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Thomashardy restored.jpg

Fortunately Snod had a double free period before Lower Five and so

he slumped into his favourite lumpy chintz armchair and waited till

he could be sure that the rest of the staff were in Lesson One.

Virginia came in sheepishly, carrying a tray with some builders’ tea

and a plate with two Bourbon biscuits.  He was allowed two since it

was not every day that one became affianced.

He didn’t look up at first.  He felt that she had committed a sin of

presumption, or at least commission, but he wasn’t going to split

theological hairs at this point.  Taking  a sledgehammer to break

a walnut came into his mind too, but he felt that was a violent

metaphor.  Still, he probably would never have succumbed to a

more gentle persuasive technique.

Yes, he had heard of St Brigid and her relationship with St Patrick.

He simply didn’t want Virginia to activate any of the ideas that the

female saint of yore had favoured, such as giving away all her

counterpart’s worldly goods and so on.  Virginia would probably never

understand the vital importance of his oiled cricket bat, or piles

of Wisdens.  He wasn’t swayed by aspirations to a ranking in the

hagiography through denial in any shape or form, and, if he was

to wed, then it might be more appropriate to consider an entry

in a martyrology.

He looked at the cup of tea.  There was no such thing as a free drink.

He felt like Alice, in Wonderland– a novel concept.  The eponymous

heroine had been confronted with a phial which was labelled: Drink Me.

If he accepted the bone china mug and its contents, did it imply an

acceptance of the proposal?  Was he about to drain hemlock?

He risked a sip.  Aaah!  Just the way he liked it: slightly stewed.

He swirled it round his mouth in a Proustian reverie.  It wasn’t too

disagreeable, after all- the whole idea and not just the cuppa.  It

took him back to reminiscenses of past times of security, as when

Matron had brought him just such a beverage when he was in San with

measles.  She had warmed his jammies on the radiator and had

given him Lucozade.  He remembered looking at the confines of

his life through the orange cellophane, which he picked off the bottle,

and feeling that life was still an adventure, if only for Boys’ Own

readers.

Virginia tiptoed out, knowing that he needed a little space.

He gazed at the poster of Thomas Hardy alongside the English

Department noticeboard.  That wretched man had caused him a

lot of trouble over the years.  (see the original misdirected Valentine

which had ended up between the underlay and the carpet of a boarding

house-mistress’ apartment, many moons previously.)

And now he had to ask himself a typically Hardyean question:

Was he, like Boldwood, being set up by a teasing woman?  Virginia

did have some Bathsheban tendencies.  He tried to resist thinking of

her in a state of deshabillement for the moment, as it distracted him

from the thrust of his current thought processes.

Then Hardy came to the rescue.

How so? you ask, Dear Reader.

Boldwood gave him the idea.

Gus took his hymnbook from the side table and threw it into the air.

Virginia came into the room again, having given him what she

considered was sufficient time- to hang himself, some would have

added.  She carried some correspondence as justification.

What are you doing with that book? she reprimanded.  You’ll break its

spine!

Snod inwardly whispered, Open-to wed; Shut-to…

Sods’ Law: it fell open.  Or was it Snod’s Law?

Virginia picked it up and placed it in his pigeonhole.

Then she came over and took his plate and mug, spat on her

hanky  and wiped an indeterminate stain from his tie.

So, that’s settled then, she pronounced.

And he knew that it jolly well was. But a quote from Neutral

Tones,  one of Hardy’s finest, suddenly sprang to mind:

The smile on [his]mouth was the deadest thing

alive enough to have strength to die…

No, although he felt chidden of God, it couldn’t be as bad as all

that, surely?

Could it? Happy misogyny, here we come, he mused.

He had measured out his life, unlike Prufrock, in oxymorons,

rather than coffee spoons.

 

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