Monthly Archives: July 2015

La Belle Epoque . . . (episode 72)

image by 'gameanna' http://freedigitalphotos.net

image by ‘gameanna’
http://freedigitalphotos.net

July 30 1999

The Victorian Pub
Parade Street
CENTRAL LONDON

Hello Mum

I am sitting just inside the Victorian pub on Parade Street – waiting for a woman called Amanda Jones to arrive. She has expressed an interest in starting a poetry café with me, but is now 30 minutes late! However, this has at least given me the opportunity to study an old pub in minute fashion, having already been engaged by its dark-red tiled exterior and sign of a Victorian gentleman clad in a top hat, black suit, and stick equipped with a silver handle and ferrule. Perhaps he is intended to be Charles Dickens? Inside, I have been engaged by the plush, red velvet, couch upholstery – pinned into place by velvet-covered buttons – and by the swaggering red drapes hung alongside, and above the windows. The bar counter is a magnificent beast indeed for, at intervals along its mahogany length, are marble pillars connecting it to a curlicued plaster ceiling. But it is the glass, Mum, that is most enthralling: the frosted, round, lamp covers (the lights are electric now of course, not gas) which run – in a row – above the counter; the colourful fruits of a row of reverse-painted mirrors hung upon the walls and, in pride of place, an acid-etched mirror with an oak frame. This tall/wide work of art has Greek key work at top and bottom and its central image is that of a delicate urn, containing flowers. This is a truly wondrous pub interior and, with or without Amanda Jones, it is worth time spent inside it.

Sitting nearby are a young couple who have, apparently, just been staying at the very large hotel opposite the pub, and whose name is La Belle Epoque. It is an enormous white confection Mum with, as you might expect, a foyer entrance staffed by a doorman disporting airs of a superior kind. The young couple – who are American and looking very chic – are engaged in venting their, very uncomplimentary, views about their stay inside this edifice. Their principal complaint relates to the unendurable nocturnal cacophony they have been subjected to. It seems that their room was situated above the hotel night club and that partying did not end until 3.30am. And, even then, sirens from ambulances heading to St Saviour’s Hospital wailed past unceasingly. When they did complain, it was to a rude and uninterested woman on reception, who told them that the only other free room (for a successive night) was over a delivery entrance! And just to add insult to injury, they were informed that only Platinum members of La Belle Epoque could be assured of being assigned a room quiet enough to sleep in. This just goes to show, doesn’t it, that even premium payments of £500.00 per night do not assure one of civil treatment and a restful night in one of the ‘best’ of London’s hotels!

Well Amanda Jones has missed her chance. I am going to have to set up the Parade Street Poetry Café all by myself! I think I am reaching the point Mum – when I know I can.

Best love

Harriet

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The interview experience . . . (episode 71)

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July 24 1999

401B Concrete Shacks
Wortlewell
CARPOOL C68 4VZ

What ho! Auntie

I am writing with news about my just-completed nurse training interview!

I turned up at Carpool University Hospital clad, I hope, in unexceptionable attire. I jettisoned my Doc Martin’s and booted them inside my bedroom wardrobe. And I also borrowed a clean white shirt and tied a rather dreary beige tie into a loose knot upon it. As you know, if compelled to wear a tie at all, I do favour the smaller, tighter, sort of knot (in a brighter colour) but I thought that Mr Newell Post, the nurse tutor I spoke of in a previous epistle, looked boring to the point of a long snore upon the carpet. And so I decided to favour the drab ‘magnolia’ sort of get up.

The interview went pretty much as expected. Mr Newell post droned on about the weather and the buses before launching himself (eventually) into an enquiry about my motivation for joining a student nurse training course . . . This did stymie me somewhat Auntie as I could hardly cite a desire to escape my weekly – conscripted – attendance at the Job Centre or, for that matter, my devoted, long-term care of my fruit fly, Cyril. So I waffled on, in what is presumably the usual way, about my deeply-seated need to care for sick and injured human beings. I also thought it politic not to mention that this care would, ideally, not involve close encounters with bottom-wiping and the like.

I do think Mr Newell Post might have been taken in by my apparent vocational zeal because he wrote, industriously, on a big sheet of paper for quite some time. And this was time during which I could further study his rather weak lower jaw. But I was taken further aback when he began to expostulate on the location of certain, crucial, bodily organs. Surely, Auntie, the human heart is located on the left-hand-side of the chest, and not the right? And isn’t the liver somewhere on the right-hand-side – under the lower ribs – and not the left? I fervently hope that Mr Newell Post will not be taking the Human Anatomy courses! And I further hope that my growing disrespect for him will grow no further!

Rather more interesting – if not positively frightening – was the tour we (there were six interviewees in attendance) were taken of the renal failure medical ward. I personally think it would have been nice if the ward had had lighter, brighter, windows, but then this would have shown up the yellow-looking, rather wizened, visages of the unfortunate patients. Most of the latter were sitting by their beds in what appeared to be slumped and hopeless-looking postures. Kidney failure is, I know, an enervating condition and it cannot help if one is attached at all times to large bags of infusing fluids. Perhaps medical science will have moved on – in leaps and bounds – by the year 2015 or so. I did feel moved enough to sit on the bed next to one lady, who said that she felt ‘well enough between times.’ But it was hard to have a conversation with Mr Newell Post yelling on about contaminating the bed covers (by sitting upon them). It does not feel a quite equal relationship when you have to stand up to talk to a patient – and they have to remain sitting, or even lying, down.

The only positively bright note came when a Dr T Hendriksson smiled at me while extracting blood from someone’s arm. I think she was smiling in sympathy at the injunctions being uttered by Mr Newell Post. She looked about my age anyway and was small in stature, with dark hair and dark, Slavic-looking, eyes.

“Are you Swedish?” I said.

“No,” she said. “I am part Greenlander and part Dane. My name is Thule.”

Well I was quite smitten Auntie. I hope I get accepted on the beastly nursing course – if only for these, the wrong, reasons!

Toodle pip!

Your loving nephew

Ralph

Mole intelligence: EPISODE 70

mole

July 11 1999

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

Thank you, Harriet, for your interesting epistle. I hope you have recovered from the cracked glass vessel incident!

Myself, the Cosy Old Sock, and his standard poodle – the Fonz – have been sojourning down at the sea side, if only for the day. I have not been to this particular sea side for nearly 45 years and so the whole trip had the sort of nostalgic redolence which I rarely get to experience. It was in thoughtful mode that I directed the Sock down the winding lanes leading to Nooky Bay and its long stretch of unadulterated sand.

The first thing that struck me was how narrow the sands looked compared to the widths of memory. And how small the offshore rocks. However, the length seemed just the same: long and long and long.

After a few witticisms to the effect that, if the Sock did not feel fit enough for kite surfing and water skiing, he could perhaps partake of some ‘bingo and a sing song’ up at the local hotel, we set off down the unending stretch of sand to the point where, I said, my parents used to take us. ‘Us’ being my brother, myself, and the sailing dinghy we had to haul along the foreshore to a point sufficiently deserted to satisfy my father’s need to be Alone.

The sand was hard near the water and the sea swept its waves upon it. Small waves admittedly and, what I could not understand, is why no-one was swimming. It was not, after all, a cold day and the sun was mostly out. It surely could not be the bodies of the jelly fish deflated among the shells and bladder wrack on the tide line.

“You know, I think the tide is coming in,” I said to the Sock. “Maybe I will have a little paddle later on.”

“Rather you than me,” said the Sock, firmly keeping his shirt and jumper upon him. “The Fonz and I do not like swimming.”

“Oh,” I said. And we carried on walking to what appeared to be a long, deserted, section of beach separating one group of sunbathers from another. “Why do you think there is that giant space?” I said.

“No idea,” said the Sock, pointing out that there appeared to be a Blue Sign further up ahead. And so we carried on towards it. The Blue Sign denoted the fact that this section of the beach had been assigned to naturists. We looked about us and it did seem that people like us (clothed) were still walking up and down the shoreline and that others (further in towards the dunes) were either partly-clothed or naked.

“Hmmm,” I said. “What do you want to do?”

“Carry on,” said the Sock, with the tiniest glint in his eye. “Maybe you would like to go swimming.” So we perambulated along the sands, noticing, from time to time, that there appeared to be naked males standing in the sand dunes with their profiles – or posteriors – facing the water.

“What do you think they could be doing?” I said. “They are standing there for an awfully long time. Do you think this could be the Gay section of the beach?”

“Mmmm,” said the Sock. “Would you like to go for a paddle yet? We could sit over there.” And he pointed to a piece of sand, near the dunes, where nobody naked was residing.

“Well,” I said. “I haven’t actually brought a swimming costume with me. Only a pair of Hawaiian cotton shorts.”

“I should just take the whole lot off if I was you,” said the Sock. “Join in with the spirit.”

“That is alright for you to say,” I said. “You are fully clad from neck to ankle and you have said that you are not intending to go in yourself.”

So I sat down and wriggled out of my black leggings (under my skirt) and underwear. And then thought, ‘To hell with it’ and paraded down to the water-line in my red, lacy, bra and shorts. The sea was cold, but not so cold that death from water shock might be inevitable. But what concerned me slightly was that still nobody else was swimming. Perhaps they were distracted by alternative pursuits up on the sand dunes. I waded in and my lungs gasped. With the sea water slapping round my waist it seemed foolish to give up. And so I dived into a wave and swam a few strokes in my best front crawl. It does, however, pay to be wary of the sea Harriet. One does not wish to be swept out (ending up deceased on holiday). So I kept my toes always touching down upon the sand. And in one bravura moment I took off the Hawaiian shorts and waved them above my head. “Yoo hoo dearie,” I called in the general direction of the beach as – tending somewhat to myopia – I couldn’t actually make out any people.

And then I returned to shore, naturally displaying my Raquel Welch-like physique to best effect as I strode towards the dunes (now re-clad in the shorts). But, do you know, I could not see the Sock. He seemed to have disappeared. I had to ask a total stranger – denuded of his clothing – if he could see a male (fully dressed) and a standard white poodle anywhere about. “There,” he said, pointing to a blob some 20 meters distant.

“There you are,” said the Sock crossly. “You were being swept along the beach. And when you got out of the sea, you set off in the opposite direction to where we were. Was that a flag I could see you waving?”

I don’t know Harriet. Why do one’s best efforts always remain unnoticed by the intended recipient!

Best love

Mum

Black china cows . . . (episode 69)

image by 'gameanna' http://freedigitalphotos.net

image by ‘gameanna’
http://freedigitalphotos.net

July 5 1999

3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5ZZ

Hello Mum

I had a slight setback to my emotions this morning, over at the Denizens café, pre-opening-hours. I have agreed with Alison – the very decent young manager there – that I might embark on setting out some flower decorations on the table. Unluckily, Alison did, at the same time, remark to a lady called Mavis (stood behind me at the counter), “Well you weren’t very good at it were you Mavis?” This Mavis – who otherwise mops out the toilets in exchange for breakfast – naturally glowered at this. This lady seems to be one of those who has somewhat of a chip on her shoulder and, scarily, she reminds me of my former housekeeper Mrs Macey. As you know, I did finally get shot of this latter personage when Austen left me for Ariel – but not before enduring quite some years of snub and slights.

Anyway, this morning I decided to visit the Denizens café to give a final polish to the glass vessels I had left in the utility room (adjacent to the toilets). And what has set me back, is the fact that my largest – and finest – glass vessel (destined for a plum spot in the centre of the room) now has a visible crack running half way down its length. Someone has somehow bashed it against the metal water pipe running behind the back of the shelf. Call me imaginative if you like Mum, but I know I left this glass vessel some way away from the pipe – and I think Mavis might have given way to a moment of malevolence. And, examining this issue in its larger sense, I have also come to feel that the most violent events in life – large-scale massacres and the like – are commonly due to individuals becoming overwhelmed with resentment at others’ apparent success and their lack of it. But now what Mum? How far will some people go?

On a cheerier note, I have also attended the Parade Street auction house in my search for charger plates, glass vessels and blue ware. And turning up bright and early, in the hours before the auction was due to commence, I did succeed in examining various lots comprising ceramics, glass and metal ware. It did occur to me that there might not be too much competition for these lots, because most of them were in crates, under tables, on the floor. And it certainly takes a non-arthritic bidder to engage on dusty crawling about, in order to examine them. And, looking about me at other potential bidders, it did also occur to me that I might fit in more if I arrived with a magnifying glass in hand and arrayed in a deer stalker hat!

One useful facility housed within the auction house, was a small café located in the basement. So once I’d decided upon the lot I wished to bid upon, I retired there for a cheese scone and to peruse some old editions of ‘Country Life.’ Actually Mum, gazing about me at the other people also sitting eating, I did happen to notice one or two very personable-looking males. Several even had a full head of hair and twinkly-blue eyes and, as you know, I do have rather a penchant for males of this type. I know I shouldn’t mention this – given one or two recent disasters – but I found myself listening in for resonant masculine tones and licking my lips as I munched my way through the scone on my plate.

Unluckily, however, I missed bidding on my lot as it was a long way down the list and they only get through 100 lots per hour. I had to place a ‘commission bid’ which means that the auctioneer bids for you in your absence, once you have signified the maximum amount that you are willing to pay. However, after close of business that same day, I got a phone call from them to say that my bid had been successful and could I turn up to collect (and pay for) it. So I whizzed over Mum to stash the three trays on the back seat of my car. They are crafty I must say because, although the contents of one tray are exactly what I want, the other two trays comprise the most frightful old tat – and it is going to take me quite some weeks to get rid of it at charity shops. Who is going to want two black china cows with their ears broken off for instance?

Love as ever

Harriet