DIARY OF A GENTELMANN

Year of our Lord 18–.

November 15th.  Damn good day, out with the hounds at dawn, back after dark.  Housekeeper complains of the mud and bloodstains on my britches.  Curse on English women and their finicking ways.

November 17th.  Dinner with the Parson, damn me if he didn’t match me glass for glass.  Housekeeper while helping me up the stairs, stopped halfway, muttering some nonsense about a Governess for the child.  What need of book learning for the girl?  A pretty wench will always make her way in the World.  If she were plain t’would be another matter.

November 21st. Rained all day.  What a climate, it puts me quite out of Humor.  Bored.  In need of exercise so mounted to the attic, up-ended the Trollop and at her with a will.  She may be as mad as my hat but by thunder she’s willing.

January 3rd.  Weather foul.  No hunting. Hey ho for London and the gaming tables.

January 10th.  Housekeeper writes that the West Wing is damp and the child grows difficult.  Write back suggesting she consult Steward and engage Governess – why cannot a woman see the simplest of solutions?

January 15th. Uncomfortable midnight visit from two large men in black.  Have decided to settle debts.    Back to the country for some hunting, and a tumble or two in the attic.

January 17th.  Damn the dog.  Damn the horse.  Damn this ancle. The merest sprain, say I to the Surgeon.  Sir, says he, you will keep within doors a sennight.

Bored.  Madam, say I to the Housekeeper, bring me the new Governess.  In she comes, face like a cow’s arse.  Damned amusing though, putting her through her paces.  Play for me, say I, pretending to know about music, also, bring me your drawings if you please Madam.  Prickly as hell she is, like all these plain women. Deigns to be offended, if you please, because I fail to recognise her as the wench who held the horse.  Explain all white women look the same to me, and had assumed it was the Gatekeeper’s Wyfe who assisted me after the horse threw me.

January 18th  Ancle hurts like the very devil.  New Governess obliges the Child to recite for me.  Mercifully her memory fails after two verses.  New Governess asks if Child is not much improved.  Cannot think how to answer.  Conversation tedious in the extreme, attempt to dismiss the woman.  Name escapes me of course.  Miss …er say I, Yes sir says she, what is it you require of me?  Your absence, Madam, I reply.  Thank the Lord for a ready wit!  Bored.  Must see if I can manage attic stairs tonight.

January 19th.  Locked!  Damn that architect.  Only one way into the damned attic.  Meet the Servant in the corridor with the key on her belt.   Madam, says she, is otherwise occupied.  By Jove say I, out of my way woman, I’ll occupy her.  Make to push past, damned woman fells me with a single blow.  Tell the Housekeeper I walked into a door.  At dinner tonight notice Miss Er’s looks are vastly improved.  Country air agrees with the wench.

February 14th.  Fell asleep reading Lusciouse Wymmen, candle set fire to bed.  Next thing I know Miss Er is in the room beating out the flames with her reticule.  Feel very low and shaken today – have never seen a woman in curl papers and face cream before.

February 15th.  Recovered. At dinner made fine joke about natural beauty being most desirable in a woman.  How Miss Er squirmed!  Must think up some more.

February  16th.  Out with the Hunt.  No foxes but several cats, a cockerel and the farmer’s Wyfe.  Took the attic stairs three at a time. Met the servant in the doorway.  (Note: something oddly appealing about a powerful woman.  Pity about the mustache).  Madam, says she, is entering a period of Celibacy in order to discover herself.  But she’s raving mad say I, and that takes no discovering.  No no says Mrs. Poole, flexing her biceps, ’tis nothing but her menstrual cycle, get ye hence, explore the art of self-abuse, for you shall have no more of your wicked ways here.

February 17th.  Brooding all day. The woman Poole exceeds her authority.  Am I not to be Master in my own house?  Try a ladder at the attic window, but find it’s too small to climb in.  Mrs Poole empties slop bucket over me as I am descending.  Tell Housekeeper I tripped up on a patch of mud.  Situation becoming desperate.  At dinner notice how Miss Er’s eyes gleam in the candlelight.  Damned if I can recall her first name.  Will call her Jayne.  Plain Jayne.

 February 25th.  Still barred from my own attic.  The Lord knows I am a reasonable and patient man, but I fear the time has come for action.  Since my Wyfe is denied me, the Governess will have to take her place.  Resolved to have Jayne Er this very night.

February 26th.  Late last night Housekeeper, hearing my fit of sneezing, informs me that all Governesses are taught to carry a bag of pepper for the defence of their Virtue.  Inform the woman I was merely searching the Library for a Learned Work when some dust set off the unfortunate attack.  She tells me the Library has been locked this many a year and the key is lost.

April 1st.  Attic still locked.  Plain Jayne still resists me.  The jade insists on marriage.

June 1st  Why not?  She knows nothing of the attic, and I am a man in torment.

 July 28th.  Damn damn damn damn.  Damn all Solicitors to hell.  Wedding stopped at last minute, attic door still barred, and farmer wants compensation for loss of Wyfe.  Told the impudent fellow to get himself another.  Jayne Er gone off in a sulk.  Never did like a woman with warts anyway.  How I miss Jamaica.  Spent the evening poring over favourite book, Blacke Wymmen in Interesting Poses.

August 31st.  Women!   Grace Poole comes to tell me she is the happiest woman alive and she is going to California to start a new life with my Wyfe!  Asks for one hundred pounds to found new Religion.  Offer the hussy a taste of my whip instead, they leave without so much as a goodbye!  Housekeeper has eloped with Gamekeeper.  Fell asleep over new book of woodcuts by famous explorer (Naked Wymmen I Have Known), knocked over candle and burned house to the ground.  All my hunting trophies gone forever!  Lost one hand and eyesight.

*********

June 5th.  Bored. New Housekeeper tells me she will take dictation.  Decide to take up diary again.

June 6th New Housekeeper reads letter from America.  All members of new Religion killed when asked to demonstrate faith in a snakepit.  Grace Poole strangled seventeen before one foolhardy serpent slid inside her skirts and bit her on the Buttock.  Both died in agony.  Jayne Er turns up and announces she will marry me.  Ask her if she’s still plain.  She says Sir, I cannot tell a lie, an enchantment was placed upon me so that I am now the fairest of women is it really true that you see nothing? Touched by this show of concern. Decide to marry the wench.

August 12th.  It’s a miracle, eyesight is returning.  Run to stables, saddle hunter and ride all day.  Later find Jayne in her parlour.  She looks up at me from her sewing.  A shaft of sunlight falls across her face – damn damn damn damn DAMN

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Saving money in these difficult times

A member of the aristocracy, who prefers to remain anonymous, has been sharing her words of wisdom with our reporter Lesley Bown.

I was chatting to Bertie only the other day about this so-called ‘credit crunch.’  ‘Bertie,’ I said, ‘What about this so-called credit crunch?’  ‘Lunch?’ he said, ‘Jolly good idea old thing, ring the bell there’s a good girl.’  So, as usual, it was down to Yours Truly to come up with a solution.

And, as usual, I came up with a simply brilliant idea.  I was under the dryer down at Maison Kevin and I found myself leafing through an old copy of a camping and caravanning magazine.  It came to me in a flash – instead of popping across to Tuscany as per usual we would buy a caravan and save absolutely heaps of money.  After all, once you have bought it you can use it again and again, just like a Rolls or a Bentley.  Instantly I gave the order to cancel Country Life and join the Caravan and Motorhome Club.

A quick visit to a local dealer brought the alarming discovery that the Rolls has not got a tow bar (you’d think it would be standard equipment).  And that was the end of the caravan idea. Still I am not one to give up at the first hurdle.  Before you could say Featherstonehaugh Chomondley I had sold the Rolls back to the wretched man and replaced it with our very own motor camping van. Since the person at the garage assured me it was ‘pre-loved’, I naturally assumed that it already contained all the cons, mod or otherwise, that a person could desire.

It was the work of a moment to pop the dogs into the ‘garage’ (a large mysterious space at the back, quite big enough for a couple of Labradors) and with Bertie snoozing in the passenger seat we hit the open road.  I must have some gypsy blood sloshing around in amongst all the blue stuff because honestly, I was as excited as a gal at her first Regimental Dinner.  We had a map and a camping site guide.  Freedom beckoned!

Alas, our first trip was a disaster over which I shall draw a discreet veil, although I had a very stern word with the garage man on our return.  Pre-loved indeed.

I should have paid more attention to those pages of the magazine devoted to living on board and also to what I believe is called ‘customerizing’ one’s motor camping van. So I turned to the wisdom of the interwideweb and soon discovered the wonderful things that can be achieved with a little creative thought and a few basic DIY skills.  However there were some omissions in the articles that I have to say I found quite startling and which left me with no option but to work out my own solutions – more brilliance required from Yours Truly!  And thanks to me our vehicle is truly a palace on wheels and I feel it incumbent on me to share my knowledge with the world.

The first little tip is, however many berths you have in your ‘van it is simply foolish to allow the butler to use one of them.  The thing to do is to send the man on ahead with a pup tent, which will be quite adequate for his needs.  With judicious planning it should be possible for him to serve one’s breakfast at home and be on the camping site ready with lunch just as one arrives.

Next, there is no need to go to all the trouble and expense of procuring hothouse lilies, (although by all means, if the gardener is able to provide them, you may as well enjoy their scent).  But a few blooms from the rose garden in a simple cut glass vase will provide an elegant focal point for your living area.  I designed a shelf to fit in the gap between the washroom wall and the TV cupboard.  In walnut veneer with a French polished surface it is every bit as elegant as the Sheraton sofa table in the drawing room in the Manor.

Making the shelf was perfectly simple – there is a little man in the village who does all that sort of thing for one, and of course his wife is quite capable of making the new velvet curtains with swags and pelmets to replace the rather mean window dressings supplied with the van.  While she had the Singer out it took very little extra effort for her to add the finishing touches to the four poster that her husband had cleverly inserted into the space previously occupied by the very inadequate fixed bed.

Do not, of course, pack the best china.  The Sèvres dinner service is hardly appropriate and you can ‘rough it’ perfectly well with the second best Royal Worcester.  One little tip that is well worth remembering is that Grandma’s silver teapot is unbreakable and ideal for a camping ‘brew-up’, as I believe it’s called.

And finally do not waste part of your precious payload carrying logs, kindling and firelighters – they are heavy and try as you might you won’t find a fireplace anywhere in a motor caravan – something of an oversight that I intend to write to the manufacturers about.  Poor Bertie has to stick his feet under the grill to achieve his favourite toasty warm sensation in his lower limbs.

I think you’ll find that if you follow my advice you’ll have a perfectly charming time in your motoring home van without spending a fortune, and still manage to live in the style to which we are all accustomed.  However I do not recommend staying away from home for too long – after a week without fingerbowls even the strongest among us begins to quail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNOWFLAKE

Snowflake ©Lesley Bown 2019

So I’m like, Mum, I gotta go up town.  And she’s like ignoring me and I’m like – Mum, I really really gotta go up town, I got some serious shopping to do.  And she’s like ignoring me and I’m like shouting MOTHER!  Get your face outa that sudoku, you ain’t never gonna crack it and I gotta go shopping.  And she’s like, Get the bus.

Bus!  Bus!  I don’t get no buses, right.  So I go round Chelsee’s house, and we’re like watching tv news and there’s this like blown up bus and I’m like Oh my god, I coulda bin on that bus and she’s like no you never, you never even got outa bed till half past twelve, that was a early morning bus.  And I’m like yeah but, it coulda happened later on and I coulda took the bus and then she’da bin sorry for not giving me that lift.

Then I’m like, Let’s go shopping Chel and she’s like, No, I’m going up the countryside.  Some woman on radio says anyone can go.  I’m like, No, you’re kidding me and she goes Yeah, really they got plants and sheep and stuff and anyone can go right?

Plants and sheep?  Plants and sheep ain’t got no bling man, know what I mean?  So I’m like, Yeah, but the Tube’s closed and I’m not going on no bus never again and what they’re saying on tv is, like, is your journey really necessary?  Plus, Chel, plus where is it?  Eh?  Where is the countryside?  And she goes, S’alright, we can get a taxi.  Taxi’ll drop us off right there, plus the driver’s gonna know where it is, right?

So I’m going Listen, dummy, you don’t get no Wayne and Colleen going up no countryside, right?  She’s like, Wrong, doh, he goes up football, dunnee?  And football’s got grass innit?

So we’re going up the countryside to try the simple life, right, Chel’s got her mobile and we’ve got water and factor 20 and sunhats and money for the shops and she’s just doing her makeup while I phone for a taxi and guess what – no taxis.  Not one.

I’m like, There’s no taxis Chel let’s go up McDonalds and she’s like, No, we’ll go round my Nan’s and get a lift.  I’m like I am not going up no countryside with your Nan Chel and she’s like Get out that door girlfriend before I pushes you out.

So we’re up her Nan’s but there’s no sign of life, curtains all closed and that, I’m like Oh my god Chelsee your Nan’s only gone and snuffed it.  So Chelsea’s crying and I’m banging on the door and Fatima from next door comes round with the spare key (‘cos Nan’s always losing her key) and we go inside and run up the stairs and there’s Chelsea’s Nan in bed, she’s only got Winston the paper boy in there with her and she’s like You lot can just piss off I’m getting me leg over it’s all the rage for us old birds nowadays.

So Chelsea needs a fag after that lot and I’m like, Forget the countryside, right Chel?  And she’s like, No, I will not forget the countryside I have got my heart set on the countryside and I am going up the school field  ‘Course we both forget there ain’t no school field no more they put a Tesco’s there instead.  So we go in the Tesco and I’m like Let’s get a lamb tikka Chel, it’s a sheep innit?  And she’s like, has it got any plants in it?  So we get a sag alloo as well and some crisps and then we walk home and Mum’s like Give us a crisp then and I’m like What?  I just had to walk all the way from Tesco and now you want a crisp?  No lift no crisp, end of.

 

Book Review: “Pavarotti and Pancakes” by Francesco Granieri

Interesting book review.

Dan Santos Book Reviews

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Pavarotti and Pancakes” is easily the best memoir I have read in the past ten years, Colin Powell’s and Tiger Woods’ included. It has the authenticity that makes a memoir respectable; a deep from the heart cry in the dark, if you will. Francesco’s writing enthralls; the style is compelling and reminiscent of the fireside storytelling tradition of Southern Europe. He certainly follows Hemingway’s advice to write hard and clear about what hurts.

The scene is familiar to those of us who share a Mediterranean heritage: strong emotions, a sense of family doom around each corner, intense loyalty and unrecognized courage. Put all of these together with the author’s incredible writing skills and you have a winner deserving The New York Times’ unparalleled praise and film makers rushing to buy the rights for what must be an Oscar winning…

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Mother’s Day Blues

I get the feeling from a few online things that Mother’s Day must be soon.  I do not do Mother’s Day, I’m not interested in a few tatty daffs and a lopsided drawing in return for a whole year of devotion.  Anyway it’s been thoroughly commercialised and is just another way of teaching kids to be consumers.

I’ve always said to my family Every Day Here Is Mother’s Day.  By which I meant try to have a little respect and lay the table once in a while without being asked.  And also bear in mind that this means you don’t have to spend your pocket money on tatty daffs.

It worked, with the pleasing side effect that it taught them to question convention.  Of course they also quickly realised that once a year there was one sure fire way to wind me up…

 

Why Do We Have the Oscars?

Silver Screenings

The first televised Academy Awards in 1953. Image: The Hollywood Reporter

No one can say for certain who gave the name “Oscar” to the Academy Awards statuette.

Bette Davis said it was she, because it reminded her of then-husband Harmon O. (Oscar) Nelson. Some say the Academy librarian, Margaret Herrick, named it after her Uncle Oscar. Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky says he named the statuette Oscar to “erase the phony dignity”.¹

But there is no disputing the driving force behind the Academy and its awards: MGM co-founder and producer, Louis B. Mayer.

According to the reproachful Anthony Holden, author of Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards, the whole business started because Mayer wanted to build a beach house.

(Now, if you’ve been employed for any length of time, you know how it goes when your boss asks you to work…

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Gullible?

One day my daughter came home from school and told me earnestly ‘gullible isn’t in the dictionary mummy.’  So we fetched the dictionary and looked it up and there it was.  Gullible -‘easily persuaded to believe something whether true or not.’  She was of course humiliated and furious with the kids who’d tricked her, but you know what, she learnt to check things before she believed them.

I feel like telling my friends, or at least most of them, that gullible isn’t in the dictionary, in the hopes of creating the same life-long caution, because they seem to happily post, or re-post, any old nonsense.  In the last few days I’ve been told that Facebook doesn’t let you see your friends’ posts, if you put your pin into the ATM backwards it calls the police, and there is a secret code on your cell phone that alerts the police in an emergency even when there is no signal.

All of them read like hoaxes to me and a combination of thought and careful googling proved me right.  It took less than 30 seconds and yet my friends, mostly educated successful and intelligent people, had cheerfully promulgated the nonsense without checking.  I of course point it out to them, as tactfully as possible, and the response is something like ‘ooops, silly me.’

Ooops?  Is that it?  Will ooops help you when you’re trapped by a rapist and think ‘never mind, my phone will call the police even though there’s no signal’?  Will ooops help an old person under duress desperately trying, through their panic, to work out what their pin is backwards?  No, of course not.

These hoaxes are potentially dangerous.  We all need to be more sceptical.  Not more gullible.