Thursday, 26 March 2009


You can't tell an eel he's wrong.  Primitive instinct  was devised by Nature to safeguard her creatures.  But in many cases, it succeeds in doing the exact opposite.  Every year, instinct leads millions of silver eels straight into manlaid traps.  These eels, spawned in Bermudan waters, swim to Europe, grow up in about two years and return to their birthplace to breed.  Many of them take the route round the north of Scotland, because when the migratory instinct was formed, the North Sea was dry land.  These eels could avoid the traps now laid in the North Sea if they took the English Channel route; a convenient short cut to safe deep waters.  But you can't tell an eel he's wrong.

How hideous, therefore, to apply this same logic to ourselves!  We won't be gainsaid, not even when our exploits are manifestly idiotic.  We make the same dismal mistakes, over and over again; we follow the same dreary pattern, and we learn nothing from it.   It is a sign of the times, my friends, and I fear that my generation carries a burden of guilt not visited on our dear old parents.  Consider my venerable father, for example, lately laid to rest in an earthy bed.  He went to his reward with no grimy vestment of guilt.  No; he had set out his stall in the full bloom of youthful optimism and had achieved professional success in direct proportion to the effort he put in.  And don't think that his life was narrow!  For some years he had an association with Lancelot Hogben, the father of modern Medical Statistics, and assisted on the revision of some of his reissued works.  My father was a general practitioner, but had an interest in completely incomprehensible mathspeak.  Yesterday, in an old notebook, I found the following in my father's hand: "The magical content of the number three, which has occupied a position of veneration in European culture, seems to be Semitic in origin.  Probably the worship of triangular numbers and the mystical attributes of the triangle itself in the Pythagorean culture, is traceable to the triangular symbol of the ancient Hittites, now the two triangles of Zionism".   This sort of mumbojumbo would find no seedbed in our modern life! And anyway,  which provincial GP, bestrewn with Practice Managers, and government targets and rising levels of chlamydia across all social classes, has the time to indulge in out-of-hours flimflam?  

I compare my eighteen-year-old self with my father, and the tears spring readily to my eyes.  In that glorious year, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, my summer was divided sharply into protracted periods of idling and feverish attempts to make money.  I spent a lot of the summer on my back in Corsica,  an island-dwelling contemplative, who Just Lay There.  The rest of the time, I was engaged by two tobacco giants and required to attend sporting events  to promote the product.  Mid-July found me at Lord's for the Benson & Hedges Cup Final (Gloucestershire v Kent.  Gloucestershire won.  Fred Trueman adjudicated.  I was carried home, as per) in a vile polyester ensemble, a tiny dress that buttoned from the thigh to the neck and a golden sash with sequins.  We were encouraged to smoke like fuck, which was easy, and to engage all-comers in flirtatious conversation, which was not.  We had to sell the fags, natch, but we were also allowed to accept "gratuities", which were dependent on the level of outrageous compliments that we could pile onto the punters without gagging.  I was quite good at it.  A little girl from Leamington Spa was hopeless, however, and cried all day.  She said the men were all old enough to be her father, which was rather the point.  It still is the point.  That particular point will never change.  

My personal nadir, however, was Silverstone.  I was working for John Player, and the whole event was a cynical money-removing exercise of the first order.  We were each assigned hospitality marquees (working in pairs) and I got Elf Oil.  I am afraid I still feel shivery when I remember this terrible day, but let us just say that corporate entertainment was still in its infancy, and the rules of engagement had not been ratified.  I spent that night in Birmingham with 10 other John Player girls and we sat in a bar in stunned silence until Captain Morgan worked his magic.  By the end of September, I had bought an Anthony Price dress and a Simca.

We had to wear black and gold uniforms,  one-piece trouser suits, unbuttoned virtually to the navel, and heels.  It was prostitution of the vilest nature.  I have been listening today to Black and Gold by Sam Sparro, which is a sweet song and drives away the ghastly ghostly sounds of my Silverstone summer.

Because if you're not really here
Then the stars don't really matter
I'm filled to the top with fear
Because if you're not really here
Then I don't want to be either
I just want to be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


Yes, we are going to Joe Allen again.  Wanna come with?  2.00 pm; usual table.

Scarlet will flash her pants and have one Mule too many. 
I will be bringing Sexy Back.

The following boxes will be ticked. No need to thank me:

Kev - I will wear elbow-length gloves.  Black.  Pigskin. Oi gevald, so sue me.

Boyo - I will channel Fenella, stink of Guerlain and take you out for a smoke.

Auty - of course I'm Lady Isobel Barnett!  Frisk me for stolen goods.

Inky - in my view, the Alexandrian culture had foreshadowed  the three great developments in the mathematical awakening which accompanied the rise of the Protestant democracies. The cartography of Ptolemy and the curves of Apollonius embodied the essential features of Cartesian geometry.  I've got loads more of this, Inky.  Wanna crack it open with me?

Gadj - I am an English Rose; Juliet Mills, district nurse, the full uniform. Bike.

Crabtree - Aux innocents, les mains pleins.

Farrish - Just see me as Yvonne Romain at her best: a maidel mit a klaidel, you old Bohmer.

Gyppo - Yeah, I'm paying.

I'm bringing sexy back,  those other girls they don't know how to act
I think it's special what's behind your back
Just turn around and I'll take up the  slack

Dirty babe, you see these shackles baby I'm your slave
I'll let you whip me if I misbehave
it's just that no-one makes me feel this way.

What charming sentiments! Young Mr Timberlake should be proud of himself, and so should his mother. However, if you want to see a White Russian worked over by an expert, you should hurry to Exeter Street tomorrow and ask for me by name.

Love you.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


"A thing of beauty is a thing forever", thus spake my devoted char, Mrs Rumteigh, this morning, and never a truer word was rasped by that sumptuous old drudge. How easily this could be applied to the Probate Office where I have had to spend a lot of my valuable time in recent weeks, for truly it is a thing, and will be a thing forever.  As I attempt,  as required by the law of this land, to execute my father's last testament,  the suction-covered tentacles of jurisprudence have me in their grip. Yesterday,  I attended the solicitor's office with my sisters, for yet another hour with Mr Oetzmann in his dingy chamber off  Villiers Strteet.  You see, my father's will has turned out to be far more complex than we first thought.  My mother, that gorgeous old harridan, is the major beneficiary.  All well and good.  There are several bequests to charities.  Splendid.  Some smallish gifts to retainers and locums.  Right and fitting.  And then there is a vast, shimmering superstructure of trusts within convenants, within protective titles within encumbrances. 
-Your father seems to have received some arcane fiscal advice, says Mr Oetzmann without irony. 

 There are nine codicils to his will, each one tied with green satin ribbon.   My sisters and I have been left some money.  For them,  it is quite straightforward.  They are very pleased.  My sister, Belinda, has a huge, unwieldy house needing repair, and my sister Cornelia has a huge, unwieldy husband needing rehab.  These things cost money.  It is a lifeline.  For me, the situation is more delicate.  My father, whom I'm almost sure loved me more than the others, has left my money in a trust to be administered by my oldest child, my daughter Joybells, the theatrical.  I can scarce believe my ears.  I ask Mr Oetzmann to re-read.

-It is quite plain, he says.  Your father seems to think that his grand-daughter is better placed to administer this bequest, for some reason.
-How killing! shrills the Heiress to the right of me. 
-He knew you'd piss it all away, hisses the Executrix to the left.

-Your father seems to think there might be malfeasance, nonfeasance and misfeasance, says Mr O.  I think I can reference the Accumulations Act 1892 here.  Mrs Pouncer, are you familiar with R. v Thellusson, or Faggott's Law of Purchase?

Mr Oetzmann is a nice man, he is a bright man, he is a kind man, but he might just as well be reciting chunks of the Cartularium Saxonicum.  Nothing seems to make any sense.
-Why would he do this, Mr Oetzmann?
-It is hard to say, Mrs Pouncer. He leaves no clue.  All I can say is that whereas and whereinunder, as, to and pursuant from whichever or whatever, for by and under, which said person or persons being or having been entitled, unless injuncted, disjuncted, rejuncted or double-juncted, the aforesaid without foreknowledge whosoever, shall or shall not be the sole accessor for and by the law of scriven and scroven, the which not proven.

Seconds later, we are across the Strand and into Joe Allen.  My sisters drink Dubonnet with a twist; I have a White Russian, which I suck through a transparent straw.  I feel a welling tide of misery, because I think I know why this has happened.

Back at home, my boy waits for me on the doorstep.  I have taken away his key.  This is he of the burning eyes, the hacking cough, the raccoon skin hat.  He is skint, although next week he will be minted.  He can be seen this weekend in one of the aspirational supplements, in a shoot for trenchcoats.  He is living with a girlfriend in Marlow, but he comes home when she is too stoned to cook or there is no lavatory paper.  They support a vigorous habit between them.  My father knew about supply and demand.  My son hawks violently into a paper handkerchief and says, I'm ill.  I feel really ill and look at this.

He shows me a newspaper article about someone he knows vaguely. It is Jake Myerson. 
My boy says, you wouldn't do that, would you?
And I say, no, of course not! Fuck, no.  I would never tell anyone anything. 
And then we stand on the step together and have a smoke.

Thursday, 5 March 2009


Mourning becomes me. I don't just mean the couture - of which more later. No, it suits me because it provides an arena  for more generalised regret.  Whilst mourning the dearly departed, one can also bolt on various other mopes such as misspent youth, poison-pen letters and buying black leather bunny-ears by Benoit Missolin last week when I really couldn't afford them. I thought they would amuse Lord Numb who is taking me to Jumby Bay next month and, therefore, needs encouragement, but I was wrong.  My women readers will sigh when I say: how can one please a man? And how can this be done quickly, cheaply and with no strain to the lower back?  It is a mystery as old as time,  and black leather bunny-ears no longer cut it, apparently. Numb now claims a fascination with the I Dream Of Genie look: Kathy Kirby hair, ruched chiffon brassiere and a yashmak.  The whole thing is beyond reason. 

I have worn some gorgeous ensembles during this period of grief, and have made some other mourners quite giddy with envy and desire.  A black leather dress by PPQ, Daybirger & Mikkelsen gloves and a Sergio Rossi python-skin clutch set the standard at the crematorium.  Some dowdy old retainers and a so-called Practice Manager looked surly, but I swept past with a scowl.  The Probate Office saw me in a perfectly plain silk jersey dress by Britt Lintner, a pair of Kenneth Cole Broken Hearts in parma violet and a Theo Fennell serpent.  Every day for a month I have worn a beautiful diamond and yellow sapphire pin in the shape of a sorceress holding a crystal ball by Van Cleef & Arpels.  It was given to me by my father to mark the birth of my first baby.  Yesterday Numb presented me with a bottle of Ange ou Demon and a David Morris bracelet. On the packaging was written: David Morris - London - Palm Beach - Moscow - Doha -Dubai.  Could anything be nastier than that despicable itinerary?  I nearly refused to accept the trinket, but I am nothing if not gracious.   Some baser women have rolled their eyes and said The Wages of Sin, but I despise their envy and turn the other cheek.

Clearing my dear father's belongings has been a painful trial, and quite boring.  He owned seven identical suits and shoes of almost comical antiquity.  I am keeping his clinical equipment for posterity, or to use in hospital role play should Numb be excited by memories of Emergency Ward 10. In a heap of Wincarnis crates, I found my father's old cameras. What memories!  He dealt with several companies, all linked in some way with my dear old Opa: Silber of Lambs Conduit Street, Komlosy of Dunstable, Steinhardt of Islington, Pearlman of Harrow, Engert of the Strand and, of course, Max Spielmann of Liverpool.  In one box, I found his ex-Air Ministry Gaumont British Projector, for which he paid £60.  He was a keen and clever photographer and won the Daily Herald competition in 1963 for a black and white portrait of my mother.  The prize was £300 and the challenge trophy.  He called the portrait "Hannelore", which is my mother's middle name.  I wish you could see it.   She is 28 years old but looks like a schoolgirl.

Another year, he won a prize for a picture of a bee in flight.  We had a hive at home and kept a swarm until it was stricken with Isle of Wight's Disease.  People shouldn't be scared of bees. The worker's sting is quite straight and can be easily pulled, but the sting of the Queen is like a scimitar. Workers sometimes sting bees from other hives, and such a sting is always fatal, but a Queen never stings anything other than a rival Queen.  The drone has no sting, and is therefore quite defenceless.