If, dear Jane Austen reader (s) you have ever wondered what a phaeton
looked like, eh voila!
Isn’t it incroyable that I can see the theme from one of my most famous novels visually sculpted on the face of the Tournai font, just opposite my place of rest? Yes, dear Reader, it shows an impoverished nobleman who cannot afford to give his multiple daughters a grand dowry. St Nicholas steps in and saves the day. (Not saves the bacon: that is shown on the other face, where the boys are preserved from becoming sausages, organic or otherwise. I did not like to borrow that particular myth for any of my novels, however.)
I am aware that I have the best social position- a place that may not be recognised by the critical Mary Crawfords of this world, who know nothing of worship, who speak insolently of men of the cloth and who seat themselves prematurely during processionals.
I still scrub up well, as the Holy Dusters employ some vim and vigour in polishing my brass plaque with Duraglit and elbow grease. Shadows of the clergy and laity cast their shades across my stone, revealing in their rites and rituals the universal foibles and fancies of humankind. My joy in observing how we all rub along together has been passed down, along with my writer’s mantle to my handmaiden, Candia. Hear her and follow her blog with due diligence and enthusiastic approval, for I being dead yet speak!
assessment objectives, Blue Badge Guide, Camelot, Clueless, Colin Firth, Dr Johnson, Elinor Dashwood, feretory, Harriet Smith, Jane Austen, Keats, Lady Bertram, Mary Tudor, Occam's razor, Ockham's Razor, Ode to Autumn, ossuaries, Philip of Spain, St Cross, Winchester Cathedral, Wykeham Arms
Today an insolent hussy stood on my stone and shrieked to her companion:
Wow! Get a load of this! We are standing on that woman whose book we had to read for GCSE. Except that our teacher just let us watch the DVD. We had to compare it with “Clueless”, to show evidence of certain assessment objectives, but I got mixed up and was marked down. It was the teacher’s fault. She shouldn’t have confused me. My mum appealed, though, and I re-wrote that bit where Mr Thingy exits the lake in a wet t-shirt. Mum said it was really cool. Later she came here to give thanks for my success and slipped in a couple of prayer requests to The God of Camelot and a personal one that she might meet Colin Firth, with or without his wet clothing.
All of this was expressed in spite of a metal contraption which was attached to her teeth, so that I was as showered with saliva drops and my stone wetted, as if the Bishop had sprayed me with the rosemary twigs he uses at baptisms. It isn’t always the best spot here, near the font.
But, at least we haven’t sunk to those adult total immersions yet.
Then the young woman proceeded to light a candle for me, muttering about there being no vanilla or blueberry-scented ones available.
Before I could utter the immortal phrase: It is a truth universally.. she was off, determined to see the feretory, as she loved those furry little creatures- or were they meerkats? Simples is not the word.
Sometimes I raise my eyes to the metal hooks on the vasty pillars whose original function was to display the nuptial banners of Mary Tudor and Philip of Spain. Since I cannot suspend myself thereby, I resort to turning over in my grave. Someone should remind these youngsters of the motto of their local college: Manners Makyth Man. (And that is a generic, inclusive term.)
I try not to mind when tourists seem more interested in where Keats precisely commenced his walk to St Cross, before composing Ode to Autumn.
I could easily interrupt the Blue Badge Guide and inform them that he first procured nuncheon and a pint of porter at The Wykeham Arms. However, like my creation, Elinor Dashwood, I feel like commenting on his Romantic versification:
It is not everyone who shares your passion for dead leaves!
But, maybe this is somewhat scathing, even for me.
I still feel that a sermon well delivered is as rare as hens’ teeth. The Evangelical varieties seem livelier, though hardly calculated to earn their exponents a succession to a stall in Westminster.
Some of the homilies could do with a firm shave by the venerable Occam’s razor, since they can be as mangled as the regal bones in the choir ossuaries and as dusty as the said receptacles themselves. They might do well to remember the less intellectually endowed Harriet Smiths of this world, who do not always decipher obscure riddles and charades. As Fielding said, however:
Clergy are men as well as other folks.
Personally, I have been able to touch and affect a heterogeneous audience and consequently often have more than half a mind to rise and preach myself, though I heed Dr Johnson’s astute aphorisms regarding the fairer sex and sermonising:
A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well: but you are surprised to find it done at all.
I know that I can be eloquent on points in which my own conduct would have borne ill examination. However, greater opportunity for inward reflection has led me to direct more of my sense of irony towards my own failings. As the good doctor also said:
As I know more of mankind, I expect less and less of them and am ready now to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly.
However, I who have gently mocked the aspirations of others have been glad to be sheltered in the bosom of this place, as comfortably as Lady Bertram’s pug upon her chaise, but- prenez soin! I am sometimes yet inclined to bare my needle sharp teeth and to sink them into some unsuspecting ankles- metaphorically, of course!
agapanthus, Alan Bennett, Alan Tichmarsh, Alethea, bidding prayers, Catherine Morland, designer handbags, Eastleigh, Echinacea, Glucosamine, Lady Catherine de Burgh, Sandbanks, St Cross, Talking Heads, Venus Fly Traps, Winchester Cathedral
(A continuation of our previous musings on Jane Austen’s eavesdroppings culled from her position beneath the floor of Winchester Cathedral.)
There have been seasonal floral displays in various churches in the Hampshire region, including St Cross, over the years. The last word on flower arranging was probably given by Alan Bennett in his Talking Heads 1 monologue Bed Among the Lentils, about Mrs Shrubsole and the precise placement of a fir cone in her floral arrangement, Forest Murmurs.
Nevertheless I can imagine Jane Austen tuning into covert cathedral discussions being conducted, though masked by arrangements of Venus Fly Traps and burgeoning bocage.
Flower Arranger 1:
I daresay floral occupations are always desirable in girls of your girth, as a means of affording you fresh air and more exercise than you would normally take. A passion for agapanthus may be deemed somewhat amateurish, but Alan Tichmarsh may yet attend and then, who can tell where your newfound skills may lead?
Ah Pansy, you enquired as to when my grand passion first surfaced, so to speak. It developed gradually, but particularly after my first visit to my paramour’s enormous estate in Eastleigh.
Unfortunate that the more vulgar might rhyme, or connote that once verdant lea with “beastly.”
Ita vero. Sadly, he is a fit and extremely healthy older man, notwithstanding his vast cache of stocks and shares and general lack of penetration. I could endeavour to live with him, however minimal his funds, providing that I should have access to them all. I would aspire to Winchester, but a villa in Sandbanks would, of course, be preferable and might prove an initial rung on the property ladder.
Arranger 1: Indeed, it would be wrong to marry for money, but foolhardy to marry without it.
How I would love to expose those furtive rummagers in designer handbags who rapidly switch off their mobiles before the bidding prayers, lest their lovers interrupt their devotions, or who use their fumbling as an avoidance technique when the offertory bags circulate.
At some of the local school services, one often hears some young prodigy, called Alethea or otherwise, make a smug, sententious remark to her doting mater. Through over-attention, the chit’s natural self-confidence has been honed into haughty assurance. Catherine Morland’s conviction still stands -ie/ that there is a violent and uncertain life which lurks beneath the veneer of society.
I am constantly privy to rehearsals of the accomplishments and marvels of female students, who all play musical instruments, achieve A*s and who compete in equine sports at the highest level. Yet, I have never heard a young lady spoken of, for the first time, without her being lauded to the Empyrean. Yet, deficiency of nature is often little assisted by education or society. A greater influence seems to be perpetrated by the expectation of property, usually acquired through trade, or, dare I suggest, a lottery ticket.
Nowadays, such nouveaux positively display themselves in society magazines, besporting themselves at various charitable functions of questionable taste. Their double-barrelled nomenclatures can scarcely be fitted into the copy without a prodigious profligacy of paper and ink.
Self-appointed, knowledgeable women offer their medical knowledge to others, whether invited to declaim, or not. They remind me of Lady Catherine de Burgh, when she held forth:
Ah, yes, my experience of the lifelong care of my valetudinarian husband has led me to recommend Echinacea during the winter months and Glucosamine throughout the year.
Their nerves command a high respect, as they have evidently been old friends with whom they have been intimately acquainted for a number of years. Truly these are women whom one cannot regard with too much deference.
And so we must leave Jane at the moment as she is a little fatigued by this peroration , but she promises to continue to amuse us on the morrow.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012
Alcuin, Alexander Pope, Anthony Gormley, campanology, Cassandra Austen, cathedral Close, Chawton, global warning, Great expectations, Harris Bigg- Wither, Henry Tilney, Izaak Walton, Jane Austen, St Swithun, Winchester Cathedral
An old series which may re-pay another airing:
As the most famous Hampshire novelist remarked: We can all go through the somewhat embarrassing motions of offering each other the Peace for a few moments at Sunday Eucharist, but it is keeping it throughout the week that is the true challenge.
Whenever I am in Winchester Cathedral, I am conscious that the Blessed Jane lies beneath our feet. I mean, of course, Jane Austen and it is significant that she was not praised for her literary talents on her ledger stone, but rather lauded for her virtue.
Occasionally I fantasise that she is eavesdropping on snippets and gobbets of conversation that are echoes of those which formed the foundation to her writing at Chawton, where, in a more constrained square meterage, she still found plenty of grist to her mill.
The types still exist with their universal foibles and characteristics and you could deem her to have an excellent position from which to amass fragments for her personal notebook. Her neighbours are interesting too.
Jane’s internment took place early in the morning, perhaps to avoid comment from the faithful on the rectitude of a resting place having been given to one whose relation had been imprisoned for petty theft and whose cousin’s husband had been guillotined.
I wonder what our novelist would have made of discussions on women bishops and gay marriage?
Would she still count eighty seven women passing by, without there being a tolerable physiognomy among them?
(Some people are worth seeing, but not worth going to see.)
However, as stated, she does not have to move at all. To be the unseen guest at baptisms, ordinations, weddings and confirmations must delight her. Even those alliances which are the triumphs of hope over experience must provide entertainment enough for any spinster. The voice of the people is the voice of God, said Alcuin – vox populi vox dei.
Being witness to so many unions, does she ever regret turning down Harris Bigg- Wither? Nay, she was delighted to have spared herself any lifelong conjunction with that particular large and awkward youth. Whenever she had experienced a broken engagement, failed seaside romance or unsatisfactory flirtation, she consoled herself in her sister’s company and they shared a game of rubbers, or played a few duets. Next to being married, a girl liked to be disappointed in love a little, now and then. It gave one a sort of distinction among friends and one’s mother an opportunity to remedy the situation.
When a baby grizzles during the Intercessions, does it irritate her? No, not at all, for Jane was the seventh child of eight and loved boisterous games of baseball and cricket. She does not mind the troops of schoolchildren, brandishing clipboards with attached worksheets on Global Warning and St Swithun, who mark their territory by expelling curious deposits of masticated material on the ancient stones.
She is amused when itinerant latter-day pilgrims are riveted to the spot. Teacher: Well done, Merlot! Now that you have ticked all the boxes we can enter you for the Win a Cathedral Roof Tour on a Windy Day prize draw.
Rinaldo, why don’t you go down to the crypt and see if you can spot the virtualangel? Don’t hurry back. Have a little paddle. That was quick! No, that wasn’t the angel. It was the sculpture by Anthony Gormless.
No, children do not bother her, but she is disturbed and aggrieved by members of the congregation who show no discretion in the timing of their personal coughs and who would be ideal members of the cast of some stage representation of Great Expectorations. Perhaps they could be induced to retire to the Fisherman’s Chapel to meditate on the Izaak Walton stained glass injunction contained therein, whose vitrine injunction is: Study to be Quiet.
A restoration appeal for £19 million was launched and so Jane hopes that the ancient roof will no longer threaten to tumble around her ears from the vibrations of deaf loops, microphones, county brayings and excessive campanology.
Her single regret may be that she misses her dear sister’s company. As Mrs Austen once said to her: If Cassie were to have her head cut off, you would insist on joining her. And Jane’s father often quoted Pope: The proper study of mankind is Man.
So, here she is dignified with as much learning in the University of Life as her brothers experienced in their various careers. Persuasion, pride, prejudice, sense and sensibility are paraded over these flagstones every day, in as compressed a social milieu as any novelist could desire to inhabit.
Henry Tilney once observed: The Close is surrounded by a neighbourhoodof voluntary spies.
Certainly, Jane would have avowed that its grapevine is as efficient a system of instant gratification as the pew sheet or Internet, whatever that organ of gossip may be.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession
of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife, Drusilla had quoted to her
father with a laugh, at her small engagement celebration.
The hint had not been too subtle and he had riposted:
But what about a single man who is not yet in possession of an
indifferent pension? And, furthermore, I have the humility to question
whether I am ‘a fine thing.’
She had sighed in exasperation: Oh, Dad! Inverted pride, more like!
Now Augustus Snodbury was shaving and meditating as he did so.
He could no longer prevaricate.
Lines from Romeo and Juliet whirled around his mind, as was
usual when he had been drumming a text all term into the
recalcitrant brains(?) of restless adolescents.
I like her well enough, he mused, referencing Juliet’s words to Lady
Capulet, but reversing the gender perspective.
( He did not usually play the female lead, but would generally
assign it to some pretty-looking boy whom he wanted to punish
for a late prep.)
…if looking liking move, he continued.
Was he moved sufficiently?
Terror rushed through his veins and he nicked himself through
self-sabotage, dispensing with a need for a Mercutio, or Tybalt, to
draw blood. He was aware that he was in a fear or flight situation.
But no more deep will I endear mine eye, whispered one of his angels.
He would never again be able to watch all the Test matches in peace
and absorb himself in The Six Nations, not to mention Wimbledon.
He had travelled down to Rochester to Bunbury, Quincunx and Quatrefoil
with Drusilla, to collect the pigeon blood Burmese ruby ring from the
depository, in order to make his proposal to Virginia, with a gem from
Lady Wivern’s bequest. Dru had not wanted it. She thought it too vulgar
and had been pleased to resign any right in the stash, in exchange for the
sweet little heart-shaped ring she had acquired to mark her betrothal to
He put himself into the sandals of Caesar himself. Maybe it would be
treason, treason to his long-held bachelorhood status, but now he knew
that he must cross the last frontier and push his boat into the Rubicon
of married life.
He knew that, like Mr Bennet, he was an odd mixture of quick parts,
sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice. And yet Virginia, unlike Mrs B,
was a woman of some understanding, much information and a certain
temper. Would she agree to entering an arrangement of mutual solace?
Was he in the throes of some Queen Mab fantasy?
At his time of life he felt challenged by the concept of establishing a new
permanent relationship. It made him feel- what? Peevish. Yes, that was
When Dru had phoned her mother to tell her about the engagement, Diana
had been in raptures. Dru was relating how she intended to pay for her
wedding through crowdfunding, but Murgatroyd wouldn’t hear of such a
thing and immediately offered the pele tower as a venue, adding that they
would have a joint celebration at which he and Diana would renew their
Maybe he should make it a threesome. No, that was something entirely
different, he believed. Three weddings and whose funeral?
They were having a piper and all the rigmarole that Snod despised.
Anyway, she might turn him down! That would be a relief, in a way.
He took the ring out of the box and held it to the light. It seemed to have
flaws in the stone. When he was having it cleaned he had asked the
jeweller about it.
All the best stones do, he had remarked. It shows their authenticity.
Well, he hoped Virginia would appreciate him, warts and all!
Alea Iacta Est!
Alan Bates, Andrew Marvell, Antiques Roadshow, Babylon, barmkin, Ben Batt, Corydon, Damon the Mower, Deep Heat, Downton Abbey, eclogues, Farmers' Markets, Fiona Bruce, Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, Green-Winged orchid, Grim reaper, Hayter, Highgrove, Lammas, meadow management, Mower to the Glow-Worms, Mr D'Arcy, One Man Went to Mow, pastoral, Pele Tower, Ph.D, Pig-gate, Poldark, Schroeckenfux, scything, snath, Stag's Breath liqueur, The Go-Between, troubador, Voltarol, wu wei
Diana Fotheringay-Syylk was administering embrocations
and a little tlc to a recumbent Murgatroyd, who is, as some
of you will recall, the owner of a Borders Pele tower.
Privately, Diana thought that he had been over-doing things
and Voltarol was not really having a great deal of an effect on
his lumbar aches and pains.
It had not helped when he had lugged plastic crates round the
local Farmers’ Markets, selling his Empress Bangers and porcine
Yes, Dear Reader, Pig-gate had already struck, before the
Cameronian variety hit the news.
(Photo:Alpha from Melbourne)
Once he had cleared out the pig-pen area he decided to
re-seed it, to please Diana, who had been upset when their
gardening firm had rotovated the wrong field and inadvertently
destroyed their recently established Highgrove-style wildflower
meadow and a group of what she took to be Green-Winged Orchids.
(Photo by Didier Desouens)
From then on, Murgatroyd had decided to do away with mechanical
Hayters and, Diana, having been inspired by Aidan Turner, like so
many females d’un certain age, had booked him in – Murgatroyd, that
is – for a Lammas weekend scything course in Brighton, where he was
going to learn the sociology of the bar peen.
His back-ache had been exacerbated by carrying the large A4 pack of
information he had been given at the start of the course. Someone had
probably gained a Ph.D in Rural Studies from producing it.
That meant she could watch the boxed set of Poldark in peace, while
he practised with his new, Austrian light-weight, zero-carbon
However, her pastoral idyll had been disturbed by Murgatroyd’s
complaints, not in the manner of a Corydon, or passionate troubador,
but more in line with the average husband who experiences muscular
twitches, or sciatica. He was recumbent and had hung his instrument on
the equivalent of a willow tree, while he lamented his estate, as if he
had been exiled from Babylon. He felt as if one of the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse had wounded him – perhaps that skinny one with the
hoodie and the big scythe.
We’ve run out of ‘Voltarol’. You’ll just have to use the ‘Deep Heat’ until
the shops open tomorrow and I go down to the pharmacy, Diana
informed him, noting that The Go-Between was on later that evening.
What a pity she didn’t have a little gopher, like Leo, to pop upstairs
with the tube of emollient. She was fed up running up and down stairs
pandering to the invalid.
Having taken him a Stag’s Breath liqueur and having poured a generous
shot for herself, she settled down with the remote in a comfy armchair, in
This had better be good, for she had enjoyed the Alan Bates version.
For some subliminal reason, she hummed One Man Went to Mow, Went to
Mow a Meadow…
It wasn’t too long before she found herself re-winding to check the length
of the snath handle Batt was implementing. Impressive-and that was just
his wu wei.
Meanwhile Murgatroyd was looking at a John Deere catalogue while Ben
Batt cut a swathe through Downton‘s viewing audience and no one could
remember what Fiona Bruce had been rabbiting on about on The Antiques
Roadshow. For, there was an attempt to high-jack a Mr D’Arcy moment for
Later, in bed – the spare bed – Diana could not clear snatches of eclogues
from her overactive mind. She kept thinking of Andrew Marvell poems, such
as Damon the Mower, The Mower to the Glow-worms and Mowing Song.
Snippets of the verses repeated themselves:
Sharp like his scythe his sorrow was,
And withered like his hopes the grass.
How happy might I still have mowed,
Had not Love here his thistles sowed.
…there among the grass fell down,
By his own scythe, the Mower mown…
T ‘is death alone that this must do:
For Death thou art a Mower too.
Well, she reflected, Life is too short for meadow
management. I think we will just pave it over again
and get some pots with pelargoniums. I’ll go to the
Garden Centre after I’ve been to the chemist’s.
And she decided that Alan Bates had, after all,
been more satisfactory.
My English teacher used to advise us to remember all five senses when we
wrote a descriptive essay, said Clammie, as she sipped an aromatic brew in
Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe.
Yes, I replied. We often forget to mention taste and touch.
I love the smell of coffee in here, don’t you? Not so keen on the aurally
excruciating skoosh of the machine, though.
I rummaged in my handbag and took out a notebook with Thomas
Hardy’s face on the cover. It was one of a series of Famous Writers–
I think I had Jane Austen and Charles Dickens too, but that is by the by.
Another friend had been delighted to note when I took it out of the fluffy
depths to refer to some scribbles, that a panti pad cover had come loose
from its contents and the emergency sanitary saviour had stuck firmly to
the grand old man’s face. She said it served him right. Not sure exactly
why. A few possibilities. Maybe Emma Gifford could have given some
explanations. Catherine Hogarth might have something to add in that
Anyway, I retrieved the notebook with the slight sticky deposit on its
cover and turned to a page at the back.
I handed Clammie an ancient poem of mine:
I came to touch late- unapprreciative
of its electrifying/ soothing powers.
I knew the tactile pleasure it could give:
glossy canine heads, white, waxy flowers;
brush of a butterfly kiss; a baby’s grip
on my forefinger; a vellum bible
whose worn cover would please its readership.
And there were some who were susceptible
to a soft touch of Harry in the night.
The emanantion of a healing flow
from laying on of hands was no deft sleight
of charlatan. In the deepest sorrow
a hand on a shoulder, merest pressure
from a clasp’s interlink, upholstery
of friendly hug-comfort without measure.
Not least of all the senses, but most necessary-
Michelangelo’s divine/human charge,
elevated to sublime position.
(God’s finger reaching through space.) Writ large:
solidarity with Man’s condition.
Ada Lovelace, Bank of England, Calendar Girls, Churchill, Currer Acton Bell, deep maths, Deep Throat, Elizabeth Fry, Ellis, Elsie Inglis, George Eliot, Good Queen Bess, Helen Mirren, Jane Austen, Katherine Jenkins, Lady Godiva, Linda Lovelace, Maggie Thatcher, Mark Carney, Mary Slessor, Mervyn King, Saatchi, Wimbledon
So, The Bank of England is withdrawing the face of Elizabeth Fry, the social
reformer, from our fivers, I remarked to Brassica, as I handed over a
couple of the aforementioned notes to the Costamuchamoulah cafe
assistant, in exchange for two Mochas and a shared chocolate slice.
Yes, but apparently there is a mystery female in reserve, in case
Churchill doesn’t turn out well in the engraving, Brassie elaborated.
Oh yes! I joked.
Brassie had a choco-powder moustache, but I wasn’t about to lean over and
erase it from her upper lip; Saatchi has deterred cafe goers everywhere from
making physical contact with their companions in public.
So, apart from the Queen, we are to have no female physiognomies on our
banknotes, I continued. Except in Scotland. I suppose that still
counts as the UK. The Scots have Mary Slessor, the missionary, and Elsie
Inglis, the suffragette, on their notes. But I bet they wouldn’t be accepted if
tendered in Costamuchamoulah.
The Scots or their currency? Brassie quipped.
Possibly both, I replied. I certainly couldn’t envisage a frugal Mary Slessor, nor
an earnest Inglis dropping by for a cappuccino and a tranche of Polenta cake.
Well, Brassie kept up the conversational momentum. There are some
names being currently proposed, such as Linda Lovelace.
I think you mean Ada Lovelace, the mathematician, I clarified, rather
pompously. There is a difference between deep maths and Deep Throat.
Anyway, your suggestion was an American.
Was she? Brassie said vaguely. She had detected the chocolate smear
and was concentrating on removing it. I thought Jane Austen had been
Well, she certainly understood currency, I agreed. And her brother, Henry had
a branch of his bank not too far from Suttonford, didn’t he? At least, before it
went bust and he joined the church! As someone who supported the concept
of thrift, maybe Jane would be a good choice.
We ought to canvass Costamuchamoulah customers, said Brassie brightly,
and then we could present a petition containing the most popular female
names to Mark Carney, when he takes up his new job as Bank of England
Governor, at the beginning of July.
Oh, he’ll probably be too busy at Wimbledon, I said. Mervyn King is always in
the Royal Box, so he’ll probably reserve a seat for him. Mind you, there’s
probably some Suttonfordians heading for Centre Court in the next week or
We could ask them to present our findings to him, even if he is off-duty, I
suppose, I granted.
Good idea! concurred Brassie and she was off with her paper napkin and a
pen before the starting gun had been fired. (I think she gets her prematurity
of behaviour from Cosmo, by all accounts.)
The first caffeine addict she approached was too quick to promote Maggie
Thatcher, which was predictable, given the territory, but I could see one or
two others within earshot- not difficult in Costamuchamoulah!- looking flushed,
or maybe enraged by the suggestion. So, before any iced cupcakes were
hurled by covert Lib Dems, I turned to an intelligent-looking female with a
laptop, in the corner.
What about George Eliot? she proffered.
Nah, love, interrupted one of two local workmen who could afford a daily fix
at this elite establishment. (I had previously observed their regularity of
attendance at about 3pm each day-an unsurprising habit, supported by the
prices they charge for basic DIY and maintenance. Mid afternoon seemed to
be their premature knocking off time. Not in any way a reference to
Cosmo’s entirely different, connubial activities, I must add.)
Nah! We were discussing wimmen, weren’t we? Not blokes! That Katherine
Jenkins is a bit of all right, i’n’t she? Whoarr! I wouldn’t mind seeing her on
a fifty quid note-preferably as Lady Godiva.
Yes, I suppose you handle a fair few of those denomination, I remarked
caustically. But she is Welsh, isn’t she? Maybe they will get their own
currency, or perhaps they’ll revert to Anglesey Druidic pennies.
I bet they wouldn’t charge her as much as they do for services rendered to
local households headed up by femmes d’un certain age!
Educated conversation is completely lost on the average Suttonfordian, I find.
No wonder they didn’t recognise the pseudonym of dear old Mary Ann Evans.
I expect that is why I seek an international audience, Dear Reader. So, I
refrained from adding my own Trinity of female talent: Acton, Ellis and Currer
I especially like the way that the male has been airbrushed out of the
picture. (Branwell knew that he wouldn’t be appearing on any bill of promise.)
The girl behind the counter suddenly said: What about Good Queen Bess?
Better, admitted Brassie, but there is a new book out by someone called
Steve Berry, which suggests that she was a man in disguise.
Maybe she had a moustache.
Or drank too many Mochas, I teased.
Women sometimes had to dress as men to achieve recognition, said
Brassie thoughtfully. You know, like Pope Joan.
I know, said the girl, who clearly hadn’t bee lstening. What about Helen
Well, I faltered. She was born Mirronoff, but I suppose she is as English as
the present Royals , so maybe she is as good a choice as any.
Yeah! Get her name down on your list, girls, approved what we might
laughingly term the ‘workmen’. She looked pretty good in Calendar
Girls and Costa here could supply the strategic cupcakes, couldn’t you,
I’m sorry, sirs. We don’t accept these, said the assistant, returning their
Mary Slessor. She would have in the normal scheme of transactions, but
customers who cheapened their brand by abbreviating its title were
personae non gratae. They had to substitute the note with another from
their rubber-banded wads of paper currency but left, quite cheered by their
ideal candidate for financial commemoration. They were only aware of one
promotional photo of the aforesaid actress and it was from a fair number
of years ago. They thought it would do nicely.
Number One: Helen Mirren, wrote Brassie on the napkin.
acai berries, baobab, bee pollen, Brabantia, Cadbury's Creme egg, Calgary Avansino, Castor and Pollux, chia seeds, Chris Martin, Coldplay, Emma by Jane Austen, flax seeds, Gwyneth Paltrow, Innocent Smoothie, lacuma, maca powder, macrobiotic, no carbs, quinoa, Tesco Express, Vogue editor
Try these, boys.
Twins, Castor and Pollux turned their noses up at Brassica’s latest smoothie,
made with frozen kale, chia seeds, bee pollen and baobab powder.
No thanks, Mum.
But I’ve made them specially for you. Try them with some quinoa toast with
Give it a rest, Mum.
Don’t be cheeky. It’s what Calgary Avansino gives her kids.
The well-being editor of Vogue. She doesn’t believe in carbs and junk
Is that the person who gave you the idea of putting flax seeds in our
packed lunches? groaned Castor.
She probably persuades her followers to make their family eat locusts
and wild honey, joked Pollux.
It’s all the fault of that actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, added Castor.
Yeah, she even called her kid Apple, continued Pollux. I bet she put her on
a core curriculum.
Enough, boys, Brassie intervened. I went to a lot of trouble to source the
maca and lacuma powders; the freeze-dried acai berries and so forth.
I bet you didn’t find them in Tesco Express, quipped Castor.
Maybe, acknowledged Brassie, but if we were to alter our eating behaviour,
they’d have to stock up on these healthier ingredients, wouldn’t they?
Wouldn’t they what? asked Cosmo, entering the kitchen from the garden
Dad! Try one of these! chorused the twins.
Emmm, I’ve just had a coffee. But thanks, guys. He looked at the glass
goblets with evident aversion as he bent down to place a small ball of coloured
foil in the Brabantia bin, as surreptitiously as he could.
Cosmo! shrieked Brassie.
She opened the lid and triumphantly picked the sphere out of the bin.
You are setting a very bad example. (She recognised the colours of a
Cadbury’s Creme Egg wrapper.) What’s the point of Gwyneth, Calgary
and myself trying to improve our family’s health if we are continually being
I only ate one, Cosmo admitted sheepishly.
Castor and Pollux ran excitedly in the direction of the observatory.
Egg hunt! they whooped.
Brassie knew that she was defeated on this occasion. She sipped one of the
smoothies and then poured it into the food waste bin outside the kitchen door.
I bet Chris Martin of Coldplay doesn’t negate everything that Gwyneth is trying
to achieve macrobiotically, she sniffed. Mind you, he was photographed
munching crisps recently. You are all the same.
Oh, let’s face it, she’d have been a better Emma if she had experienced a bit
more ambivalence in her own life. Cosmo, in one brief film critique had uttered
a damnatio memoriae while peeling a chocolate ovum behind his back.
He passed the naked temptation in front of her, tantalisingly.
As she opened her mouth to protest, he popped it in dexterously.
Go on, he laughed. You know you want it.
Gmmmumph! chomped Brassie.
And it was markedly more enjoyable than the smoothies, she had
to admit. Today the press had suggested that the Innocent varieties
of vital one of “five-a-days” were not all that they professed.
So, maybe moderation was a better idea. She had forgotten how
satisfying sinning could be. She felt positively -?-happy!
They weren’t very big after all.