Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk, part-time Art teacher and housemistress
at St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl, likes to get out
and about in the community, so she offers a Monday evening
adults’ class in Suttonford, on her day off. She rents a shop which
has been vacated by Aquanibble, whose piscatory dermo-abrasion
service never really took off.
Most of the potential customers preferred to retain their calloused
skins. Indeed, some actively cultivated the equivalent of a
rhinoceros hide, whether metaphorically, or not. The minority
delivered their dermis to Beauty and the Beast, once named Pride
Knows No Pain before Citronella took over the business and the
But to our tale…
The last straw had been when she went into the staff loo and was
confronted by a laminated instruction panel comprising of no less
than twelve boxes, illustrating the correct way to wash her hands.
I think I have survived *years without succumbing to bubonic plague,
she fumed. Then she said *****under her breath, I hate to inform
you. You see, you just can’t get the same quality of staff any more.
On entering the cubicle she wondered if there would be any further
instructions on hygiene: ten steps to wiping… No, she didn’t wish to
think about it. This excessive infantilisation of adults was driving her
to deliberately spit in the tea urn. She just fantasised: don’t worry!
(Well, they should pay them more and they’d get better types
applying for the posts.)
Anyway, it was this that drove her to seek mature company, save her
sanity and to have her talents fully recognised.
And so it was that on the first Monday of the month, Drusilla faced
her initial ten adults, who had turned up with their portable easels,
squirrel brushes, palettes of acrylics and boxes of pastels.
She spoke for the first three quarters of an hour on perspective, flat
surfaces, light sources and ways of seeing. She showed them a
painting by Titian: The Venus of Urbino. Then she sensed that they
were all itching to start drawing.
Melinda D’Oyly-Carter, the local masseuse and aromatherapist,
emerged from behind a decoupaged screen, wearing a pink chenille
bathrobe and fluffy mules.
Tristram flinched. She had been a fellow contestant in Come Dine
With Me and had, in fact, won the £1,000 prize. He was feeling
discomfited as he was the only male in the class.
Drusilla turned on the fan heater.
The ladies arranged their easels around the chaise longue and one or
two sharpened their pencils; others snapped a stalk of charcoal and
yet another cleaned her putty eraser.
Tristram suddenly felt queasy.
Excuse me, ladies, I’ve suddenly remembered that I left some
meringues in the oven.
Melinda, or Mimi, as she preferred to be addressed, disrobed in one
confident, burlesque gesture and lay in an Olympia position, which
would have gratified Manet.
Half an hour of making marks, instructed Drusilla, wondering where
Mimi had secreted all the business cards she was distributing. Next
week we will explore the symbolism of the cane in Le Dejeuner sur