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Augustus Snodbury had returned to school early, in order to oversee

the logistics of the opening of the new term.  This left Dru and her

mother to have a final girlie weekend in Bradford-on-Avon.

After the Christmas tree needles had been vacuumed and the baubles

and wreaths put away, Diana burned the card from her ex-husband on

the open fire.  She always recognised who its sender was as, apart from

the calligraphic penmanship, the subject was always vaguely Anglo-

Catholic, High Renaissance and probably came from The National

Gallery‘s sale.  The Holy Family or something deeply ironic, given

their own dysfunctionality.

She never returned the compliment.

Was that the one from that odious and oleaginous man who once lived

with us?  Dru asked her mother, over a sloe gin.  I often wonder why

you married him.

I often wonder that myself, but at the time, I didn’t feel that I had many

other options, Diana confessed.

What really happened, Mum? Dru leant forward, picking a pine needle

off the rug.

Well, I only married Murgatroyd on the rebound.  You see, being in a state

of infanticipation, I was very vulnerable.

Why didn’t you marry Dad?

Wounded pride, Dru.  I was mortified that I had sent him a declaration of

love in the form of a Valentine card, and he hadn’t returned one.  It’s like

revealing your hand and no one shouting: Snap!

But we’ve been through that, Dru broke in impatiently.  He had. You

just didn’t get it.  Delivery malfunction.

I know that now, but, at the time I was distraught.

And so how did you become involved with that man?  I’m referring to

the one who has ensconced himself in a converted Pele tower in the

Borders and is trying to live the aesthetic life of Tam Dalyell, or Grey

Gowrie, but sans the brain cells, or political acumen.

As for ‘Grey’- that sounds like a wolf, doesn’t it?

It’s a long story, but I suppose I should have told you ages

ago.  Mind you, you never asked.

I’m asking now.

All right.  The boarding house accommodation was rather bleak and

so I had attended a local mid-week auction on my free afternoon..

You had free afternoons then?  Dru was amazed.

Technically, but it was rare for one to be able to take them.  Anyway,

I bought a self-portrait by Angelica Kauffman, to cheer myself up.  The

one over the mantelshelf in my bedroom.

Angelica Kauffmann by Angelica Kauffmann.jpg

But it’s only a print, Dru observed.

Yes, but I liked the frame, though it required a bit of restoration.

So you took it to Quarto Street, to Syylk, for re-gilding?

Precisely.  I stood in a short queue, waiting to see the restorer.  I

thought he’d be an elderly gentleman, since it was his name over

the shop. As it was, it turned out to be his son’s business.

I began to feel queasy and faint and he sat me down on a Louis XVI

repro sofa (everything was fake about the man, as I subsequently

discovered) and he gave me a glass of water.

He identified my picture as a Giclee print by Bartolozzi, and said that the

title of the picture was ‘The Angel’, punning on the name of the artist.

He then flattered me by saying how appropriate the picture was for one

so angelic and other nonsense:  ‘A charming image for a heavenly

customer.’

Not Snod’s style then!  He wouldn’t know how to be smarmy.

No.  Syylk was so smooth that, after he had ministered to my

needs.. No, not in that way!  Diana was shocked.  He took me out a

few times in his open top Sports car and the proposal was rapidly

forthcoming.

You accepted to spite Dad?

In a way, but motivation is always more complex than the outsider can

interpret, Diana replied wisely.

Cover of the book showing title in white letters against a black background in a banner above a painting of a portion of a tree against a red background

Dru had been overseeing her girls’ homework on ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘,

so she was familiar with the concept.  You have to walk in someone

else’s shoes..

..before you judge them- yes.

I’m not judging you, Mum- except that it was harsh to expect a man to

bring up another guy’s child.

But, he never knew!

Then I am judging you, Mum!  Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Well, I paid the price in an unfortunate marriage. At least Angelica

Kauffman’s husband died in 1795, but my ex persists.

Yes, he hung around too long- like an egg tempera which has gone off,

to use a technical term congruent with his profession. I will admit that.

I suppose that was your penance.

Oh well.  ‘Post Tenebris Lux’, as Calvin said.

Calvin?

The Reformer.

Oh yeah. Not Klein?

Not Klein and not Coolidge, nor a cartoon jungle feline.

John Calvin by Holbein.png

What do they teach the teachers nowadays?  Diana sometimes

despaired.  She had tried to warn Drusilla off the teaching profession,

but she would bite the bullet, albeit a not too silvery one.  Come to think

of it, she herself had bitten the silver one, but, thankfully hadn’t needed a

magic one.  Maybe she should have had the one inscribed with the Holy

Family’s names, which was supposed to ward off werewolves such as

Syylk.

She looked down at her hands and realised that she was no longer wearing

her wedding and engagement rings.  It wasn’t just all that washing up over

Christmas.  Something Freudian was going on.

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