(Photo from email@example.com)
A blue and white flint,
embedded in the chalk soil:
carelessly shattered vessel;
shard from Life’s jigsaw?
bampot, Baxter's marmalade, Black Pudding, Derren Brown, dunderheid, Financial Times, Full English breakfast, gobstruck, Highland Laddie, Houdini, illusionist, independence referendum, king riding on donkey, Lallans, linguistic repertoire, Montreal, Prof Brenner of McGill, Quebec Separatists, Riding on a Donkey, Scotland's crest, shanty, Shard, sovereignty, straitjacket, Toronto
Mrs Connolly was serving a full English breakfast, shortly under threat
of being replaced with the gut-busting alternative: the full-on Scottish
All-day. She was intoning a little ditty while she turned the fried eggs.
What’s that tune you are humming, Mrs C? asked Diana.
Och, it’s an adaptation of ‘Highland Laddie’, but the words I was taught
at school were ‘Were You Ever In Quebec?’
It sounds like a sea shanty, said Murgatroyd. What brought it to mind?
I know we all may be on a sinking ship politically, but..
Precisely Mr Syylk. I think I was subliminally thinking aboot the line:
there’s a king with a golden crown/ Riding on a donkey.
Wae Alex’s Messianic delusions, it’s a real possibility. I say a wee prayer
that the old folk tune’s original title might percolate into these dunderheids’
Murgatroyd was about to pick up his Lallans dictionary, but he managed to
work out the general semantic content of the dialect word. It seemed
synonymous with ‘bampots‘, which he had just assimilated into his linguistic
repertoire. A kingdom divided by its languages…
Diana sighed: There will probably be a new crest as well as a new flag.
Aye, mused Mrs C, it could incorporate another line from the song:
See the lion and the unicorn? Riding on a donkey.
Murgatroyd looked down on his groaning plate suspiciously. His palate
was unsure about the Black Pudding. Trust the Scots to fortify themselves
with a sanguinary product!
He propped his Financial Times against the toast rack and turned his
attention to page 2.
Hah! he expostulated.
What is it, darling? asked Diana, spreading her toast with Baxter’s
marmalade. Gosh, she hoped they would still be able to get it in the
This Robert Delaney journalist from Toronto is perfectly right, Murgatroyd
opined. He’s talking about how money reacts to secession or even the
mere threat of it. He says that in 1976 Quebec Separatists beat the
Liberals and the very next day literally truckloads of money rolled
out of the province.
But didn’t they vote down independence in 1980? Diana racked her
Yes, but the economy never recovered. The money went to Toronto.
Aye, added Mrs C, and Montreal was no longer the most populous city.
Its bank headquarters moved to Toronto, along with most of Canada’s
largest financial institutions. There isnae ony financial sector there noo.
The breakfasting ones continued to be ‘gobstruck‘- was that the word?-
by the housekeeper’s shrewd acumen.
Professor Brenner of McGill would agree with you, Mrs C, said Murgatroyd,
trying not to get grease on the pink pages. He has said that when critical
masses of talent move out, the affected places do not recover. Quebec is
now the largest recipient of the federal government’s equalisation payment
system, which helps to spread revenues from the wealthier provinces to the
Wasn’t there a second independence referendum? enquired Diana.
Yes, it was an even closer shave. Professor Brennan warned that
countries can declare themselves ‘sovereign’, but should they have no
access to credit, sovereignty becomes a costly illusion.
Aye, agreed Mrs C, and I, for one, don’t want to see ony illusionists
running the country. They a’ watch too much Derren Broon and they
are that gullible that they fa’ fur a’ they so-called miracles. Take that
Shard trick: even noo he’s been discredited as ony fool can see the
strings attached. Aye, and ony self-respectin’ body can see a’ the strings
that wee self-styled Houdini’s sleights of hand are pulling. But he’s no’
the escape artist he thinks, and mebbe he’ll end up tyin’ us a’ in knots
afore he’s feenished. And Ah’m no’ even’ goin’ tae suggest a straitjacket.
That’s fur others tae debate!
And she exited the kitchen humming Riding on a donkey even less
Juniper Boothroyd-Smythe’s mother, Gisela, had been trying to find a suitable
hat to wear for the St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl‘s
Her daughter was going to receive the 2013 Sirdar Yarn-Bombing Textile Award
and her classmates, Tiger-Lily and Scheherezade, were being awarded
acknowledgement shields and cups for being The Girl Least Likely To and
The Girl Whose Mother’s Timekeeping Has Improved Most Markedly.
Gisela was going to be braving the marquee toute seule, since her formal
separation from Juniper’s father- realised after a much less provocative
gesture than that of Charles Saatchi’s.
Gisela had spotted a hat in Help The Ancient, Suttonford’s designer charity
shop. Some tattooed chavette may have abandoned it post-Ascot. It
wasn’t exactly Isabella Blow-cum-Philip Treacy, but, for £9.99, it was a very
good deal and could be re-cycled afterwards. Hat boxes took up too much
room in the wardrobe, she felt.
Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk had just come out of her closet- not in a gender-
assertion manner. No, she had literally de-cluttered her bedroom in her
flat in the boarding house, before vacating the premises for the summer
school let. Lodging with her mother in Bradford-on-Avon usually stretched
both their reserves of patience.
She was glad that she had been disciplined enough to rid herself of that
hat which she had optimistically purchased in anticipation of her mother’s
demise. It would have fitted the daughter of the deceased’s role very well,
but her mater was obstinately clinging to life and so the millinery moment
had not dawned. Help The Ancient had been the beneficiary.
Drusilla intended to sport a Pippa Middleton-style fascinator for Speech Day.
She had fastened two aigret feathers together and secured them to a scrunch
of net veil with a vintage brooch. Burlesque not.
Come the day, Gisela was sitting two rows in front of her daughter’s
housemistress and she was unaware that her headgear was being scrutinised
as closely as Rabbie Burns had inspected the louse on the woman in the pew
in front of him.
Drusilla knew it was the same hat which she had donated, as she could detect
the pinholes in the brim where she had removed the amber-headed hat pin
which she had inherited from her grandmother, who had advised her to stick it
into any male who bothered her in the dark at the cinema. (Drusilla had never
had occasion to employ this strategy and felt that she might have been
arrested if she had done so.) Even after all these years of teaching in a girls’
school, she was still somewhat in the dark as to what male reprehensible
behaviour might consist of, and she was, frankly, rather disappointed that no
one had ever molested her sufficiently as to render the bodkin’s function as
anything greater than decorative.
In fact, when she saw how fetching the hat could be, she immediately wished,
like many other women who part with items from their bulging wardrobes, that
she could turn back the clock and reverse her actions. She was completely
distracted and paid no attention to the Head’s speech, in common with most of
the assembly, admittedly.
She missed the accolade to all those who have acted as the pacemakers of
the pastoral heartbeat of this remarkable institution. Old Girl, Ffion
Tullibardine-Tompkins’ account of how she had scaled The Shard in aid
of the locally-favoured charity, Anacondas In Adversity! went entirely
She was last on her feet for the rousing school song, scraped enthusiastically
by the Junior Orchestra: Here’s tae Us/ Whae’s Like Us?/ Gey Few..An’ They’re
A’ Deid, to the tune Auchenschuggle.
By Monday, the first day of her holiday, she had re-purchased the hat for
£12.99 from the charity shop. She couldn’t believe her luck, having spotted
it immediately it had re-appeared in the window. She’d been on her way to
meet an ex-colleague for coffee, since friends were in rather short supply.
Help The Ancient is, as you all know, dear Readers, right next to
Costamuchamoulah, the must-seen cafe. Now she only needed the
appropriate occasion to bring the cat, I mean hat out of the box.
Hi, Miss Fotheringay-Syylk.
Drat: it was that awful Juniper girl. Why hadn’t she gone away like the others?
Of course, Mrs Boothroyd-Smythe had to work, unlike most of Juniper’s
It looked better on you than on my mum!
(She had been spying through the window.)
But why did Drusilla always feel that the girl was being sarcastic? Maybe it
was the not-so-fleeting snigger that played about her lips.
Have a nice holiday, Juniper, she smiled. In fact, she thought, Why don’t you
take a premature gap year, or ten?
And then Drusilla tripped over the pavement art.
Yarn bombing! Grrr!!!
Sorry, Miss Fotheringay-Syylk. I hope you haven’t broken your ankle. Do you
want me to call an ambulance on my mobile? Let me carry your hatbox.
The first day of the holidays in Casualty. She might have known.