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.
St Swithun by Peter Eugene Ball
St Swithun’s Day.. If it pours today, it will rain for forty days. All because someone exhumed his sanctified body, or something.
Maybe the Vatican should canonise my husband. He would never shift his body willingly and so we could all expect fine summers for light years. Swithun’s claim to sainthood had involved the restoration of broken eggs. So maybe we should beatify Robert Winston, if he hasn’t already beatified himself. Anything to hedge our meteorological bets.
Maybe by mid- August there will be an Indian summer. Yes, but in Mumbai, I thought. Maybe I should book a holiday with Goa Compare, except that I hate that guy with the twizzly moustache. He would probably be one of those who took up two seats on the plane and, knowing my luck, I’d be stuck next to him, or to the baby who cried through Wimbledon at match points. I felt I could identify more with the frazzled housewife of confused.com. Better singing too. And with the rain, a similar hairstyle to myself.
I had put my shoes sensibly into the re-cycling bin, but couldn’t fish them out, even with a bent coat hanger. I stepped back and was almost garrotted by an expandable dog lead attached to an Irish Wolf hound.
Keep that thing under control! I screeched and reversed into the path of a pensioner on a mobility scooter, who clearly thought the pavement was Brands Hatch or Silverstone.
Right. That’s enough, I complained. If it was going to stair-rod all summer, I was off to Coltsfoot to purchase a pair of floral wellies, which would probably cost the price of a Black Market Olympic Opening Ceremony ticket, but which might be covered by my No Win/No Fee compensation for having had my eye poked out by the spoke of a Keep on Keeping On umbrella.
Coltsfoot was the kind of shoe shop that kept the podiatrist opposite in business. Occasionally one could find something that one’s foot could actually remain in for part of the day. And those items of footwear were wellies with attitude. The idea was to pretend that by sporting them you had a Kirsty Allsopp lifestyle with an invisible husband and a homemade house, actually produced by top British craftsmen, who indulged your fantasy that you could knit a kitchen or embroider money. If you wore those wellies, everyone would think that your cupcake breasts were National Childbirth registered and authentic and your skip-rescued children were not so much the product of Natural Selection, as the living illustrations of a Boden catalogue. Should you place these wellies outside on your Turtle mat, Phil Spencer would materialise and your house would sell in one open weekend.
All the fives were sold. There was a pair of thirty nines left, so that should leave room for a pair of socks, since it was likely to be freezing as well as pouring for the rest of what was laughingly referred to as the season. I thought Nigel Kennedy might have to revise the title of his Vivaldi programmes, as we didn’t seem to have any variation in the weather- just one big similarity and no enigmas.
My main objective was to acquire a Coltsfoot carrier- a bag whose logo was instantly recognised throughout Suttonford and which provoked a curious bowing gesture similar to Japanese acknowledgements.
Once achieved, I could allow myself to be seen popping into Aquanibble, the latest establishment, which was causing pavement obstructions from the gathering of foot fetishists who drooled over ladies who entered the establishment in order to pay shedloads to have their corns and callouses nibbled by embryonic Piranhas, leaving the aforementioned Ladies Who Lunch with flip-flop ready feet and their husbands with macerated monthly accounts.
But what was the point of having smooth skin on your feet if they were going to be encased in what virtually amounted to funky galoshes all summer? As for additions to my wardrobe, the only relevant outlets to visit would be Monsoon, Twister or Tsunami. That’s where those weather girls must have bought their jackets. No sense of tailoring!
I appreciate, but cannot afford designer gear, so that is why I visit Help the Ancient so much. Who knows?- there may be a weather girl who lives in the vicinity- it is that kind of area. The presenter might have to ring the changes for viewers and so might off-load some goodies from time to time, especially if she is an attractive one. They usually find that they are impregnated shortly after becoming high profile. Then they will have no need of their ill- fitting jackets and can just donate them and live in Barbours like the rest of the not very yummy mummies on the school run.
I would draw the line at any cast-offs from Angela Merkel, though. On the other hand, her sartorial inelegance doesn’t stop her from dominating the whole of Europe. Go, Angela, go!
And what is it about jackets and Hilary Rodham Clinton? What is the woman doing, letting herself go like that? She could only have herself to blame if Bill did another Monica. But I don’t think their re- cycling bags will turn up in Suttonford somehow.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012
4x4, Andrex puppy, Andy Murray, Antiques Roadshow, Barrier Reef, Big issue, cashmere, CERN, charity shop, Chewbacca, Co-Op, compassion fatigue, David Battie, Feeding of Five Thousand, Fiona Bruce, Galilee, Jesus, merino, Nanking wreck, neighbour, Oxford Brookes, Roger Federer, Shakespeare, SIM, Suttonford, tennis, Tesco, texting, tramp, vegetarian, Wimbledon
CANDIA, CANDIA, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOUR LIFE?
I may have had love at thirty and even love at forty, but there didn’t seem to be such a score as love fifty. I even thought that my name was a cross between a sexually transmitted disease and an artificial sweetener. Or was it that, as a femme d’un certain age my frankness and candour had become eponymous and self-fulfilling?
I looked out of the window. The rain it raineth every day. I wondered if it had been the wettest June and July since Shakespeare’s time, let alone since records began. (My English degree sometimes surfaces like a rogue shark on the Barrier Reef of my endangered intellect.) I decided to venture forth to surf the main street of Suttonford.)
The lure of Tesco Express hooked me in. Yellow stickers on a few packets of prawns helped me to rationalise that what I saved on comestibles would subsidise the purchase of a few designer garments in the sales.
Co-op or Tesco? Difficult, as I’d have to negotiate the Charybdis of a Romanian Big Issue seller who had taken to making himself very comfortable on a teak garden chair, right outside the entrance to TE, causing the automatic doors to go into overdrive; or I would have to steer clear of Scylla, in the form of Suttonford’s designer tramp who sat cross-legged, texting his currency dealer, or checking his Visa account on his mobile. I was in danger of extreme compassion fatigue. It was no use asking myself: “What would Jesus do?”
Probably He would have been able to address the Romanian in his own language and could have introduced Himself as the original Big Issue, or He could have given the technological tramp advice on a hotline to heaven that didn’t involve indulgences in the form of top up cards. Maybe He could have transformed intermittent reception owing to SIM malfunction, rather than to sin. Anyway, I doubted that the tramp would have appreciated being told to take up his bed and walk. I thought he’d prefer another can of the lager that the public-spirited locals tended to supply.
The Son of Man once had nowhere to lay His head either, but things might have been improved if Nevisport down sleeping bags had been around two millennia ago. Mind you, maybe the Apostles hadn’t needed such protection, as climate change hadn’t made camping in Galilee as warm and wet as in the present time.
Furthermore, I wasn’t sure if I should offer the indigent, if not mendicant, anything, since I had witnessed my neighbour’s dismay on proffering him the leftover sausage rolls from the Jubilee Feeding of the Five Thousand street party. He had politely, but firmly declined: No thank you, madam. I’m a vegetarian.
My neighbour wasn’t used to a tramp taking the moral high ground. The cheek of it!
Oh well! Better trundle off with my funky trolley out and head for Help the Ancient, before any of the rapacious so-called pre-empt me and bag all the bargains.
I used to find lots of treasures in charity shops before the prices rose in the time of austerity. Even the rich are feeling the pinch, so why do charities double the price of clothing, which is then unsold and has to be re-distributed to lowlier branches in less salubrious areas, where it is offered at half the price to the same rich bounty hunters, who simply have the plastic wherewithal to put enough petrol in their 4x4s so that they can travel further afield in their materialistic slash and burn forays?
No, not all the elderly are rapacious. Some volunteer in such shops, but find multitasking challenging. You must never distract them at the till and it is essential to check the chip and pin, or you can end up paying £8,000 for a pilled pullover, already pricily tagged at £8. The manager usually has to be summoned like a genie from some steamy esoteric activity behind a back curtain. Then, to the accompaniment of impatient dismay from a line of jealous vultures who have just spotted your potential purchase of a Merino, or Cashmere find, but who haven’t noticed the moth holes, a till roll with Cancelled, the absurd length of which would delight any Andrex puppy, will be issued. I always doubt the assurances that a sum that equals the deficit of Spain will not appear on my next statement as an outgoing. Still, I can’t keep away from the places of temptation.
It was my least favourite volunteer. Rather than thanking people for donating sacks of goodies, she delighted in deterring them from depositing bags after some arbitrary time of day and she could spot an electrical item faster than a Heathrow sniffer dog uncovers a kilo of cocaine.
When a breathless woman whose twins were squabbling in a vehicle on a double yellow line came in, gasping as she heaved a bulging black bag, the do-gooder delighted in delaying the drop-off by asking all sorts of intrusive questions as to whether the donor was a UK taxpayer or not. Eventually the woman snapped:
How can I be a taxpayer when I have never worked?
I didn’t know the volunteer’s name and she wasn’t wearing an identification badge. I launched in, nevertheless:
You know that Ming vase that I was cajoled into buying last week for a fiver? Well, it had a hairline-no, not an airline- crack.
She turned up her hearing aid. I continued:
That means that it isn’t fit for purpose and David Battie always says that there is a difference between a firing crack , which wouldn’t affect the value of a piece materially, and a hairline. I know you are a charity shop, but the Trades Description laws apply to you as well. Can you give me, at least, an exchange note?
Certainly. Do you still have the receipt? Fifteen love.
I hesitated. Well, no.. You see, it said £500,000, so I destroyed it in case someone thought I was into money laundering. Thirty love.
Ah, well, I’m sorry. We can’t do anything without it. As a decorative item, I’m sure that it is worth what you paid. I stopped scoring. The ball was in. Okay, they were not going to get my old Manola Beatnik slingbacks that I’d bought in a Moroccan souk. I will take them to the next Roadshow valuation day. They might be worth something in the very distant future. Maybe Fiona Bruce could try them for size.
My next stop was Costamuchamoulah, a trendy “must-seen” coffee shop, where the price of a cappuccino was commensurate with the cost of one of the rare beans from which its beverages were produced. A single example had excited more fever on the Stock Market than a tulip bulb had raised in Amsterdam at the time of the girl with the pearl ear-ring. They sell other things too- such as sprouted beans that might be Ming rather than mung and could featured in a barter system where rare porcelain Nanking wreck discoveries could be exchanged for one millionth of a gram. Still, as the adverts keep reminding me: I am worth it. Instant gratification here I come!
It was a deeply insincere parent of a dreadfully dim girl that I had once taught.
Look at this amazing double egg cup in goose, hen or quail sizes. It has such cute little sheeps’ heads on it.
Sheep plural, I scoffed silently.
I simply must buy one for Becca’s Biology teacher. He really helped her to get an A* with all those extra lunchtime sessions he provided.
The ones which she didn’t bother to turn up for with me, I brooded.
(This A/ A* obsession was becoming as annoying as having to observe all those Chinese silver medallists blubbing because they feel they have let down the Motherland.)
Yes, that’s what got her into Biological Sciences at Oxford, the proud progenitor persisted.
Brookes. I silently supplied the post-modifier.
Instead I said, How marvellous! And how is – I fudged the name– doing now? As if I cared.
Oh, she’s landed a superb internship for next year at CERN. She wants to research Botox particles and can’t wait to jog around the collider when it’s not switched on.
She was at a party in London and met a girl who babysits for Roger Federer- you know, the tennis player..
(Yes, I do know, you patronising… This sotte voce.)
..when he is at Wimbledon. Now she’s really into all things Alpen.
Muesli for her, I muttered in an embittered tone. Must dash. Say her old English teacher was asking for her. (Maybe Becca or Chewbacca, or whoever, could get me a discarded sweat-drenched towel from Wimbledon.)
I will, darling, if she remembers who you are/were. Ciao.
I couldn’t help wondering who babysat for Andy Murray’s mum? Presumably Kim.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012
8th July, 2012.
Andy Murray had failed. It was no use John Bell of the Iona Community trying to console us with observations on how failure had formed his own, no doubt, admirable adult character, making him worthy to pontificate on Thought for the Day.
I had been in a quandary about championship allegiance. All those swaying Saltires, of non-regulation banner size, on Henman Hill indicated that lions were rampant. I felt sympathy for a seemingly lone Swiss flag on Centre Court, no doubt touted by a Lindt lover.
Yes, Andy had a higher pinnacle than a Toblerone to scale, but when Roger removed his shirt, I’d known that patriotism paled before such a paragon of male pulchritude.
Andy cried; his girlfriend, Kim, cried and so did his mother. But The Duchess of Cambridge and The Rear Admirable had grinned, in spite of themselves. Suddenly the Andy who had slammed Tsonga in the manhood region was a malleable racquet in the hands of a paradoxically maternal Lady Macbeth. One could imagine the pre-match pep talk:
..but screw your courage to the sticking place/
And we’ll not fail.
But he had.
Thankfully Judy Macbeth, sorry! – Murray- would not re-enact all that removing of nipples from boneless gums and dashing of brains on camera. The Imperious One may have brought forth male children only – or those were the only ones we heard about – but Federer’s twins waving at Daddy didn’t diminish his masculinity, whatever their gender.
There was nothing else on telly, only The Hollow Crown, Part Two. There was nothing remotely hollow about Roger’s victory. Jeremy Irons seemed curiously emasculated, though, and his teeth seemed too big and affected his diction. Maybe he has gum recession, I reflected. Gosh, when is my next dental appointment?
I decided to turn in early to process the emotional exhaustion of seven deuces, hoping that the twins would give Daddy a good night and praying that Andy wouldn’t be given a good hiding by the Female Hawkeye.
In the cool night air my neighbours had decided to sit outside, quaffing and cackling until, at three thirty am. I opened my window and bawled: Quiet, please, as if I was an umpire. I had no desire for a volley; I just wanted to deliver a drop shot which would wipe them out and give me the advantage point of some necessary shut eye. Noisy Neighbour Syndrome was nothing new, as I had learned from a radio dramatization of Pepys’ Diary on Radio 4. The wretched man had taken to playing his flageolet outside in the wee sma’ hours, in 1664, much to his neighbours’ chagrin. I’d never liked the man. I dare say that they didn’t either.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012