We went to a rather glorious central London Church, known rather egocentrically as St Mary’s London, which is near Paddington
The exterior, even on a dark and bum-bitingly-bitter January evening was delightful
the inside even more so.
The reason for my attendance inside a functioning church was not some latter day seeing of the light – ironic had that been so as everything was candle lit – but for a string ensemble playing by candlelight an arrangement of Coldplay songs.
These candlelit concerts are becoming quite a thing. Swifties, fr’instance, had the chance to pay a homage to their heroine at Southwark cathedral, which I must own is a sumptuous place.
We, two old Coldplay fans sat back, coats and four layers deep in our seats and rocked gently to the music. Here’s a clip – I gave up filming the ensemble due to the woman in front doing the same – seemed pointless to film her camera – and held the phone down just to absorb the music. Hope it gives some idea.
The Lady Faye Grance wrinkled her nose. Was that…? ‘Walter? Walter? Where are you?’
The Lady of the Royal Flush strode along the corridors and passages of Castle Bouquet, determined to find Walter Closet, Knight of the Pipes and person responsible for the removal of all things aromatically unpalatable.
Walter, for his part, waited by the doors to the dungeons. He knew what was coming – anyone inside the Castle could hear what was coming and he had the added advantage of having both seen and scented what has caused the distressed discombobulation of Her Ladyship.
Forewarned is sometimes forearmed. In Walter’s case, knowing that a tsunami of crinoline, flaming red lippy and fury, all packaged in an ennobled size zero Chief of Staff was gunning for him merely loosened a never quite tight sphincter and reduced his focus to a single repeatable piece of self instruction: hold your shit together.
As the diminutive dame cornered the last section of seemingly endless corridors, eyes flashing their threats, Walter focused on the huge bestudded oaken door behind him. It was a door for the ages that had held recalcitrant throne claimants, seductive saracens seeking seditious successes and other unpleasant altierators incarcerated pending judgement, sentence and dispatch.
‘Wait for it,’ he told himself. He knew he had one shot to get this right. Timing was crucial.
As Walter focused on Faye, Faye prepared herself for a self righteous expellation of her accumulated annoyance, anxiety and acid. She opened her mouth to let rip as…
Walter depressed the door handle and, covering his own nose with a cloth saturated in a neutralising scent yanked the dungeon door open
The Lady Faye had no time before the malevolent miasma materialised and engulfed her. She coughed, she spluttered, she staggered and she swooned. It was at the moment of peak swoon that Walter stepped forward and, using a second saturated cloth covered Faye’s nose and mouth neutralising the noisome nonsense that had emerged.
He gave it a moment before removing the cloth. Faye glared at Walter, Walter looked sympathetically at Faye. ‘What the actual flip is that?’ Said the astonished factotum.
‘The moat. It’s seeped into the dungeon.’
‘I didn’t ask where it was. I want to know what is is, why it’s here – the day, may I remind you before the Committee for Fragrance in Pheromones chooses its Perfume of the Year – and what you’re going to do about it.’
‘I think you know what it is.’
‘It smells like one hundred years of accumulated urine.’
‘Near enough. It’s the output over one year of the one hundred toilets in this place.
‘And it’s here because….’
‘Do you recall meeting in the King’s throne room one year ago? When you told me of the great honour bestowed on us by the Committee’s attendance tomorrow? When I explained how we needed to adapt the royal sewerage system to something slightly less medieval?’
‘I think you said that we had to have pipes installed so the long drop had its last drop.’
‘And you told me I couldn’t because of cost.’
‘I told you your estimate was extortionate.’
‘As ever, your ladyship used far more graphic but nonetheless clear language. Hence why we find ourselves where we are today.’
‘What do you mean?’
Walter smiled a nasty stiletto of a smile. ‘You said, and I think I’m quoting here, “that’s ridiculous, you’re not taking the piss on my watch.” So I didn’t.’
Faye blanched. ‘But… I mean… How can I…?’
‘Explain? I doubt you can.’ He indicated the open door. ‘You might want to pre-empt your fall from grace and chose you’re own dungeon. At least that way you don’t have to face the moat.’
Oh, how I hate that expression, the suggestion that things were better in the 40s/50s/60s/70s/80s/90s/last weekend/one minute ago. They weren’t. Period. Sure there are some things that are less satisfactory than whenever, but in most areas… anyway, I’m off my high horse and I want to prove the lie in the above statement.
Viz, homework. And especially homework for the primary school (eg, for those who don’t have primary but some other version) kids under eleven.
On the radio today, a well(ish) known celeb was bemoaning how her children were required to do homework as soon as they started school at 4-5. Mine were the same. As parents (to be fair, I hid in the office so this mostly fell to Mrs LP) we negotiated our way around persuading/bribing/pleading/threatening our two to do the requisite tasks. Some were short and painful; others – building a sodding Roman fort being one egregious example – merely a competition between parents.
Both then, but echoed today, I recalled my childhood. We did not have homework. At all. It was a ghastly rite of passage when we moved to our secondary school aged 11. We may have had to bring in something for a lesson and we did have to learn, rote, a variety of times tables up to 12 times. Maybe a spelling test occasionally. But not a daily diet of post-school tyranny. We came home. We played. We got bored. We fought each other. A totally normal childhood and funnily enough it didn’t hold me back.
Now there is always an exception, both then and now (as said celeb acknowledged). Reading both to and with your children. Not scripted by school but chosen between partners and child. I loved that; I often left work with a bag of papers so I could be home to read to the twosome and then go back the office (which was a sort of sewing room with a table). The advent of an Ethernet link was (almost) a godsend, when it wasn’t shite. I managed to read all Harry Potter to them, even though the oldest was at least 17 by the time Deathly Hallows landed on the doorstep.
And it didn’t do them any harm. Well, if you accept that they are now addicted to audible books…
I do wonder when it came in and which Education Secretary of State thought, what a wizard idea.- alright class which one of you did that? – and why it continues? According to some educator on the same radio piece, the evidence is all against homework, apart from the reading bit having a positive affect on children’s learning. Probably a little of the ‘we had to suffer from this, so you can to’ mentality.
So it was better in my day. As Pink Floyd memorably said, ‘Leave the kids alone’.
Priscilla Ou-Ette, Cill to her friends was Little Tittweaking’s shadow puppet expert. She found fame as an Influenza when she launched, in a sneeze of publicity, a set of personalised middle-finger shadows for the discerning teen. Going mainstream, she wooed the monarchy with her royal profiling that removed any spare hairs from coins and stamps. Ennobled as the Lady Shadow for her work creating an award-winning diorama of every shadowy character serving in the Cabinet (all of them as it turned out) she died when she launched her life-sized fox logo just as the Tittweaking nocturnal hunt passed.
We’ve had sun, frost and rain but no snow. The temperature has touched the high teens and plumbed the below zeros. There’s a lot of green and brown, and white but little colour yet.
The lawn has had a last cut, before the mower goes in for its annual service and the beds prepped for the upcoming cold snaps.
Some work has begun on restyling the two beds at the end of the lawn. One has had a small wooden fence to corral Vicky in her summer peregrinations which I’ve removed. We are looking at rehoming her in a local tortoise sanctuary when she emerges from hibernation as the growth in fox numbers has seen her attacked. She’s safe while we are around to right her if they tip her and occasionally minister to any cuts where they’ve managed to get past her shell but she’s old and we don’t think this exposure is fair, especially as we take no steps to discourage the foxes. Mitcham zoo, on Mitcham Common has a home for reptiles and they seem an ideal match. If we go ahead then the remodelling will not require the wooden fence. So a decision is needed soon. The foxes, as well as Dog are still around of course.
Another week, another prompt, another flight of fancy
Detective Postillion stood shoulder to shoulder with Constable Theodolite facing the ruin. He shook his head, allowing his coiffured quiff to quiver quixotically.
‘STOP THAT. THIS IS AN ALLITERATION FREE PARAGRAPH AND ANYWAY POSTILLION IS A TONSORIAL DESERT.’
The narrator coughed and addressed the scene. ‘I suggest…’
‘NO, THAT’S NO GOOD. YOU CAN’T BREAK THE FOURTH WALL SO EASILY.’
‘Will you can it?’
‘OH I’M SORRY. AND WHO SAYS YOU…?’
Postillion and Theodolite exchanged a look and headed back towards the cloud. Postillion spoke rapidly, ‘We’ll be in the saved documents until you’ve sorted yourselves out. Geez, save me from writers and their inflated egos. Fancy a game of dominoes? You can be the spots.’
‘SORRY!’ ‘Yes please come back. We won’t say another…’ ‘WORD.’
They stopped, but didn’t turn. Theodolite said after a beat, ‘This is a character-led piece. It’s clear in the contract.’
‘SURE.’ ‘Of course..’ ‘WE THOUGHT…’ ‘You know…’ ‘YOU MIGHT WELCOME…’ ‘Some direction.’ ‘JUST TO GET YOU GOING.’
The two policemen began to walk away.
‘RIGHT.’ ‘No. We get it.’ ‘WE’LL BE OVER HERE.’ ‘Watching.’ ‘ IN CASE YOU NEED ANY POINTERS.’ ‘Not that you will.’ ‘BUT IF YOU DID…’
Freed of writerly interference, the policemen, now dressed in jump suits of a fetching color …
Postillion spun, a furious expression above a double teapot. ‘Who did that?’
‘IT WASN’T US.’
The writer, looking terrified, nodded.
Theodolite joined his colleague. ‘Who was it? Come on, own up.’
Predictive Text cautiously raised a hand. ‘Sorry. I can’t help it. Just ignore me.’
‘WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO DO THAT, BUT YOU DON’T MAKE IT EASY, STICKING YOUR OAR IN.’
Everyone failed to make eye contact. Eventually Theodolite glared around the group. ‘Can we get on? This won’t tell itself.’
Everyone nodded, but no one dared speak.
Postillion and Theodolite retook their positions. Holding hands, the skipped towards the crime scene. Another dreadful attack by the notorious castle disemboweller. A man in a white forensic suit approached, a small trowel in his right hand. Theodolite took a step forward. ‘Another one?’
‘Fraid so.’ Doctor Trigpoint glanced back. ‘Completely gutted.’
‘Time of death?’
‘The state of decay suggests the seventeenth century but I’ll give you a better idea when I’ve got it back to the lab and run some tests.’
‘You’re people have begun seeing what they can dig up. It’ll take time.’
Postillion nodded. ‘Those archaeologists take an age.’
‘True. Let’s hope they can put together the bones of a case.’
‘Be too much to hope they’d put some flesh on those bones?’
‘After four hundred years, what do you think?’ The forensic scientist wandered away.
‘What do you think?’
‘My money’s on the Dutch.’
Meanwhile the writer, HIS EGO and Predictive Text opened their sandwiches. ‘How do you think it’s going?’
‘OH IT WILL BE DISASTROUS. IT COULD GO ANYWHERE.’
‘Should we interfere?’
‘NO POINT. JUST ENJOY THE TIME OFF. BY THE WAY, WHAT’S THIS FLAVOR?’
There are many examples of businesses moving with the times and then overstretching themselves, thinking they could apply previous lessons to a new dynamic. Contract killing wasn’t one of them.
Jeremy Spawn started out in pest control and gradually moved through the lepidopterist levels of lawful killing to the lower forms of mammalian murder. During that long and, mostly enjoyable apprenticeship – the period of concentrated cockroach annihilation hadn’t been a high point, what with their tendency to explode glutinously – Jeremy hadn’t considered the step to the next level.
It was, therefore something of a surprise to be headhunted by a bespoke Life Adjustment Cooperative that ran its termination operations out of a redundant chicken shop in Lower Dalston.
Indeed, given the nature of the services they provided, when Jeremy was informed by Constance Middlebrow, CEO of the Cooperative that he was being headhunted, he briefly wondered if someone had ordered his decapitation. Probably Mildred Unbeknownst, he thought, whose choir stalls Jeremy had been employed to cleanse of a suspected poltergeist, and who turned out to be an itinerant armadillo painter looking to practice his shellacking in the off season. When Jeremy explained how he could not, in all conscience remove a shellacking shell painter from his shelter, Mildred had threatened a dire comeuppance. Jeremy was still waiting.
Initially Jeremy found the new role unusually refreshing. The clients were universally anonymous and unlikely to complain; the subjects equally so; and the equipment used no longer secondhand and liable to malfunction but new, faultless and never seen twice.
However, as in all businesses, those who are successful tend to be the subject of takeover bids. While this was above Jeremy’s paygrade, he was not unaware of other’s stepping into Constance’s shoes and so, when Jeremy was summoned to an away day to review corporate development opportunities and investigate how brand awareness could be enhanced he wasn’t surprised to find the sessions being led, not by Constance but by Cummings Altercation an American Assassin with neat hair, preternaturally adhesive biceps and an unabashed insistence on his right to open carry his surgically engorged penis. There was nothing floppy about Cummings.
Jeremy always wanted to please and he listened attentively to the various speakers, each of whom insisted that they welcomed ideas from the team. Anything that might enhance their business opportunities.
Jeremy noted that, despite these exhortations, no one spoke up. Maybe he speculated they hadn’t had his range of extinguishing experiences; indeed many of his colleagues appeared to have joined the business from branches of the services or following release from long term psychiatric facilities. He tentatively raised a hand.
‘Jeremy? You have an idea to enhance our offer?’
‘Well, it did occur to me, when I first joined that there was one noticeable difference between my previous role with urban foxes and overfed rodents and this one.’
‘What about we clean up after? We used to.’
There was a pause. Maybe a stunned silence. However, Cummings didn’t get to fondle the Great Todge for all and sundry to admire by ignoring enthusiasm. ‘Say, Jem, why don’t you put together a pilot and we’ll run it and see.’
So he did. He investigated the best forms of chemical solvents and acids and their transportation requirements. He explored exsanguination techniques and efficient butchery. When, finally he had a package to put to the head office team, he offered to set up a trial.
On the designated day, six members of the board descended on a quiet disused car park when Jeremy had set up his equipment. Everything seemed to be ready, save for the most obvious; a target.
Cummings, still very much the man with the packet in the pocket raised this slight limitation with Jeremy.
Jeremy, ever helpful smiled. ‘I took soundings and there was universal agreement among the staff that you, sir and your board should experience the proposed method first hand. Everyone would be delighted.’
‘Indeed.’ In seconds the ever efficient Jeremy had expunged his boss and his co-owners, dissected the carcasses and slipped the miscellaneous body parts into the canisters where they bubbled and broiled.
Jeremy was still stirring the opaque liquid as it reduced the residues to their essential molecules, when a PA appeared.
‘Any sign of Cummings?’
Jeremy pointed at the dismembered member, a small trophy he thought he’s have embalmed.
‘Oh. Right. Cummings is…?’
Jeremy pointed at the acid container. ‘Goings. Indeed, I think he’s probably gones.’
Jeremy pulled off his gloves. ‘Can I help?’
‘I was wondered where to obtain instructions?’
Jeremy looked around. ‘Well, I suppose from anyone. I think we’ve become an employee led collective.’