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That was the Bank Holiday that was. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
That was the Bank Holiday that was.


Now this has been what I call an old-fashioned May Bank Holiday Weekend.  Splendid weather for the odd nap.


Mind you, that was not what the organisers of all the local events had in mind when, naïvely innocent, they scheduled All This: balloons and Arts Festivals and Arts Walks and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and All.  I gloat.


Oh, not that it’s all a bad thing.  The idea of a Dawn Chorus Walk in Savernake Forest was, in principle, a Good Thing (in the Sellars and Yeatman sense).  But 7.0 ack emma?  That’s hardly dawn.  Why, the working day is half over then for many avian choristers, and indeed, there are no small number which have been ware and wakin’ since well before sunrise – those outside my windows are vocal through the short night – all as recorded yonks ago by a civil servant who wrote Thomas à Becket fanfic, one Dan Geoffrey Chaucer:


And smale foules maken melodie

That slepen alle night with open eye

So priketh hem nature in hir corages….


And of course there were things one could do and enjoy in any weather (Melksham, Trainwest, exhibition, model railways, anoraks such as your humble correspondent, for the amusement of).


Still, the weather is doing I trust a splendid job of dampening the ghastly trippers and tourists descending upon Salisbury with a gleam in their eyes and a copy of the Guardian in their hands for the Oh-So-International Arts Festival (‘this year, celebrating Latin America[n leftists]!’).  Of course, even this is leavened by some better moments – good, grey John Major will be there to talk about cricket, a topic at which he is much better informed (and more enthusiastic) than he ever was at governance.  And there will be Bach.


Nonetheless….  Well, we shall discuss the Consternation at the Shops later.




I realise, in looking back over these Slices o’ Life, that I have dwelt rather upon the early stages of the Baker’s Daughter’s drive for culinary imperium.  It is quite true that, discounting such headline-worthy episodes as the rain that put paid to the charity bowls match in aid of whatever it was in aid of, the meteoric expansion of the baker’s into a World-Class Player in the cutthroat game of tea and takeaways, is probably the most exciting thing going on in certain bucolic fastnesses.  But I should be terribly remiss not to recount to you the cautionary tale that follows, proving that Grauniad-worthy happenings, red in tooth and claw, exist beneath the deceptively placid mask of the countryside.


Yes, Comrades!  Lurking as always beneath the tweed and the gumboots and the hedgerows and whatnot, deep in the heart of the countryside, is the demon!  The seeming-innocent faces of the rural, white English hide atavistic hatreds and bigotry, as witness the shocking dispute between hidebound Englishmen and a third-generation Briton – just as much a Briton as they, when all is said and done – who seeks only to preserve his culture and folkways, a culture and folkways reaching back to his ancestral subcontinent!


Oh, who am I trying to fool.  Certainly there is darkness and wickedness in all our hearts, and prejudice we try to hide or resist.  But in fact, what happened down the local was a friendly argument between the aptly-named Guile the butcher, Farmer Sweetlove, and young Pankaj who works for his aunt and uncle in the takeaway business that is currently being undermined by the Baker’s Daughter, all regarding the proper way to cook lamb.  As the discussion died away and they went off to chalk for the lot playing darts (after all, I should explain to American readers, that is how one gets one’s own turn at the board), Pankaj was still extolling the superiority of caper sauce or Reform sauce and Guile and Sweetlove were adamantly upholding kebabs and rassa-currying.


The scandalous part of the story is that Pankaj and family are from Goa, and are Wesleyan Methodists, which is one reason I have changed the names of all involved: the Chapel as such still rather frowns upon pub-going.  The moral of the story is that the Baker’s Daughter yet has a way to go in monopolising the takeaway trade.


Which, I suppose, does, in a way, bring us to the Dreadful Incident at the Shops.


On Saturday, I realised with dawning horror that I was Low on Tea (gasp!).  And Taylor’s mustard.  And … well, there was ample reason to hie myself to the shops despite the weather and the crowds (I was not going to impose upon the kindness of my home-delivering abbatial merchants on the one day of the Bank Holiday Weekend that they were open).


As the rain pissed down without, I found myself within earshot of two of our lovely Festal Visitors.  One was a Spanish-avised fellow who was attempting to buy enough rice to cover the Real Madrid side in paella, and who clearly would have enjoyed to do just that: one of those sad-eyed, falsely-smiling, would-be ingratiating old queens, who in the interim was attempting, in fairly good English, to chat up a handsome young shop-clerk, who had taken refuge in increasingly monosyllabic answers.  The other was a burly Mittel-Europaisch woman, who was clad in unrelieved black and pointed with silver jewellery to match her white, mannishly-cut hair, and whose general demeanour suggested a Prussian prison wardress.  She was badgering a shop-girl over a minor difference in the price of something doubtless fair trade and organic, at considerable length and volume, and with increasing discourtesy.


At which point I, not unnaturally, observed audibly, to no one in particular, ‘What an appalling cow.’  Well, it may have been ‘cow’.  I was favoured with a glare from Frau Wehrmacht and a look of gratitude from the shop assistant.  Someone else sniggered, and Frau Ludendorff began to create.  I looked rather coolly at her and said, ‘Madam, whether you are a “guest upon the soil” or not, I’ve no tolerance for persons who berate undeserving, ah, shop assistants.  And if nine bloody pee is that desperately important to you, please accept a couple of quid from my notecase as charitable alms.’  At which, as I made to hand her a brace of banknotes, she stormed out.  The Spaniard was by now gawping at me, to which I replied, ‘As for you, sir, unwelcome attentions to shop clerks are equally frowned upon, particularly when you are bollocksing up the queue behind you.  Get on with it.’  Don Juanita huffed and poofed and start demanding a ‘man-aaage-er, what is the name of the person in charge of this place’ – and was still doing so after I had been served and was leaving, he having not grasped, despite much telling, including being told by the shopkeeper, that ‘you’re wasting your breath, my man, [Wemyss] is a regular, and what’s more, he’d the right of it, now do move on’.


Certainly there is darkness and wickedness in all our hearts, and prejudice we try to hide or resist.  But it isn’t foreigners I dislike, as such.  It’s louts and poons, of any nation.  And why can they never properly queue up or brew up, anyway?  No, I’ll be just as pleased when the trippers and the charabancs depart, and the inane internationalism of the Airy-Fairy Festival is done, and peace again descends upon the land.


Well, as much as peace as we can get between pub arguments about lamb, takeaway ‘turf wars’ pitting Young Pankaj against the Baker’s Twenty-Scone -Stone Daughter, and these damned insomniac birds.

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17 comments or Leave a comment
avus From: avus Date: May 28th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad you had a great May holiday. Here, the weather has been typical Rocky Summer-ish -- brilliantly clear in the morning, clouds by midday, with the brief shower sometime. High may be near 70F, which for us is quite balmy.

Went walking yesterday. We have a holiday here, too. Memorial Day, originally celebrating the end of our Civil War; now general remembrance of the departed. And I've never seen my high mountain trail so busy. Cheering, in some ways, annoying in others.

Our summer nights are not as short as yours, nor our winter nights as long, but even here, you'd miss almost all the bird-singing by 7 a.m. Maybe given your Salisbury address, you can imagine the tourists as fitting into the next lines:

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

It's a stretch, I agree. (Do you have a saint buried in the cathedral? I've forgotten.) But then Jeff, as I recall, was talking about April anyway.

And if you have Bach, then many things can be forgiven.

May you have a glorious & untroubled summer & beyond,


wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 28th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)


We're not counting Ted Heath, surely - oh, all right, that was unkind.

Actually, the cathedral is dedicated to Mary, and was moved from Old Sarum by Bp Poore as matter of purely secular considerations. So, no major patronal issues, I'm afraid.

One of the events this Bank Holiday was a reenactment - of 'your civil war'.

I'm so glad to see from yr reports that Jane is coming along by leaps and bounds. Do keep me posted.
avus From: avus Date: May 29th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Saint?

You had a re-enactment of our civil war? Wasn't yours good enough? Seemed to have all the makings of a proper civil war, from what I've read. Why borrow ours, though you're certainly welcome to anything you'd like?

Most of all, many thanks for your continued interest & caring in Jane's recovery. I shall certainly keep posting. It means a lot that you're following along.
clanwilliam From: clanwilliam Date: May 29th, 2007 10:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Saint?

Blood pressure is still high in certain parts of the West Country over the English Civil War. My husband's comments about certain counties are not fit for ears as delicate as those of young Weymss, so I shall spare his blushes. (I cough and point out he had family on *both* sides, but there are no doubts about where his loyalties lie.)

It's only 350 years ago. That's practically in living memory in certain areas.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 29th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

And particularly on Royal Oak / Oak Apple Day.

And ... 'delicate'?!?
clanwilliam From: clanwilliam Date: May 29th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: And particularly on Royal Oak / Oak Apple Day.

Absolutely. Somewhere, lurking in the depths of your Wiltshire depravity, is a sensibility that remains delicate.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 29th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Some depths.

Besides, everyone knows I'm shallow as can be....
avus From: avus Date: May 30th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Saint?

Sadly, I do understand, though on a lesser scale -- lesser in terms of time, not yeilding anything in stubbornness/strong-mindedness and general lack of common sense. My grandmother was my nextdoor neighbor, and she raised me. Her father fought at one of the bloodier battles in what was then called the Western theatre, Shiloh, TN, and he was later multiply wounded charging Confederate artillery in northern Mississippi, at Corinth.

Southerners, I am told, still hold a "sensitivity", and I fear I do, too. Worse, my grandson, the love of my life, is moving pernamently to *gasp* Alabama.


Probably safer if you do our re-enactments and we do yours.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 28th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
But have right-wing Latin Americans written much that's worth reading? That's a genuine question.

I wonder why it is that association with the governing tendency in the modern world seems to produce such bad work? It wasn't ever thus. And while it is clearly one function of the artist to hold a mirror up to the flaws and injustices of society and of wicked men, to expose the 'easy speeches that comfort cruel men' I do wonder if it isn't a bad sign that art seems only able to work from the position of dissidence; though I don't know if that shows a problem with modern power or with modern artists or (more probably) both. Different generations, I dare say, have different besseting sins.

Goodness, this has turned into a ramble. I can only blame the exigencies of my own bank holiday weekend (taking Cub Scouts camping in the rain) followed by the culture shock of returning to college for formal hall.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 28th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'll want to think on that.

I note on the fly that Borges wasn't precisely a leftist, though....

From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 28th, 2007 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'll want to think on that.

Natural for the awkward squad, but.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: May 29th, 2007 05:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Lhude Sing Cuccu

Thank God it wasn't Americans again.

I'm boycotting life at the moment, and haven't left my apartment building since Mother's Day, but I understand from the weather reports that it's been a lovely holiday weekend.

Got the air-conditioning up and the windows closed for the season just in time, as all that bird noise and airborne allergens and frolicking teenagers and other harbingers of spring were beginning to be a problem.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 29th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Lewd Sing Whom?

Spinning away peacably, then, I gather?
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: May 30th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Lewdly Sing, Cuckoo! That's an Order!

Peaceably? Oh, no, no, no!

Muttering under my breath like a demented old crone in a folktale...

I won a blue ribbon for my mailed-in entry in a Sheep and Wool Festival: my skein of Boreray unplied weft yarn. Feral sheep from just outside the Outer Hebrides: say it to yourself a couple of times if you need a giggle in the middle of the night.

Have you got any interesting sheep in your area? I've decided to collect bits of rare breed British fleece.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 29th, 2007 06:34 am (UTC) (Link)
It's been raining here in a typical display of "English style" bank holiday weather. All our Burgundian friends like to joke that we've bought the British weather with us. After four solid years that joke's wearing a bit thin, thank you very much.

I don't really feel entitled to moan about the tourists, as I make my living out of them. However, I do have a definite ranking as to who make the best guests and natonality very rarely comes into it. It's more to do with how much consideration they show for the "natives" (ie me and hubby). Oh, and how their kids behave.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 29th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Particularly, I shd think ...

... the last of these.

(Children. Bah.)
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: August 4th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Could not have said or done it better! You have captured exactly what I was speaking of this afternoon.

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