from the collection at Upton House, NT
Photo by Candia
Arundells, Babel, Bishop's Stall, Chapter House, Constable, Creme egg, Dom Perignon, Easter, Jobseekers, Julian of Norwich, Living Water, Mammon, Mocha, National Trust, New Sarum, Old Sarum, Palm Sunday, patens, Pontius Pilate, Salisbury, Simnel cake, Ted Heath, University Challenge, Yasser Arafat
A re-blog as it is timely:
I can’t believe that it’s nearly Easter, shivered Carrie.
Quick! let’s go in and bag a table, I said.
Costamuchamoulah cafe was still doing a brisk trade, even on this
grey day. Amazingly, the smokers were still prepared to sit outside.
We have the routine down to a fine art now: one gets into the queue while
the other nabs a table, much as the disciples snatched a colt.
Yes, Easter’s early this year, I commented, watching a child stuff its face with
a Creme Egg in advance of the Christian calendar. It’s amazing how such
diminutive creatures can incorporate a whole orb of sickly chocolate fondant
into such a tiny aperture.
I bet they don’t know what Simnel cakes represent, I mused aloud.
What do they stand for? queried Carrie. Then, seeing my expression, she
added, I’m sure I once knew.
That’s what I say during University Challenge, I replied.
Then I sipped my Mocha, getting a chocolate powder moustache. You know,
it’s Palm Sunday tomorrow. Are you going to go to a service?
Try persuading that lot to get out of bed, she sighed. They used to like to see
the donkey coming into the church, though. Sometimes they were convinced
that The Dean, giving his dramatised reading, was Pontius Pilate and it scared
Yes, we used to go to Salisbury for the service. That was when Ted Heath
lived in The Close. In fact..
..you have a poem about it, she smiled.
How did you know?
PALM SUNDAY IN SALISBURY
Polythene wraps New Sarum like an egg.
The sky above The Close is Constable’s.
Cream-robed clergy congregate in cloisters,
bespectacled, brandishing dried gray palms,
under a spire as tall as Babel’s own,
while new choristers mouth All glory, laud
and honour.. without comprehending laud.
The tallest lad hopes that his voice won’t crack.
Girl choristers have not been asked to sing today.
Some miniature Yasser Arafats
in tea-towels and trainers coax an ass
from a spreading cedar into the nave,
where all present pray for its continence.
True blue glass provides a continuo.
Ted Heath’s Jaguar, also blue, is parked
on a reserved space outside Arundells.
What if one should loose its handbrake
and say, The Lord has need of thee this day?
Meanwhile we make intercession for all
unemployed, under and over-employed,
while carefully noting the advertised
champagne breakfast on our service schedule.
Dom Perignon: a foretaste of glory.
The Jobseekers can sip Living Water.
Coffee will be served in the Chapter House
among the exhumed coffin chalices,
patens. The bookshop is doing business
in postcards of Julian of Norwich:
All manner of thing shall be well. Mammon
hasn’t felt stings from His whip of cords-yet.
The head which indicates the Bishop’s stall
has a triple face of circumspection.
The Dean and his ordained wife wear the same
as they stand on repro medieval tiles,
trying not to worry about their lunch.
In the cloisters a chill wind chafes faces.
A chair is overturned, but no tables.
Although we have received the sign of peace,
our palm crosses seem ineffectual.
We stick one on Ted’s windscreen, just in case
his residential permit cuts no ice
with the flaming Being at the Close gate,
who curiously doesn’t wear a badge,
but bears authority from Old Sarum.
He tends to let the backpackers pass through,
like Christians, still bearing their large burdens,
or as camels accessing a needle.
But Tory Faithful have to wait in queues,
backs turned to the Celestial City,
while Peter checks their National Trust cards
and the very stones cry, Glory! Glory!
They were off! Praise be for Roadside Recovery!
Just thinking…, said Snod, once they had reached
the motorway and he felt that Dru could concentrate.
You never did go into Bunbury, Quincunx
and Quatrefoil, to arrange to inspect the rest of the
jewellery deposited for you in the bank vault.
I know…It’s just that circumstances changed.
What do you mean? How?
Well, now that you are seeing Virginia, I thought, if you
two get hitched, spliced, or whatever, well…
…well, she would be the due recipient of the legacy, being
your- em- wife and therefore Lady Wivern’s daughter-in-
The bumf said it was for your wife, or daughter.
Well, I don’t have a wife and you are my daughter, so, at
the point of Lady Wivern’s death, you were the only valid
beneficiary. It couldn’t even be argued that Diana was my
common-law-wife, as we never lived together and she was
espoused to Murgatroyd. I suppose you could give her a
token from the hoard…something you are less keen on,
if you feel you must. And, if you give Diana a little
something, I will give you the heart-shaped diamond ring
I kept all those years for her. I don’t think Virginia would
appreciate jewellery bought for someone else and it is
inappropriate for me to give it to your mother now she is
back together with Murgatroyd.
The only thing that truly interested me was The Tindall
Jewel and, as you know, I signed for it to be left on
permanent display at Wyvern Mote. At least they verified
my genetic credentials fairly discreetly in order for me to
assert ownership and do that.
Yes, The National Trust soon co-operated when they
got wind that you were going to be Lady Bountiful to
them, Snod agreed.
I must say I was impressed when the curator came up
with Lionel and Peregrine’s milk teeth in the schoolroom
drawer. It was so lucky that the little yellow stumps had
been kept in labelled drawing pin boxes, along with their
other childhood treasures.
Yes, my half brothers… A lifetime ago, said Snod sadly.
It certainly saved any ‘Alas poor Yorick!’ exhumations.
All we had to provide was that cheek swab and-hey
presto!-proof of identity for both of us. That’s Modern
Science for you. And Modern Life. Somehow spoils the
mystery, though… No, things can’t be changed
retrospectively. Anyway, even if Virginia and myself do…
Father! Dru pulled into the inside lane. Are you telling
me there is a possibility??!
She hasn’t asked me yet, Snod prevaricated. What
about you and Nigel? You don’t give much away yourself.
Maybe we will, if you will.
Sounds like that song from The American Songbag, Dru
laughed. Then she started singing:
She’ll be coming round the mountains when she comes…
She stopped: Who was ‘she’?
A locomotive. It’s a railroad song. Let’s just hope we
avoid a train crash in our relationships!
Oh, don’t be so gloomy! Let’s just hope that she’ll be
wearing silk pyjamas when she comes! I wonder if
No, she doesn’t, commented Snod, without thinking.
Neither does Nigel! Dru giggled.
They both burst out laughing and continued lustily:
I will, if you will, so will I!
Bonnie Prince Charlie, Bosphorous, clarsach, communion chalice, Head Teachers' Conference, hypogonadism, Inklings, lacrosse, Land Girl, lost Faberge egg, model railway club, National Trust, Pele Tower, seamed stockings, Simon Bolivar, Snodland, St Birinus, St Vitus
Candia: You think it would be useful?
Brassica: Well, a lot of people have come in on the action
mid-plot, so-yes- why not offer them a synopsis?
Candia: Okay- they can skip it if they have been following
since Snod’s story took off.
Here it is, folks:
SYNOPSIS: Snod’s Law
Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master and Acting Head of St Birinus’ Middle School
is ripe for retirement. He loves comfort food, the Model Railway Club and Latin.
He is a role model for Junior Masters, but a bête noire for other staff.
For his entire life, he has taken for granted that he was the product of a liaison
of socialite and erstwhile Land Girl, Berenice Snodbury and A N Other.
Berenice’s sister, Augusta, took on responsibility for the child when her sister
ran off to Venezuela, following romantic dreams inspired by her hero, Simon
The original Augusta, the girls’ mother. had not set them a terribly orthodox
example, as she herself had run around the Bosphorous with an itinerant rug
Snod’s lonely, institutionalised existence is interrupted by a climactic revelation
that an affair which he conducted with the ‘lax’ (lacrosse) mistress of a
sister establishment many moons ago engendered a child. That ‘child’ is now
a Housemistress at St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl, the school
in which her mother originally taught. (In fact, Gus has unwittingly met his
daughter on a number of occasions, at joint educational functions.)
The reason that his relationship broke down was owing to a Hardyean
twist of fate. A missing communication which contained his marriage
proposal now re-surfaces during re-furbishment for a school let. Diana,
the retired lax mistress, is exposed as having been deceitful.
She married ‘on the re-bound’, foisting her child on Murgatroyd-Syylk,
picture dealer and restorer. The pair subsequently divorced and now
Syylk is completing a restoration project of a Pele Tower in the Borders.
Drusilla, the Housemistress, attempts to encourage her parents to meet.
Will their romance re-ignite? Initially, it is a damp squib.
On Berenice’s death, a mysterious package arrives at school. It contains
a signet ring which Augustus’ apparent half-brother was asked to send
over to England. It bears an insignia associated with Wyvern Mote, now a
National Trust property.
Drusilla and Gus visit Great-Aunt Augusta and take her out of Snodland
Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry for the day, partly to introduce her
to her great-niece, and partly to investigate Wyvern Mote. There they see
a photograph in the schoolroom of two of the original heirs, with their tutor,
Anthony Revelly. The facial resemblance is clear: Gus is his offspring; Revelly
his father, rather than Lord Wyvern.
Lady Wyvern had had the child by her sons’ tutor on the death of her
husband. The tutor was permitted to live in a grace-and-favour apartment
in the stable block, for life, when the property was handed over to The
Berenice, who had been a Land Girl in the vicinity, had been paid an
undisclosed sum to acknowledge the child as being her own. A good time
girl, Berenice had tired of the responsibility, eventually absconding and
leaving her sister to arrange his schooling at St Birinus. Augusta had
once been Head Girl of St Vitus’, so knew of the boys’ prep school
establishment and its reputation.
Now Hugo, in Venezuela, has to be disabused of his belief in his
relationship to Gus. They decide to leave Aunt Augusta in the dark.
The latter gave her ‘great-niece’ a present of what resembles one
of the famous missing Faberge eggs. It turns out to be a fake and
yet, Dru’s visit to her step-father in the Pele Tower makes up for her
disappointment, as she is promised a communion chalice which Bonnie
Prince Charlie used before his fateful final ride south, on Syylk’s decease.
(The Pele Tower turns out to have been in Lady Wyvern’s family in the
past, so there is a neat circularity about Drusilla’s future inheritance of
the restored property, as Murgatroyd’s sole heiress.
The Head Teacher of St Birinus’ had an unfortunate ‘turn’ at the Christmas
Eve Midnight Service and was diagnosed with hypogonadism. His mid-life
crisis leads to him taking time off in order to make a motorcycle trip across
The Sahara, much to his wife’s relief. Unfortunately, Gus has to ‘stand in’,
but when his previous boss decides to abdicate, he does not apply for the
permanent post. Nevertheless, a position of Deputy Head is created for him,
in order to boost his pension. Poskett, Milford-Haven and Drusilla Fotheringay-
Syylk apply for the Headship, but are unsuccessful. Will the latter two decide
to throw over their careers and try to make a musical success of their lives
Drusilla has shone in various musical concerts, by playing her harp for both
schools. She has been the focus of attention from Nigel Milford-Haven, the
rather wimpish Junior Master who is beginning to sing solo tenor in some
school productions and Geoffrey Poskett, Choirmaster. She seems to favour
Nigel, since she has asked him to come to the Borders with her in the school
holidays, to stage a concert for clarsach and voice.
She hopes to raise money for Murgatroyd’s roof repairs. Nigel is nervous, as
his mother usually draws on his decorating expertise in the school holidays
and she is not going to be too pleased at his bid for independence.
Meanwhile ‘Snod’ has settled into a friendly relationship with Diana, the mother
of his child, who has sold her cottage and moved back to the Suttonford area,
in which both schools are situated. However, his attention has been attracted
to Virginia Fisher-Giles, the widowed seamed-stocking-wearing PA. An invitation
for coffee chez elle after she has run him to a Head Teachers’ Conference
turns out to be more intimate than either anticipated.
Will he succumb to a projection of future domesticity with Virginia? Will he
resurrect the corpse of his relationship with Diana, or will he continue his
‘Inkling’ existence of bachelor bliss?
The lure of retirement is like an ever-receding pot of gold. He has a year
or two to serve as Deputy Head under the new regime. Will he be able to
preserve the old ways, or will the introduction of a new system create a
tsunami of bureaucracy that will threaten to engulf him?
Angouleme, carpet bag, Cinderellas of the Forces, Circuit des remparts, Concours d'elegance, Delahaye, Freedom of Information Act, General Registrar, Her Majesty's Passport Office, Istanbul, Land Girls, National Trust, Ouspensky, perjury, Pierre Loti, release certificates, Rumi, Russell Square, Simon Bolivar, Snodland, Sufi, T S Eliot, theosophical, Women's Land Army
Sonia said, Yes, I’ve heard of Ouspensky. He was theosophical, was he
I died a mineral and became a plant
I died as plant and rose to animal
I died as animal and I was Man..
-sort of Sufi-inspired Rumi concepts..
Something like that, said Dru. She had dropped in at Royalist House
to see her mother and to discuss the latest proceedings.
I had a look at some newspaper cuttings which were in the envelope that
Bunbury, Quatrefoil and Quincunx, Solicitors gave us. There were some
leaflets for a series of lectures that Ouspensky gave at Lady Rothermere’s.
I think that Augusta- she of the Bosphorus- attended when she came over
to London to arrange the birth of her first child. It was all the rage to go
and hear him at the time. I think T S Eliot and other literary figures went
along. Augusta had heard him first of all in Istanbul.
So, Diana tried to keep on track, she gave birth in London to Augusta 2?
Yes, said Dru. She had taken a room in Russell Square, near to
Ouspensky’s lodgings. Lord Wyvern arranged it. I think it was in his
town house. Some of her letters were on his notepaper.
Lord Wyvern? How did he come into it? asked Diana.
Well, she had had a fling with him a good few years before, but they had
parted amicably, before he married Aurelia Tindall. Augusta’s baby wasn’t
his; it was definitely the rug seller’s; his name was on the birth certificate.
She popped Augusta 2 into a carpet bag and bounced back to the Bosphorous
to live the female equivalent of a Pierre Loti dream.
How had they- I mean Lord Wyvern and Augusta1- come across each
I think Aurelia’s mother and Augusta worked on the land during
World War 1. Lord Wyvern’s first wife and Aurelia’s mother had been
friends at a London Finishing School. The Land Girls used to hang about
The Red Lion Pub, spending some of their 18/- a week. Because Augusta
1 used to nostalgically talk to her daughters about the rural idyll that was
Kent, they developed a fascination for it and, after Augusta 2 left St Vitus’,
having been Head Girl, she went to join the WLA, as one of the Cinderellas
of the Forces and headed for the hop-picking. She didn’t want to live in
WLA? queried Diana.
Women’s Land Army, Sonia butted in.
She wrote to Berenice and told her what larks she was having and
Berenice got herself expelled and, once she was seventeen and a half,
she signed up too. Wearing breeches appealed to her. She had an
affair with Anthony for a couple of years. Of course, her mother hadn’t
given her any moral compass.
So, that’s why he recognised the family resemblance in Augusta 2 in
Snodland Nursing Home?
Yes, I suppose so. The sisters were alike.
When did he take up with Aurelia? Sonia was a stickler for detail.
Oh, not till about 1948 or 1949-after he rescued Peregrine.
And Gus was born in 1950, added Diana. She had always
remembered his birthday, if only to supply him with socks.
Correct. Aurelia paid Berenice to pretend that the baby was hers,
but Berenice took Father to Istanbul. Her mother wasn’t interested
in him and so Augusta 2 eventually arranged his enrolment into St
Birinus’ pre-prep department, Dru explained.
And Berenice took the money and ran off? Sonia frowned.
..to Venezuela, to follow romantic dreams about Simon Bolivar, taking
after her vagabond mother, Dru clarified. The sisters had received
their release certificates from the WLA in 1950.
But Berenice was born in Istanbul? Diana probed.
In 1923. Lord Wyvern married Aurelia in 1934 when he was
How old was she? Sonia asked.
About eighteen, Dru looked disapproving. Some of her girls in the
boarding house were of a similar age.
And when did he die? Sonia was analysing every detail.
Well, the boys were born in 1935 and 1936..
Lionel and Peregrine? Diana checked.
Yes, in quick succession! But Lord Wyvern died on his way to the
Circuit des Remparts, in Angouleme, in 1939.
Angouleme? Sonia couldn’t quite place this French city.
‘Monaco without sea’, as it was known. In the Charente.
He was travelling in a Concours d’Elegance and he got a flat
tyre. He jacked up his Delahaye, but it collapsed on top of
him and crushed his chest.
So Lady Wyvern had been a widow for six years when Anthony
arrived to tutor the boys? Sonia was on the ball.
She was thirty-six when Father was born. By 1955 she was dead and
the house and estate given over to The National Trust. Except for
grandfather being allowed to remain in the stable block apartment
until his decease, by special arrangement. Lionel had gambled away
most of his inheritance.
What I can’t understand is why Berenice, or the others, were not
prosecuted for perjury on the registration document? said Diana.
Mum, there may be a warning about criminal offences and falsification
on the certificate itself, but no one has been prosecuted for the last
thirty-five years for faking parentage. Under The Freedom Of
Information Act, I checked all this from her Majesty’s Passport
So, there isn’t much incentive to tell the truth? remarked Sonia.
‘The Registrar General does not routinely investigate the
circumstances in which erroneous information came to be given
at registration’ were the exact words, as I recall, said Dru. And,
anyway, there is a time limit of three years to report suspicions
to the police. You would need DNA from all involved and Anthony
and Aurelia are dead, as is Berenice.
So, the records are not likely to be changed? Diana said.
You’ve got it! replied Dru.
baobab, Bedouin, Bentley, Beuys, Bourbon biscuits, felt suit, Freudian slip, Gertrude Jekyll, Gold Blend adverts, National Trust, Piper Cherokee, rehydration techniques, St Exupery, Tate Modern, The Little Prince, Timex
Would you like to come in for coffee? Virginia asked Snod, just before
jumping out of the driver’s seat of his car and handing him his own
He really needed to get home to work on some feedback documents,
but, since he had not had such an invitation in over thirty years, he
said: What the heck! to himself. Emm, well, yes, why not? Just a quick
Virginia gave him an odd look, but led the way nevertheless.
Lay on, Macduff, he joked, to hide his slight unease.
Oh, I thought it was ‘Lead on..’ She rummaged around in the bottom of
her handbag for her keys. Then she blushed. She didn’t want him to
think that was a Freudian slip. Coffee was such an embarrassing
invitation nowadays. When she invited someone in for coffee, she
meant just that.
It was all the fault of that series of Gold Blend adverts in the 80s.
Some men in the past had been rather surprised when she had
shown them the door after one drink. Not even a biscuit.
Snod sank into Virginia’s comfortable sofa and looked round the room
while she filled the kettle. Interesting old fireplace. He had almost said
‘foreplace‘. Why was that?
There were some photos of children- presumably her nieces and
nephews. There was a faded wedding picture. He would have liked to
go over and take a closer look, but Virginia came in and put two coasters
down on the coffee table. She moved a large Gertrude Jekyll Gardens
She returned with two National Trust mugs. They featured Wyvern Mote.
So, she must have visited on some occasion. He’d ask her about that later.
Sorry, no Bourbon biscuits, she apologised.
He was strangely touched that she had remembered his predilection.
Eh, how long have you been here? he asked, sipping his drink. He’d
have preferred tea, but no matter.
We bought it in 1987, she said. It’s too big for me on my own, but useful
when the family come over. And, of course, I love the garden. William
loved the outbuilding. He kept his old Bentley in there. He was away a lot,
so, he decided that he didn’t need a house on his own. We bought this place
together as a joint investment.
William? Snod looked faintly puzzled.
My elder brother, she replied, going over to the mantle-piece and taking
down the wedding photo. Sadly they got divorced. He died of pancreatic
cancer in the 90s.
The groom looked very like Virginia. Good-looking bride too.
I’m sorry, said Snod most sincerely, but oddly glad that William hadn’t been
her husband. After an awkward pause, he continued. And do you have any
Well, my sister who lives in New Zealand. She tries to come over every
few years so that I can see the children. That’s when this house comes
into its own. And, of course, I love the garden.
I see. Snod noticed that she still hadn’t mentioned a man in her past.
He picked up a little book before placing his mug down on the coaster.
The Little Prince, he smiled. It was one of his favourites. Augusta had
given it to him one Christmas when he was nine.
Yes, Arnaud gave it to me. He was a pilot. He crashed his Piper
Cherokee when we had just been married a year or so. Some Bedouin found
him, but even their rehydration techniques failed.
So, now the tragedy was out.
Yes, what St- Exupery says is true: one characteristic can recall your
love and pain. The colour of wheat evokes his hair. He was only twenty
nine when he died. I suppose that I have been widowed almost as long
as he was alive.
I rate this house because of the garden. I don’t care about its financial
value. When I smell the roses that we planted together, my heart fills
with sweet pain, if that makes sense. There’s no point in allowing the
bitter experiences to destroy you. You have to feel the pain and
Snod remembered that Exupery had said one must root out the seeds
of the baobab. They must be destroyed immediately or they would take
hold. He decided to remove one little seed of resentment against Diana
and her lack of amatory interest. Here, on the other hand, was a woman
who would recognise a drawing of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant
and wouldn’t, in a matter-of-fact way, put it down to being a side elevation
of a hat. Here was a potential soul mate who did not talk about golf, bridge
or politics. She understood primeval forests, stars and she might appreciate
But the mythology of her life was striking him very powerfully. A husband who
had parallels to St-Exupery and even that artist chap whose work he didn’t
make much of- Joseph Beuys, wasn’t it? That awful school trip to Tate Modern
with the disappearing Boothroyd-Smythe!
Hadn’t Beuys come down in a desert too? Or had he made the whole thing up?
Maybe Boothroyd-Smythe had his particular facility for mendacity encouraged by
contact with the work of such modern cultural role models?
The only thing Snod could relate to had been Beuys’ felt suit and he wouldn’t
have minded getting a tailor to run up a similar one for himself. Apparently it
had been a symbol of social isolation and imprisonment. But maybe he, Augustus
Snodbury, no longer needed such a layer of protection from the world- not if
He looked at his Timex. Gosh, is that the time? I’d better be going. Thanks
for the coffee.
He shook her hand and as she opened the door to let him exit, she leaned
forward and kissed him very gently on the cheek.
Sleep tight, Gus, dear, she whispered.
He turned back and, before he could stop himself, they were locked in a
passionate embrace, indulging in what Boothroyd-Smythe et al would have
termed a snogging session.
Snod had snogged after thirty odd snog-free years. He had forgotten how
good it was. Mehercule! So this was what was meant by coming in for
coffee. It beat filling in feedback forms no end.