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Great-Aunt Augusta was studying the newly photocopied programme

published by The Snodland Players, an amateur dramatic ensemble

who took their peripatetic programmes around nursing homes and

inflicted their rudely mechanical performances on captive audiences.

At least it is somewhat more challenging than one of those Primary

School variations on the nativity, combined with excruciatingly jolly

Yuletide ditties, opined the grumpy nonagenarian.

In actual fact, she had just asked to be wheeled out to the

recreation room as she could have sworn that she had smelled

mulled wine.

‘Play’ by Samuel Beckett, she read.  She liked Beckett.  What was

that play she had once seen with her sister?  Waiting for Ouzo?

Henry, I saw the film years ago.  It had that Kristin Scott-Thomas

woman in it.  You know, the one that Jeremy Fisher salivates over.

Jeremy Fisher? 

The one on that car programme.  Top Notch, or something.

Oh, Top Gear.  Clarkson.  Terrible man.

Kristin Scott Thomas Cannes.jpg

And Henry turned off his hearing aid and settled down to wait for

the hot toddy, given that his interest in hot totty had diminished

over the years, along with his driving skills.

I suppose they don’t need much scenery, Augusta commented to

another female resident.  And it’s only a one-act play, so there won’t

be an interval.

Pity, replied Madge. That’s the bit I  usually enjoy. Do you think there

will still be mince pies?

Oh, I doubt it.  We’re no longer virtuous, so they’ll probably cut back

on cakes and ale.

Matron was trying to be helpful with the logistics.  She scurried

around and came back with a trolley which bore three urns.

The Director picked one up.  Gosh, that’s really heavy.  I can see why

you needed the trolley.  Thanks, but I’m afraid they are too small and

they seem to be full of something rather weighty.

Yes, said Matron.  They are surprisingly heavy, considering that Ethel

was only about six stone and Oscar was about eight and a half…  Maybe

that’s why the rellies didn’t bother to pick them up to take them to The

Garden of Remembrance.  They probably thought that we would scatter

them, but some of the Eastern European staff are a bit superstitious about

that sort of thing, so we just put them on the shelves in Reception.  They

look pretty much like vases and the cleaning staff don’t knock them over

so easily.

Emmm, the Director was thinking rapidly on his feet, a thespian skill

which he tried to transmit to his rather slower colleagues.  Have you

got any of those Ali Baba laundry baskets?  They might do.

I’ll just have the girls wipe them down.  You never know what’s been

in them, Matron said helpfully.

Ta-da! she flourished some a few moments later.

Item image

The Director cut his introductory speech.  Some of the audience were

already asleep and it didn’t look as if anyone had a mobile phone on


Augusta was waiting for the half-line about Snodland and Ash.  Apparently,

Beckett had once been in Kent, marrying one of the corners of his love

triangle.  Hence the references.  Ash/ urn…hmmm..

Something in the town had struck him, but when he had been asked

to explain its existential relevance, he had clearly taken the hump and

merely replied enigmatically: The Absolute Camel.

So, the choice of production was clearly topical.

One of the characters suddenly addressed the favoured coterie with

the philosophical question: Why am I dead?

Join the club, muttered Gerald, who was tired of waiting for the mulled

wine. He was also agitated at the thought of missing Pointless, which,

in his opinion was a cheerier form of Surrealism.

Madge interrupted with the following: I thought you said it had an ‘Ern in

it. I thought it was a tribute act to Morecambe and Wise.  But I don’t see

anyone with short, fat, hairy legs.

Augusta patted her knee.  No, darling.  I said ‘urns’.  Honestly, the

uncultivated company that she was obliged to keep nowadays!  L’enfer

was definitely les autres.  Didn’t they know that what they were watching

was Beckett’s response to a five-act play by Racine?  Furthermore, Racine

had swiped the concept from Suetonius’ scribblings about a love triangle

involving Berenice of Cilicia.

And the reason that she was aware of that was that her younger sister

was called Berenice and their mother had had love dodefayeds– nay,

dodecagons with various Oriental types, before she had settled down with

her erstwhile nomadic, but newly-domesticated rug-seller from The


Yes, both Berenice and her mother had been the types of blondes that

Raymond Chandler had said would have caused an Archbishop-

Metropolitan, or otherwise- to have kicked a hole in a stained glass


Maybe it was the Herodian tendencies that had caused the members

of her family to be so ruthless in love.

So, life was somewhat surreal.  She granted that.  She’d never really

thought about her father.  She and her sister had the maternal surname:

Snodbury.  She supposed that her pater’s name must have been

something like Sirdar, or Osman.  But that rather sun-tanned antiques

quiz guy’s surname was Dickinson and, according to the telly programme

Who Do You Think You Are? he was of Iznik extraction and came from a

family of carpetbaggers- or was it ‘sellers‘?

At any rate, she was beginning to yawn.  That quiz programme would be

on tonight- the one they all liked with that rather aristocratic chap who

was related to William the Conqueror. (Weren’t we all?)

But she did find the other chap rather amusing.  What was his name?

Ah, yes: Osman.


Wonder if he is any relation? 

If so, that would surely be Dadaism, not Surrealism, or Existentialism.

Dadaism would probably be a very low score under the Philosophy category.

Fill me up, dear!  At last- the mulled wine had arrived.  You can have two

glasses of that.  It’s not as strong as Dewlap Gin for the Discerning

Grandmother.  And, on cold nights like this, it’s the absolute camel!