March 23 1997
2 Wilderness Row
TRACKLESHIRE TR2 4PN
My Dear Austen
I know I haven’t written for quite some years child, but Ralph has disappeared (possibly abducted by some far-right political group) and, as it is largely silent here in my new – albeit temporary demesne – I find my thoughts turning, once again, to you. You are so close, after all, in the geographical sense at least.
I must say that I am very grateful to Sebastian for his suggestion that I might replenish my funds (which are scraping very low at the bottom of the barrel) by spending a week or so engaged in scrub clearance in the grounds of one of his deserted dwelling up here in Middle Bit. The journey could have been more commodious, certainly, as Chumley, Meribel, and myself were crammed together tightly inside the Banger 0.9L. Indeed, there was barely room for my collapsible brush cutter, petrol-powered hedge trimmer, and Dave Bear ride-on mower.
I hope, by the way, that you are flourishing in Westminster and have escaped further scrutiny of your extra-parliamentary activities? So many nowadays seem to have been found out in their abuse of expenses claims and in pursuits involving lying and cheating on their partners and the state in general. I might also add that such individuals tend, by and large, to be male. What causes the male, in particular dear, to tend to the weak, the arrogant, and the empty? Have I – as your mother – been to blame for this in any particular way do you think? Did I encourage you in the view that beauty and charm were sufficient endowments in and of themselves? And that it was not necessary to develop content and character of a decent kind?
I wish that I didn’t feel that you will simply sneer at – and ignore – any depth of analysis of the human self my darling. But as I feel that you will, I will move on. I will move on now.
Wilderness Row is, I must say, most aptly named. I am occupying the end of a small row of what do appear to be quite dilapidated stone cottages with gardens in various states of disrepair. I had to practically hack my way up the front path with the knife which – as is my usual practice – I customarily keep nestled against my inner thigh. And, once inside, I had to remove quite some considerable quantities of cobwebs in order to be able to see through the windows. The windows are small dear and it is not possible to open them – for the glass seems sealed shut by many layers of paint. My heart did, also, sink somewhat as I came to realize that the only heating comes from fires which have to be laid, and lit, with what I hope is a supply of seasoned logs located outside somewhere. There is no washing machine – only a rather rusty-looking bath tub – and the electric cooker has knobs on it which do not feature numerals of any kind. Nor, for that matter, are there any markings denoting which knob heats which hot plate. I have thrown the electricity supply switch however and the lights – the ones with bulbs in the sockets – do appear to work. And there is a single bed, complete with mattress, which did not collapse when I sat on it. At least dear, I will not be bored during my sojourn at Wilderness Row because there are plenty of domestic matters I shall need to attend to!
I do feel most envious now of your own premises which, as I recall, are luxuriously equipped with sixteen radiators and actual central heating!