Travel plans

I’ll need twenty camels to carry my women, and make sure the kedgways are decently covered with scarlet cloth. Ensure the beasts are sturdy and well watered (the camels, not the women).

So saying, I went inside and placed an offering on the altar of Gadzoum al Buzzoom.

Then I called my astrologer and ordered him to name the most auspicious day for my departure.

— Thursday looks good.

Why pronounce you thus, Purveyor of Ancient Wisdom?

— 10% off at Booking.com. Must end Friday.


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Poetry & prose

Spot of lunch with Dylan,
then a hand or two of whist,
then off to Juicy Lucy’s
to get completely pi—ed.

Oh the life of the poet
is the only life for me.
Keep your dull, unmeasured prose,
I’ll stick with poetry.


Book review

Chapter One was very good,
our hero starting out.

Chapter Two dragged on a bit,
our hero wracked with doubt.

Chapter Three, not for me,
too much dialog.

Chapter Four I did enjoy,
the vampire in the fog.

Chapter Five, the brothel scene,
(they don’t teach that in school).

Chapter Six, OMG!
— she really was a ghoul!

Chapter Seven, at the morgue,
the zombie and the creep.

Chapter Eight, I can’t relate,
cos then I fell asleep.


 

Helpline

I was searching for a word to rhyme with candour when the phone rang.

Hello. Who’s this?

Alexander.

Who?

We met at the Goose & Gander.

Sorry, I don’t…

You must remember me! I was dressed as a salamander.

Sorry, I can’t…

The New Year Ball? You were dressed as a Space Commander.

That’s right, I was. But I don’t…

And you offered me a back-hander.

I what?

You offered me a back-hander so you could philander with Leander.

But that’s slander!

There you go. Bye.


 

Breakfast at Dauphigny’s

—  Have you voltaired, Lionel?

— No, but I’ve twemlowed like billy-o!

— Don’t be crude, Lionel, especially at the breakfast table!

— Twemlow tells a cracking story. Le Salon de Mme Anueil…

— Stop it at once! Tosh and flim-flam! What about you, Jocasta? What are you reading?

— I’m reading Robespierre on the duties of government, Mama.

— Oh how exciting! Are you enjoying it?

— Well yes, up to a point.

— Oh dear! Is there some obstacle, some entrave, to your reading pleasure?

— There’s just too much Montesquieu in his thinking, Mama. It rankles.

— That’s certainly true, Jocasta. Well observed! He was steeped in Montesquieu, and lacked the largesse to admit it.

— You agree with her about everything!

— That’s not true, Lionel, and you know it. We differ sharply on the Council of Trent, for instance, and on the centrality of la tendresse in human affaires.

— We don’t disagree on that, Mama. Only our paths diverge…

— Well put, Jocasta! More chocolat?

— I hate that chocolate. Makes me puke.

— Stop it, Lionel, at once! You’re just like your father!

— Where is Father, by the way? Why does he never come home?


 

The line of duty

I was spotted recently at the royal wedding, and ever since then my phone hasn’t stopped ringing:

— Was that you with the 7th Earl of Melmontshire?

— Was that you with Demerara De Courcy-Devereux? Is she as delightful as they say?

— Was that you with Prince Percival Poggenpohl von Schoenberg-Schlesvig-Holstein?

— Was that you shagging a horse behind the privet hedge?

Of course, one doesn’t confirm or deny anything, but I refer the interested reader to the next editions of Town & Country and Horse & Garter, and to my forthcoming Compendium of Upper-class Nancy-boys & Tarts (C-NTS).

All in the line of duty.


 

Ap-palling

The recent outbreak of Appalling Punning (AP) has reached ceramic proportions:

— Our hotel offers ceramic views across the lake.

— Just add a dash of ceramic vinegar, and toss.

— Is IS developing a ceramic bomb?

A leading ceramic at Harvard University commented: ‘We’ve noticed that outbreaks of AP tend to occur during times of ceramic downturn. People are bored and depressed, and will do anything for ceramic effect. AP can be spread through ceramic syringes, and can cause ceramic upheaval to the ceramic nerve.

If you’re infected with AP, take ceramic acid immediately, and call the Ceramic Duo.

And if that doesn’t work, you can always blame the Ceramic State.’


 

The onset

Like most people, I stopped buying from Rolls Royce in 2002, following the ‘faux mahogany’ scandal.  I can still remember when that story broke, just as I was shimmering down the Boulevard Raspail in a Silver Shadow II  (the two-door version, by Mulliner Park Ward). I stopped at the nearest Concessionnaire and traded it in for an Aston Martin DB7 Zagato.

But now, almost two decades later, I’m beginning to re-assess my thinking on that memorable day. Is it age, perhaps, and with it, the onset of wisdom? Or is it that indefinable quality that only Rolls Royce can offer the true devotee?

No, it’s just that some bastard stole my car, and I’ve got to get home. Nanny’s made a special cake for my birthday.


 

Twemlow’s Herbarium

Acacia Hermetica, good for snakebite.
Arsesmart, a balm for all manner of evil.
Aqua Salva, can revive a dead cow.
Aqua Vita, can quell a noisy beldam.
Belmain, prevents scrofulus in lawyers and infants.
Bishop’s Crowbar, disperses wicked thoughts.
Blinny, blent with cowslips, is good for sickly porkers.
Derbyshire Kale, induces night-sweats and fevers.
Chickwort, a salve for knotted pilbeams; also good against earthquakes.
Duckweed, cures all manner of pustules, black kelbs, and botches.
Fumaria, eases the bilious flux in geese and clergy.
Horse Tar, applied to the nether lips, can cure the scummox.
Ibex Cincinnatus, cools the brainpan and relieves guilt.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, good for pregnant beldams.
Lemanwort, good against hypocrites.
Sorrel, taken at night, a caustic for pungency.
Tincture of Bezel, good against calamity.
Trumpwort, good for a laugh.
Verba Ludica, good for a lively brainpan.


Society column

Mantled in Murmansk mink, Leonora Cazenove stepped gracefully from a cab in Drury Lane, amid a throng of well-wishers. She looked radiant in a Chloe Deluce evening dress and sequined shoes by Patrice. Her escort for the evening, Honeyfritz Belmondo, was effervescent in a velvet ensemble and a crimson Oscar Wilde hat.  He smiled and waved flamboyantly to the crowd, while Leonora, more reserved, glided quickly into the brilliantly-lit foyer. The fabulous pair had arrived for the opening night of Give Us a Dab o’ That, a light-hearted farce from the pen of Lionel Smooch.

This is the third time the celebrity duo have been spotted together, so rumours are swirling about in the beau-monde. Has Leonora found love again, following her very public split from Joachim Cumbersnatch? Can playboy Honeyfritz finally put an end to those sordid rumours about his personal life? I, for one, have never believed the catty innuendae of the gutter press (though the hat doesn’t help, Honeyfritz, dear), and I wish the couple several weeks of happiness together.


Captain Tandy addresses his crew, Portsmouth Harbour, 12 May AD 1846.

Welcome aboard, men! We’re about to cast off on our great adventure! But before we do, remember this:

A ship without men is like a dog without a tail. A dog can’t wag its tail if it hasn’t got one, and a man without a ship…. I mean a ship without a sail can’t wag the dog, in either direction. No! A voyage like ours calls for loyalty, paternity, lobotomy, deuteronomy — all the things we’ve cherished since boyhood, all those years ago, when we were callow lads up to no good behind the….  And just as a boy loves his dog, even if it has no tail, a sailor loves his ship, even if it has no boy.

And remember this too, men: The sea is a cruel mistress. Oh, by G—d, she is cruel! She grabs a man by the twemlows and never lets go. Yes men, it will be a long voyage and a hard one. That much is self-evident!  But we must never forget…. never forget!…. that victory is the handmaid of hard work, and hard work maketh the man, and the man is mightier than the sword that launched a thousand ships that pass in the night. In the words of Ebeneezer Squeeze of Yarmouth….

We’re losing the light, Captain. 

Thank you, Mr Pilbeam. That’s right: Boozing at night will not be permitted on board, at any time! Any man found innoculated will be hanged from the topgallant, and any man who is not hanged will be incarcerated by the light of the silvery moon that passeth all understanding. Yes, very soon, by the light of the moon, we’ll cast off upon life’s great ocean, like a dog without a pail…. a boy without a tail…. a pale moon shining on the silvery sea, so bring back my bonny young lassie to me. In the words of Philip the Flippant of Flanders….

Cast off! Cast off!

….and all who sail in her.


 

Tell you what

A frowsy dratchell meets a drab fustilugs in Fosdyke Drive.

— Awright?

— I could just as well be a feather duster.

— Yes, and I could just as well be a dried fig.

— We’d be better off on Delmar’s Freeway, where the morning sun caresses and soothes the harried hag.

— Not just the harried hag, but the bespattered beldam too.

— Tell you what: you be a frowsy fustilugs and I’ll be a drab dratchell. Then we could head over to Fermor’s Fields, or even the Dreyfuss District.

— Or…. you be a harried hag and I’ll be a bespattered beldam. Then we could trip the light fantastic either at Holden Hall or in Busby’s Boulevard.

— Oh, the horror of choice!

— Tell you what: we’ll have a word with Catweazle. He needs all the help he can get today.


The calculated life

I’ve always been artistic
and really quite refined.
My tea is sweet verbena
and my socks are satin-lined.

One likes to nibble fruitcake
while one reads the New York Times,
starting with the book reviews
— their critics are sublime!

They tear an author’s work to shreds
in calculated prose,
while I nibble on my fruitcake
and scratch my knowing nose.

It’s not an easy life, of course,
the life of the aesthete,
but it helps to nibble fruitcake,
and wear satin on one’s feet.


Save the twemlow!

Did you know that at the present rate of decline, the twemlow could be extinct within the next 4,000 years?

Have your seamstress fashion a gallipoke for you, and make a strong statement about the wholesale slaughter of the lesser crested twemlow in Nova Zembla.

It doesn’t have to be a calmet or even a pilbeam — just a simple, hand-sewn gallipoke makes a powerful statement in these wicked times.

And remember to Like us on Facebook.


 

On the line

On the subject of railway couplings, Twemlow speaks very highly of the Sprat & Winkle system, for its ‘reliability’, while Pilbeam admires the ‘simplicity’ of the Wilmot & Pryce.

For me, however, the Stanhope Quadrant system is very hard to beat. No, it’s not simple, but why should it be? When you’re responsible for the lives of thousands of rail passengers every day, is ‘simplicity’ really such a desirable feature? And consider this: will ‘reliability’ ease your pain as you lie dying in a pool of blood beside a railway track, one leg in the carriage and the other in a field of new-mown hay?

So I’ll stick with the Stanhope Quadrant, thank you very much, and let irresponsible murderous bastards speak for other coupling systems.

My conscience is clear.


 

My story

About a month after Ellie died I went on a fishing trip to Lake Cheekbyjowl, way up north of here.

I was out on the lake one afternoon when a storm blew up. A nor’easterly came screaming round the bluff at Nokanook Falls and near tore the pines off Sesqueleeguek Ridge. Out on the lake, the water heaved and riled and rolled my boat every which-way, till I was tossing around out there like a cork, and hanging on to the gunwale for dear life. I was near blinded by wind and rain, but I finally made it to shore near Toohahaha and lashed the boat to an old pontoon.  I hunkered down in some scree and brushwood they got there, just below an overhang, and that way I rode out the storm.

I thought about Ellie as I crouched there, how she would’ve said I was a stupid bastard for going out in the first place, how I got what I deserved. She was always more cruel than any storm.  I never said she deserved to get cancer, though I did think it at the time.

Of course, it was nothing but dumb luck that I survived at all: four men died that day on the lake, and two more near the timberline on Mount Davis.

But for me, the biggest loss that day was my old reefer knife, that I’d had since I was a boy. It must’ve slipped through a runnel or something when the water rolled the boat. It had a beautiful clamshell handle, and always cut like a dream, even when it was wet. That knife was a real friend to me for many years, and I don’t have many friends. Don’t need ‘em, do I?

So yeah, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.


 

Ask Dad

Today is the birthday of Solomon (Sol) Meldew, born in 1915 to poor immigrant parents in Twemlow, West Virginia. He studied engineering at college, but dropped out after only one year, and headed to New York. Aged just 20, he had little experience of city life and soon fell in with the wrong crowd: poets, novelists, and artists — what his father used to call ‘the scum of the scum of the earth’.

But scum seemed to suit Sol, and his first collection of poems, Wherefore the Vision? was published in 1937. While giving a poetry reading at Columbia University, he was attacked by a hothead in the audience (a fan of Eliot, apparently), and was seriously injured. While recovering in hospital, Sol fell in love with his nurse, Mary Ellen Rosetti. They married in 1946.  Sol wrote: ‘Mary Ellen meant the world to me, and I think she gave my poetry a whole new depth. A woman can do that, you know.’

His next collection, Storm over Twemlow (1948) was gritty, hard-hitting, and seethed with anger about his childhood, his family, and small-town America. It won the National Book Award, and Sol’s reputation as a poet was secured.

From then on, he wrote nothing. He became what his father called ‘a lousy stinkin’ bum who couldn’t write to save a dog from drownin’.’ Which is exactly what happened: in 1956, Mary Ellen’s beloved dog, Spangles, was drowned in the East River, while Sol stood by, his inkhorn dry, writing nothing. The couple were divorced shortly after, and Sol moved to a trailer park in Pilbeam, Missouri. His National Book Award was officially withdrawn, and was given instead to his father, for his ‘prophetic vision that looks unflinchingly into the hearts of men’.

Today, Sol is best remembered for being forgotten. He died alone in 1960 and was buried at Mount Oblivion. It was said that Mary Ellen visited his grave once a year, to spit. Sol’s father went on to host his own radio talkshow, Meldew Moments (1961-66), where he made famous the catchphrase Aaaask Daddy!


 

From the top

After putting the Ferrari through its paces on the Avenue des Etoiles, I like to relax on the patio with a tisane of Osmanthus tea, which is specially made for me by my good friend Theo, at the Pavilion de Thé, in Montparnasse. It’s a wonderful blend of dried flowers from the sweet olive tree and leaves from the Chinese Kotsa bush, commonly known as Cat’s Eye. Theo is such a treasure — I simply couldn’t live without him!

Having said that, his blend of pennyworth and Korean knotweed is absolutely disgusting, and his papaya and dill tea would take the shine off a brass doorknob.

So you see, life at the top is not all pleasure. Now get back to work.


 

Bearing fruit

Now class, I want you to tell me what you think is the best profession in the world. The best profession….

Delmar, what do you think?

Emmy-Lou? Any idea?

Madison? Stop picking your nose.

Tommy – is your hand up? Yes, Tommy.

— Eh, is it writer, Miss?

Writer? Why do you say that, Tommy?

—  Well, cos, you know, without writers all the other professions would be totally meaningless, wouldn’t they?

What does your father do, Tommy?

— He’s dead, Miss.

Choose an orange from the basket, Tommy, and enjoy.


Customer care

I was opening a new box of Dalton & Bassett’s Twemlows when the phone rang.

— Hello?

Don’t eat those Twemlows!

— What?

— I said Don’t eat those Twemlows. Throw them out, right now!

— Who is this?

— Dalton.

— Who?

— Dalton, of Dalton & Bassett.

— Oh. How did you…?

— You got a bad box of Twemlows. It happens sometimes, and we’re real sorry. Throw them out. We’ll send you a new pack right away, by express courier. No charge, of course. And a hand-written apology, signed by Bassett himself.

— That’s real nice of you.

— We’re leaders in Customer Care, you know, here at Dalton & Bassett.

— Why don’t you sign it too?

— What?

— Why don’t you sign the apology too? Why just Bassett?

— Listen, punk! Don’t push me too far! I phoned ya, didn’t I? Did Bassett phone ya?

— Ooh, sorry.

— You want me to apologise twice? Maybe I should get down on my knees? Prostrate myself on the cobblestones of commerce? Is that what you want?

— Jeez, I just….

— Ok, go ahead and eat the goddam Twemlows. Stuff our face — see if I care! (Marcia, cancel that courier! And send a bunch of roses to Jack the Poisoner. In fact, give him a job. Tell him to see me tomorrow at nine.)

— I’m still here.

— Oh yeah? You got more complaints? Twemlows not sweet enough for ya? I spend my whole goddam life trying to please ungrateful bastards like you, and this is the thanks I get!

— Gotta go. Courier’s here.


 

Full bore

I don’t think I’ll ever understand Quantum Physics, at least not fully. Which is a pity, because Niels Bohr and I have a lot in common.

He was born on a Tuesday, and so was I.

His mother had varicose veins, and so had mine.

He won a prize for an essay when he was at school, and I won ten pounds on a scratch card about six months ago. I bought it in Landy’s in the High Street. Apparently, he’s had quite a few winners in recent years. I said to him ‘They should call you Lucky Landy’. He laughed.

He (Bohr) was a passionate footballer in his youth, and so was a mate of mine at work. In fact, he (my mate, not Bohr) had a trial for Sheffield United when he was a 15, though he didn’t make the grade. Which is a pity, because he was a nifty little player. Very fast, and a great reader of the game, even at that age.

He (back to Bohr) always drank tea without sugar, and I’m exactly the same. You might as well poison me as put sugar in my tea. Whereas I don’t mind sugar in coffee at all. Isn’t that strange?

So yes, there is a connection, but it’s difficult to quantify.


 

The isolato

In no small wonderment, I gazed at the isolato as he shuffled towards the shore.

‘What?’ I thought. ‘Surely he’s not heading back to sea, after spending twenty years adrift in the Indian Ocean, a stranger to human fellowship and the solace of the hearth!’

Perhaps solitude heightens the senses, for it did seem that he could read my thoughts. He turned to face me and said ’No, I’m just looking for carrageen moss. They say it yields a very calming demulcent jelly when boiled in spring water. If only I’d had it in the Indian Ocean, I mightn’t have become such an isolato.’

‘Oh well, better late than never, I suppose’.

‘What? Better late than never? It’s twenty bloody years too late, for Christ’s sake!’

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean…’

’No no, go ahead, mock the isolato! I’m fair game!’

‘Jeez! I only…’

‘You’re all the same: you see someone a bit different and you think “Oh, let’s have some fun! Let’s laugh at him and bully him and crush him and despise him and never give a thought for what he feels. I do feel, you know!’

‘I hope the moss works.’


 

Table talk

Twemlow leaned back in his chair, and said ‘Yes, gentlemen, the key to human happiness is to be content with very little. Make the most of the little you may have, and thank the good Lord for his infinite bounty.

As long as I have a bottle of champagne and a few sirloin steaks, the lack of Dijon mustard doesn’t bother me in the least. Even if the champagne is only a ’63, I’ll bridle, naturally, but I won’t let it detract from my happiness.

Of course, I could berate my sommelier and tweak his nose, but what’s the point? Likewise, my moutardier might usefully feel the weight of my boot on the seat of his pants — but no! Live and let live, I say.

Pass the garnish boat.


 

Schedule

Today, I’ll be spearheading change on a number of fronts:

In the field of socks, I’ll be foregrounding green at the expense of blue,
and in the nutrition stakes, I’ll be campaigning for burritos as a breakfast staple.

From 3pm onwards, I’ll be waving aloft the brightly-coloured flags of hope, rationality, and civility.

So look forward to a busy day ahead, and check on Twitter for regular updates.


For H.

Would it kill you to be kind?
Would you drop dead if you helped someone?
Would death ensue inexorably if you gave some cash to the needy?
Would you contract a terminal illness if you did something for someone for nothing?
Would time and space collapse if your tongue could fashion one kind word for a fellow traveller?

I could go on, but life is short.


 

Territorial twitchings

A fully-grown caddow can easily overcome and kill a chough or a magpie, but such contests are extremely rare in nature. Laplace cites only one instance (near Bruges, in 1911), and even then, experts doubt that it was really a caddow, but more likely a jackdaw, or perhaps even a burl-chough.

Of course, Laplace was known to be ‘a bit of a drinker’, and he had a whiskey nose that glowed at night, sending flocks of birds to panicked flight. He wouldn’t know a caddow from a burl-chough if they presented their business cards at the door. But I digress.

The jackdaw (Jackus dawus) is very territorial, and will defend its genetic investment to the death. In contrast, the burl-chough (Chuffus burlus) is not so tough and won’t engage in physical stough, though it has been known to mock the caddow’s tail in a good-humoured way. According to Pilbeam’s Birds of the Copse & Glade, the element “burl” in the name derives from the adjective “burly”, but this is juvenile and ridiculous.

You see, like Laplace, Pilbeam struggled for years with alcohol and drug abuse, and was often heard imitating the call of the woodspurl in the undergrowth at Balmoral. Allegations of pederasty against him were unproven at the time of his death (though there’s no smoke without fire). But I digress.

Bird fanciers are a race apart, united by a inexhaustible passion for ruffling feathers.


 

In company

I was polishing my veneer of respectability when the phone rang:

— Hey, are you free tonight?

— Why?

— There’s a party at Twemlow’s, 8 till late. Come and join us.

— Who else is going?

— The Chief of Police, two High Court judges, a slew of MPs, maybe some future bishops. Oh, and that guy who does children’s television.

So I figured, ‘I’m almost out of polish anyway, so….’


Travel talk

While travelling among the Mahoutis of Nyasaland, I picked up a rich vocabulary of terms relating to goats’ milk.

Their ‘eerggect’ is similar to the Eritrean ‘aergget’, though the second vowel is unstressed. Macauley has ‘earget’, but this is spurious. Among the Popadoms of the southern region, the term is applied to the inner skein that remains in the lacteal gourd after primary lactation in the beazer (or bezoar) goat.

Be sure to tune in next week when I’ll be discussing the vocabulary of masturbation among the early Phumblings of Phoenicia.


 

The poet in port

On my visa application it says ‘Occupation: Poet’, so the Immigration Officer said:

— Oh yeah? Wot you wrote then?

Well, ‘The Ballad of Elmer Twilb’ is one…

— Seriously? You wrote ‘The Ballad of Elmer Twilb’? Oh my God, I love that poem!’

Then he turned to a colleague at the next counter and shouted: ‘Oi, Ralf, this is the guy that wrote ‘The Ballad of Elmer Twilb’! No kidding!

His colleague hurried over, saying, ‘The Ballad of Elmer Twilb’! Oh my God! You wrote that?

Very soon a small but noisy crowd had gathered around me: handshakes, smiles, selfies.

Then the first Officer said: ‘I don’t mind telling you this: I cried…. like a baby!’

The second Officer began reciting from memory: “The burnished urn that holds the hallowed clay” —‘ God, I love that — ‘burnished urn’ — marvellous!’

1st Officer: So, where do you get your ideas from?

Self: Well, it’s very hard to say, they just… I can’t really say.

1st Officer: You must know where they come from. Can you be more specific?

Self: Not really, no. They just sort of, you know…

1st Officer: Evasive, Ralf?’

2nd Officer: Failure to disclose.

Long story short,
I got myself deported.
Leaving on the next plane,
‘Application unsupported’.


Early signs

At the tender age of seven, Twemlow tortured the family cat for hours before hanging it from a tree in the garden. He told his mother that he was testing the ‘Nine Lives Theory’.

Here already we see the chilling combination that was to mark Twemlow’s adult years: unspeakable cruelty allied with a cold, analytical mind. It was that combination — thankfully, rare — that drove him to a career as a chemistry teacher.


 

A note to the D.

The Rivers Nursery introduced the peregrin peach in 1903, and I haven’t heard a single complaint about it from that day to this. Everyone loves the peregrin peach, and the Rivers Nursery is held in high esteem around the world.

In contrast, the nuclear bomb was introduced in 1945, and I’ve heard nothing but complaints about it from Day One.

The solution is simple: turn over all weapons production to the Rivers Nursery. They’re beautiful people, believe me.


 

Technique poètique

People are fascinated by the process of poetic composition, and often ask me about my technique. It’s really not as complicated as people imagine, and I’m happy to share it here:

1. Select any book and open it at page 25.

2, Now select the word that is five lines down and two words across on that page, and make a note of it.

3. Open a different book at page 33 and select the word that is eight lines down and four words across. Again, make a note of it.

4. Continue in this way, using increments of 8, 3, 2 (for humour), 11, 3, 5 (for satire), and 14, 0, 1 (for inspirational).

5. When you reach the end of a line in any book, make a new line in your poem, and continue to calculate as before.

6. For the total number of words required, subtract the total number of pages in the first book from the corresponding number in the second book. The square of the result is the total number of words needed for your poem.

NOTE: You must begin at page 25 for every new poem, regardless of genre. There are no exceptions to this rule, unless you are unable to appreciate the difference between poetry and posturing.


 

The cure

I might take a walk into town later today, if the sun comes out. If not, I’ll spend a few blissful hours at home with Compton & Toller’s Herbal Compendium, where I have a lot of friends too.

It’s a marvellous book — over 700 pages! — with large colour photos of nearly all the herbs under discussion. They’re listed alphabetically — from Abizzia Bark to Yucca — and within each section, our authors discuss their history, how to cultivate them at home, and how to use them in cooking and/or medicine.

For most people, I think the main interest will lie in the vast range of health conditions — from Abdominal Cramps to Yeast in the Nethers —that can be treated very successfully with natural herbs. For instance, did you know that Night-blooming Pigweed is very effective against…..

Hold on, is that…?

Yes, the sun is out… woo-hoo!

Now go away.


 

Fathomless

We anchored off Cape Anticipation, and waited. Air and sea were calm, but I sensed uneasiness among the crew. Cascarino and Delamere were on the poop deck, as usual, but they were silent. They seemed watchful, hesitant. They were hauling lines, looking sometimes at each other, and sometimes, as one man, towards the shore. Then I realised the whole crew was behaving in the very same way, like mumchance concelebrants at the burial of the dead. To a man (and two dogs) the crew was looking towards Cape Demise, which lay abaft our starboard by five hundred metres.

As their Captain, I felt it my duty to try to break the spell (if spell it was) that
had been cast upon the whole of HMS Clueless. You’ll see in my Report that
I first asked Flyleaf to help me, but he, like everyone else on board, was mute,
motionless, marmoreal, immutable. So on my own account, I dragged Old Dunsinane up from my cabin and fired off a salvo  —  three loud halloos in rapid succession that shook the air and echoed off the cliffs at Bounceback Point.

But outcome came there none, out. I might as well have fired Old Dunsy under water, at forty fathoms, for all the issue it produced on the spellbound surface of the frozen earth.

As the salvo’s echo died away, and dissolved in the gathering gloom, I noticed that Partington, the cabin boy, was shivering and slavering like a rabid dog, at the foot of the mainmast. I rushed to the lad  —  for lad he was  —  and my heart bled to see him in the throes of some supernal paroxysm that wracked his slender frame. He was babbling incoherently, incessantly. It sounded like “Reefs in the Andaman Sea”, or “Keep some bananas for me”. I just couldn’t be sure. Whatever the case, my old heart misgave me to see him in such a state, and to be unable to help him. Ordinarily, I would have prepared a poultice of hot mustard and fiery twemlows, but the lad was just fourteen! What right had I to intervene? By this time, all certainty had fled the ship, and was languishing on the sand at Benighted Beach, and I was loath to follow.

I studied the coastline with heightened scruple, but to no avail. It was a bleak, desolate void, from Faraway Point to Other End Cove. A feeling of  —  what?  —  came over me. I’d felt it only once before, at Cape Slightly Alarmed, but not as keenly as now.

What happened next lies deeply engraved in the heart of  —  what? I’ll never understand it, as long as I live. It’s all in my Report.

But one thing is certain: words are beautiful, and we are infinitely blessed by their fathomless treasures.


© Gerald Nelson, 24 April  2017