Tag Archives: comedy

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?



Mole intelligence: EPISODE 5


2 Wilderness Row
Milk Felling

March 31 1997

Your letter moved me Harriet, more than I can say. I have thought long and hard about my advice and it is this: find out the truth. Once you know that, I may be able to offer further assistance. In truth, your missive reminds me of the time I was a young mother (Austen was only two) living in our country seat in Martonshire. I won’t go into what happened then because it might be completely different to what may be happening to yourself. We will see.

Here at Wilderness Row, one puzzling event has been the advent of a note – clad in a home-made envelope – which appeared on the door mat yesterday morning. It was from my glass-clanking neighbour, resident next door. This lady – for it is a lady going by the name of one Miriam – seemed to be asking me to go along next door to feed and clean out her foster cat, Basher, who is apparently whiling away his days in a wire and wood premises located in her garden. (Loud bursts of howling have been emanating from that direction in recent days.) Miriam wrote that she had had an urgent call to attend a sick relative in the town of Carter-in-the-Woods and would be back by the end of next week. That is nearly seven days away dear! In return, Miriam is promising a magnificent feast and several demijohns of her home-made cider . . . She then went on to explain that she had left a fencing helmet and leather gauntlets outside Basher’s pen and that I was certainly best advised to outfit myself in them, before opening the door! Also that, should I acquire puncture wounds of any description on any part of my person, I should immerse the affected part in any available alcohol for as long as I can bear. Basher does give some slight warning of an impending attack apparently: he narrows his eyes. I don’t know pet. Perhaps even the appearance of Carstairs, bearing a club hammer in his glove, might be preferable to the scenario described in this note!

Well, naturally, I had a stiff nip of something fortifying – in addition to partaking of actual breakfast – as a way of preparing myself for this task. And then, clad in several layers of clothing, I arrived at the exterior of Basher’s pen. These premises are equipped with two exterior doors (wired and bolted) and the purpose seems to be to allow a visitor through one door, bolt it, and then proceed through the next door without any possibility of the inmate exiting into the local countryside! I couldn’t find the fencing helmet anywhere – just a pair of stout gloves – and I came to the conclusion that perhaps Miriam was joking. What do you think dear? I couldn’t see Basher at this point and my main impression was that I was actually surrounded by a rather eerie silence. An armchair – piled with magazines and newspapers – resided in the covered walkway leading to an elevated wooden compartment and, since there was nowhere else to be, I had to assume that Basher was inside it. I hovered, Harriet . . . And then I decided to sit down and leaf through the magazines; after all, poking one’s nose into someone’s darkened, private, bedding space hardly seemed the wisest, or the most tactful, method of approach. I thought perhaps that I would attend to any feeding/cleaning out activities after a decent period of mutual (if invisible) acquaintance. Well the magazines, containing all sorts of colourful photographs of sterling work in local gardens, were quite relaxing – not to say soporific – in their effect and I started to feel my eyelidsd droop a little. In fact, they drooped so much that I believe I was soon fast asleep! (It has been hard to relax in my own demesne owing to one or two springs – rusty – poking through the mattress on the downstairs sofa.)

When I woke up, after God knows how many minutes had expired, it was to a quite unusual sensation. Someone, or something, appeared to be applying a rasping pink tongue to my face and nose and, do you know dear, an actual paw was resting on my shoulders. I cracked open an eyeball and, opposite mine, was a yellow iris with a vertically-extending black pupil. Basher was engaged in the act of washing my face – and doing a very thorough job of it I must say. I naturally thought it prudent not to move a muscle for I have read that a damaged cat’s emotions can turn on a sixpence. I kept my hands to myself and my eyes closed. And then, after five minutes or so, I felt something curl up on my knees and soon Basher himself was snoring on my lap with his eyes shut. This keeping yourself to yourself certainly seems to work with a cat like this and I did, eventually, succeed in both putting food in his bowl and cleaning out his litter tray – emerging unscathed in the process.

I must say that I am hoping I will hear from Sergeant Blackstone (of the Inner Hamlet cop shop) today as it sounds like progress is being made towards the capture and arrest of Carstairs. And once that occurs, I will be able to return to Forsythia Grove! I am rather missing this latter demesne dear; life is so much easier when one doesn’t have to drag water up from a well and engage in making paper firelighters!

Chin up now darling

Mum (in law)

Air of intoxication . . . (episode 4)

3A Hyde Park Terrace


March 30 1997

Dear mum (in law)

Austen has told me that you have surfaced and are asking after me.  I’m not too bad.  I left the alcohol rehabilitation centre last year and the antidepressants the doctor has given me are helping (I think).  I did want to start having a hobby (as you suggested at the time) and thought I might start keeping budgerigars in an outside aviary.  However, Austen feels that there will be nobody to look after them when we go on holiday.  I don’t know when we last went on holiday.  You know how good he is at getting his own way.  It’s no good challenging him because he stops being endearing and lovable and becomes very cold (and sometimes angry).  Just recently he has started leaving home punctually at 7.40am for his walk across Hyde Park to the House of Commons.  He never used to leave so early (or on time).  Also he is sporting a sudden air of intoxication.  I don’t know what’s behind this.  I just know that I feel miserable.  What do you think I should do?

Yours loving daughter (in law)


The water well . . . (episode 2)


2 Wilderness Row
Milk Felling

March 25 1997

My Dear Austen

Thank you for your phone call yesterday evening child; it is some time since I have heard your bell-like tones chiming down the telephone cable.  I do wonder, however, at the reason behind your communication – as it is unlike you to engage in any completely selfless activity.  I think you may have been investigating my knowledge of your deceased father’s former contacts, with a view to securing personal advantage of some kind?  But, as you should know by now dear, I was always a very different animal to Sir Charmer Tankful OBE – and had very little to do with his activities in the sphere of golf, bridge, drinking, hunting and womanizing (especially the latter).  In fact, I developed quite my own, separate, group of friends and acquaintances – many of whom are quite indigent.  I actually don’t quite know what I’m doing on this antiquated computer here at Wilderness Row and hope my musings will be legible in your home at Hyde Park Terrace?

Meanwhile, I have been making one or two discoveries about my new domain.  One of my first surprises (not a very welcome one) was that the toilet facilities are situated some 20m beyond the back door near the end of the garden.  I did investigate this shack at my earliest ‘convenience’ and, seated upon a rough plank in the near-dark, I could discern (from the actual stench, forgive me darling) and from the fact that my nether regions appeared to be nearly lapping upon the ‘waters’ beneath, that effluent must drop into a cess pit – and that this facility requires emptying. My other – rather mortifying – find has been that water (for all functions) has to be lifted from a water well, also situated in the back garden.  This item has a waist high stone wall, arranged in the usual round, and a tiled roof from which the bucket is lowered, and raised, via a rope wound around a horizontal rail.  One winds a handle dear, in order to accomplish all this bucket rising and falling.  Gazing into the depths, I could initially only discern blackness and it was only by dint of dropping a half-red-brick over the side, that I could confirm that water was actually present at the bottom. Wild ginger seems to be the plant growing from the inside of the walls, near the apex, and its leaves are round and green and juicy.  I must remember pet, to keep the wooden lid in place on this facility after use, as it might be rather depressing to lose Chumley into its interior and to have to winch him out in the bucket.

It was positively a relief to retire to my bed yesterday evening – at the somewhat early hour of 10pm – I can tell you.  However, the bed at Wilderness Row does feel somewaht cramped compared to its king-sized counterpart back at Forsythia Grove.  Chumley, Meribel and myself seemed to be practically reclining nostril to nostril and my nostrils were, in particular, stuffed with recumbent furry posteriors as we turned throughout the night.  Sleep did not come easily as I could detect some strange sounds coming from the cottage next door.  These took the form of heavy glass clankings and then, periodically, a thump as if something even heavier had collided with the floor.  And I do believe I heard what might have been a burp!

In any event, dawn eventually came drilling through the window glass in the form of a continuous thumping sound.  When I rose to investigate, I could clearly see – without the aid of binoculars – that a lesser-spotted woodpecker was fastened to the trunk of an apple tree outside and rapping its beak against the bark.  I don’t know child.  I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that it wasn’t a cockerel crowing at 4am or a row of heavy freight rail trucks rattling past.  And also that I am still (miraculously) alive and able to enjoy a new day’s life – with its perennially attendant issues – at all!

Do give my love to Harriet won’t you?   I have heard nothing from her in recent years and hope she has moved beyond that phase where she, too, appeared to be engaged in – hidden – heavy drinking,  and the constant watching of day-time TV.   I am not at all sure what lay behind this domestic behaviour child, and earnestly hope that your own attitudes and behaviour had nothing to do with it?