… all is not forgiven.
Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart. All Rights Reserved
(Image: 15th century Book of Hours; Gluck m/s collection, Uny of Buffalo)
Rare Book Collection not in copyright, acc to site)
The start of
barmkin, bastle, black market, Bonnie Prince Charlie, border control, Brexit, debatable lands, donkey sanctuary, Easter bonnet, First Minister, haggis, Independence, Lent, Northumberland, Palm Sunday, Pele Tower, Presbyterian, re-moaners, reiver
(image: fortified tower by mattbuck)
[This is a continuation of my Augustus Snodbury saga…]
Diana Fotheringay- Syylk was sitting at her scrubbed pine table in
the kitchen of her pele tower. She was writing to the church warden,
to apologise for the mule-ish behaviour of the Palm Sunday rescue donkey,
which had slipped its rein in the procession through the graveyard and had
made a dash for the appetising trimmings on Mrs Digby’s Easter bonnet. This
had not tightened the bonds of fellowship, even though the nibbled headgear
had been sported by one who had contributed to the donkey sanctuary in the
past. No, she- Diana- felt responsible for introducing such innovative practices
to a staunchly Presbyterian congregation. She couldn’t help thinking that the
bonnet was a little premature and should have been left until well after Lent,
even if its wearer was the church warden.
Diana would always be a stranger here – a Sassenach. Murgatroyd might
have saved a prime example of architectural heritage for the nation through
his restoration project, but neither she, nor her husband were of reiver stock.
Oddly enough, her erstwhile lover and the father of her beloved daughter, Dru,
was of that lineage, so she supposed Dru could trace her roots to the ‘Debatable
She raised her head and addressed her housekeeper, Mrs Connolly, who was
peeling a turnip (or was it a swede? The two vegetables had lexical differences
depending on which side of the border they were being consumed. Another
grave divergence. I kid you not.)
Mrs C, what do you think Theresa May signified by ‘Brexit means Brexit?’
Ach, jist something like I meant when Ah tell’t ma wee yin ‘Bed means bed!’
Mind ye, Ah usually backed it up wae a swift toe tae the….
Please, Mrs C!
But Diana chuckled inwardly.
She was trying to sort everything out for Gus and Virginia’s visit. Dru and
Nigel would also be arriving for their end-of-term Easter break.
It had not been a year since she and Murgatroyd had renewed their wedding
vows. What an event it had been, with Dru and Nigel AND Virginia and Gus
tying the tartan knot, in a combined nuptial service. Ah, so much had
happened in a short space of time.
Virginia had offered to put her own house on the market. It had been her
previous marital residence. She was worried that house prices might fall,
or the £ might plummet. She and Gus were ‘Re-moaners’ and proud of it.
They were contemplating re-locating to the Borders, now that they had both
retired from St Birinus Middle. The problem was that they did not know on
which side of the border to settle. For this reason, the Debateable Lands
attracted them, in order to hedge their bets.
Dru and Nigel both had accommodation at their respective boarding schools,
but they had been keen to renovate some outbuildings in the pele complex, as
a way of getting themselves on the housing ladder.
Diana was keen on this, as she felt Dru would only conceive when she was away
from the stresses and strains of teaching. Grand-children were on Diana’s
agenda and she liked the idea of them being on site. If things became too
riotous, she could always retreat to her fortified bastle and barricade herself
The problem was that the Scottish/ English border ran straight through their
Should’ Sturge’ effect Independence, then to which Csarina should they render?
Would Murgatroyd be evicted from half his property and have to remain in one
half of his complex?
Diana had an idea.
Mrs C, what if we were to transfer all the property to you – you know, put it
in your name? If we only had permission as foreign residents to live in
the country for a proportion of the year, we could move the furniture
to the other side of the room; stay over there and you could call us your guests.
Nae borra! Mrs C nodded enthusiastically. Ah dinna ken whit that wee ny-
eh, that First Meenister is goin’ oan aboot. Her granny came fae
Northumberland, so she’s practically a migrant hersel’. An’ some o’ her pals
look like aliens tae, if Ah say so mahsel’.
Onywise, when Dru has her wean, we can put the whole shebang into its name.
It’ll be born here, Ah take it? Ach, Ah hope it’s a wee boy: a proper Bonnie
If there is ony Border Control, we will make a killin’, sellin’ haggis, shortbread
and whisky oan the Black Merkit. if they come to inspect, or patrol oor border,
we’ll jist drag the boxes ower tae the far side o’ the room.
But no one down south likes haggis, Mrs C…
It’ll be a different story efter Brexit, ye’ll see! pontificated Mrs C. They’ll a’ be
starvin’ ower there.
And her eyes swivelled significantly, as she directed her stare to the other
side of the kitchen.
Mebbe we can dae a trade in barrels o’ pickled herrin’ tae.
Theresa May- but then she may not.
She’s the PM- well, who would have thought!
All she will say on our EU exit
is a sphinx-like, tautologous ‘Brexit means Brexit.‘
(Controller of HM Stationery Office
acacia, Adonai, auto-combustion, boscage, Brexit, burning bush, Church Green, Cotswolds, Crateagus, David Cameron Witney, Desolation, Dieric Bouts, hawthorn, Highgrove, I Am Who I Am, Israelites, kohl, Michael Portillo, Midian, Milton, Mindfulness, Moses, pastures new, pillar of fire, Prince Charles, Renaissance Man, SamCam, sestina, Shekinah, Sir Philip Sidney, smoking flax, St Catherine's Monastery, St George and Dragon Dragon Hill, U A Fanthorpe, UKIP, Waitrose
Hope you are not inundated in the South. Read about all the flooding,
power cuts and trees coming down.
Yes, I like being in The Cotswolds. Might bump into David
Cameron in Waitrose at Witney. Recognised Church Green the other
day as his backdrop, when he was telling the world that he was giving
up as an MP.
Remembered the shock (some years ago) of seeing a photo in The
Financial Times of Michael Portillo, posing on the bridge at the end of
my garden in Suttonford. I think he must have been visiting his
associate, George, who lived nearby.
Well, I needn’t fret: I am evidently still at the centre of global events.
Mind you, sometimes taking early retirement and leaving your old pals
for pastures new (ghastly euphemism pinched and abused from Milton,
who employed it freshly) can be a bit daunting. That’s why it was
wonderful to come across a veritable burning bush of hawthorn berries
above Dragon Hill – you know, where St George allegedly slew the dragon.
I kept thinking of U. A. Fanthorpe and her witty, GCSE anthology-
endorsed poem on that subject.
I was compelled to approach this crimson phenomenon as it was so
vibrant and it reminded me of Moses and his encounter with verbal,
auto-combustible branches of boscage.
I wondered what it might say to me and checked on the original tale.
So, Moses was over 40 years old and no longer a bigwig. Instead he was
caring for his father-in-law’s sheep, which did not exactly utilise his
expensive Midian education. (I suppose he might have been having a
crisis, like David Cameron after loss of power. But I don’t think SamCam
would like Dave taking to pastoral studies unless she got a discount on
wool for her new fashion line.)
I wonder if Moses’ wife still wore her kohl in the backside of the desert?
Or had she already been yummy-mummified by then?
However, the encouraging thing is that, in a moment of paying
attention – I’m not going to say ‘mindfulness‘ – Moses was called to
a new commission, namely to be leader of the Israelites, as they were
to be delivered from slavery.
So, Brassie, what do you think I did?
No, I didn’t apply for leadership of UKIP, or any other party,
hoping to take my people through the wasteland of Brexit…
No, I wrote another sestina on the epiphanal moment when I
realised that I am not past it. I mean, I knew it, but I had not felt it
in recent days.
My friends who were staying with me had just been to Highgrove,
where it has been suggested Prince Charles talks to plants, so people
may accept, that, in a way, a bush spoke to me yesterday. and said
something like, Fool, look in thy heart and write!
(Okay, so I know I am appropriating Philip Sidney, but it was a poetic
moment and who better to prompt you to get on and do something with
your life than the original Renaissance Man?)
It was in the news yesterday that trees communicate with one another
and, in Fanthorpe’s poem, the dragon speaks, so, suspend your disbelief,
Here’s the poem inspired by a communicative Crataegus, namely the
humble hawthorn, except that it was an acacia in the case of Moses
and they have the original (they allege) at St Catherine’s Monastery:
The Burning Bush Speaks
So, how was I to get his attention?
Ah yes, an acacia bush on fire-
though plenty self-ignite and are destroyed,
he’ll notice that I actually sustain
and it is not consumed. Thus I will speak:
that ought to alert him to my presence.
He feels that he no longer has presence.
The world has ceased to pay him attention
as he minds in-laws’ sheep, over a fire
on Desolation Mountain, so to speak.
It’s not an activity to sustain
a man’s confidence, which has been destroyed.
A Midian education, doubt-destroyed;
his eyes blinded to Shekinah presence-
he has to be convinced that I sustain.
He is not paying me due attention;
the smoking flax is no longer on fire.
Moses! Can he believe a bush will speak?
He cautiously approaches tongues of fire.
Confidence that had been all but destroyed
re-ignites, as I re-assure him, speak
my name: I Am Who I Am (The Presence)
and creator of all hope. I sustain
the universe. The Egyptians I sustain.
The Israelites I will refine with fire
and, in order to gain his attention,
I’ll speak to him from something not destroyed
by elemental powers. My presence
is going to give him confidence to speak.
I have a message; words for him to speak
and laws which I will give him to sustain
my people. He will convey my presence;
cause them to follow my pillar of fire;
ensure that other gods are all destroyed.
Now, Moses, I need your full attention:
Speak! For the Egyptians will be destroyed.
Sustain your attention. Heed my presence.
The fire of Adonai will burn in you.
(Image: Dieric Bouts)
I’m with Benjamin on this one, I said, sipping my Macchiato.
Benjamin? Brassica interjected.
Yes, the cynical one.
You surprise me. Brassie can be ironic sometimes.
Yes, we are all being taken to the knacker’s yard in a battle bus. No one can
read what it says on the side. Benjamin had a good memory. Things can
never be much better or much worse. Hunger, hardship and disappointment
are the unalterable laws of life.
You surely don’t believe that, Candia? What about the vision of Sugarcandy
Mountain? We can build our own windmills. The Three Brexiteers
have promised that we will all be better off and the NHS and pensions
will benefit our own old and retired once again.
Hmmm, do you recall that by the fourth year of Animalism and
independence, Animal Farm depended completely on its trade with
the wider world? Rations were reduced and lighting was cut in the stalls.
There was no such outcome as the three day week and the full
Yes, Candia, but the animals had a feeling of dignity and held
spontaneous demonstrations to celebrate their own triumphs.
Yeah, and a lot of history was re-written as well. The animals felt
that they had re-gained what they had before. As for Snowball and
Napoleon, they were in cahoots with the Enemies and eventually
traded with whichever partner promoted their own selfish,
So, who do you reckon are Snowball and Napoleon?
I leave it entirely to your own judgement, comrade.
So, are you on your way to vote now? Remember, old Jones was not
so bad, even if he was a Fascist.
Yes, I had better watch out for the low-flying campaigning pigeons.
I don’t want to be crapped on. Nor do I want to be savaged by a band of
And I left, humming ‘Beasts of England’ cynically.
Brassie appropriated a couple of sugar cubes for Post-Revolution
sustenance, adjusted her Alice band and went to check her parking
ticket on the gleaming new dog cart, between whose shafts she
willingly reined herself.
As for moi?
Well, no one has ever seen a dead donkey. And being interested in
etymology, I remind you that le bon mot: ‘revolution’ has the inbuilt
concept of ending up exactly where you started.
Alamuddin, Alcopop, Amal Clooney, Banksy, Borgia, Brexit, Carpe Diem, discursive essay, Donald Trump, fish kettle, jelly girl, Lucrezia, Magaluf, Medici, Nerissa's ring, Pope, Robert Frost, sliding door, Turtle Mat, Vogue, Weetabix, zircon
The ring had sparkled on Drusilla Fotheringay’s finger- so
much so that Lower Six spotted it immediately and one
forward type had commented, Oh, Miss, is that a zircon?
Dru then had had to prevent herself from using the sun’s rays
as a laser effect to bounce off the prism of her multi-
faceted stone, only for it to be directed forthwith into the pupils
of the aforesaid wag.
Pupils. Hmmm, I must ask Dad what is the etymological
connection between students and eyes. Maybe reading?
Or is it that nowadays they all seem to be the apple of their
father’s eyes? she had ‘mused‘. Editor: Not ‘reflected’.
She had sprung back to attention as she noticed that the class
had left a lumpily wrapped present on her desk.
It was obviously a fish kettle. And there had been an
accompanying card, with the following : Men!-Don’t Let the
B******* get you down!
It had been signed by the whole class.
The legend had obviously been written by one of the more gender-
politicised members of the group. Dru would choose to ignore
the inappropriate language, in favour of the spirit of the gift,
even if it had been Amarillo Guttersnipe’s mother’s unwanted
That had been yesterday and today it was her morning off. She
was enjoying a quiet interval in her flat, still in her pyjamas. She
took her hot water and lemon slice and wandered into the hall, to
see if there was any post.
A pink envelope lay on the Turtle mat, which was very similar to the
doormat that had covered the very spot, over thirty years previously,
and which had been the location of her mother’s tragic mis-directed
missive- the one which Existentially might have opened a very different
When Diana, Dru’s mother, had been a ‘Lax‘ Mistress at St Vitus’ School
for the Academically-Challenged Girl, all those years ago, the ill-fated
Valentine card had slipped between the underlay and the carpet and
its interior proposal had been unread for decades.
(Editor: The school’s name had been changed to accommodate the very
different type of clientele they were now receiving.)
Now there was a smart brass letterbox in the House Mistress’ door, so
the mail tended to reach its intended recipient.
Curioser and curioser… It seemed to have a Spanish stamp and was
franked with the dreaded Proper Noun: Magaluf.
Oh, it was a card from Juniper Boothroyd-Smythe, whose pesky little
brother was still at St Birinus Middle, where he continued to abuse Nigel.
Dru liked to have news from her ex-pupils, though, goodness only knew
how she had wished this one even further away than Glasgow School
There was no denying that the girl had been creative and talented,
John had texted his big sister with the news of the teachers’ engagement.
Actually, he had worded it thus: We thought he was gay!
The card was made of hand-crafted paper, which looked like tissues that
had survived a 40 degree wash in some sleeve or other. There was a
glued on stencilled depiction, a la Banksy, of a manacled woman, holding
out a begging bowl and wearing leg irons. She was chained to a kitchen
sink. Below this image were the comments:
Who wants to live in an institution?
No, she could never see Juniper settling down to domestic bliss. In fact,
the appended news announced that the sender was having a whale of a
time as a jelly girl, earning more than Dru by selling Alcopop-shots to
the already wildly inebriated.
She came back to her sitting room- why it was called that, she didn’t
know. She scarcely ever had the time to sit. Carefully, she added the
card to the growing collection on her faux mantelpiece. She propped
it next to Nigel’s mum’s conventional offering of twin doves trailing a
ribbon, from which two rings were suspended. It must have come
from a charity shop, as it was faded and had probably been printed in
the 1950s. Medici it was not, though the spirit was almost Borgian.
On its front it said: On Your Engagement and inside it more or less
repeated itself. Best Wishes on Your Engagement.
There was nothing else, except an acid comment worthy of
Lucrezia herself: I suppose I will have to get someone in to finish off the
skirting boards now that Nigel is to be a married man.
There was a faint hint of malice aforethought which had made Dru
wash her hands on receipt, in case there had been any plutonium
in the envelope.
She walked into the kitchen area. Brexit– yeah, that would be a good
name for a cereal. Drat! She had run out of Weetabix! She had better
get a move on as she was down to cover a colleague’s General
Studies-type lesson. When she had asked what the class were
‘doing‘, the teacher had humorously quipped: ‘Time‘ and then
had vaguely added, Oh, just give them some provocative titles and
get them to plan a discursive essay.
Thanks for the clarification, Dru had thought. She gazed at The Daily Mail
for inspiration. There was a photo of the Pope.
I know, she said to herself, what about ‘Walls or Bridges?-which should we
build? She could photocopy some stimulus-material, such as those Robert
Frost poems. He had had a mural obsession, she seemed to recall.
(Mr Donald Trump in New Hampshire, 19th August, 2015. By Michael Vadon.)
Is Donald Trump a Christian? No, that might be too awkward if the parents
had any political predilections.
Amal Clooney or George Alamuddin?
Great! Should be good for some gender-debate. And the girls like
to see what the stylish lawyer is wearing.
She would borrow some Vogues from the library, if the librarian would
allow her. Usually teachers were not permitted to touch such publications.
Flicking through the fashion pages should keep the girls quiet during the
Should she change her name to Drusilla Milford-Haven? She thought not.
She wondered if Virginia had accepted her father’s proposal. Would she
change her name to Snodbury, or even Revelley?
Editor: you really need to re-read past posts to keep up with all this!
It was at such significant times that she missed Great-Aunt Augusta. All
right, she hadn’t really been her aunt, but she had performed the function
of one and she had always enjoyed hearing about a good family illness, or
a wedding. It was such a shame that she was missing out. You do, when
you’re deceased. Pity! Carpe diem, and all that.
Of course, the old bat had never married. A lot of those old girls had not
had the opportunity after the war. However, she had demonstrated the
powerful effect of relative celibacy on longevity and the advantages of
‘keeping safe Nerissa’s ring.‘ Dru just hoped that her decision was going to
be worth it.