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Positively, Mr Shimpling / Absolutely, Mr Duke: After All, After All - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Positively, Mr Shimpling / Absolutely, Mr Duke: After All, After All

(No, despite appearances, I am not turning into a gen writer.  Quite.  This bittock fic will doubtless end up folded into Under a Dragon Moon.  But it also stands alone, so:

Here is a portrait of the greatest star of the Wizarding music halls.)




No one else laughed the way Derwent Shimpling did.  As heartily, as innocently, as freely.  After all these years, his face was still that of a happy child, little marred for all the greasepaint.  Oh, there was a tinge of purple to his countenance, no question, but there was many a retired colonel in a Gloucestershire village or many an ancient Indian Political in clubland who might say the same, and worse things happened at sea, so thank-you-for-allowing-us-into-your-hearts-and-good-night-and-God-bless-us-all.


For many a decade he had trod the boards, the halls his first love but rep in small, forgotten villages and panto in town halls by no means beneath him (and he was a talented dame, if he did say as much himself, ta, ducks).  There had been good nights and – less good: he still treasured, fifty years on, the comment of a visiting American vaudevillian, a Muggle-born, who’d said, ‘You’re not ready for the big-time until you’ve bombed’ – he meant this in the Yank sense of the term – ‘more than the Eighth Air Force’: a joke he’d inherited on the other fellow’s death, and repeated, suitably amended to refer to going for a Burton, Bomber Harris, and the RAF, to younger performers who wanted bucking-up.  And it had never really touched him, the life he’d led, never touched the essential innocence that was his distinguishing characteristic – and that had, had he but known it, been what made him the great man he would never for a moment have considered himself to be.  Not the draughty dressing rooms and the restive audiences, not the seedy theatrical hotels and the mad landladies and the war years and the absconding impresarios and the splinched luggage: none of it had ever really touched him.  No one else laughed the way Derwent Shimpling did, but it wasn’t for his lack of effort, for that was the key to the man: he loved laughter, pursued it all his life, coaxed it and cajoled it.  It would have been a very easy thing to have done, had he wished to do, to pursue applause and fame and such fortune as the halls could provide, but it had simply never occurred to him to do.  He wanted only to make everyone laugh, and whilst he was incredibly pleased and proud when they did do – most of all when, at a Royal Command Performance, far from Muggle eyes, he had reduced the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to helpless giggles (dear, dear people, the Royal Family, albeit Squibs) – his end and aim was the laughter, not the taking credit for it.  And that, of course, was what had made sure that the world laughed with him and loved him well, and that was why he had never lost his innocence.


Oh, Mr Potter, what shall I do?

I meant to sweep the chimmin-ee, I’m trapped now in your Floo!

Please fly me back to Diagon, I’ll stay there all me life,

You’re a hero to the world, sir, but I’ve no real taste for strife

(You’re a hero, Mr Potter, but – I wouldn’t be your wife!

You’re a hero, that is certain, and the world may owe you much,


Not for all the gold in Gringotts, I’d not envy your old dutch! )


His parents, God rest ’em both, no doubt had never contemplated such a career for their young Gryffindor – oh, yes, he’d been a Gryffindor at Hogwarts, truncated though his schooling had been, in the end: tragedy demanded Ravenclaw brain, managing took a Slytherin, you couldn’t hope for better performers than Hufflepuffs for the rough and tumble work, vent acts and aerial acts and tumbling and such, but comedy wanted the raw courage, always – but they’d never complained.  There were a few folk in Wizard-dom who seemed to share the Muggle attitude towards labouring and trade and the stage, if you could call the halls ‘the stage’, it wasn’t as if he were doing Shakespeare, after all – and oddly, the few who held those notions were Muggle-haters to a man – but for most of the Wizarding world, magic use was magic use, and whether you used or didn’t use magic in your profession or trade was the dividing criterion, be you a driver on the Knight Bus or the Headmaster of Hogwarts … or a song and dance man with a line in patter and physical comedy.


Daddy wouldn’t buy me a Kneazle

Daddy wouldn’t buy me a Kneazle

I ’ave a little Crup

And I’ve raised ’im from a pup

But I’d ravver have a Kneazle, please!


The years had been kind, really.  It had been a goodly apprenticeship, from Cordwainer’s Wells to Dreary LaneAlhambraGawber Road. from Holborn to Hogsmeade.  He was still sound enough of wind and limb for a song or two and a bit of the old ankle, and why not?  Why, the years from eighty on are the prime of a Wizard’s life.  And after years of honing the business and polishing the lines, after years of craft such that his well-known ‘after all’ could, standing alone, bring down the house, he could still – ‘still’?  Make that, ‘better than ever’ – knock them, in the words of his youth, in the , and a few pointers from some kindly theatrical ghosts, and on to every Empire, Palladium, and


‘Your surname, please.’

‘Ah.  It’s ... I’ll spell it out.  B-O-U-G-G-W-A-R-I-N-G.’

‘Lovely, but I shan’t be  it when I want you, how is it ?’calledspelling

‘Er.  You know how “Mainwaring” is called as “Mannering”?’

‘Yes.  What – OH.    Right, then.  I’ll call you by your Christian name, then.  What is that?’Oh.

(Pause.) ‘Ah.  Roger.’


The thing was – the funny thing was, if you will, guv’nor – that he’d played his part (wait for it) by playing his part.  In the halls or over the wireless, when times had looked a bit darkish, he’d done what little he could do (he never accepted that it had been, really, a great deal) to keep spirits up and see to it that the lads and the Home Front alike had kept ‘smiling through’.  Grindelwald, those two nasty episodes with Screaming Lord Twunt, it had all been the same, he hadn’t had the opportunity to bear a wand but he’d done everything he’d been allowed to do in putting on appeals, entertaining the Aurors, and bringing what cheer he might to the nation at large.  He could take an innocent pleasure in that, and did do; he could have, although he didn’t, take considerable pride in it and a good deal of credit.


And now it was time to banish the last of the darkness and put off the memories of the late war.  Laughter was the best potion, after all, and the Wizarding world deserved to celebrate a little, now, after all, you couldn’t say fairer than that, now, could you.  Most fears and dreads, even the worst – and, Merlin, but they’d seen the worst of late, now mercifully past – most fears and dreads after all were just so many boggarts, and there’s one sovereign remedy for that, now, isn’t there: Riddikulus!


From the wings, he could hear the chairman, putting his all into the old, familiar, comforting words: ‘And now, Witches and Gentlewizards, I give you –’


His timing was by now instinctive.  


‘—the comedian who does exactly what it says on the cauldron –’


He limbered his joints and edged forwards.


‘—the potion as before, just what the Healer ordered –’


The usual charm to muss the hair in the usual fashion, a quick fist through the crown of the self-repairing boater, a quick drag of his soles through the chalk, a twitch of the striped jacket, and he loped out on stage impeccably on his cue.


‘’Ullo ’ullo ’ullo, thank you, Wallace Greenslade couldn’t’ve said fairer, good evening, all – oi, cocky, what’s with the long face, oh, sorry, didn’t know you were a Metamorphmagus, thought you were off-colour – I don’t care to know that! – thought you had a megrim, lad, and we’ll be having none of that tonight – don’t want anyone being glum, ’s like the Wizard from Bedale who came up to Diagon Alley, went into the Cauldron, and Tom said they hadn’t any Yorkshire pud, poor old lad was so dismayed he went back to Yorkshire and battered himself to death –’


Boggarts be gone, he thought, luxuriating in the laughter, it’s peacetime now.






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21 comments or Leave a comment
wren_chan From: wren_chan Date: May 14th, 2006 08:18 am (UTC) (Link)

I love him to bits, and,, as ever, adore you. A lovely thing to cap off the night.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, dear one.

So glad you enjoyed Our Derwent. He'd be pleased to have contributed a smile.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 14th, 2006 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)
No one else laughed the way Derwent Shimpling did. As heartily, as innocently, as freely. After all these years, his face was still that of a happy child, little marred for all the greasepaint.

Lovely opening. It sets the tone for the rest of the piece. I can just see him at the end getting ready to go on stage.

I enjoyed it very much, and it's brightened up an ironing-filled day.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 01:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks, m'dear.

At first I thought that read, 'irony-filled day'.... Alas, that shd have been the better option, I imagine.

Thank you for yr kind words. So many of the 'minor' characters have stories that want telling, don't they. And the thought of the old music-hall comic 'smiling through' during three wars and jollying everyone along was one that wouldn't leave me until I got it onto paper.
easleyweasley From: easleyweasley Date: May 14th, 2006 12:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wallace Greenslade, eh? Is there something about him we don't know?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Surely there must be ...

... Sane, normal, Muggle presenters for the straight side of the Beeb simply do NOT become fixtures of the Goon Show and carry on the Holborn Empire tradition without magic, after all.

Thanks for reading, and being kind enough to comment in (wait for it) kind.
executrix From: executrix Date: May 14th, 2006 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
This reminded me very much of the wonderful "Privates on Parade."
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thankee, lass.

High praise indeed, PoP being the offspring of the wonderful 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum', as you know.

You just know that, in the post-War, the WWN will have new shows in the line-up. 'Dad's Aurors', say, and 'It Ain't Half Dank, Mum', no doubt.
executrix From: executrix Date: May 14th, 2006 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Lost Empires Strike Back

I didn't know, so thanks for the info--as an Anglophile American, my knowledge of things that knowledgeable Britishpersons would find second nature is spotty.

"Rising Hellebore Smoke"? "Accio, Accio" (leesen vairy carefully, I weel cast this only wance)? "Ice-Cold in Durmstrang"?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)


This cd go on and on, cd it not. Lovely suggestions.
executrix From: executrix Date: May 14th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

My Evil Overlord Has No Nose. Then How Does He Smell? TERRIBLE!

Snape is a Death Eater!
Oh no he's not!
Oh yes he is!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Kindly leave the stage!

Personally, I like the Gnome Show.

Neddy Seagnome never fails to amuse.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 14th, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed that very much (a bright spot in a rather dull afternoon) - you've managed to evoke a character and world which works well with what we know of the wizarding world. I'm glad they had something better than Vera Lynn to keep them going through the dark days...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, thank you.

But let's be kind to Dame Vera: compared to Madam Warbeck, the Forces's Sweetheart was Kiri te Kanawa.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 14th, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, thank you.

True. But I inherited a distast for VL from my greatgrandfather, who was apparently given to crying 'turn that bluidy wumman off! whenever she came on the radio. But I think Kenneth McKellar was more his mark, anyway (not that he was about during the war, but that sort of thing)....
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 14th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Look on the bright side.

Could easily have been Harry Lauder.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 14th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Look on the bright side.

Well, Kenneth McKellar was oftn arranged in a very kitsch manner - but if you've ever heard him sing 'She moved through the fair' - which does exist purely a capella - I have to admit that that is really hairs on the back of the neck stuff and very haunting (if I ever work out how tp post mp3s I may post that someday...)

Harry Lauder = meh. But K McK really had a fine voice if not server by the popular arrangements of the day....
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 15th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, I know McKellar cd have sung legit opera.

That's why I said it cd have been worse.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 15th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, I know McKellar cd have sung legit opera.

Incidentally, that was a spectacularly incoherent comment. One shd never try to catch up on things after returning from a post-election celebration party.

18 year old Macallan is not as innocent as it looks.
iamstarmom From: iamstarmom Date: September 6th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the idea of wizarding vaudeville performers. They are perfect together! Derwent is quite the chap - and the potential for humor is endless.

Thanks for this!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 8th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks awfully.

You're vy kind to say so.
21 comments or Leave a comment