No Boswell she
November 20, 2013

I have always viewed the figure of Sherlock Holmes with avid distaste. His calamitous reliance on opiates is a sure index of moral vacuity, and he seems to deem any adventure incomplete without the celebratory assassination of a goose, the wretched cadaver of which Watson is sure to slaver over like an ejaculating Mussolini. Still, an emulous, tremulous glee moved within me at the prospect of donning the great detective’s mantle. With Lulu as my dedicated sidekick, I ached to unveil the secrets of Horwin Manor in what I had already dubbed The Case of the Etiolated Avatar.

Alas, I was blown off course by a picture in the Daily Telegraph. This half-literate megaphone of royalist clotpollery, which had somehow been allowed to ooze into my living room, there thrust upon my violated eye the image of a rictal Pippa Middleton. An unfortunate display at any time, this vile instance found her lounging like a lobotomised odalisque atop a cairn of slaughtered birds. By the time I had honed my open letter down to a compact eighteen pages of jewelled revulsion, it was too late to probe the neighbours. Tomorrow I  shall don what I refuse to refer to, even in metaphor, as the deerstalker.

I realised as I wrote, partly from a red line under “realised”, that my spell-checker has been stuck on US English, a phrase that itself demands prompt and violent correction. I have no idea how long this has been going on. I only hope it has not affected the memoir.

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Roof fruit: an expedition
October 29, 2013

We have been over a week in The Vapours, in the splendour of Holloway, and I decide it is time to explore the neighbourhood. Lulu is skittish at first, but I tempt her from the box room with a Flake in a glass of warm condensed milk. Before her thumbnails have dredged the remnants from her furrowed cheeks we are out on the street.

The scene which greets us is one of carnival devastation. Trees wave their roots at the sky. Wheelie bins sway from the garden railings. An upended yellow bollard has launched itself through the front glass of an Opel Mokka. As a traffic-calming measure, it could only be applauded. Every SUV should come with an obelisk aimed at the windscreen. It certainly exposes the local speed-ramps as a callow fraud.

Hearing someone carolling in a loud familiar voice, I was astonished to see Ms Horwin, my bulbous publishers’ shill, filling an open doorway not thirty yards from my own. In a teal parka and rainbow wellingtons, like a failed audition for Vincent Minnelli’s Nanook of the North, she was bellowing instructions to a brow-beaten man on a ladder.

The task in hand was the removal of a strayed bicycle wheel which had entangled its spokes with the prong of her satellite dish. Hardly the raising of the pyramids, but the Horwin found material in it for an imperative cascade of tutelage. I expected her peon to fling himself any moment from the topmost rung.

Casting her eyes to street-level at last, she took a step back.

“So,” I said, giving it some lip work. “It seems we are neighbours.” I smiled. Lulu did her best to follow suit. Even the Horwin hauled up, from who knows what Dantean depths, an answering rictus, and we shimmied on towards the faded glories of the former Islington Waste Transfer Centre on Ashburton Grove. Behind us, the bicycle wheel thumped once and clattered to a standstill. Another wonderful day in the neighbourhood.