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.