Category Archives: Top stories

Twinkly light settings . . . (episode 26)


10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet

May 5 1997

I’d like to take issue with you pet, concerning your usage of the descriptor, ‘lady.’ To a woman of my years, and experience, this word is suggestive of someone decked out in pink and frilly attire, and who may also be defective in general intellect and competence. A ‘lady’ is someone men can put on to a pedestal, someone they can – at one and the same time – both idealize and despise. I am, of course, thinking of men of the ilk of Sir Charmer Tankful OBE and the Rt. Hon. Austen Tankful MP – my own (late) husband and son. So, dear, try to think instead of the term ‘young woman’ because this phrase does at least endow us with the status of actual human being and individual. Consign your ‘lady’ to the bin!

On a totally different note, my chum Flamingo kindly invited me to attend the Carlton Country Hotel’s health spa last week. It is so long since I engaged in a svelte experience of this kind, that I could barely remember what such facilities could offer! The drive there was vertically challenging and, indeed, I had forgotten that the adjacent county of Littonshire features such mountainous terrain. It did not help, I must admit, that the Banger 0.9L has an exhaust pipe which will keep bouncing up and down on the tarmac. It is also a slight worry that corrosion may have advanced to the point where I fear that the seats may altogether drop through the floor on to the road!

Eventually, however, I did arrive at the hotel’s (rather difficult) access point, which was on a distinct camber in relation to the hill upon which it is situated. The first thing that struck me about these premises was the very long, dripping, drive that passed through any number of cherry laurels and sawn-off tree stumps. If I was purchasing these premises, I think I might have to invest a capital sum in both hard- and soft-landscaping. Patrons will surely desire both a sighting of the valley view beneath and one of the actual hotel – complete, possibly, with the twining stems of a Virginia Creeper wending its way up the walls. I felt inclined to volunteer my (invaluable) services I can tell you! And this inclination was furthered by the sight of a team of gardeners on the hillside, toiling with what appeared to be a fallen log. Do you know dear, I think I may give them a ring . . . With my experience at multiple venues over the years, I do believe I might be snapped up!

Flamingo was, as usual, most punctual and attired – very snappily – in a brown cashmere cardigan and leggings which had a most fetching blank panel running up the back of both legs. I could only wish that I myself was more consistent in this arena and not attired (that day) in a pair of khaki dungarees and a scarlet head band! We repaired, anyway, to the foyer of the hotel – albeit somewhat held back by Flamingo’s insistence on transporting a voluminous suitcase on wheels along with her.

“What’s that for?” I hissed.

“There might be some towels left lying around,” she said.

“Towels?” I said.

“Yes. You know.”

“Oh,” I replied.

Sometimes it’s just best not to go into things too deeply with Flamingo and, certainly, we were equipped, ourselves, with some very plush towelling garments over at the health spa reception desk. We then proceeded to the changing rooms and divested ourselves of our outer garments. Flamingo, I must say, has kept the most ideal of feminine forms and, by comparison, I did feel a trifle portly. (Nowadays pet, I find it best not to engage in any lingering examination of self in the mirrors at public venues. The light tends to be altogether too honest.) I enjoyed the steam room in particular. I liked the twinkly light settings in the ceiling and the way the steam warmed us through to the marrow. It was a rare privilege, and a pleasure, to have an experience only usually enjoyed by those equipped with some actual funds! And then there was the pool – full of clean blue water – with an atrium at one end which afforded a view across sky and the sunlit valley below. One unfamiliar feature was the Aluminium ‘stretchers,’ arranged beneath water, which, upon pressing a button, bubbled wildly around the users. But I think the facility providers saved the best experience to last, for the corridors led to a whirlpool with a considerable vortex at its centre. ‘Just jump in,’ read the notice.

I gazed at Flamingo and said, “Good God. Are they serious?”

“Oh yes,” she affirmed. “It leads back to the changing rooms.”

Society has certainly advanced since my days in the Service dear. Hotels were much plainer establishment, even in the 1980’s.

Well we did emerge – intact – on the lower floors (the chute was a little fast for my taste) and re-assembled our garb, admiring our newly-rosy faces in the mirrors. It was a bit of a job getting Flamingo back to the car park, because she would insist on toiling along with her heavily-laden suitcase. However, she had at least parked behind a large Viburnum tinus and I don’t think even CCTV could pass through that!

Yours (steam-pressed)



Mole intelligence: EPISODE 25


401B Concrete Shacks

May 4 1997

What ho! Auntie

I hope the dust has settled somewhat over at Harriet’s now?

Things on the domestic front here at Concrete Shacks continue to be a little fraught. Jayne’s cat is now exiting the house – for long jaunts of exploration round the neighbourhood – and after dusk, every evening, I can hear her bawling, “My Cat . . . My Cat . . . ” up and down the alley beneath my bedroom window. Personally, I think he may be trying to find more fragrant toilet facilities than the ones on offer here, because about a week’s worth of shit piles up in the tray before she gets around to emptying it! She has also, sadly, produced a boyfriend who frequently turns up in order to avail himself of my hot water. I hear him bounding along the passage from her room into the bathroom, and then he appears to jump into a full bath, shouting, “Bath time for Brucey!” And, frankly Auntie, I’m not sure that they are ‘doing it’ much because I keep finding the bathroom bin brimming over with sticky-looking tissues!

I did eventually go to a local meeting of the British All-White Party, which was held in a rather seedy-looking room in the Feathered Hen. It was attended by a small, but fervently nationalist, group of individuals who were very aggrieved that non-whites (and, increasingly, Europeans) were ‘taking over’ ‘our jobs,’ ‘our schools,’ and ‘our housing.’ One could almost imagine the UK as an island whose coastline was bristling with a six-deep row of spears. The main plan expounded was to ‘send them back’ (at least no mention of ethnic cleansing or genocide) and it does seem that members of the British All-White Party feel safest – and most protected – living amongst all-English white faces. Of course, it was Napoleon Bonaparte who tried to unite Europe by dint of main force and, nowadays, things are more civilized – it being realized that a united global community is likely to be a more pacific one (albeit at the price, perhaps, of having an individual national identity diluted somewhat).

The main highlight of the evening is that I did see a rather tasty-looking young lady waiting outside the pub on my way out. However, it transpired (as I heard her greeting him) that she was waiting for her Dad, who is a member of the British All-White Party! And, as alluring as her charms may be, I don’t think I could suffer any loyalty which she may have to her father’s ‘get ’em out of here’ views!

Toodle pip!

Your nephew Ralph

In flagrante delicto . . . (episode 24)


3A Hyde Park Terrace

May 1 1997

Dear Mum

I waited up on Saturday night for Austen to return. I sat by our black marble kitchen table, sipping espressos, and wearing a pink candlewick dressing gown which I know Austen hates (but which I like). I waited until after it had gotten dark and, even then, I didn’t turn on the light.

When he came into the room, and turned the light on, he didn’t expect me to be sitting there, still, in what had been dark. He went into hearty male mode: “Hello darling. Are you still up?”

I said, “I know about Ariel. I want you out of here by tomorrow.”

He said, “Don’t be so ridiculous. I hardly know her.”

I said, “I’ve got proof” – and slapped the videotape you sent me down on to the table. It clattered on the top.

It was funny – as in odd – then because his face took on a creepy sort of look, the sick look of someone who’d been caught in the act of committing a murder. The phrase in flagrante delicto comes to mind – perhaps because, actually, it rhymes with ‘sick’ and is, in all ways. But also it means: ‘caught in the act of a blazing wrong.’

He said, “What proof? How?”

I said, “We taped you at your mother’s.” (I hope you don’t mind mum – because it’s true)! His face took on a purple hue at this point and a stream of invective followed which I find both hard to remember and you wouldn’t wish me to repeat.

“It’s not as if we’re still running about doing it all over the place,” he shouted – as if that was some kind of justification for God knows how many months (or years) of lying.

I said, “I mean it Austen. I want you gone.”

“I’m going to bed,” he said. “We can discuss it in the morning.”

“If you don’t go,” I said, “I’ll contact the press. You’ll be on the the news. And if your side wins the election, don’t even think of the Cabinet!”

He went quiet then and tried a more conciliatory, and oozing, tone. “You know I care about you,” he said. “There’s no need for anything drastic.”

“It’s too late,” I said. “It’s been too late since I don’t know when. I should have trusted my instincts. This isn’t the first time. I’ve had enough. You thought you wouldn’t bother to treat me with kindness – or honesty – or respect. And that’s done for you now. I’m going to bed.”

And I just left him there, standing with his briefcase by the table, looking like the cockroach he is. That’s the thing with Austen. All the while you want affection (or love) or sex, he’s got the whip hand. It’s only when you can give all that up – and want nothing more from him – that you’ve got any hope of holding your own. I’ve had to do it, even though I still love him, because there’s just no other way. If I run after him wanting affection, he’ll run rings around me – he always has. And if I try to oppose him, he’ll just take away warmth. It’s true what that film – ‘War Games’ is it? – says, ‘Sometimes the only winning move is not to play.’ Well that’s what’s happened here and I’m glad of it.

He went anyway, the next day, and now I’m here all alone. I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t suppose I will know for a very long time.

With gratitude for all your help mum. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Love from Harriet (your daughter – in law – but not for much longer).

Extensive aquifers . . . (episode 11)

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet

April 12 1997

It’s alright darling. You will act (or not) when the time feels right. Even in an apparent interregnum your brain will still be working out what to do. If my recollections are correct Harriet, I believe you used to engage in the writing of poetry – and also that you were rather good at it? Isn’t there a local cafe you can attend, where you can read your musings out to a small audience of other poets? After all, whatever Austen is up to, he will find a way to carry on, and your sitting at home – with nothing to occupy your mind – will not stop him.

Meanwhile, I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am to be back here at my own demesne in Forsythia Grove. Partly this is because I can now access water from out of an actual tap; have a bath with hot and cold running water; avail myself of the facilities of an interior toilet, and flick a switch in order to access central heating! I don’t believe I have been fully connected to my own self up at Wilderness Row. Indeed, separated from my own, familiar, environment – and then plunging into a spate of the most distressing recollections – seems to have resulted in my exhibiting an altogether more serious turn of character in my correspondence than is my wont. It may be the case dear, that I have tended to detach myself from Life’s more serious, or worrying, considerations by engaging in a distinctly surreal style of writing!

In connection with Ralph, by the way, my hypothesis regarding his presumed abduction by a ‘far right’ political group has proved to be completely unfounded. I received the following missive from him yesterday:

“Hello Auntie, I am just back from my hols in the sovereign island country of Barbados. Accommodation was free – courtesy of the country’s extensive aquifers – although the constant ‘drip drip drip’ from the roof did dampen our spirits somewhat. We managed to evade capture by the Barbadian police however, and were even able to swell numbers on the ‘Keep our Coral Clean’ march through Bridgetown last week!

I hope you weren’t worried? I did mean to tell you I was going, but it was such a rush to get a late berth on ‘Sugar Cane Sue’ that you quite slipped my mind. Fond regards, your nephew, Ralph.”

Hmmph is what I think of that Harriet! Well take care dear. I hope all your more tempting liquid refreshments are long tipped down the kitchen sink?