Just to let you know dear, that I have finally arrived at my new demesne in Littonshire. My new abode is not quite so delightful as one might have hoped; the beige concrete frontispiece looks a trifle forbidding, and I could see how one could mistake the rectangular tower-like structure, at the far end, for a gun turret. But I could scarcely stay in my home – exposed to the view of the whole passing world – in the middle of winter, could I?
I did have a prior interview with the individual known as “Our Leader” and I’m not sure that this went as well as it might have done. I was shown into a rather down-at-heel office, which had glass on only one side – the corridor side. And ensconced on one of those black swivel chairs was a short-looking, middle-aged, male sporting a crew cut. He did shake my hand up and down and then emitted a bark, inviting me to sit down. I think, dear, he must hail formerly from one of those military camps so common, up and down the land.
“A tragedy dear Dame,” he said. “Pom-Pom has dropped by to tell me all about it. You are in luck. Seven of our 76 apartments are still to be filled. And we can certainly offer you one in the short-term.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I feel quite overcome . . . ” (with what, pet, I am not too sure).
And that was more-or-less it. I did think he might have used that more interesting phrase, pro tem, but I’m not sure that Latin would be a language commonly flung about a military mess by men in the mass.
So today I ascended in the lift to my dwelling on the second floor. I must admit to being fortunate not to have been assigned to a higher destination, and Pom-Pom’s own domain is around 50 feet further down the corridor, on the opposite side. (I have to confess to a fondness for the dear old fellow – in spite of all . . .)
I reached the door of my newly-assigned “home.” And flinched. It is painted magenta pink, and there is some kind of desiccated artificial flower arrangement in the adjacent alcove. And then I braced myself to open the door. The first thing I noticed was the rather scurfy pink carpet adorning the floor which, due to a relative lack of funds, I am presently unable to replace. The wallpaper did, also, rather catch my eye. It is salmon pink with white splashes on it – throughout. Or, at least, as throughout as it can be in a single-roomed apartment.
My furniture, or at least some of it, should be arriving shortly . . .
Ministry of Information image (1943, UK) taken by division photographer (Jack Smith?) Source: Wikimedia Commons
January 9 2000
1A The Hole, Hope End Street, CARPOOL C87 4az
Thank you for last night’s phone call. It seems that I am labouring with problems similar to those described by Harriet. I acquired a second (or fourth-) hand computer and, within days, had snapped off the “power button” completely! No hope therefore of enthralling you with a black-and-white snap of that rare beast: a male nurse from times long past.
However, I do have one success to report. While standing in a (long) queue in the hospital canteen the other day, I overheard Thule – who was some feet ahead – raving about how impressed she had been by a book entitled: “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Holstun Lopez. I leaned a little closer Auntie, nearly sinking my elbow in a runny egg yolk situated on my plate. And Thule saw me, exclaiming ‘Oh Ralph. Would you like to borrow it?’
Well. Yes. I would! I eagerly snapped up her offer, and not only for the chance that it would give me to nearly brush the hand of one with whom I was so smitten.
And then she said, ‘I will drop it off for you Ralph. It would be so heavy to transport in one of your bike panniers.’ I think that might be code, Auntie, for letting me know that she wouldn’t like it to get wet in the driving rains of Carpool in winter.
I naturally sped home at the end of my shift, viewing the approach to my bedsit, with the eyes of a male who feared that he might be judged by the plethora of crisp packets, and other detritus, littering the path to the house. And also by the rather filthy look to the net curtains adorning my window.
I engaged in a fever of activity. I grabbed my (rather shredded-looking) broom out from under the bed, and whisked all the crisp packets – and chocolate bar wrappers – over the low wall dividing one house from another. And then I ripped the net curtains off the window and plunged them into a bowl of hot water and bleach. I have to say Auntie, that I am a little concerned that the (flimsy) material might not hold up against immersion in neat (as in 100%) Chlorine . . .
By the time I had finished, the window glass gleamed and, actually, the view across the street wasn’t half as bad as I had thought it was. I could certainly see the post box glinting on the corner, in its pillar box hue of brilliant red.
And, eventually, as in the following day when I had almost given up hope, Thule drew up in a navy blue Audi estate (estates are so practical, don’t you think Auntie?) They certainly don’t point to any form of hubris on the part of their owner.
I whipped open the door as fast as possible for a man who had been having a nap on his utilitarian-looking single bed – and there was Thule standing, finally, before me and bearing a copy of “Arctic Dreams.”
She was clad in a pair of white jeans and in a white blouse speckled with very small red dots. Her almost black eyes held mine in what seemed to be a very chill sparkle – and I found myself thinking of snow, and ice, and frozen sea and of how mesmerizing a view across vastness must be.
‘I was wondering,’ she said, ‘If you would like to go for a drink in that pub up the road?’
And of course I said, yes, draping my shoulders in a black wool jacket, as we set off down the pavement with coldness stilling our features.
The pub was “a dive” really, but I don’t think it mattered all that much. We were able to talk and that’s the important thing.
‘What are you going to do when you’re qualified Ralph?’ she asked. And I didn’t know Auntie; my future is a complete haze really.
But I found myself saying, ‘I want to be a hero Thule, wherever I live and whatever I do. I have been reading the books about Il commissario Montalbano by Andrea Camilleri and this detective is the sort of man I would like to be.’
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘Because he is intelligent and introspective and brave I think,’ I said. ‘And because he reflects on himself and his actions and is willing to talk about what might be his failings. I like the fact that he is surrounded by a whole lot of deranged colleagues and deals with deranged situations. The books are funny but also they’re a commentary on the social and political wrongs of the day. Inspector Montalbano is somebody intent on making a difference – and that’s who I want to be too.’
So she smiled Auntie and rested the palm of her hand on the back of mine. Do you think my future might lie in Greenland, doing something of consequence with someone also of consequence?
That sounds absolutely grisly. But are you sure it’s wise to renew your association with Pom-Pom (never mind move in)? You know how ingenious he can be. I should instal a safe and keep your all your bank cards – and hand gun – in it!
I have both good news, and bad, myself. The good news is of more international standing. Two British women reached the South Pole a couple of days ago, and I am of a mind to celebrate their achievement (indeed, to celebrate any woman’s achievement)!
Clive, meanwhile, turned out solely to be interested in the suitability of my poetry to be in his libretto, and not at all interested in closer acquaintance with my physical person. I have to say that I was slightly offended by this for, as you know, most men hover around me like moths to the proverbial flame.
Today’s problem, however, seems to centre on the use of a net book (or is it note book) purchased some six months ago. I have not, admittedly, attempted to use the device for some time, so did expect a hiccough or two when I started it up. I believe “updates” have to be installed . . .
But Mum, the beastly Intergalactic starfinder is crawling along at a micro speed and keeps on throwing up messages along the lines of “X will not load because of a long-running script.” This is one of the (very few) times that I wish Austen was here, because his eyes would positively ignite at the prospect of solving the problem. I am, of course, in the throes of trying to construct a website for the Parade Street poetry cafe (using that very good web-hosting platform, Wobbly) and I can’t access any of my photos on the net book.
I do have one piece of actual family news. Karen has just returned from her exchange year in the US state of Maine. She phoned to ask me why I haven’t replied to any of her emails . . . She also told me that she has acquired an American boyfriend and that he is on the US cycling team! She wants to bring him round for dinner.
10 Forsythia Grove, Outer Hamlet, CORSETTSHIRE, ZY6 4GT
My Dear Harriet
I must say dear, that I have always been faintly disconcerted by the apparent forwards bulging of my house facade, but it never occurred to me that the whole front might actually fall off. However, last Monday morning, I woke up to find that I was exposed, in bed, to the whole world passing by my picket fence.
I don’t know how I didn’t hear what must have been a giant roar from the rag stone jettisoning itself on to the grass; I must have been snuffled under my arctic-rated duvet. And the ice from the early morning had crystallized upon it, and upon my hair.
My pussies, Chumley and Meribel, had heard however and – when I finally raised my eyelashes – the first thing I saw, in my new view of the world, was them sitting just inside the fence availing themselves of the attentions of passers by on their way to the shops, or to the bus stop. Their attentions were also somewhat focused on Your Truly – whose candy-pink bed socks must have been protruding from the bed covers, and whose posterior might have been displayed slightly in the aperture between duvet and bed sheet.
It is clearly impossible to stay, isn’t it, until repairs are effected? But I have recalled that my old friend and ally, Pom-Pom Percival (he who spent my pension lump sum on the horses) is still alive and resident at the Perfect Retirement Housing Complex, some 40 miles distant in Gollumshire.
He did write to me at Christmas, continueing to importune for forgiveness, but as I still, largely, have the hump, I’m afraid I did not reply. He also mentioned that there are several apartments vacant in his building, staffed, as he said, by an individual going by the name of Our Leader.
Whether or not these are actually promising tidings, I have yet to ascertain.