Sunday, 31 August 2014

56 - Vengeance will be mine

Antoine de Kunilemel, news and gossip reporter from the Hay and Gwair News and Gazette, has just filed his story about the poet, Carmel Weinz, who has taken sanctuary in the Happy Rover, across the river at the village of Llustat. It is there that the distressed writer reads the unpleasant calumnies that the Smokey Hack (as de Kunilemel is familiarly known amongst his colleagues) has written about her. In particular her behaviour towards Oud Ramonides is noted. Her scream is heard across the valley, and beyond as far as the Old Pull and Push Tavern where de Kunilemel is happily enjoying his fifth gin and tonic of the evening.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

55 - The Obsession of Melanie Grintclaw

Melanie Grintclaw is the most feared of literary agents in the publishing world. Her own writings however verge on the obsessional. For the last twenty-five years she has produced volume after volume, paper after paper, and now tweet after tweet on her critique of the ontology of Žižek. Žižek himself is unaware of this as he is too busy, but his opponents have lined up firmly behind Grintclaw and are retweeting her every word. Meanwhile Žižek’s supporters respond to each and every ill-considered argument with screeds of illiterate badinage.  She is intending to give as the closing lecture at the Gwair Autumnal, a contentious talk entitled ‘Žižek and Amour Propre’.

Friday, 29 August 2014

54 - Autumnal Rumblings

It is important to contextualise the arrival of Katlyst Brough (autocratic grande dame of publishing) in order to fully grasp the political undercurrents swirling beneath the calm palimpsestic surface of Gwair. Unlike that of its less modest neighbour (Hay-on-Wye), the literary festival of Gwair is split into several subfestivals that span the full year, and current preparations are for the Gwair Autumnal, a three week wordfest. The organising committee has invited two guest directors to curate the events. Unfortunately, the committee had neglected to consider the unmentionable rift between Dame Katlyst Brough, emeritus chairman of the renowned publishing firm, Ducats and Winoth, and the splenetic self-publicising literary agent, Melanie Grintclaw.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

53 - The Myopic Professor

Life is relatively simple for the myopic Professor Axel Sansiere. Unlike the profound and seething construct system of Rabbi Oud Ramonides, Axel's has succumbed to no beliefs, nor has need for beliefs. However he is exceedingly shortsighted, and currently does have the need for urgent medical attention from his friend Oud. The multiskilled rabbi is currently applying a strong antiseptic lotion to the gash in Axel’s head which was sustained when in the midst of a highly volatile discussion the excitable Professor bumped into a lamp post. The accident delays his arrival at the village hall where he is to introduce the speaker, the formidable publishing giant Dame Katlyst Brough.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

52 - Scoop

The emotional chaos that results from the evening performance by Carmel Weinz ends in a dramatic intervention by the Gwair constabulary.  The next morning Clarissa persuades Carmel to seek a more appropriate haven of peace and solitude where she can focus on her writing without disturbing the equilibrium of those around her. Carmel is waiting in the lounge of 'The Snatcher on the Wye'. The taxi is due in about half an hour. In the corner is a tall shrewd-faced man with a hidden recorder. It is Antoine de Kunilemel - news journalist from Hagnag (aka the Hay and Gwair News and Gazette). He wanders over and starts a conversation.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

51 - The Recital

It dawns on the good people of Gwair-on-Wye that, although Carmel Weinz is an exceedingly good writer, she is not an exceedingly good person. An evening misspent with the venerable Oud Raminides does little for her reputation, and leaves the vulnerable old scholar distraught and tearing out what remains of his white locks. Poor Clarissa Thorogood is driven to distraction by Carmel’s attempts to stir up trouble between Gwendolyn and Leppo. Despite, or perhaps because of this, ‘Cacoethes Scribendi!’ the live evening performance of her anarcho-modernist poetry is very well attended, tickets are almost sold out, and the crowds are stretching out along the high road struggling to get in. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

50 - Cacoethes Scribendi

It doesn’t take Clarissa long to make sure that Carmel Weinz is the star speaker at this week’s book club organised by the Gwair Cultural Circle. Indeed since Leporello drove back into Gwair-on-Wye with Gwendolyn and Carmel, Clarissa has been busily sorting out accommodation and other arrangements. The Diogenes Suite at ‘The Snatcher on the Wye’ provides a modest degree of comfort, and allows Carmel the opportunity to scribble more of the lucid verse that has been tumbling through her mind since she accidentally forgot to order her macchiato decaffeinated. The appearance of Clarissa’s sister at the station had surprised and worried her, but that’s how things happen. Cacoethes Scribendi!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

49 - What do we know of congeniality bias?

Leporello Swinson has been waiting at Hereford railway station since eight o’clock. Gwendolyn is due to arrive at nine, but the Paddington train has been delayed. He sits in Starbucks reading. A tall woman, with an attractive, dark and deeply wrinkled face wanders past him. He recognises her, but has no idea where from. She goes to the counter and orders a macchiato, then wanders around looking for somewhere to sit. Leporello smiles and nods when she approaches, and she sits down opposite him. She takes a jotter from her bag and starts scribbling. He looks down at his book, and sees her photograph. She is the poet Carmel Weinz.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

48 - Protest

The final session of the annual seismological research conference is the Berbera Keogh (yes, pronounced Koff) Memorial Lecture, given this year by the notorious D. N. Zigwolf, the founder of the International Free CDS Institute. Obviously the event has caused a great deal of media interest, and more student protests are expected. As the speaker begins, banners are unfurled by the Independent Flat Earth Association against Repressive Seismologists, and a chorus of Vuvuzelas blasts out from the opposite gallery where the rival We Will Rock You anti-Repressive Tectonics campaign is mounting a counter-demonstration. Zigwolf presses on, unfazed by the protests. Unfortunately he is taken ill, and cannot complete his speech.

47 - Resolving cognitive dissonance

A young woman is browsing in shop windows. She stops outside Back Room Books. What catches her attention there is a slim volume of flocculant verse by the bohemian Sapphic poet, Carmel Weinz. A thrill runs through her soul as she remembers drunken evenings when they were both studying James Joyce together in Dublin, before Carmel became a writer, and Clarissa a horticulturalist. She sighs, but casts aside the days of wine and roses. Now Clarissa is older and much more staid, and has come to Gwair-on-Wye to visit her sister Gwendolyn, who sadly is away in London.  Clarissa buys the book, then crosses the road to choose the flowers.

Monday, 18 August 2014

46 - Time to rethink

Today is a rest day for Oud Ramonides. Usually his greatest delight is to meet up with old friends to discuss obscure and esoteric matters. Today however he wishes to be alone. His mind is a complex repository of concepts and links, of themes and emotions, and currently it is witnessing a storm of agitated ferocity. Way up in the hills, and far along the ridge, he stands by an austere granite boulder, and rocks backwards and forwards in prayer. The voice that he hears, perhaps that of a supernatural spirit (but more likely his own) tells him that the time has come to rethink his philosophy from the beginning.

Friday, 15 August 2014

45 - Der Sporren Macher fon Gwair

In the Gwair Sporrenmakers, Rabbi Oud Ramonides is trying to identify his family tartan. His maternal ancestors were Litvaks, and his paternal forefathers Poles. By the Shachness laws these do not mix, and he has a crisis of identity. Meanwhile in London there has been concern at the Berbera Keogh Institute, as some delegates are uncertain as to the pronunciation of Keogh. Although the Merriam-Webster Pronunciation Guide indicate that it is pronounced 'Kee-oh', this edict is based on the assumption that the name is of Irish (Wernicke) derivation. In the case of Berbera Keogh however, the name originated in the pre-revolutionary Russian Ukrainian (Broca) area, and it is pronounced 'Koff''.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

44 - The Stychic Processes of Zolotonosha

It is a sad day for Leporello Swinson.  His beloved friend, Gwendolyn Thorogood, is departing by train for the annual seismological research conference at the Berbera Keogh Institute in London. She particularly wishes to hear the presentation by the delegate from Zolotonosha who is  proposing that the geomorphic structure (which the gathering is particular concerned with) resembles an inverted glass pyramid. He also suggests that the current seismological activity could be resolved by joining the different strata in a common stychic process. Unfortunately when he begins his talk, Gwendolyn doesn't understand the delegate's mother tongue. Anyway his lecture is interrupted as two opposing groups of demonstrating students start to protest. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

43 -The Anglers

Of the many men who seek the attentions of Gwendolyn Thorogood, it is only Leporello Swinson who manages to persuade her to join him on a walk along the river. Just beyond the verandah of The Snatcher on the Wye, the river turns and broadens and the greenery along its bank takes on a particularly exotic appearance. Usually there is turbulence along this stretch, but today all is calm. The locals are biding their time. Here and there, single anglers perch like flamingos on the banks of wild thyme. An intensive stillness and focused concentration, reflect the momentary serenity.  Hand in hand, Gwendolyn and Leporello discuss the usual existential questions. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

42 - Deviation from the perpendicular

The brief earth tremor that shook the hills around Gwair-on-Wye recorded only the slightest perturbation on the seismographs at the Borders University. It was however enough to send a squall of researchers out into the field (and taverns) of Gwair to take complex physical measurements of the environment. One of these scientists was a young flaxen haired researcher called Gwendolyn Thorogood. While most of her interest was in the deviation from perpendicular of walls that had last been measured some three decades earlier, it was Gwendolyn herself who was the subject of interest amongst a trio of young curious men who stood in the old marketplace looking in her direction.

Friday, 8 August 2014

41 – Mamash kedai

Down by the riverside, in the lush green gardens of ‘The Snatcher on the Wye’ tavern, Rabbi Oud Ramonides is sitting studying an ancient scroll, which he once discovered in the ruins of an old Renaissance villa near Padua in 1950 when he was a devoutly sectarian eighteen year old mathematician. He does not notice Leporello Swinson peering over his shoulder. ‘Looks hard work,’ he says. ‘Is it worth it?’ Oud swivels round, sees who it is, and smiles with pride, ‘Es iz mamash kedai! You see here, by this symbol, there is a formula, which could transform our world. The only question is, do I dare disturb the universe?’

Thursday, 7 August 2014

40 - Silently we’ll lift our eyes to the flying doves

August brings many visitors to the ancient streets of Gwair-on-Wye. Outside the shops, tables and stands are erected to tempt passers-by with quaint craft objects, sensational books and colourful foodstuffs. Whilst Dido Doolittle is arranging a row of lemon furred teddy bears with squinting eyes and herringbone pattern waistcoats, her rival Malvolio Claxendell, is polishing a 1937 Remington No 5 Portable Typewriter  which he hopes to sell for a fortune. It once belonged to the travel writer Freya Stark (and is thought to have been used to type the manuscript of A Winter in Arabia.)  Amidst the crowds, the unusual figure of Leporello Swinson is heading slowly towards the market-place.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

39 - The Grand Tour

The companions have returned safely to Gwair, and Magritude Feather is spreading the word about the adventures, whilst Yevgeny Huxtable talks endlessly about the cultural treasures, and of course Guthrie Cotton likens the whole visit to the Grand Tour (the traditional trip through Europe undertaken by young upper-class Regency and Victorian men of means.)  But when Magritude starts yet another anecdote with the words “The fact is…” Sevelanz Grimple whispers to the other listeners the memorable comment by Lady Brocklehurst, that this usually indicates the beginning of a lie.  However to prove the authenticity of the narrative, Guthrie Cotton fires up his magic lantern, and projects his photographic slide show.

Monday, 4 August 2014

38 - AIFNMS, a review

The streets of the ancient city ring with the echoes of melodious renaissance polyphonies (if this isn't an oxymoron), and the companions wander along regaling each other with a hundred and one Boccaccio-like tales of yesteryear, stories from Derbyshire, anecdotes from the Wye Valley, adventures in Geneva and dreams of Dial Post. In Italy the nights are hot, and the prosecco encourages AIFNMS (alcohol induced false nostalgic memory syndrome). Ah - such evenings as youth is built on. But thunder rumbles, and the deceptive comfort of the cool breeze heralds a night-time storm. The dreamers wake and lurch out into the real world. Tomorrow is now, today has passed. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

37 - Roma quanta fuit ipsa ruina docet

When the artist Andrea Mantegna died, he rose to heaven where he met the various saints, angels and cherubs that he had so beautifully painted and so rudely neglected to clothe appropriately. As penance, he was (on direct orders from St. Peter) refused permission to wear clothes. As by then he was a very portly angel, he was embarrassed by this. Nevertheless he spent much of his time peering down from domed ceilings upon passing tourists who assumed he was a trompe d'oeil 3D visual illusion. Sadly (and this was the intention of St. Peter) all that our assembled companions could see were the nether regions of his dangly bits.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

36 - Sessions of sweet silent thought

As the sun sets over Gwair, the companions return from their travels. The storms throw down heavy rains, but songs of yesterday buzz in their memories. True, the prosecco is largely to blame, but the old memories still weave their own magic, and they are transported back decades to simpler, more peaceful times, when certainties were certainties. One by one, the celebrants make their way to bed, and each crafts individual dreams in which present, past and future meld into glorious impossible images of fantasy worlds where peace throws a soothing cover across age-old conflicts. Night falls, and gradually amidst maudlin thoughts, all losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

35 - Cultural inspiration

Far from the conflicts besetting the quiet town (true, I hear your corrections, it is indeed only a neighbourhood) of Gwair-on-Wye, Yevgeny Huxtable and Guthrie Cotton are leading several companions on a nostalgic cultural tour of Padua. Here amongst the gently sizzling temperatures of Lombardy, it is Magritude Feather who beguiles the wanderers with her sweet flutelike singing, and makes them all feel so much younger. And indeed it is the memory of youth that now rejuvenates their weary bones, as they float creakily from church to church. In the relatively unknown Basilica of San Scrupello, they see a painting that in time will transform all their lives.

Friday, 1 August 2014

34 - At Home

Hwybren Masterson is not a lady to make definite stands. One day she will agree, the next she... Well the next she might disagree. So it transpires that, despite her friendship with Dido Doolittle, she is today at the reception that Samuel Quinine has prepared to welcome neighbours to the newly refurbished Shambhala, the house where he lives with the changing population of his household. Now the residents include Leporello Swinson, the infant, Kolya, and Kolya's preoccupied father, Lustral. Other visitors include the Rev. Lanzarotte, on holiday visiting Oud Ramonides, and Alphonse Callooh, the taxidermist, wearing a chic blue frock with a lace collar and black and white chiffon scarf.