Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Friday, 6 November 2009
Mes tres chers amis de mon coeur, or words to that effect.
What a glorious subject this is for my pen, to be sure, for the summer is long past, the harvest is gathered, and today I saw a vile child ripping open the windows of an Advent calendar to get at the low-quality chocolate. In Germany, the windows are called Turchen* (little doors) and the chocolate is top-notch. As usual we lag behind.
Yesterday, I was let down by an unreliable man; but did I mope about like an adolescent? I did not. On a whim, I grabbed a lime and a knife, a glass and four cans of readymixed Gordons and tonic and shot down to Maidenhead Thicket to absorb the breathtaking colours bestowed upon us by the seasons of mist.
How strange is the change of the seasons! For once those immemorial elms did not play silent witness to countless dogging couples and homosexualist thrillseekers. No, the dank chill of a November afternoon had sent them scurrying to the room-by-the-hour hotel (Sole Prop. Freddie Starr) at Knowl Hill, and so I was free to meander about the woods until I reached my favourite place. Here, by an old birch tree trunk, now covered with sulphur-tuft, is where I had the terrifying fall from my maddened old mare in May 1999. Kind friends will recall how I suffered two compound fractures and, as I gazed on the bones protruding from my very flesh, two gracious old alfresco copulators bound me up with their flag of Austria and summoned help. By the sheer Grace of God, and the skillful ministrations of the Man Who Put Frankie Dettori Back Together Again, I am blemish free; but the fear and flashbacks were with me for months.
I sometimes come to this spot to exorcise the ghost, for I feel sure that my terror hangs in the ether, waiting to cause some other fearful incident. How many other horses have shied at an unseen wraith, or caught the scent of spilt blood and pain? Who cares. I sit on the trunk when I visit and make a silent toast. To me. Yesterday, I drank my four Gordons and felt better for it.
The leaves have all changed, and many are dropping. The sycamores are infected with tarspot fungus, but it was heartening to watch the starlings in the bramble bushes, still hanging around in their flocks. Starlings don't pair up until March or April, and in the Autumn they moon around in adolescent gangs. I also saw a bullfinch in a maple.
The Thicket runs up to the edge of the A4. In the layby is a kebab van. The operator is a Turk and he rang for a taxi for me. I did not buy a kebab, but he gave me a gherkin.
I hope you have enjoyed these informative observations from an English countrywoman in her prime, and that it may bring some joy to your humdrum lives.
*no umlauts, as per
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
My dear friends
I don't seem to be able to stray far from the bookies these days. We have a bijou branch of UBetCha in the village, and last week I was there to place a small wager on the outcome of the Strictly Come Dancing Race-Row. Needless to say, it came to nought, and I lost a fiver, largely due to the intervention of mine host, Bruce Forsyth. This morning I returned: bets are being placed on tomorrow night's Question Time, and specifically at which point one of the panelists will laughingly observe "Well, David, hahahahahaha, I find myself in the.......errrm......surprising.........embarrasing..........hahahaha...........position of agreeing with Nick Griffin". I say it will come as a response to an anodyne question, posed by a matron from Acton, about Transport for London. Others are backing a brouhaha about the Olympics, particularly to do with facilities for canoeists. The most popular - and short odds are offered for this one - is the lighthearted question right at the end: a student from the London School of Home Economics will ask if anyone else has noticed that corned-beef tins have become harder to get into , and there will be backslapping jollity all round. Griffin will observe that corned-beef keys used to stronger and whiter in the old days, and there will be muted applause. Jack Straw will make a crack about not being able to get the lid off a pickle jar and everyone will love him. D. Dimbleby will say "let us defer to the ladies! What are your kitchen bett-nyoirs, Bonnie Greer?" and she will vouchsafe that Mr Obama wants to see a can of CheezeMate in every scullery in the States. Lady Warsi will be trump everyone with an encomium to Doopiaja Loaf and from the back row, an aged scapegrace will shout "Give us a bash of the bangers and mash me mother used to make!" It will end with an excruciating tirade of puns from their Chairman ("I hope this has given you all food for thought, and that you are nourished if not satiated by the strong meat on offer tonight. If you are hungry for more, join me next week when we will be in Melton Mowbray").
Of course, I shall be glued to the box - who won't? - but I fear that the frolicsome picture I paint above may be close to the truth. The only person missing is Mr Blair. It would have been nice to have seen him gazing ardently into the camera to tell us that Mr Griffin is, of course, the people's Nazi.
Of course, Mr Griffin is the Bagoas de nos jours. Scholars amongst you will know that he was of the court of Artaxerxes Ochus, and put in charge of profaning the temples of the Jews. He killed Ochus, fed his flesh to tigers and made cutlery from his bones; but then he dropped a bollock, as the young people say. He made Ochus's youngest son king, and his name was Arses. Yes, as the history books have it, "Bagoas placed Arses on the throne", and that is what we remember of him, if we remember him at all. Goodness, how Mhari and I laughed when we first read that at school! In our view, it was top quality comedy, give-or-take Dick Emery, and the fact that Bagoas was a eunuch made it even funnier. If only we could find a way of making Mr Griffin a figure of fun! It would be too easy to point to his peculiar eyes (well, not that easy: one is off to the shops; the other coming back with the change) and, anyway, it's already been done with Mr Brown. Maybe we should focus on his winsome ways with Nuremberg instead? Surely there is something?
Bagoas was beastly, it's true, but let us not forget the mean-spirited approach of Ochus, Prince of Persia. He refused to visit his native country for fear of having to give each of his women a piece of gold. This cheeseparing behaviour is far more widespread than any of Bagoas's brutalities. Here in the Thames Valley, mealy-mouthed men are tightening their belts and refusing to pay for Pedro Garcia ankle boots or trips to Jumby Bay. Simone Micallef necklaces lay unbought in Bond Street bijoutiers and a 1959 bottle of Grands Echezeaux was forbidden to me on Saturday night. The whole thing is beyond reason.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Mes tres chers amis de mon coeur, or words to that effect. Have you missed me? Silly question; of course you have! Every last one of you, even Inky, that sumptuous old scapegrace. And you ache to know where I've been. Well, let me just say this: sophisticated, soignee, sumptuously attired; rigorously cosmopolitan, regularly un peu distrait, relentlessly loaded, I am above all things a mother, and when a child calls for my ministrations I rush to its side, regardless of the cause. A broken heart, a bouncing cheque or a bellyful of Butyrophenone can all be eased by a mother's warm embrace and a working knowledge of oral antipsychotics. I know all parents will smile with wry recognition at these words, as they recall the finer points of The Misuse of Drugs (Notification of Addicts) Act 1973, a text more well-thumbed than anything by Dr Miriam Stoppard in this house. In short, I had an indisposed child in a foreign country, and I rushed to her side. Which mother wouldn't? Kind friends will be heartened to hear that I found the time to stop off in Singapore for some shopping and I arrived home in a silk Roksanda Ilincic and a pair of Pedro Garcia ankle boots. The words "Portsmouth on paynight" trembled on the lips of a baggage-handler, but someone has to rock the raddled old tart look, and it may as well be me.
Anyhoo, as a result, I am half-maddened with fatigue, and cannot find an original thought to call my own, so I have decided to re-visit some of my finer pieces. For many months, my inbox has been becrammed with requests, and so I will start by gratifying the whim of Mr Claud Thirst of Cookham Dean who writes: "What price the jolly old season of mists, eh, Mrs Pouncer? My wife, Muriel, and I would oft-times settle down with a steaming pot of Darjeeling and 120 Milibands of Pyridostigmine Bromide, the better to enjoy the reports of your rural rambles. Any chance of re-running your greatest work "Still Autumn", with a dedication to our dear friends Lillian and Gillian Raine? It will remind us of happier times, before Mrs Ulrika Jonson moved in and bang went the neighbourhood".
Mr Thirst, I am happy to oblige.
STILL AUTUMN by Mrs Clarissa Pouncer First published 23 September 2008
An old faker, whose name happily escapes me, once said it was important to "breathe native air", and I must say I agree. I return ever and anon to the dewy pastures along the A4 where my very character was built, and my very soul delights. I know how important it is to those of you who live in the squalor of our cities to share this with me.
I crossed over the county boundary past Maidenhead, past Cookham and into Buckinghamshire. Almost immediately, the beech takes over, and I can only hope that my humble pen can capture the true majesty of the trees in their splendour. These woods are regarded as the best of the ancient British woodlands, and some of the pollarded trees are over 500 years old. I can't tell you about magnificent Autumn colours, because beech trees are the last to turn, sometimes hanging on until late November, but the beechnuts were thick on the ground. Beech nuts were once known as "buck" which is how the county got its name, although the proper term is "beech masts". Needless to say, the whole place was aswarm with greedy squirrels, and almost as many mycologists peering at the fungi, and taking scrapings, which is technically illegal. I didn't say anything; I've benefited from enough mycology in the past, God knows.
I was surprised to see so much elder around the edges of the wood. Elders stink, quite literally; a strong antiseptic smell, which flies and other pests hate. A piece of split elder makes an extremely effective fly-whisk and cases of elder used to be shipped out to the colonies in the glorious old days. When I was a child, it wasn't unusual to see horses with elder leaves on their browbands to keep the horseflies off.
I became quite overwhelmed with nostalgia as I came back through Bourne End, hard by Hedsor, and saw the dear old river ahead. As a girl, and well into my twenties, I would swim off the gentle bank, losing myself in the gritty water, with my feet sometimes hopelessly entangled in the waving weeds. I once swam with a boy I loved all the way to the backwater at Bray, but noone shouted Health and Safety. We could all swim like mermaids, and those weaker ones could at least scream for rescue. These days everything is verboten, and I blame the lawyers. They have advised the agencies that permanent lifeguards are required to avoid litigation, and as a result river swimming is dying.
Immersion soothes muscles, relieves depressions and releases a natural endorphin high that elates the senses and creates an addictive urge. There is absolutely nothing to be lost by taking the plunge.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Friday, 21 August 2009
Mes chers amis
How grateful I am to you all for your continued interest in my godson, Wulfric. I know that there is just one question on your lips tonight: what did he get? Well, you may all crack open a bouteille of Uerziger Wurzgarten 1961 and drink a deep draught, for the boy got straight As and is off to his reward. Let the toast be Rugby School, and let the response be Ed Balls God Bless Him. I like to think that I have played a vital role in the lad's success, although this may be met with scorn in some grittier quarters (Mr Beast of Bournemouth). The fact is, although relentlessly loaded and repeatedly wrecked, I know my maths, which comes as a vile shock to some ingrates (Mr Inky Inkermann: I once trounced him with my take on Kronecker's work) who can't believe that it sits comfortably with my glamorous life. To them I say this: it is all in the genes, and there is nothing to be done about it; like maternal-pattern baldness, for example.
My dear old father died in February, and I am still clearing a mountain of paperwork. I have mentioned his journals before, I know, particularly his Restaurant Reviews ("The Americans Paid!" ..... "...the worst escalope di vitello farcita I have ever eaten ...", ..."pantouffle Perigourdine in Abergavenny ...", ......"A 1945 ch. Croizet Bages didn't disappoint ..." etc. etc ....) and also his archive of arithmetic. He was a man of parts, my father. He loved football and rugby, Mahler, Joseph Conrad and Kim Novak, but mainly he loved maths. It was his hobby. He was a General Practitioner of the old school, with a surgery in a Thameside village and a private practice in London (now don't get snotty - they ALL did in those days) but he couldn't do a crossword puzzle to save his life. I will never forget how he tore his hair out over one clue: Sloppy Onward Address (4). The harridan and I got it immediately*. He gave up without a fight. He found his relaxation in numbers and, like his friend Lancelot Hogben, filled his journals with his thoughts. I found this today, dated November 1959:
"De Moivre discovered a new field of calculating devices by using the mathematical gerund i as Diophantus had used the mathematical gerund "-a". What is called de Moivre's theorem started a new chapter in modern algebra just as the law of signs started a new chapter in the algebra of antiquity. de Moivre's theorem, like the binomial theorem of Omar Khayyam is a rule for raising a quantity to some power represented by the operator n written in the top left hand corner".
He then gives an example with which I won't bore you. The point is that he was attempting to say something powerful. Namely, don't bother about the meaning of this, because a rule in mathematics is either a statement about its consistency with with other rules, or a statement about how it can be used. First of all, you should satisfy yourself that it is consistent with what you know already about sines, cosines, negative quantities, square roots and powers. I hope I haven't lost you. He then goes onto some theorising about vector analysis and finally uses a word I have never seen before: mantissa (the positive fractional part of the logarithm). The irony isn't lost on me. I'm sure this word will come up in a crossword. Probably this week.
Forgive me, I am a bit maudlin and a bit pissed. What a combination! However, I quite like it. It is the end of a working week and, ever since I came out to you as a member of the real economy with a real job, my inbox has been becrammed with bleatings. Mrs Pouncer! (they say) Are you really a woman of commerce? And to this I say, yes, I am, and I Kick Ass on the High Street. For those who still languish in the mire of disbelief, I give my Glossary of Commercial Terms.
An AGENT is a person who transacts business for another. His CHARGE or FEE is usually so much percent of the value of the business carried out. This is called COMMISSION. An agent who buys and sells shares is called a BROKER and his charge is called BROKERAGE. The term DISCOUNT is used to mean a percentage taken off amount payable. DEPRECIATION is noted as a stocktaking percentage written off each year to meet decrease in value - generally quoted at 1% on buildings, 5% on stock and 10% on machinery. All debts a man owes are his LIABILITIES. All his possessions are his ASSETS. If his liabilities are greater than his assets, he is INSOLVENT. To whom he owes money are called his CREDITORS. The term DISCOUNT is also used in buying and selling to mean a percentage off an amount payable. This is known as TRADE DISCOUNT. Yes, I am JEWISH. Try these handy problems to see if you've kept up:
1. A bankrupt owes £73,5000 and his assets realise £11,630. What can he pay per £1?
2. A bill of £400 drawn 1 August at 6 months was discounted 4 August at 8 per cent. What amount of discount was deducted?
3. How much is written off for depreciation in three years at 5% on plant originally worth £3500?
4. A,B & C each contribute £680 to a business capital. A's lies all year, ~B's for 10 months and C's for 8 months. If the profit is £412 how much should each receive?
5. If 12 oxen and 35 sheep eat 12 tons 12 cwts of hay in 8 days, how much will it cost to feed 9 oxen and 12 sheep for 14 days, the price of hay being £4 per ton and 3 oxen eating as much as 7 sheep?
My godson, bound as he is for Peterhouse to read Maths, looked blank. I was appalled and gratified. You see, we ARE cleverer, no matter what Mr A. Salmond, finder of lost children and truly my brother's keeper, may think, and thank heavens for that.
*The answer is MUSH.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Mes tres chers amis
I will be incommunicado for some days. Tomorrow, I have to deliver Mutti, the glamorous old harridan, to her cousin's cottage in Corfe Castle, a gloomsome model village, built to scale, in an inaccessible part of Dorset, or Darzet as the locals have it. There is no room for me in the begrimed hovel, I am relieved to report, so I shall stay for two nights at Mortons House Hotel (no apostrophe), a ludicrously self-satisfied almost-adequate on a busy road. I see that it has been awarded the Bronze Award for Accessible Entry by the South Wales Tourist Board. This accolade moves me to an incandescent rage. Why should Accessible Entry be so important to the Southern Welsh? Some people are hoity-toity, I must say. What about the North Walians? Do they prefer something more challenging? And who won the Gold? Rest assured, I shall be making careful note of how accessible I find entry on arrival. If I find it wanting, I shall say. Or I shall move to the Bankes Arms across the road. The entry there is very accessible, although the exit is oft-times more difficult, particularly when one is incapable through drink, or attempting to squeeze through the huge oaken doorway whilst a stout party from the Midlands is adjusting his dress.
I hope you will wish me Godspeed and good weather. This time last year, you will recall, I was in Antibes for a month, the toast of Cap d'Agde and dining with the Michael Howards. How times change! Saturday night will find me sitting on my chaste couch, gazing at a distant vista of the Purbeck hills, a large vodka and slimline in one hand and 40mg of Flupenthixol Decanoate in the other.