Tag Archives: humor

Lapping at sauces . . . (episode 8)

3A Hyde Park Terrace

April 6 1997

What happened next mum? You can tell me now. Don’t wait!

I did put on a brown-and-green clothing ensemble for my effort at tracking Austen across Hyde Park, and also a blue head scarf to blend me in with the waters of the Serpentine! And then, timing it carefully, I set off five minutes after him at 7.45am. The weather was cloudy thankfully; I think the sun and a clear blue sky might have made me feel floodlit under the heaven’s attentions! I entered the park at the Victoria Gate feeling quite beside myself with anxiety on the one hand, and quite ridiculous on the other. I could see Austen some 100m
ahead on a parallel path and about half of his right arm, which appeared cut off at the elbow. It suddenly occurred to me that he must be holding a mobile telephone and also that he was talking to someone on it. I remember a time (not so long ago) when these phones were around the size of a house brick, but Austen has obviously got hold of a more modern, smaller, one and not mentioned it. It was round about then that I bumped into Joyce, from Stephenson’s Antiques, who was coming the other way. Luckily, I don’t think she can have seen Austen or she would have said. Well I had to stop mum; I couldn’t just rush past going apparently nowhere, without even the dog as a suitable prop. So I stopped to chat and, all the while, Austen was getting smaller and smaller on a path ahead. He seemed to be heading for a rather remote clump of London Plane trees at the edge of the park, but it was impossible to tell really. And by the time I got away from Joyce, and up to the trees, there was no sign of him. The stress of it all quite wore me out anyway!

In fact, the whole twenty-two years I have spent married to Austen has quite worn me out. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but it has been like spending time with a hologram. You put your hand out – apparently towards physical substance of some kind – and it passes straight through him. I am not at all sure that Austen has a definite personality (with definite values) all of his own; it seems to warp and bend with his mood and the particular circumstances of the moment. One minute he is exhibiting a ‘hail fellow well met’ style of demeanour and the next his facial features seem to resemble that of a maggot wiggling at the end of a hook. It’s as if any apparent strength is just a fluid skin of some kind that can strip off at any moment. I don’t think that is the case for most of us is it mum? My own self and values feel pretty immutable and I am always ‘me’ wherever I am and whatever the pressures I feel under. Maybe I am a bit weaker if I am being opposed but I never quite feel that I am actually fragmenting and becoming a void. Whatever it is, I find it frightening because I never feel that a whole man is coming towards me and tackling all those issues that any marriage must face if it is to call itself healthy. Austen is someone who doesn’t want to face anything difficult; he is a man who wants to spend his life running away.

Of course, he is a delight in the kitchen as you know; he seems to have innate – and wonderful – skills in the arena of haute cuisine and hardly ever needs to consult a recipe in order to produce a gustatory masterpiece. He is a man of the senses and is never more appealing than when he is supping upon soups, lapping at sauces, and imbibing fine port. His whole body flows across the cooking space and exudes a quite unmatchable warmth. And, of course, that’s why I’ve stayed with him: joy after joy in the arena of the senses. Joys, I suspect, that very few other men – and only other sensualists – could match. But, as for Austen himself, there is no self or only a self that considers itself and none other.

I’m sorry to say all these awful things about your own son. Forgive me!

Your loving daughter (in law)



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)