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The fireworks are over.

The children enjoyed the party and observed all the Health and Safety rules.  Brassica and Cosmo were on good form. They disappeared into the observatory for ten minutes and emerged, looking as if they had stars in their eyes.  Ginevra didn’t drink too much, though she did swig from a hip flask from time to time and, when the guy didn’t ‘take’, she drained the dregs over the brazier and the flames shot out like a rocket.  Poor Caligula!  And poor perfectly good Chinos!

What have you got in there? Gyles said reprovingly.  Lighter fuel?

Only Jane Austen’s Secret Tipple.  I wasn’t going to waste Dewlap’s Gin for Discerning Grandmothers, was I?

Magda wheeled Ginevra away when it was all over. The expression ‘damp squib’ was never mentioned.

Gyles and Tristram caught up on all things technological and even asked Sonia for her prediction on the outcome of the US election.

Barack’ll win, she said.  I’m sure of that.

How do you know? I asked.

No one could possibly take anyone called Mitt seriously, she said.

Dark-haired man with graying hair at the temples, dressed in dark suit, at a nighttime indoor event

His first, his Christian name- Mormon name?-is Willard, actually, I informed her.  And, anyway, a lot of people took Jimmy Savile seriously and his name was pretty credible.  So, you have to see past the appellation.  What do you think of his policies?

The same as Nick Clegg, she said triumphantly.  We don’t know.  They’re all the same.  Even David Cameron keeps changing his mind.  Romney isn’t Appalachian, she added.

No, I didn’t say he was.  This is an example of our surreal conversations.  He was born in Mexico.

I’ve always liked that Mexican Hat Dance by James Last, she said.

You mean Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, granny, shouted one of the boys, whizzing past her with a sparkler (in a gloved mitt, or did I mean a willard?)

Put it on for us, Ferdy! Let’s party! she shouted, but he pretended not to hear.  It was time for me to go.  The Husband would be looking for his hot chocolate.

I’d vote for that Anton du Beke, she said.

Alyona helped to clear up the debris and I had a few minutes to talk to Carrie.  She wanted me to go to a charity Christmas Fayre with her, but I told her that any event that is spelled with a ‘y’ was anathema to me.  I don’t think she knew what I was talking about, so I just made the excuse that I had too much ironing to do.  Actually, it wasn’t an excuse: it is the truth.

When I started on the Mount Etna pile this afternoon, I remembered that I had written a poem about ironing some time ago, so I found it in the cellar and here it is:


With her iron resolve, she had a way

of impressing you that each shirt

was her lifeblood’s sacrifice for that day.

The painstaking rotation of a skirt,

sun-ray pleated or school uniform, brought

a starched expression to her fine-creased mouth:

as if you had deliberately bought

such items to remind her of a youth

as flat as that board. Often she would spit

on the plate, testing its temperature

ostensibly, but revealing by it

her contempt. Sometimes she’d say, Is that your

underwear? in a tone that would have scorched

virgin driven snow- a linen setting

for silk; meltdown for these garments debauched

by Parisian frippery, netting

of nylon lace: knick-knacks of knavery.

She put them in the middle of the pile,

and though most jokes were thought unsavoury,

said, Next week’s washing’s hanging down. No smile.

Point of information: your hem’s too short.

No irony detected. Now I fold

my own clothes, launder, tumble-dry and sort

myself out. Doing it all wrong, I’m told.

Yet I believe she’s running out of steam;

there’s more evidence of the velvet glove

than upper hand and, it would also seem,

knife edges can be ironed out by love.