bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog
Save Me, Lady Constance
Thursday, June 14th, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Write a comment
The phrase ‘Bomb Scare Drill’ consists of three unappealing words arranged to describe an unhappy event in an uncomforting manner. We used to have Bomb Scare Drill at school when I was a child, and it involved walking calmly to the playground when the fire bell rang, answering your name as it was read out by a teacher, and then playing truant for the rest of the day. Bomb Scare Drill was also an excuse for teachers to impress the evils of such truancy upon us, by presenting the horror story scenario of telling your old dear that not only had the IRA blown the school up, but that you were missing, presumed detonated. In a great many cases, the parents concerned would simply have said ‘Well no, he’s upstairs smoking my bloody fags again’ or ‘I’ve sent him out shoplifting, he’ll be back at six’, in order to soothe the jangling nerves of teachers and social workers alike. I thought my social worker was a teacher for several years, and questioned the overall validity of Bomb Scare Drill in the first place, on the grounds that if a bomb had been found in the building, assembling the entire school eight feet away from it was unlikely to do much good. A further irony was that our school was a designated shelter in the event of nuclear war – this was the eighties, remember – and so leaving it because a bomb had been reported seemed illogical.
There are very few of my school reports in existence, but one of them has an exasperated ‘Paul is a natural anarchist’ as the sole summary of an entire years’ study, while another has ‘Paul knows how to kiss proper like’ in the space where the headmaster’s comment had first been carefully erased by Nick Lovell. It is fair to say that I come from a social environment in which academic prowess is not a valued commodity, and this is best illustrated by the fact that I didn’t notice Nick’s careful editing until discovering the report in the attic at my old dear’s house in 2003.
My increasingly optimistic hope that I will marry into money and thereby reverse over two decades of educationless scrabbling about were inflamed recently by Lady Constance Talbot, the Eighth Marchioness of Lothian. I was struck by her portrait at an East Anglian stately home, and had she not died of laryngitis over a century ago, I’d be tempted to go there more often on the off chance of a bit of slap and tickle in the lovely ornamental grounds which she designed. She did loads of other stuff too, such as launching a British warship which immediately sailed into another British warship and sank itself in 1887. Anyway, these days ‘marrying into money’ in my case just means hooking up with someone who’s never been scarred in a chip shop fight, so perhaps I can afford to lower my sights from deceseaced members of the Victorian aristocracy. It would not be the first time I have done so, as we shall see.
While the nearest I ever got to higher education was delivering post to the Slough Campus of Thames Valley University, my adolescence – untroubled as it was by any notion of academic advancement – was marked at one point by Doctor and the Medics‘ famous cover of Spirit in the Sky. Twelve is a tricky age for anyone, made more so in my case as I found myself enthralled to state of erotic terror by the two backing singers, who appeared to have recently died some kind of sexy death. In adulthood, this probably accounts for my traditionally wary and suspicious disposition during moments of intimacy. Imagine my surprise, then, when I recently came within an ace of getting the phone number of one of them. I am a practical and realistic man, and as such the marriage potential of such a relationship was immediately clear – for a start, being that I would have commenced proceedings in a state of carnal uneasiness, the ravages of old age would be unlikely to have any further detrimental effect. Also, I would imagine it would be difficult to lose general interest in someone who terrifies you. Whether or not I’d fall for the charms of the older, scarier lady remains to be seen, although it could certainly be an interesting evening of chat and horror over a garlic and crucifix pizza, via a clairvoyant. Come to think of it, if I had access to a clairvoyant I’d be highly tempted to be indiscreet with Lady Constance, presenting a moral dilemma I would be unlikely to be able to avoid, being that I’ve always been something of a girl who can’t say no.
Top: One of my favourite traders, The Singing Soap Lady of Greenwich Market. Don’t misunderstand this, by the way – the singing is appalling, but is accounted for by a candid and, as it turned out, entirely accurate explanation she once gave me for it, which is that she is mentally ill.
Middle: Jewellery and cufflink box stall I run for John the Boxes at Leadenhall Market on Fridays while he’s away on holiday for a few months.
Lower: My old dear at the gin in the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1. Despite a scarf which suggests a senior Daphne from Scooby Doo, she was saying ‘Of course, you can’t just go round their house and put a shotgun through the letterbox these days, can you?’ at the moment I took this picture. Vinny the Landlord refers to her respectfully as Mrs Smith and bans swearing during her not infrequent state visits.