Saturday, July 23

Another Day at Branksome Hall

“Time rolls his ceaseless course……” I’ve been reading Tregonning’s “Lives of Sir Walter Scott”, and have to confess I’ve been more than a little surprised by the number of fishing stories in it. Trout in The Fegg, perch in The Whye?, hembling in The Mough… they go on and on, and there’s only so much I can read about bait and mud on your boots before I want to get back to Sir Walter and his indoor affairs. They are pretty interesting, especially Chapter 14. That’s no way to treat a ferret, even a 19th century one.

Coincidentally, I received a letter a few days ago from my friend Philip Bauche. I say friend, but I’m stretching the meaning of the word almost to breaking point. I once let him use my name as a reference when he applied for a temporary job at a Wendy’s in Nebraska, and you wouldn’t believe the mail I now get from that cowboy world… “junk” would be too kind a word to describe it, although there’s been one exception. The letters I get from Mo are really nice. I just have doubts about the way she describes herself. Anyway, Bauche wrote to say he liked my poem “Fortune’s Bag Lady”, which was in a recent thing somewhere. Which would be good, but I’ve never written a poem called “Fortune’s Bag Lady”. At least, not that I remember. Is someone stealing my name? I once before had someone plagiarize my work. They took this great idea I had used in a poem – an image, I guess you’d say - and they took it and used it in their own poem, albeit less elegantly and way less gracefully. They also left out the wit. At the time I was very angry, “but with the morning cool reflection came.” It’s a weird feeling, though. Probably a bit like you feel after having your car stolen.

Which reminds me. The same day Bauche’s letter arrived, I’d been engrossed in my morning “toilet” at 6 a.m. when there was an almighty screeching and squealing of tyres outside, followed immediately by a scrunching and crunching of metal and plastic. I dashed outside, first making sure I was decent, and I was just in time to see a black guy sprinting for all he was worth up our road. And yes, that was a policeman sprinting in his wake. I looked around, and a black (driverless) Ford Focus was embedded in the side of our building, very well scrunched up, and with steam and things coming out of its orifices. A police car was pulled up behind it. Then another police car arrived. Then, much more spectacularly, another police car arrived, this time with a slamming on of brakes and a burning of rubber. It stopped right by me, and one of our upholders of law and order poked his head out of the driver’s window and asked me “which way did they go?”… I was thrilled. It was like being in an episode of "The Bill", or "Starsky and Hutch" . And yes, I did: I pointed, and said “They went that-a-way…” And the police car shot off with more burning rubber and screeching, and I went back indoors and continued with my morning toilet, making a mental note to let the landlord know that the building had been dented. It was all very exciting for about two and a half minutes.

Later that same day I popped into Waterstone’s for a book, but couldn’t find one. So I went to the Oxfam shop instead, and picked up a secondhand copy of Sir Montague Burl’s “An Englishman's Travels In China”. I intend going to China later in the year, and so I figured it would be a useful work of reference. And it would have been, if I’d been planning a trip in 1922. Whatever, it's a very nice book. The cover is mainly green.

“To all, to each! a fair good-night,
And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light.”

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