The Way We Lied – continued

Chapter 2

Of course I remembered the box and I remembered exactly where and when it was buried. It was the first time my brothers and I had been allowed to take part in the New Year celebrations our parents held every year.
My mother had planned the party for weeks. It was not going to be the biggest party ever seen and certainly not the grandest party that had ever taken place in the old house, but she claimed it would be the most original. “We are going to have the most unusual food, the most spectacular fireworks and the most interesting people,” she said, writing a list as she began her preparations.
We were celebrating the end of the twentieth century and the dawn of a newer and better age, or so we thought. The older adults talked of putting all wars behind them and living on into a glorious, healthier retirement, my parents talked about how they would be able to afford the school fees as well as saving for their old age, while we children talked about how we could sneak off and watch forbidden programmes on TV as soon as our moral guardians had drunk enough wine.
My mother planned the whole evening with exasperating detail, irritating us all with her fusses over napkins and place cards, recipes and cocktails. Christmas had raced by because of this; our festivities had been subsumed by her impatience to dispense with presents, mince pies and turkey and proceed to the party of the year, indeed the century.
We had first heard about her ideas one Sunday in November, just as we were finishing our lunch with apple pie and custard. “I’ve been thinking about how to make the New Year dinner really special this year. It is the end of an era after all, so I want the meal to reflect all the centuries that have gone before.”
“But Caroline, that’s ten centuries altogether,” my father said. “There’s ten in a millennium.”
“Exactly. So I’m going to create ten courses. And each one will represent a century. That should keep everyone busy till midnight.”
“You don’t think ten is going a bit too far?” He scraped his bowl and licked his spoon. “That was delicious, darling. I couldn’t have a teeny bit more, could I?”
“Just a little. You know you shouldn’t, David.” She passed the bowl back to him with a shake of her head. “And as for the dinner, it will be fun. I know it will.”
I had been counting on my fingers while they were talking. “Mummy? What did people eat in the ten hundreds?”
She smiled at me. “Probably rotten swedes and turnips.” She laughed when she saw my horrified expression. “Don’t worry, darling. It will all be edible. Maybe we’ll start with a soup. You’ll like that won’t you?”
After weeks of thorough research, sampling and experimentation ( on us), she finally decided on each dish, chose drinks for each course and typed up her menu. We were to start with black rye bread and nuts, then eat our way through Elizabethan rabbit, Victorian venison and welsh rarebit to a conclusion of stilton and port ( ribena for the children).
My wonderful mother, now so frail, but then so very efficient, also prepared a programme of activities. Guests were staying both before and after the dinner and all had to be entertained. So she arranged clay pigeon shooting for the men and a pantomime matinee for the children, suggested walks and stacked books and laid fires for the less able. She proposed pubs to visit and parlour games to enliven the afternoons. And I remember her pinning timetables on the bedroom doors.
“People always like to know when they’re meant to be around for meals,” she said. “And I certainly don’t want everyone congregating in the kitchen while I’m cooking. Much better if they all have something to do.”

Advertisements

50 Shades of London Smog

TheSt Pancras Walrus S“Take me. Take me here. Take me now.” Mary arched backwards across her mother’s tombstone, her bosoms heaving above her tight-laced corset, skirts riding up to reveal her trembling, fishnetted thighs.

Percival removed a deep purple velvet jacket and untied his cravat. Sliding his hands over the cool white captive flesh, upwards towards her waist, he loosened her bloomers and slid them off. Mary sucked in a sharp breath, her ribs came up against the restricting girdle that bound her organs and she began to swoon.

“Percy, get your mind off what’s down there and undo these stays or you’ll be shagging a zombie.”

He loved it when she talked dirty. He fumbled with the laces, released the pert breasts, and allowed the night air into her lungs. Percival dropped his breeches to his knees. Harsh iron straps and rivets that protected her parent’s corpse from the attentions of the resurrection men pressed into Mary’s back and bare buttocks. Her dark nipples hardened under his attention. Her delicate hand guided him. She locked her legs around his waist, one stocking now ruckled down around a slender ankle, and a long moan wafted across the moonlit graveyard whose outer reaches were shrouded in an ever deepening St Pancras smog.

The haunting sound startled a walrus that was, just at that moment, flopping its bulk out of some rhododendron bushes where it had been relieving itself, sheltered from prying eyes. Carrying a roll of Bronco under one flipper the shortsighted creature peered about. Not far ahead the light of earth’s lonely satellite reflected off a moonlike gyrating white shape that was not immediately identifiable as a naked arse. Blue veined and spot speckled it was performing gentle figures of eight to the accompaniment of short high-pitched yelps. The amphibious mammal waddled over to inspect the phenomenon close to, its approach undetected by the self-absorbed couple. It sniffed at the exposed posterior. Its bristling moustache brushed against the tender flesh and it snorted a fine spray of sea-watery atomised mucus onto the pimpled derriere.

Something shrivelled within Mary and plopped out through the gates of paradise into the chill night air. She opened her eyes and, staring past her lover at the silhouetted bald head and shining, black button eyes let out a hideous scream.

Nocturnal London held its breath, Percival dropped to his knees as if his face had been slapped, the walrus staggered back in horror, tripped on the edge of a newly exposed grave and fell backwards into the freshly opened coffin. The creature’s great heart raced, faltered and stopped. Bands of cramped muscle tightened around the animal’s chest, crimson pain pulsed through its body and then there was nothing.

“I think it’s dead.” Mary was staring down into the hole, her clothing in disarray and some of her finest features shamelessly on display. Percival was on all fours. He had thrown up.

“Oh Cripes, what shall we do?” He was sick again. “Sorry about that, I think I’m in shock. There’ll be an investigation. The Runners will knock on doors. Your dad always thinks the worst of me, he’s bound to assume we were involved.”

“Fill the grave in again.” The body snatchers had conveniently left their spade sticking in the top of the pile of recently dug soil. She tossed him the shovel. “Quick.   There’s nothing suspicious about a fresh grave in a churchyard.”

After some strenuous shovelling they patted down the soil and, having robbed a nearby grave of its flowers, Mary laid a posy on the burial. They scoured the area around Mary’s mother’s tombstone for abandoned clothing, dressed quickly and headed for the street.

“Whatever you do don’t go boasting about this with your mates down the pub.”

“Do you honestly think I’m ever going to tell anyone I spent the night burying a walrus in a St Pancras churchyard?”

“Not that, the other. You’re still married – and I’m not quite sixteen.”

 

One hundred years later, the following article appeared in a local newspaper:

Walrus remains found buried under St Pancras station in London

A Pacific walrus has been discovered among 19th century human burials underneath St Pancras Station in London.

By Bartholomew Pratt

23 Jul 2013

Archaeologists found the four-metre-long walrus with 1,500 human bodies as part of excavations at the station, amid the renovation of the station into the Eurostar terminal.

The bones were in a coffin and are thought to have been used for medical research some time in the early 1800s.

Both the archaeologist who discovered the bones and the zoologist who studied them for the Museum of London are not sure how the bones came to be in St Pancras Church on the northern side of the station.

“It’s a bit of a mystery”, the archaeologist told this reporter

“We did some research to see if we could find any record of a walrus being dealt with, for example, by the London Zoological Society, but we drew a blank.”

The archaeologist said there was a reference to Prince Albert “riding on the back of a giant tortoise”, but added that this was not relevant to the bones they found.

“It is possible the animal bones were being dissected as practice, but it does seem to be a rather exotic animal to be dealing with”, he added.

The most plausible reason for the walrus being in London was that it was brought to the city by whalers and sold for medical research or as a curiosity, they said.

While the zoologist had found the remains of an ostrich and big cats on archaeological excavations in London, this was his first encounter with a walrus.

“Although we have considerable evidence of whales in London, from porpoises up to blue whales, in all my experience we haven’t had any other bones of walruses except small fragments of skull which have been chipped to get out the tusks”, he told the newspaper.

He said that walrus skins were used for buffing metal and there was a trade in their tusks for ivory.

How it came to be in St Pancras is a mystery even to experts.

The Way We Lied

Chapter 1

On the last night of the old century, my parents held a New Year’s Eve Dinner for friends and family. The following day we created a time capsule, using a large plastic storage box, which we buried under the lawn in the back garden, leaving instructions on its whereabouts hidden in the attic of the main house. Everyone was given an envelope into which they placed a letter or a souvenir of that time. None of us knew what anyone else had written, although the children were open about their contributions, saving sweet wrappers and crisp packets as symbols of the age.
I never expected to see the time capsule again and certainly never imagined I would be sitting at my desk with most of the contents. After being buried for more than thirty years the papers are a little damp but the envelopes are still golden and still firmly sealed. The box also contained a copy of my mother’s menu for that special evening, printed on thin card. She had proudly placed six copies on the dining table so everyone could anticipate and admire the dishes she had prepared to celebrate the end of the millennium.
I turn the menu over and see some brief notes in unfamiliar writing. There were clearly two different hands, alternating and responding to each other.
Shall we….?
Do you want to….?
When?
Before the rockets
Bang bang
These scribbled words don’t make any sense, but then nor does my mother’s request. She had asked me yesterday when I visited her in the hospice. It was quieter there than the hospital where she had been treated last year, when the cancer had first been discovered, but it could not cure, it could only calm the pain. Imprisoned by a tube above her slowly dispensing morphine and another below silently dispersing urine, my mother was never going to escape this sterile white bed caged in a silver frame. Her thick blonde hair is now sparse silver, her once strong body now shrunken and frail.
“Is it ‘all that is past is forgiven’, or ‘all that is past is forgotten’,” she whispered to me hoarsely. Her feeble voice harmonised with that haunting choral chant she loved playing in the background, making the hospice feel like a premature chapel of rest. “It’s been so long since I went to Morning Service I can’t quite remember.” Her voice is growing weaker by the day, but she knows she can still command my attention, especially now that she does not have much longer to live.
She closed her eyes for a second, then spoke again even more quietly. “Lisa, you remember where we buried the box at the Millennium. I know it might seem silly to you, but I can’t bear to leave it there any longer now there are builders all over the place. I don’t want strangers finding it. Go back for me Lisa darling. Bring it all back for me.” She tried to smile, as if it was not an urgent request, but her eyes were pleading and I knew I had to do as she asked.

A Communication from the Lizard Kings

Merovingian Lizard King HologramThe stage was cleared and the Massed Mariachi, taking up position at the microphones, began to play La Cucaracha with the Kittens of Chaos doing a daring can-can in the background. Barely into the second chorus the music tailed off, black clouds covered the sun and the sky darkened. A large group of heavily armed Chats Suterrains materialised onto the stage all in white leather coats, purple-glassed goggles and pith helmets. They brushed the band aside whilst the Kittens of Chaos seethed. Outnumbered and outgunned they sat heavily on Kiki la Berserker before she could start a scrap. Her boggle-eyes fired imaginary thunderbolts and her spittle ate corrosively into the smoking floorboards. Several sturdy Chats dragged two heavy campaign chests to the front of the stage and opened one of them out to reveal a Tesla coil on a copper coloured pylon. A polished metal cage was bolted in place around it and heavily insulated high tension cables were run out to the second crate. Le Chat-in-charge threw a large knife switch and the contents of the box set up a wild humming that ascended in pitch until it achieved a nerve-shattering whine. Lightning crackled outwards from the Tesla coil and an eerie green ionised mist began to spread from around the arcing electro-magnetic discharge. Slowly an image formed within the billowing cloud. It was a holographic figure, convincingly life like except for being green, transparent and a bit wobbly. It was bipedal, bulky and scaly. An angular reptilian head hissed and flicked out its tongue and Phoebles felt he could discern something a bit tentacley around the upper lip. Piercing, bilious eyes with narrowly slit-pupils seemed to grow and grow until they were all that the onlookers were aware of. They appeared to glare disconcertingly into the soul of each individual in the audience.

“MEDLING EARTHLINGS. WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE. WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. AND WE KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN GO TO SCHOOL. WE WILL REMEMBER!”

Pause… then a dramatic crack as the coil discharged and the plasma cloud dispersed. Les chats packed up their equipment and departed without a word.

“Bugger me!” exclaimed Dark Flo.

Everyone seemed to be looking around at once, some scared, some bemused. A search for Les Chats Souterrains was rapidly organised, Polly Karpova flew her Red Rata in low-level sorties over the fair ground, but no trace of their presence could be discovered. Slowly the skies cleared and daylight returned; for the moment the prophetic threat was put to one side and the Mariachi struck up once more.

Much later the gang were having a romantically lantern-lit picnic supper spread out on a luscious vintage tangerine/red, Chiadma goats wool rug that Beryl had picked up in an Essaouiran souk. Scrumpled napkins and greasy paper plates of discarded chicken wings and sandwich crusts littered the carpet and surrounding grass.

“Did we actually fix anything?” asked Phoebles.

“Doubt it.” Googleberry looked up from his bowl of pyrotechnical bread-and-butter pudding, with custard. “It looked a bit working class, so I stuck a sparkler in it,” he explained as he reclined, sucking noisily between mouthfuls on an Iznik porcelain hubble-bubble pipe.

“And the Lizard Thing’s threat?”

“Oh, probably just the prelude to another adventure.”

Boz watched a white plume moth carelessly spiralling in towards the guttering, spluttering Tilly lamp that illuminated their repast, and he sighed.

Coming shortly…. The Way We Lied

Do you have a secret? Have you ever been tempted to tell?
From October 23 I shall be serialising the entire manuscript of The Way We Lied on this site and on the Suzanne Goldring WordPress site.
This completed novel was placed in the Winchester Writers Festival ‘first three pages’ competition and was inspired by a real dinner held to mark the Millennium, after which a time capsule was buried in the garden. At the time I wondered what our guests might have put into their sealed envelopes and this prompted the development of a story which has been described as tightly plotted, with an original premise.
The characters in The Way We Lied are not actually ones I have met in real life, but they are all like people we have heard of. Another reader said the novel is about what it means to be good and certainly the characters have their own moral codes; as they came alive during the writing of this novel, their actions often surprised me and may surprise you too.
The novel has not, so far, been accepted for publication, but has been read with interest. I hope you will enjoy it and I would welcome your comments. Above all, what would you write for a time capsule if you thought your words might not be read in your lifetime? Would you reveal your secrets?

The Pyramid Stage

crimeandpunishmentSUp on the pyramid stage The Kittens of Chaos, accompanied by Consuella Starcluster the tambourine virtuoso, were performing a selection of their favourite bits from ‘Prestupleniye i Nakazaniye the Musical’, in which the nihilist Raskolnikov is encouraged to get out more and is introduced to vodka and fornication by the 6th Form students of Madame Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova’s Academy for Young Kittens. Following on from the conclusion of their act the bemused audience was subjected to a poetry reading by Ginsbergbear.

“I have written a haiku,” he announced:

Haiku

Cake out in the rain.

Prince Albert teapot; it nev

Er reigns, but it pours.

…and, oh so much later:

Your Mum and Dad

They muck you about

With a bottle of stout

And a pig in a poke

Like the funny old bloke

That Mummy said to call uncle

And Dad with his fags

After nocturnal shags

They’re wondering why

You’ve contracted a sty

Or forged on your bum a carbuncle

“The fault isn’t ours”

Your old pater glowers

“We had parents too

Addicted to glue

And fans of the songs of Garfuncle”

After a long and embarrassing pause there came a dramatic fanfare from the recently bruised Massed Pit Bands of Federated Nottinghamshire joined by the Brick Lane Zapatista Mariachi Walking Wounded, and Larry stepped up to the mic.

“Ehem…”

Before he could speak he was surrounded, silently, by the serene men of the Himalayas, their yak skin coats dragging on the floor. The group moved to the front of the stage, parted and revealed, to everyone’s astonishment, Mad Jack Belvoir (Bart) with his ward, the fair, and now heavily pregnant, Pricilla. Gone was the up-tight uniform of the 3rd (King’s Own) Hussars, his once magnificent handlebar drooped into a bushy Zapata mustachio and he wore a loose, grubby Kurta shirt over baggy candy striped trousers. He appeared unkempt, undernourished, and yet he was fire-forged steel, tempered in the acid bath of global perambulation.

“Friends, we have all come a long way since you and I faced off against each other on the Cable Street barricade. Pricilla and I have travelled far, crossed desert and mountain, swum in turquoise seas, basked on crystal beaches, begged in shit-strewn shanties. We have studied at the feet of masters. I want to talk to you about the future. We are (most of us, I hope) groping towards an ill-defined anarchist utopia, an earnest utopia with co-ops and federations and communes and unions and autonomies and endless discussions at the Street Moot and the Factory Moot. It is a worthy utopia for born-again socialists, reformed capitalists and the recently oppressed. But remember, just a short stride across the green from the Moot Hall is the Mead Hall. The sailors and ships’ cats and corsairs and doxies, these Ranters and punks, won’t be content with such seriousness alone. There must be fun, and dancing and a little mayhem too. One day when we have our Anarchy, modified and reshaped from our earliest visions, when we have our justice and fairness, we will look out towards a new utopia, a utopia for anarchists, for men (and women and cats) who are already free, already fulfilled. With joy as of little children and unfettered imaginations we will lust for a glorious future without limits; what a vision that will be.”

As Mad Jack paused for breath Larry stepped quickly back up to the mic. He was still somewhat put out and prickly.

“Comrades. It is possible that Citizen Belvoir has a point… or two. I was about to suggest that we representatives of diverse groups, many of whom have travelled far to hammer out our differences, adjourn to the Ranters’ Moot Hall and forge a concord that would guarantee peace and prosperity for all time. It is what we had planned, why we are here. But I, for one, am having too much fun. Who cares about differences? It is a glorious day; let us celebrate our commonality. Return to the beer tent and the dance floor; strike up the Mariachi. Sod tomorrow, we are surrounded by friends.”

A great roar of approval from Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp caused several small children to burst into tears. There had been little in Mad Jack or Larry’s adjurations that had not rung true to the philosophy of the gaily-coloured Tamworth Ranters. They began to saunter away to continue enjoying their gala. The Scots and Corsairs however had travelled a great distance, prepared to argue forcefully for their ancient and traditional right to pillage. They had come down with the intention of arguing long and hard, winning concessions and drunkenly conceding as few privileges as possible. Were they really going to go away and just get on with each other? They hung around in small groups shrugging and mumbling.

‘Well, it sounds good enough to me,’ boomed Rotskagg. ‘Gué fatu, Camaradas? You Reivers be masters of animal husbandry, though in the past they have tended to be someone else’s animals. You will prosper. And us corsairs will find noble outlets for our seafaring bravado. Here is ale and women and I shall have exhausting of both. Vadu dal lavutana, fetch me a fiddler, I have a mind to Hornpipe. Anna, wildling, put those matches away and teach me Stripping the Willow.’

 

The Brass Band Competition

Brass Band Competition SOutside, a stretch of lawn had been cleared, and groups of bandsmen were polishing their instruments, shaking out the accumulated spittle and setting up music stands. Each Brass Band was similarly uniformed, somewhat like bus-conductors, with peaked caps, but distinguished by colour. There were mills’ bands in maroon or navy, miners’ bands in scarlet, charcoal or green, and a Sergeant Pepper tribute in shimmering pink, yellow, sky-blue and crimson satin.

The SPZ and Brick Lane Zapatista Massed Marching Mariachi were on the brink of being disqualified for not being Traditional and were being defended vociferously by Themoonband Megadeath Morris, already barred on account of not remotely resembling a brass anything. The resultant loud squabbling had drawn a crowd. Eventually it was agreed that the trumpet section from the Massed Mariachi along with a small contingent of buglers from the West Surrey Mounted Makhnovchina could compete, but there were to be strictly no guitarrón mexicano or fiddles.

Unseen behind one of the moot hall’s open windows, and with his back to it so that he would not be influenced or prejudiced by any prior knowledge regarding the contestants, the competition adjudicator sat waiting to pass judgement on each performance. The order of play was determined by the drawing of lots from a venerated cloth cap, donated by Keir Hardie himself in times gone by – and, after much fumbling and faffing, the competition was under way.

By the third rendition of Mull of Kintyre Phoebles was becoming fidgety and Boz had dozed off. He woke with a start as the Zapatista Mariachi launched into The Birdie Song. Their chances of winning were looking slim, but Snowdrop was wolf whistling and shouting “Encore!” While he slept they had been joined by Anna and Bui. Aunty Stella was there too, having changed from her Subcommandante’s uniform into denim jeans and a salmon-red and black bee-striped fuzzy jumper. She had Googleberry with her and he had acquired a large Italian ice-cream cone.

“Some foreign chap with a black eye was giving them away before they melted, from a Galatia tricycle with a bent wheel and defunct freezer. Looked like it’d been blown apart by a minor explosion.”

As the competition results were announced over the Tannoy system there was loud applause from the crowd, and some grumbling from the competitors.

“Look. Over there.” Ferdy had spotted Barrymore striding jauntily towards them across the green. She was beckoning furiously for them all to meet her half way.

“Larry wants every one out front of the main stage as soon as you’re finished here. Who won?”

Phoebles shrugged, “That bunch with the tubas and trombones and stuff, I think. Or that other lot with trumpets and French horns and a drum. Or maybe…”

“Never mind.”

Behind them a fight had broken out. Two bandleaders were at war over the competition trophy, grasping a handle each and tugging in opposite directions. More and more bandsmen joined in, swinging their instruments like halberds.

“Jocks awaaaah!”

There was a sudden surge as a wave of screaming Reivers and wildcats plunged into the fray. And then, scattering combatants in all directions, Rotskagg Blenkinsopp was in the midst with an ululating Dark Flo balanced precariously on his shoulders.

“Someone is going to get hurt,” said Barrymore. As Boz and Co watched the spreading mayhem the Ranters moved in.

“Peace and love, man.”

“Group hug.”

“Karma.”

Ducking fists the Ranter menfolk distributed flowers and spliffs. Girls, wriggling in between the grappling factions, handing out catnip mooncakes and kisses, began to calm the situation. As the violence subsided Rotskagg and Flo emerged from the crowd.

“Well that ended a bit disappointingly,” she said to Boz, “Blenkinsopp and I barely got started. Who are those hippie kill-joys?”

Barrymore resumed, “Larry. Main stage. All of you. Don’t hang about too long. Oh, and Mr Boz, Larry says someone has to pay for that airship he lent you. Have any of you seen Slasher McGoogs. The acting PM would like a word with him too.”

Googleberry started to whistle innocently, which is not easy with a mouth full of ice-cream.

“Not really his kind of scene, this,” said Boz, “Doubt we’ll see anything of him today.” He tried to put a conspiratorial arm upon Barrymore’s shoulder, but couldn’t quite reach that high. “Erm… About that airship…” he almost whispered.