph.jpg

Hi, mum!  Sorry about the interruption.  Did the girls read Lawrence when

you were on the staff?

Lawrence?

DH.

Oh, good heavens-yes!  Usually under the blankets with a torch.  We used to

confiscate the copies and read them ourselves.  It was still banned as a dirty

book until 1960.

Anyway, we are going to go to Oslo and then plan to go north to see as much

Sami culture as we can.  I want to learn about rosemaling.

Who is she?

No, it’s an art form, explained her mother.

Reminds me of the film the girls were watching.  Frozen, Dru

elucidated.

Sounds as if there’s a lot more fun in the old place than there was

in my day, remarked her mother.  The pervasive atmosphere then

was more like Permafrost, especially in the Senior Non-Smoking

Staffroom.

Anyway, must love you and leave you as Murgatroyd wants

me to book some reindeer thingy online.  Speak soon!

And she was gone.

Dru caught a glance of herself in the mirror.  Her complexion was

greyish and it was only five weeks into term.  Her face looked as if

it needed Botox, or a blowtorch, perhaps? As for the rest of her…

She wondered what Lawrence would have made of her type.  He’d

probably have thought her  barren and in need of a few visits to a

pheasant run.

Hmmm. At this rate she would need to apply to the governing body to ask

if they would pay for her to freeze some eggs.  She didn’t fancy having that

mannish science technician doing something drastic to her ovopositor with

liquid nitrogen. It had been bad enough when she’d had some warts

cauterised.

Well, Time’s winged chariot and all that…She was unlikely to meet Prince Hans

of the Southern Isles while she was in loco parentis to this lot.  If she was

ever to thaw out, she might just have to stop sticking the shards into her soul

and hitch up with good old Nigel.  At least he wasn’t a mythical devil teacher

taking his pupils through the world, distorting everything they saw in his weird

mirror.  He was more like Marshmallow (not!), the bodyguard in the film.

Trolls seemed to leave him alone, even on Rate My Teacher sites, as he was

wise enough not to raise his head above the parapet.

Yes, she could do a lot worse and, even though she didn’t look like a Bratz doll

and never had, she thought that she had had enough of the cerebral and might

just try to explore this vitality thing that Lawrence kept banging on about.

However, she didn’t intend seizing him- Nigel, she meant, not the novelist, by

the throat, as Mrs Ivy Bolton was said to have done, metaphorically-speaking,

to David Herbert’s poor old paralysed Clifford.  No, she’d take a gentler approach

and invite him – Nigel, she meant- to Weston House’s Apple Ducking Evening and

would see how it went from there. (She couldn’t envisage DH ‘dooking’ for apples.

Not with that huge chip on his shoulder. Frieda, maybe, but not him.  Mind you, she

couldn’t imagine Nigel being very successful at it either.)  Nor at other playful

activities, but- as the girls were wont to say,  Don’t go there!

 

 

The Angel of the North

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You have been very quiet lately, Candia, Brassie remarked.  It’s not

like you.

Well, I thought I’d let everyone catch up with my outpourings. I

did get somewhat carried away at the time of The Referendum.

Here’s an old poem to stave off your withdrawal symptoms:

The Angel of the North

Benediction, or annunciation?

A call to build a New Jerusalem

amid these grim industrial wastelands?

A pinhead would not hold many of these.

This is no iridescent dragonfly,

but a harbinger, whose rusty steel frame

and non-encompassing bi-plane wingspan

strikes Virgin train travellers as awesome;

and overwhelms drivers on the A1.

Idling engines don’t speak Magnificats.

 

He wouldn’t grace a furnace, or lions’ den-.

feet grounded in Vulcan collieries.

He prevents no patriarch at knifepoint

and has no nimbus seal of immanence.

No Moebius strip with a Gothick script

in Gutenberg Germanic Latin type

streams from his non-existent mouth,

to say, Behold, I bring you glad tidings,

or, Even so shall it be unto you.

 

From brass heavens he signifies nothing:

no Logos for a world of trite logos.

This is for Thomases -his tangible

body, too solid to admit fingers.

His design brief has a fall prevention

factor, but proud buffetings brought to Earth

once shimmering forms who’d vaunted aloud;

now racked in deep despair.  And fall they did.

What is his pronouncement over estates

whose lintels bear not a smear of lamb’s blood?

Perhaps he is nothing to those who drive by,

or who trusted in their own welded ships.

Maybe he’s a monument to Nothing

and, though fatigue may erode him one day,

somehow he commands and is riveting.

What’s in a Name?

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Avon logo.svg

No, it’s not Avon calling, since no one has rung the doorbell.  Sadly, neither

is it an envelope bearing an address from the Indyref#supporting city of

Glasgow on its rear flap, indicating a life-changing Premium Bond re-

invested win of twenty-five quid.  Nor is it a tax rebate.  No, it is one of

those annoying red and white cards from Royal Mail which commands you

to rise, take up your bed and walk to the local office to pick up your parcel,

which was too large to be shredded through the letterbox.

Wait!  I struggle to put on my shoes with their orthotic inserts and race out,

subsequently hoping I have put my door on its latch.  Where is the wretched

Postman Pat?  There’s no sign of a baseball cap, nor unseasonable Bermuda

shorts.  There’s no sign of Jess, the cat, or Mrs Goggins.

There is a red trolley parked a couple of doors away, standing like an Anish

Kapoor sculpture in a sea of loom bands..  Hey!  Maybe the parcel is still on

board.

Apparently not.  Don’t be stupid.  They never had any intention to deliver it.

Did I detect a smirk?

No, the nuisance package is awaiting my collection at a local office which

has restricted opening hours.  And it won’t be available till the next working

day after the non-event.

That will be Saturday. There is absolutely zero chance of The Husband’s short-

term memory system kicking in at the weekend.  He is unable to simultaneously

hold the concepts of mail retrieval and FT purchase.  Maybe it’s something to

do with his hippocampus. (I think that influences short term memory, but I

can’t remember.)

Anyway, forget seven items’ recall, plus or minus two.  He struggles to

remember two.  He seems to struggle to process what I’m talking about.

Naively, I expected him to follow my simple instructions to buy some carrots

and parsnips, along with his newspaper.  But then, mentally over-loaded,

he wouldn’t have remembered to fetch the package, would he?.

I know that is a total of three things, but he could have grouped both

edibles under a superordinate term, such as ‘root vegetables’ and then he

would have only had two purchases to recall.  You surely don’t have to be

Derren Brown to think of coping strategies.

Probably The Husband’s hippocampus shrank and re-absorbed itself, like

the Edinburgh panda did with its foetus, when he was faced with multi-

tasking.

I bet male hippocampi don’t function like their namesake sea-horses, who

at least have the decency to share the female workload more equitably.

Hippocampus.jpg

So, I get to go for the parcel and the parsnips.  He’s already deep in The FT

‘Money’ supplement.  He reminds me of that man who had to be rescued from

his bubble in the Atlantic.  Except The Husband doesn’t want to be rescued.

He loves his bubble.  And sometimes I like it too.

There’s a queue and the woman in front of me is being asked for ID.  Okay, I

think smugly, I’ve got some bank cards and a National Trust card:

out-of-date- but nevertheless..

Zut alors!  The parcel is addressed to The Husband.  I don’t happen to be

carrying his passport, or driving licence on me.  Do I have the STD card?

Supposed Time of Delivery?  I think of Andy Murray and his novel

utilisation of the acronym.  He was laughed down for texting his

terpsichorean mother to wish her good luck with the ‘STD’.  I believe

he meant SCD, but he wasn’t being ‘Strictly‘ accurate.

Just keep serving!

Judy Murray Olympic Games.jpg

Anyway, I digress..

It’s okay, I remonstrate. The postie knows me.  We talk nearly every day,

mainly through the letter-flap, when he fails to close it and a howling gale

like a Boson particle zooming round a hadron collider whooshes down my

hall.  He could push the vast wad of junk mail completely through, if he

feels that he really must burden the planet with it.  Why doesn’t he just

dump it like some of his colleagues are wont to do?  In a Black Hole,

preferably.

This woman is as immoveable as a post-box.

No, we need proof of ID for the addressee.  Names are very important

to us.Just like your custom.

Right, but that works both ways, I parry.  You’re not so particular

when it comes to stuffing any old person’s correspondence and bank

statements through my front door.  Anyhow, I can tell you that the box

contains a replacement fridge shelf.  Not many people would know that.

So, it must be ours.

She doesn’t pick up on the Michael Caine reference.

Okay, you can have it just this once, she concedes, but next time I need

a couple of utility bills in his name.

Not Michael Caine’s then.  I’m having fun.

I return to find The Husband still wading through the pink newspaper.

I picked up your parcel, I say.

(He’s not listening.)

You did get the carrots, didn’t you? I persevere.  I can’t see them in my

fridge.  No, our fridge. When I can’t see them in the first person

possessive plural’s fridge it means they are not there.

Sorry, I forgot, he confesses lamely.

And it’s then that I look in my bag and have to admit to myself that

I have forgotten to buy parsnips.  But I don’t tell him.  I just sneak out

while he reads his way through the rest of The Weekend Section.

I’m not infallible.  But not many people are allowed to guess that.

Generation Wuss

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‘Generation Wuss?  What’s all that about? Brassie asked me as she tried

to decipher what I was studying in a newspaper borrowed from the rack

in Costamuchamoulah cafe’s complimentary reading material.

Oh, it’s just that American Psycho guy- you know, the writer Bret Easton

Ellis, sounding off in ‘Vanity Fair’ about those born post-1989.  He calls them

self-obsessed, narcissistic, over-sensitive…

That’s a bit harsh, surely?

Well, he does admit that he has expressed ‘huge generalities’ but he

thinks many are unable to accept constructive criticism and buy into a

currency of popularity, dealing mainly in brands, profiles and merely

rating social media presence.

Kids have always been slammed by previous generations, Brassie

remarked.  There has always been a divide between shiftless

layabouts and those with a developed work ethic.

Like the Prodigal Son, I declared.  But The Elder Brother wasn’t

congratulated on his mean attitude.  The workers in the vineyard

who turned up late, but did some work, were given the same

wages.  And the people of St Kilda received the same ration of gugas

and gannets, whatever they did.

However, I expect that if they had overslept on their straw mattresses

and plugged themselves into their i-pads, or whatever, when there was

a gannet gathering expedition taking place, their mums would soon have

emptied a cruse of fulmar oil over their heads, or slapped them with a

wind-dried puffin..

I have been known to precipitate action myself, but I only use water,

Brassie admitted.

If the Prodigal Son’s father hadn’t agreed to giving him his inheritance

so soon, perhaps his wastrel son wouldn’t have expended it all on

riotous living.  Maybe his father wanted him to make his own choices.

Yes, said Brassie, it’s always dangerous to let people make their own

mistakes and it does impinge on other people.  It’s hard to strike the

balance.

A typical dilemma of Biblical proportions, I agreed.  What do you think

of this topical poem I scribbled at five thirty this morning?

Let’s have a look, she sighed.

KILLED BY KINDNESS

The Fatted Calf speaks:

 

No, the Golden Calf was a relation,

but nobody bows down, or worships me.

I’ve been a long time in the fattening,

unlike those who claim, I don’t eat that much,

but who keep piling on pound after pound-

or should I say minas, pims and bekahs?

I’ve been stuffed to the gunnels and force-fed

over a fairly lengthy period:

I’d say since about the time the boy left.

Every day his father filled my manger;

he’d talk to me while tears streamed down his cheeks.

The elder son, the one who was jealous,

thought he’d sink his teeth into me one day-

maybe as the main course at his wedding,

but none of the girls like his attitude.

He still has a mother to care for him,

though she keeps comfort eating all day long.

But my mater was sold off long ago

and my younger brother was sacrificed.

I’ve felt separation anxiety!

 

Apparently, he was living it up

on some all-expenses paid gap year.

Now his mamma regrets ever nagging:

Tidy your room. It looks like a pig sty!

The gossip is he’s had to take a job:

Trust Fund Kid is working as a swineherd.

The Bank of Dad is into overdraft.

He’s discovered he can’t make a silk purse

out of a sow’s ear. Enough is a trough.

He’s never going to bring home the bacon.

But at least his porcine companions

don’t wallow like humans in self-pity.

 

In our own ways, we’re confined to our stalls-

unless he swallows his pride and comes home.

Meanwhile I’m feeling about to explode.

The elder son is imprisoned too.

His father confines himself to the farm,

not going out in case his son should call.

 

You could say I’m being killed by kindness

and maybe the boy feels that he was too.

Lord knows, he was a party animal,

but we could all do with cheering up now.

 

 

Old Michaelmas Day 2

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The accompanying historic post:

Okay, okay, so I went out and did it!

I can see that, Carrie remarked, looking down at my nails with a

disapproving glance. You’ll need to make an appointment with

‘Beauty and The Beast’ to sort you out with acrylic falsies.

Not me.  I’ll just cut them down and file them.  I’m a hands-on kind of

girl and couldn’t bear to have lily white fronds for hands like a Lady of the

Lake, or a drowned Ophelia.  I used to have digits like this when I started

teaching, back in the days of the spirit reproductive Banda

machine!  Oh, the smell of methylated spirits!  It gives me quite a

Proustian flashback to the classrooms of the Seventies.  So poetic too-

spirit duplicators, or spirit masters.  Sounds like the muse of Yeats or

some such bard.

Yeah, agreed Carrie.  And if he’d copied his lines for Maud Gonne:

‘Tread softly for you tread on my dreams’ and left them out in the

sun, then posterity would never have had them.

How’s that? I asked, not normally so obtuse.

Because the ultraviolet light used to fade anything produced in that

antiquated way, so the aniline dye of the reproduced type would have

been ‘mauve gone’.

Very funny, I muttered.  I don’t like her taking over my comic role.

Vintage Banda Spirit Duplicator Fluid Motor Oil Tin Can - 1 Imperial Gallon

Anyway, you got in before the Devilish deadline, said Carrie, referring

to our prior conversation (see previous post).

I did.  All are safely stowed, like Polonius behind the arras.  Well,

at any rate, they are in the freezer.

Ah, you are an inspiration to us all, Candia.  And no doubt..

Yes, I did write a poem about it, I interrupted her.  Here!

And I flicked a Jackson Pollock-stained sheet of A4 across the table,

but its patterns were fruit juice thumbprints and nothing more

sinister.

Carrie read it silently while I sipped my well-deserved coffee.

Blackberrying

I’ve been told: poetry isn’t worth it

and neither is gathering blackberries.

It’s impossible to preserve Autumn,

or capture experience in a poem.

Yet I find one or two juicy morsels,

simmering away on my mental back burners.

Lately I have looked madder and madder.

Wood pigeons witter away suddenly.

I destroy a few spider artefacts,

thumb and finger poised; then quite dizzy,

I step back and squelch in a rabbit corpse.

Maybe it isn’t worth it after all.

Blood-red clots trail from the tail of my car,

to my front door and the hall becomes

a purple passage. My bag sags with gore.

Have I perpetrated a massacre?

I look as guilty as a chamberlain

in a castle, somewhere near Dunsinane,

with my clothing liberally spattered

by inedible, indelible stains.

Fierce scratches indicate a struggle.  Heave!

I’ll shove this in the freezer and then think

what I’ll do with it.  I survey my hands.

All the perfumes of an airport will not..

What? Will all the multitudinous seas

incarnadine et cetera? They won’t.

I regret time spent on all this fieldwork-

to produce the definitive poem

on blackberrying.  Heaney, Plath did it.

I’ve spat out phrases not pithy enough;

I cannot find a rhyme to match ‘maggot

in a poem that isn’t about sex,

or the nostalgia of a butcher’s shop.

Gather ye brambles while ye may- that’s good,

but I could murder a cup of coffee.

Reviewers, like thorns, will rip me to shreds.

If pricked, I will bleed- through my gabardine.

Yet greed makes me garner all the pickings.

Lack of appreciation will sting me,

like all the nettles I had to wade through.

I’ve spent a King’s ransom on Vanish and

Dabitoff and Stain Devils; also on

opaque nail varnish, so I won’t have hands

like Lydia, that seller of purple,

or a sufferer of Porphyria.

My cuticles will not be underlined.

My children will rise up and call me sad,

for wearing magenta, indigo and

violet, when heliotrope is out.

Trying to sum up Mother Nature’s not

all it’s cracked up to be, like rotten cobs.

Ideas should be on a rolling boil,

if they are to come to a setting point.

Maybe then hues will glow through verse’s glass,

well-labelled, stored in the mind’s dark pantry

until they are taken out and savoured

on the raw, grey days of freezing winter.

Old Michaelmas Day 1

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Ripe, ripening, and green blackberries.jpg

A ‘re-publish’ from an old seasonal post:

Let’s go for a walk and get some blackberries, l suggested to Carrie.

With all her kids to feed, she should be able to freeze quite a few

fruit crumbles, what with the windfalls too.

Okay.  We’d better get them in before the 10th or 11th,

I suppose.

Why then?

Oh, because you must pick blackberries by Old Michaelmas Day,

which is either on the 10th or on the 11th- there is some dispute about

it.

What happens if you break the rule?  I asked, always the maverick.

Something apocalyptic, since Satan was apparently banished from

Heaven on that day and he fell to Earth and landed in a blackberry

bush. 

He cursed the brambles and either spat on them, or in a Yorkshire

version, urinated on them.

Gross. I expect you would wash them, anyway.

We could always look for acorns, or haycorns as my children

always call them.

What can we make with these?  I looked sceptical.

No, we could lay a bet on a white Christmas and might do better than

the lottery, she elaborated.  If there are a lot of hay..ay-

Bless you! I thought she was about to sneeze..

acorns, there will be snow in December, she elucidated.

I never get lucky that way, I sighed.  Mind you, I don’t buy lottery

tickets. When I was a child, gambling was seen to be as cursed by

the devil

as..

Blackberries, she laughed.  But you are still prepared to eat those. 

Anyway, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

(Sometimes Carrie speaks in the most appalling cliches.)

Mmm...I mused.  It was tempting, but we know where temptation

springs from.  Curiously, I have a different take on Premium Bonds, but

then mine never come up, so the sin is never actualised.   Is that a sin of

commission, or omission?   Either way, will I get away with it? I thought

Michaelmas was last Sunday, though?  I changed the subject- always a good

diversionary technique if something was challenging me ethically.

Mikharkhangel.jpg

Oh, that was The Feast of St Michael and All Angels.  Didn’t you have goose

for dinner?  It’s so traditional?  We had one, but they cost a fortune now.

Rats!

What? I enquired. Was there another anecdote about folklore and rodents?

I’ve just realised that I forgot to check the colour of the breastbones.

As...?

‘Cos if they are brown, then we will have a mild winter and if they are white

or bluish white, we can anticipate a severe one.

I have never spent time examining the bones of my Sunday dinner that

closely.  Maybe William Hill had to – that is, if there ever

was a William Hill.  I could imagine him taking his wife to task for throwing

the giblets and carcase into the stock pot before he had done his domestic

divination and calculated the odds.

Was there a real William Hill? I asked aloud.

Why are you asking me that?  she looked confused and exasperated.  Do

you mean the bookmaker?

Yes.

Well, I think he operated in Yorkshire..

Where the devil was once supposed to have…

Don’t say it, she cautioned.  He was the guy who called legal betting

offices a cancer on society.

A case of the stockpot calling the kettle..

Look, we’d better get going, before the rain arrives and spoils our spoils, as it

were, Carrie interrupted my mercenary meditation on how I could sin and

avoid the consequences.  A world-first in the Guinness Book of Records,

probably, in spite of what Satan whispers.

Okay.  Do you want a plastic bag? I rummaged in my wicker basket.

She looked at me as if I was sporting horns and carried a trident.

I don’t tend to use them any more.  Carrie can be so sanctimonious

sometimes.  She just likes to save five pence.

Well, just this once, see it as a supermarket- sponsored receptacle for

nature’s cornucopia, saved from the devil’s contamination.

Well, if you put it like that, she said.  Let’s go a-foraging!

I’ll see if I can find some sloes for Ginevra’s gin, I remarked.

Drink of the devil, Carrie added.  Anyway, come on!

The Miraculous Beam

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Brassica heaved a sigh of relief and eased herself into a chair

outside Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe.

An Indian summer.  Marvellous.  It’s been so pleasant since

the kids went back to school.  It’s been so relaxing.  What did you

get up to over the summer, Candia?  We haven’t had much time to

catch up.

Oh, this and that.  The Husband and I did take a trip to Christchurch

Priory last week.  I’ve been before.  I remembered the Shelley

monument, but I hadn’t been aware of The Miraculous Beam.

What on earth is that?  Brassie enquired.

She put her cup down as I rustled in my handbag.

Oh, no!  Another poem coming, dare I guess?!

I handed it to her across the table.

 

THE MIRACULOUS BEAM

I

Someone was trying to tell us something,

the project manager, Flambard, declared.

When we attempted to lay foundations

at St Catherine’s Hill, the materials

went missing; re-appeared two miles away.

So, we returned to the old Saxon site.

Still the stuff disappeared into thin air.

 

II

Aye, sighed The Master Quarryman, you’ll find

there’s always someone cutting corners;

taking home off-cuts to please his missus,

who wants some extra shelves above her fire;

a new table; rockers for a cradle.

And now the gaffer is going to find out

because the board-hewer claims that the joist

is shorter than it was the night before.

And when we tried to hoist it into place

it didn’t fit the specification.

John Everett Millais - Christ in the House of His Parents (`The Carpenter's Shop') - Google Art Project.jpg

 

III

The chippie with the enigmatic smile-

always the last to knock off on Fridays,

had worked through his lunch-breaks and took no pay.

When brawls broke out with the apprentices,

he’d mutter something about motes and beams,

continuing to plane with his scarred hands:

a halo of sawdust gilding his head.

He said he’d get his father to help out,

as if something which fell short could be fixed.

 

IV

He set The Seven Stars, he re-joindered.

Pub refurbs are not the same thing, they quipped.

The night is coming when no man can work,

So, talking of pubs, we’re heading there now.

No man builds without calculation.

We’ve heard that one before, the masons laughed.

He drew a circle on the tracing floor.

Who does he think he is? They quaffed their ale.

Perhaps Architect of the Universe?!

Flambard’s coming round tomorrow first thing.

A happy bunny he’s not going to be.

The whole roof could cave in at any time.

Frankly, we could do with a miracle.

V

Flambard’- you can guess what was his nickname-

gazes up from the ambulatory.

The beam that the builders had rejected

was now integral to the whole building.

We’ve heard of the budding of Aaron’s staff,

but this is something else, the guildsmen laughed.

VI

But the carpenter had made himself scarce

and there was no trace of him to be found,

save for the load-bearing tree in its place

and the print of his sandal on the ground.

 

Pride Goes Before a Fall

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Denslow's Humpty Dumpty 1904.jpg

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Murgatroyd closed the book.  He’s certainly had a great fall, he remarked to

Diana.

Who was Humpty Dumpty? she asked, sipping her celebratory Buck’s Fizz.

I Googled him and it turns out that it is thought to have been a powerful

cannon which collapsed after the Royalist Artillery blasted the besieged walls

which it was defending.  So, it was sent crashing to the ground by

Parliamentary forces.

Well, said Mrs Connolly, coming in with two servings of a delicious breakfast:

Ye canna mak’ omelettes withoot breakin’ eggs!  That’s politics fur ye.

Alea Iacta Est

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Augustus Snodbury prepared to deliver one of his most ancient and

oft-repeated lessons in the Classic Department.  However, he intended

to give it a topical spin.

He threw a die on the front desk and pronounced: Alea iacta est.  This was, for

him, an interactive lesson, utilising a learning aid.

What does this mean?

Before he could choose which hand to acknowledge, that Boothroyd-Smythe

boy had prematurely ejaculated:  The die is cast.

What?

Sir.  The die is cast, Sir.

Hmm, Snod harrumphed.  And how could this be applied to our times?

Not you, boy.  Someone else.

He must be getting past his sell-by date.  A few years ago he’d have had

that boy clapped in irons, or thrown to the lions for shouting out.  He

signalled to a quiet youth sitting on his own at the back.

The ginger-haired pupil ventured: Mr Cameron says there’s no going back for

the Scottish people.

Precisely, Snod rubber-stamped the response.  You can’t cross back over The

Rubicon. Boy!  Put that die down!

It wasn’t brought into this lesson for you to fiddle around with. Not even while

Rome burns!

Now, take this down... Snod loved dictation.  It was the best method of

control, even if it discouraged free thinking- especially as it discouraged

free thinking!

Once Caesar had crossed The Rubicon, there was no going back. 

Reinforcement.

He turned and wrote ‘Suetonius‘ on the board.  No one, least of all himself,

knew why, but, to a boy, they all wrote it down in their exercise books, some

putting out their tongues while they tried to get the letters in the right order.

The Rubicon, incidentally meaning The Red River, so having some associations

with Clydeside... this was for his own gratification, but there was much

scribbling, was in North Italy, but it does not preclude metaphorical references. 

What’s a metaphor for?  He suddenly sprang this on an unsuspecting child in

the second row, who slightly wet his shorts and broke his pencil point.

That’s where togas came in very handy, Snod observed to himself.

To make us think what it’s there for? quavered the child.

No, that’s a ‘therefore’, Snod barked. Pay attention!  And attention is what The

Romans should have paid to those beyond The Antonine Wall.  But that’s another

lesson.

You see, Caesar had entered into rebellion and the Senate had removed him

from his command. It started a long civil war.  Who were the two sides?

Silence.

He wrote Optimates: Traditional Majority on the white board with an

indelible marker.  Drat!

They wanted to limit the power of the Tribune of the Plebs.

A hand shot up!  B–S again.  Groan!

Wasn’t that what a politician called the police, sir?

Allegedly not.

The Optimates sought to preserve the ways of their forefathers..

Like William Wallace and..

Detention!

Boothroyd-Smythe in his eagerness had forgotten to raise his hand.  Twice

in one day.  His report card would have to be stamped.

The bell rang shrilly.

Get into your testudo formation, said Snod.  Okay,

Forward march!

Excuse me, sir.  Who were the other side?

Snod momentarily had forgotten.  He could smell the odour of his

favourite fasces, he meant faggots, emanating from the dining hall.

That’s your homework, he pronounced with imperatorial, nay,

gubernatorial authority. If you don’t know, find out for tomorrow.

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