Friday, 27 February 2009

a word from the unwise

A week of disclosures in which it has become obvious that the royal family, the banking industry, the House of Commons and the House of Lords , ankle deep in corruption, are only interested in aassing hordes of cash and have nothing but contempt for the ordinary people.


So what else is new?


A TV documentary claimed that the Royal Family does not disclose travel expenses below £10.000, leaving itself free to use £6.000 an hour helicopters. Thus following the fine tradition of The House of Hanover from which it sprang.


In the midst of this collapsing society I am a great deal more worried about the collapsing me.


I have been reading with great pleasure the letters of Rupert Hart Davies and Humph’s father George Lyttleton. He quotes Bishop Creighton’s admirable dictum “It is almost impossible to exaggerate the complete unimportance of everything.”


A friend and I worked out the one essential possession. Mine was a brewery; his, more modestly, was a fountain pen that worked.


When I have looked back on that discussion half a century ago, I have always been amazed at the useless things I have collected as hobby succeeded hobby. Guns, rods, LPs of every Shakespeare play, four desks and a library that filled three rooms. From time to time I have tried to whittle down my needs. Now that I have washed up on the sad shores of temperance a distillery seems out of the question. The last time I tried I found the essentials in my life were my garden and my gum boots

I was particularly fond of my gum boots and surprised that no one had written a sonnet about them. They were the most comfortable items of footwear in my wardrobe. I could stomp about in them for hours like some overweight Paddington Bear. In their own clumsy way they evoke the 18th century and the great Duke of Wellington who made them fashionable. Worn as I wore them, with knee breeches, they were pleasantly reminiscent of that great literary hero of mine Mr Jorrocks, the hunting grocer. His creator Surtees embodied him best in a single quote as he slid under the dinner table: “Pick me up, tie me to my chair and fill up my glass.”


Not only did our sentiments chime; we were of the same generous proportions of width with minimum height. As broad as I was long, I embodied the all round reporter. Mr Five by Five was me to a T.


Whilst wearing gum boots was an unalloyed joy, getting them on without outside aid was out of the question. Goodness knows, socks are bad enough but at least they are malleable . When the Princess finally comes round with a crystal gum boot seeking the hand of the foot that fits it, I hope the Ferret is at home. Otherwise the pumpkin carriage remains a dream.


There was a time when I could not reach my ankle. Now the calf is Terra Incognita. My belly is the last unconquered summit. The arm cannot climb over it and God, whose design abilities you may recall I do not admire, has so constructed that luckless limb that it is just too short to go round it. It may be his idea of a celestial joke but the only way to grip the gum boot is to stand on one leg with the other at the high port. This involves much spirited hopping and is deeply undignified.


Of course even this is no longer true. I discovered this morning that in an act of supreme carelessness I have just lost two stone. Yet it has been nearly a month since I have been able to get into gum boots at all. Largely bedridden, I have been attached for the last three weeks to an electric pump which, according to the flotilla of district nurses who visit me every day, is healing my operation scar. Thus I not only have The Bag: I also have The Pump which is constantly at my side, grumbling quietly. I am a sort of human Pompidou building. All my works are on the outside and I shit from the hip, like some topsy turvey Wyatt Earp.