acrylic painting by Candia Dixon-Stuart (then colourised)
'Ern, Ali Baba basket, Berenice of Cilicia, Bosphorus, cakes and ale, Dadaism, Dickinson, dodecagon, Existentialism, fat, Garden of Remembrance, hairy legs, Herod, Iznik, Kristin Scott-Thomas, l'enfer c'est les autres, Metropolitan Archbishop, mince pies, Morecambe and Wise, mulled wine, Osman, ouzo, Play by Beckett, Pointless, Racine, Raymond Chandler, Samuel Beckett, short, Snodland, Snodland and Ash, Suetonius, Surrealism, The Absolute Camel, tribute act, urns, Who Do You Think You Are?, William the Conqueror
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
‘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.
The one on that car programme. Top Notch, or something.
Oh, Top Gear. Clarkson. Terrible man.
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
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.
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!
Amy Winehouse, Andrew Motion, Bradley Wiggins, Carol Ann Duffy, Champs Elysees, Cheryl Cole, Dan Snow, Johnny Depp, Kirstie Allsopp, L'Oreal, Mahalia Jackson, Mother Teresa, Olympics, Phil Spencer, Radio 4, Rango, Samuel Beckett, Sarah Vaughan, Shar Pei, Sophie Raworth, St Kilda, Tour de France, W H Auden
Monday, 23rd July.
In the north rain; in the south: sunny.
Everyone is being urged to cease whining and to look forward to enjoying the great spectacle of the Olympics. But the goodwill lasts for about two seconds and then someone phones in to Radio 4 to detract from Team Sky’s victory. The Language Police can’t refrain from pointing out that the “p” in Champs Elysees is silent. A better suggestion was that it should be re-named The Road to Wiggins’ Peerage!
Meanwhile the backlog of people requiring investigation for being illegally resident in the U.K. – criminals included- is equivalent in number to the population of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It may well be more efficient to round up all Geordies, starting with that annoyingly accented Ruth in The Archers. Cheryl Cole would be next. Another on the list who never would be missed. She thinks she is worth it, but is she?
Maybe the super-rich who have thirteen trillion hidden offshore could be persuaded to put their bodies where their money is, leaving space for those who have lost their pension funds.
I was watching Sophie Raworth, the newsreader, popping up in a fetching red dress and ballet pumps, all over Stratford – or virtually and graphically so. We were being advised who to look out for in the coming weeks, but all that I could think of was how the Aquatic Centre looked like an architectural panty pad.
Impatiently, I flicked the remote. There appeared Dan Snow, with his rower’s chest, stripping off his outdoor gear and racing up some chimney gully on St Kilda. That was riveting eye-candy.
It was unfortunate that Phil Spencer came on next. I immediately thought that you could call that a paradox. I wouldn’t go as far as an oxymoron. It was certainly unfortunate. I couldn’t imagine him shinning up a literal chimney- not even if Kirstie had left her designer handbag on top of its cowl. Anyway, what knight would want to risk derring-do for someone who appeared in a purple tie-dye marquee with a turquoise belt and puce espadrilles?
Normally I would have approved of Kirstie’s comfort in her own skin, but I did think that she must have scoffed rather too many cupcakes recently.
That left an Arena programme on BBC4 about the time that Amy Winehouse went to sing in a church in Dingle, some remote coastal dot in Ireland. I expected Neil Oliver to pop up since it was his territory, as it were, and thought that he and Amy might have got on well. They could have stayed in and had a girlie night, backcombing each other’s hair.
Amy interviewed well, but I had difficulty with her diction when she was singing. When clips of Mahalia Jackson or Sarah Vaughan were played, I understood every word they uttered. It was sad when Amy sang about not wanting to go-o-o to rehab.
Also sad was the news report with the tragic weirdo in a ginger wig who had massacred all those innocent people in the cinema in Colorado. I didn’t want to think about that too much before bedtime, so opted for Horizon and its exploration of sun damage on skin. A glamorous female surgeon simply had to visit Sharm el-Sheikh, Berlin and Paris, to promote current research on care for our body’s biggest organ and to pick up a few L’Oreal free samples on the way.
I considered rushing out a.s.a.p. to the chemist and stocking up on their entire stock of anti-UVA creams, not to mention the Unilever pill which might just be available. I didn’t want to develop the W.H.Auden look, which someone had described as being like a Xmas pudding left out in the rain. He should have used moisturiser and have spent as much time on his skincare regime than on poetry. He had been worth it, even if he did look more like Rango than Johnny Depp. I hoped that Carol Ann Duffy was taking note. She needs to look good in her lofty bardic position. Andrew Motion did. He was probably no stranger to E45.
W. H. What did the initials stand for? – I seemed to remember that it was Wystan, not Winston. Always good to file away for the General Knowledge round of Mastermind. Also the name of that wrinkly canine breed- Shar Pei: commit to memory. If I don’t pass the audition to fill the black chair, I will just have to apply to Alexander Armstrong, to see if he will have me on Pointless.
Winston had had a face like a baby’s bottom, everyone used to say. He used to smoke cigars, so it was maybe just ciggies that contributed to Auden’s complexion, or perhaps it was his personal involvement with the Age of Anxiety.
Of course, Mother Teresa and Samuel Beckett were both wrinklies. They probably wouldn’t have had the time to spend on a cleanse/ tone/ moisturise regime. Their value was not dependent on their dermis. They were truly worth it.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012