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Zzzzz…. Eh? Wossis? Manderley again? - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Zzzzz…. Eh? Wossis? Manderley again?


Beginning the Sunday before Christmas and lasting through the Sunday after the turn of the secular year, things were going rather well.  I was doing a great deal of good work – and good works, as per http://wemyss.livejournal.com/167025.html.


Also, I was being shagged thoroughly and regularly.  (Christmas guests can be a delight.)


I rather think it was my charitable works rather than the Young Visiter (oh, come now, surely you recognise that reference) that, er, laid me low: I refuse to consider a sinus infection as a Sexually Transmitted Disease.  Whereas, of course, given the gap between the Noble Vision and the Parlous Execution that is the modern NHS, hospitals and clinics and whatnot are, in the UK, rather the places to which people go to become more ill than they were, than, as in the US, places where people go to be healed (and bankrupted).


In any event, after My Lad departed, I began to feel seedy and off-colour, and swiftly declined into Abject Misery.  Even when I was On the Mend, disaster came not in single spies, but in, if not battalions, at least companies or squadrons: for example, my pranging my elderly voiture, which, inevitably, meant its having to be taken to Filton for repairs.


Additionally – well.  I am well aware that everyone rails against the Oppressive Patriarchy, and quite rightly, I suppose, but it’s worth considering – and I am not being captious here – that it’s no picnic for the patriarch, in this sense, that the poor bugger who’s looked to as Head of the Family is often a hard-pressed and overworked sod.  Uncle George, God knows, is, and Aunt Caroline and the Terrors of Lake (Anne, Mary, James, and Richard) very much are, the most gormless, feckless, parasitic twits in five counties; and it falls in these days to me to deal with them, untangle their follies, call in the solicitors when needed, and generally keep them from going under.  And as I have alluded to before, I’ve elderly relations who want looking after, in some cases being in want of a higher standard of care than is obtainable from the State.  So, all told, I spent some £11,000 shoring up various connexions and kinsmen over the course of December, over and above my usual outgoings.  Things were much better managed in my grandmother’s day, when we were the duly oppressed subjects of a Matriarch with a whim of iron.


I am not, mind you, complaining.  I’ve not had to sell a Stubbs or anything of that sort.  And I’ve not had as ghastly a fortnight as I see poor dear Sollers has had: no one was mad enough to try to burgle me.  Thank God: I should have hated to clean up, after introducing the burglariously inclined to the art of gunsmithing as practised by Messrs Purdey and Holland & Holland, and answering questions down the nick would have been tedious in the extreme.


Nonetheless, it was a reasonably dire fortnight, and even now I am as weak as the proverbial kitten.  I did, before I collapsed, manage to post the latest – one almost says ‘annual’ – chapter in the Epic, Under a Dragon Moon, although in the haze of holiday cheer I imagine few even of the few who read it happened to notice (and I owe a reply to the comments of the few who did do).  But I’d any number of further clever things to say in response to comments on my latest controversial essays, now of course largely lost and forgotten, and had begun yet another essay deriving from that kafuffle, on the topic of ‘voice’ (short version, we all of us use different voices for different sorts of writing, and as between our Real Names and Fannish Noms de Plume de Ma Tante; shorter version still, I don’t write criticism when I ‘do meta’ – appalling formulation – rather, I write essays, which is why, to the impotent fury of many who read them, one is borne along upon a mere stream of consciousness and allusion in the manner of Browne and Hazlitt and Elia).


Instead, I dreamt feverishly.


My mind, it is generally acknowledged, works oddly at the best of times.  When I am ill or injured, it works in still more mysterious ways its wonders to perform (Hymn 192, Ancient & Modern).


During this most recent illness, I did not, in fact, recall stags or country houses so much as I remembered my grandfather on my father’s side, and my prepper, in febrile waking dreams


My grandfather, you may recall, was a man best described as six feet of grim rectitude, which was his armour, for he was at bottom a sensitive and kindly soul (and of course very much overshadowed – to a certain point and no further – by my grandmother, who stood just a shade less than five feet in height and towered over everyone, metaphorically).  As I was recovering – insofar as I have recovered – from my illness, I dwelt upon a characteristic incident: quite literally: an incident revelatory of character.  It occurred before I was born, but I have heard it from all the witnesses. 


I should note that my grandfather was as strong physically as one might expect from my descriptions of his outer integument.  Once, after the Hitler War, he was working alongside the men – haying, I recall its being said – when he heard the unmistakeable sound of a motorcar crashing.  He outran the men and was first upon the scene, to find that five local youths had gone off the lane into a ditch, their battered pre-War Austin Seven turned turtle upon them.  My grandfather actually lifted the damned thing off of them, quite probably saving their lives, even as the men were coming up behind him to assist.  One of those adrenal events, I suppose.


It was highly typical, as I have noted before this, that my grandfather would do anything for the sons of his tenants and All That, whilst resolutely refusing to do any favours or use any influence on his sons’s behalves, having a horror of even the appearance of jobbery.


Yet I think it was something more.  For – mark this – a few years before I was born, my father, engaged in some rural pursuit, slipped, fell, and sliced open his hand quite dreadfully on something or other (something rusted and tetanic as well as infernally sharp, at that).  My grandfather was again first upon the scene, to find his elder son in dire straits.  Fortunately, my grandmother was close behind, just edging out my mother.  Striving furiously to take my father to the nearest A&E as quickly as possible, my grandfather, in a blind panic, thrice managed to fail the motor, before my grandmother could shove him aside and – barely able to see over the controls – race to casualty.  And it was she who was present when my father awoke, and asked, with a carefully cultivated coolness and Stiff Upper Lip, ‘Well.  How many fingers did I lose?’ – to which she crisply replied, ‘Don’t be a fool, we had Sir –––– in.’

There were some crises in which my grandfather shone; and some in which he was utterly useless, paralysed.  The fact that the latter almost invariably involved threats to his family is a measure of his – commonly well-dissimulated – anxious affection for them.  I mention this because I don’t see this written as often as I imagine it wants to be, in professional fiction or in fanfiction, and it is an aspect of character that is, I suspect, quite common.


As far as the hallucinatorily vivid memories of my prepper that assailed me whilst I was ill, I find that is inadequate to speak of things being ‘in memory ever green’.  For some reason, I can only call up the old place as baking in the sun, which is highly incongruous.  It’s gone now, in a sense, although the fabric remains: Ichabod, Ichabod.  Yet I cannot forget it as I knew it: the high ceilings, the stodge, the air of aristocratic dilapidation.  It was there that I learnt that there was a great gulf forever fix’t where the sums and the sciences were meant to be in my brain: I still remember the three letters in blood-red ink that Old Millponds, as we called him, scrawled across one of my well-meant ventures into the sciences: R-O-T.  I was quite sound on the natural world, then as now (my Republican friends in America will be pleased to know that I was very much and quite particularly fascinated with elephants, for some reason), yet in the main it was impressed upon me very swiftly that I had much better stick to my literary and Classical last.  It was there that I learnt that, in any form, if we were to be lined up by height, I should always be the shortest of the lot; and learnt also, under the tutelage of the Dour Scot, our games master, that This Was No Excuse, and that having a low centre of gravity and coming up, shark-like, from beneath, was a sovereign method for dealing with larger boys.  ‘Aye,’ he observed once to a winded opponent, ‘ye’ll ken noo that the mouse may o’erbear the lion, lad.  On yer feet!’  


It was there also that I learnt that Classics and French were weapons to be wielded; that size and agility counted for more than strength in cricket, fencing, and squash, and thus that – for all the Dour Scot’s preachings and the Mouse Overbearing the Lion – all forms of footer were to be avoided when possible (as it rarely was); and that I was destined ever to pine after the most unattainably straight lads. 


Yet I was anything but miserable.  I took on protective colouration early on: one is licensed to be interested in things of the mind so long as one can advance the shield and buckler of field sports and Approved Rural Pursuits to deflect criticism.  And it was a splendid place in which to be a boy: half a dozen pitches; the fields beyond and the wood and the stream; the canal; the church and the local chapel bracketing the bounds, and the small shops beyond; and, best of all, the nearby kennels where, to my great good fortune, my mad godmother’s sister bred dogs and carried on her monomaniac interests in hunting and shooting.  Having her nearby was a great comfort, and raised my stock considerably with other boys who knew her as the Woman to Go To when one’s pater wanted an impeccable gundog or, as MFH, was forced to recruit a hound or two for a dwindling pack.


As Tristram’s father, the immortal Walter Shandy, Gent., observed to his brother Toby, those were happy days.  In memory.  There were miseries as well, I am quite certain; yet what I wish to note is that, in a situation in which one’s memories are at their least mediated, memory cannot be trusted.  That also is a precept to be held before all writers at all times and in all places, and I advert you to it.


As for today, I am doing better; and in the weeks to come, I shall resume the rarely noiseless tenor of my ways, and return to the fray.  May this last fortnight be the worst of the year for us all, and better days stretch before us all.  At least we may hope that we shall never be imbrangled in a dispute like that now roiling the district, in which Certain Officious Oiks are complaining of Chloe (of Chloe-and-Olivia fame), Ogbourne’s daughter, for her having put a Chagall in her office.  It is apparently outside the quangoistic rules.  My point, that it’s her Chagall, was ignored.


Village life.  What more can one say?

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4 comments or Leave a comment
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: January 17th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad to hear you're feeling better.

Your mum is clearly a Matriarch and not to be argued with. And I hope your elderly relative are doing all right.
leni_jess From: leni_jess Date: January 17th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the advice that Under a Dragon Moon has a new chapter.
fpb From: fpb Date: January 17th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
If this is boring self-indulgence, let's have more of it. I was bored straight through to the end roughly in the way one is bored across pages and pages of CS Lewis, Sam Johnson, or Macaulay. In other words, sir, whatever your accomplishments in the numerical sciences, those days in Classics, French and English weren't wasted. By no means.

If I had realized the burden of your family and the time, I would have avoided placing any extra on you. I am however glad to report that things on my side have gone back at last, and you may perhaps look forward to a return of writing energies in the near future. I have the entirely selfish hope that a you enjoy a similar one, and look forward to a lot more boredom.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 18th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

My dear fellow.

You are never a burden.

And I mention the mun for care only to point up the gulf betwixt the aspirations of the NHS and its application. It's not only that things differ from county to county, wh is bad enough; it's the realisation that care that is unavailable to aged members of an Anglo-Scots family resident in England wd be available to an English family resident in Scotland - all underwritten per the Barnett Formula BY the Anglo-Scots family members in England, and other English ratepayers, all of whom cannot get that precise care on the National Health where they are.
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