Extracts

IMG_20141106_163853a

 

From The Fast Set:

He was not merely hunting for treasure during these weekends. Rather, he was searching for either the perfect metal detector or the one authentic spiritualist who could intuit the presence of metals beneath the earth.

How did he conduct these searches? He sealed up the family silverware, coin collection and jewellery in biscuit tins and buried these around the garden. Whichever hopeful prospector had turned up that day – mystic; diviner; or technician cheerlessly brandishing some hulking mass of valves and batteries – would have to find whatever Campbell had hidden in the grounds while the latter stood back, frowning. None of them ever succeeded and Campbell would then banish them,  while at the same time itemising still more of his possessions to inter for the next visit.

To retrieve his buried possessions, he had, of course, to find them himself. So before their burial, he made sure to set out a clear list of instructions, detailing the location of each cache of valuables. But this was buried treasure he was looking for, not a gas main: it had its own conventions, its own aesthetic. The instructions he drew up were couched in the style of Treasure Island or Chums magazine. There were few specifics, but a great deal of pacing distances out in strides of indeterminate length, from starting points which were not always accurately pinpointed. The result was that some of his property never saw the light of day again.

From The Guardian:

There is a park. It’s not like say, Tufnell Park, where there isn’t. There’s Bush Hill Park, a mangled L shape up against the A110, ghostly litter dancing across it, a bloke in a car coat taking the dog out for a crap. And? A couple of schoolboys bunking off in Belford’s Pizzas & Burgers, bits of low-rise roughcast council estate with the usual incompetent graffiti, very old ladies in pairs, Frank Hall the Butcher and Poulterer with his blind down, an old level crossing like you don’t see any more, Viennese Fingers in the cake-shop window as if it was still 1953, weak spring sunshine, silence. So that’s that, back up the A10 and out of here; well, you can do it in ten minutes, why stay?

Because Bush Hill Park is like two sisters out of a story. There’s this tired, morose one on the east side of the railway tracks, brown and grey, and dresses in Littlewoods; but on the west side, the other sister trained as a solicitor before starting a family and feels she could do better, sometimes, than shopping for stuff in Enfield Town. This one has got things more her own way. I mean, look at the parade of shops by the station: women’s fitness centre, Venus fully licensed restaurant, Margaret’s Fashions (defunct, and she was so nice), pre-prep school on the corner.

Bush Hill Park on the east side is quiet, but Bush Hill Park on the west is beyond quiet, into a world of silent enigma, so still and dreamlike that you can’t feel your feet any more as you walk, and you stand and stare into the dark, noiseless windows, guessing at the life that might go on inside. There’s a man standing outside the sandwich shop, angrily wrestling a hosepipe, but he’s part of the dream too, like a Laocoon.

From Them And Us:

His father, former Lord of the Bedchamber to Prince Albert, allegedly expressed horror at the prospect of his son marrying ‘a little American savage’. But on 22 May 1876, Viscount Mandeville and Consuelo Yznaga del Valle were married at Grace Church, Manhattan. The ceremony was performed by the Revd Morgan Dix, DD, and the bride wore a white satin damask brocade, richly trimmed with lace. Diamond stars sat in her hair. Minnie Stevens was a bridesmaid. No fewer than 1,400 people attended and, as the New York Times observed, ‘One of the most brilliant affairs of the season was the marriage at Grace Church, yesterday, of George Victor Drogo, Viscount Mandeville, to Miss Consuelo Yznaga. Lord Mandeville is an English nobleman, who has visited the country several times.’

Unfortunately, Mandeville was also a gilded fraud: dissolute, spendthrift, incorrigibly selfish. No sooner had he sired the young William Drogo Montagu, Lord Kimbolton (‘Little Kim’, as he was known; eventually to become Lord Mandeville and finally, the 9th Duke) than he disappeared into a netherworld of partying, gaming and drinking from which only self-interest and a need to stay ahead of his creditors would eventually extricate him. A mere two years into her marriage, Consuelo Mandeville felt obliged to reply thus to a dinner invitation from Frances, Countess Waldegrave: ‘Mandeville is yachting with the Gosfords and his movements are so erratic that I think I had better say he won’t come with me on Sunday, nor on the 13th either. He so often disappoints me that I generally make my mind up to go without him.’

From Sediment:

The stuff I unwisely acquired courtesy of my brother-in-law is still with us. I’ve worked out that the least worst way to get through a bottle us to let it breathe for a day and take the first glassful very cautiously indeed. On this basis I have managed to eliminate a couple from the gaudy heap in the kitchen, only it doesn’t seem to matter how many I dispose of, the same number of untouched bottles always seems to remain, lying in wait for me. Either I’m trapped in a tale of the occult, a W. W. Jacobs story, or something by Conan Doyle, or for that matter a variation on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; or it’s guerilla warfare, in which the kitchen has become French Indo-China and I am forever swatting back the forces of the Viet Minh only to see them regroup in larger numbers in a slightly different part of the wine rack. It is not a good way to be.

I Google what to do with a lot of really bad wine, which turns up some interesting suggestions. Make casseroles with it is an obvious one, but turn it into sangria rings the changes, as does bathe in it (it’s vinotherapy, and keeps your sking supple), use it as dye (for that artisanal look), add it to the compost, or make it into wine jelly. Interesting but somehow not persuasive. And not close enough to just drinking it, which is the circle I want to square. The tragedy (it now appears) is that my filthy CDR is not white. Had it been white, it would at least have allowed me to chuck in some Creme de Cassis or Noix to adulterate the taste and get through it that way.

Sullenly I open a bottle of Minervois, bought from somewhere, a supermarket probably, to take my mind off things. Only to discover that the mainstream Minervois is almost as repulsive as the CDR. Why should this be? But before I have time to query the testimony of my own senses, the ground opens up beneath my feet and Hell gapes as I realise that this is the way the story is unfolding: all my other reds now taste as bad as the CDR and will continue to taste as bad, until I finish off the CDR – which I can never do.

From Up North:

Later on, though, the pub’s character changed. The office workers shrugged their cares back onto their shoulders returned to their homes in Altrincham and Cheadle, to get into pointless fights with their wives and children and to dream of being rich. By ten o’clock at night, there was a real this-is-another country feel to the place. It was about half full and the clientele was mainly composed of awesomely decrepit men and women. Not tramps, exactly, merely people who were short of a good few teeth, had a taste for heavily torn and stained clothing and the kind of hair that looked as if it might have been used for something. In the first half of this century, wrecked old Manchester indigents used to tie rashers of bacon over their chests in the autumn to protect themselves against the winter’s smog. These people still appeared to be wearing the bacon. Moreover, a woman in her forties or possibly fifties (or possibly thirties if life had dealt her a really bum hand) was standing in front of a crowd of seated drunks, brandishing a plucked chicken (still with its feet, head, legs and so on) and performing indecent acts upon the corpse. She was getting some big laughs.

‘I told ‘im to stick ‘is ‘ead up ‘is arse but I didn’t think ‘e’d fookin’ take me literally!’ she barked, sticking the bird’s head up its back passage. ‘Dark up there! Fookin’ dark up there!’

‘Fookin’ dark!’ agreed another woman, nursing a mild and bitter.

‘I think I’ll ‘ave a look meself!’

Her audience was in that state of extreme beeriness in which people either cackle uncontrollably and then slump tearfully on top of each other, or start chucking glasses about. She took the chicken’s head out of its bum and had a look.

‘It is fookin’ dark up there, an’ all!’

More gales of scented laughter, then she dropped the chicken and sat down heavily on an ageing greaser who had forearms like Popeye, all covered in tattoos. She got a round of applause. Further down the pub, a short, grey-haired woman was head-butting a fruit machine.

Advertisements