Friday, 31 October 2014

98 - The Three Degrees

Word spreads quickly throughout Gwair. There is little enthusiasm for Kirsipuu’s radical sliced conical design concept, and the suggestions for the Piranesi rear raise deep concerns amongst the more conservative residents. Ernesto Wrackham however is oblivious to the disapproval and submits his plans to the parish council. However the parcel of land in questions is subject to a border dispute, and no-one knows under whose authority the planning permission should fall. As a result there are no formal objections and building starts without significant delay. The Three Degrees Protest Group mounts an immediate campaign to slow the construction process, and again tractors are deployed to block access to the site.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

97 - Bridge over the River Wye

The Wye Valley Walk stretches 136 miles from Chepstow to Rhyd-y-benwch (Plynlimon), but the section that Tom Purdue is following starts at Brockweir near Tintern, and takes him through to Hay, a distance of about seventy miles. It is a trek through time as well as distance, for his early days were spent dreaming on the banks of the river near Tintern Abbey, and his later days imagining how his friends were managing with their new lives in Gwair. He climbs the rock above Symonds Yat and spots a Peregrine Falcon, but by the time he finds his camera it has flown. On Friday he is due to reach Gwair. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

96 – Based on a design by Piranesi

The owner of Wyenao Meadow Farm is selling off a paddock opposite the Old Pull and Push tavern.  The estate agent, Leroy Fingal, takes Ernesto Wrackham to see it. Wrackham is entranced. The view across the valley reminds him of an old print of celestial rays from heaven by Gustave Dore. Later in the sauna at the Eiger Vault Club he discusses the options with his surreal friend, the architect. Kirsipuu proposes a radical sliced conical design, with extensive glass walls that allow the floor space to flow out from the interiors to the patios. The rear aspect of the building, visible from Gwair, is based on a lithograph by Piranesi.

Monday, 27 October 2014

95 – The Cognitive Strategies of Kolya Quinine

Following an urgent assessment by an Educational Psychologist, Kolya has been invited for Happy Plus Sessions where attempts are being made to recalibrate his cognitive organisational strategies. Pelligrina (the support friend) has managed to survive the first three appointments, but is beginning to suffer from stress. Kolya does not give her an easy time. He is actually not being contrary, but simply does not understand why so many people can be so unbelievably thick. Pelligrina grimaces before opening the door of the activities room. She is carrying a book of colouring adding-up puzzles, but Kolya is busy reading about the evaluation of Clebsch-Gordan Coefficients in his book on Quantum Mechanics Symmetries.

Friday, 24 October 2014

94 - With ceaseless turmoil seething...

The peace of Shambhala has been a little fragile in recent days. Since Rabbi Oud Ramonides moved in to the attic room, there has been a calming influence to settle hiccups whenever Sonia Quinine thunders in and tramples over the quiet sensitivities of her menfolk. But currently the venerable Rabbi is away in Hereford where he is researching the history of a Chinese city. Shangdu (known in the West as Xanadu) was designed in the 1250s by Chinese architect Liu Bingzhong, and shortly later was visited by Marco Polo, who described its ‘stately Pallace’.  Alas, when tensions rise at home, the experimental creations of child-genius Kolya Quinine become highly erratic.

Monday, 20 October 2014

93 - Five hundred and twenty three builders of distinction

As if rolling in from the 1960s, the yellow Volkswagen van, blooming with psychedelic designs, parks outside the Snatcher on the Wye. Scabby Felix, Iron Grunge Band, has been asked to accompany the final event of the All About It festival - a talk by the surreal Estonian architect, Emile Kirsipuu. His book ‘523 builders of distinction’ has become the surprise bestseller of the season, and is in line for the Adler Dewar prize for non-fiction confection. Fearing that overindulgence may result in a largely uninhibited performance by Scabby Felix, the Festival organisers ban alcohol for the duration. Unfortunately it is Kirsipuu who overindulges, and his talk is a riot.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

92 - Words of a Feather

As the poet Abdul Hasib ibn Burd gallops down from the ridge above the Begwyns towards the riverside fields, he is aware that this year there are fewer black-tailed Isabelline wheatears than in the past. He mentions this to Lapricia Organdy who in turn decides to follow up the matter. She takes the problem to one of her colleagues at the Borders University. Since it is that time of year for the submission of applications for academic grants, the University immediately sends out a research team to do some initial studies on the ornithology of Gwair. When properly formatted these will be submitted to the prestigious journal ‘Words of a Feather’. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

91 - The Surreal Architect

Following the talk on his book ‘Send me back to Peking’ the travel writer, Ernesto Wrackham, has stayed on in Gwair to enjoy the rest of the festival. Though bemused by yesterday’s political shenanigans, he is nevertheless engrossed in the literary richness of the community. As he sips a rather potent country cocktail (Flaming Whistlewart) with the Estonian architect Emile Kirsipuu (who designs with a distinct surreal style) Wrackham mentions that he is exploring the possibility of buying a small cottage in the area.  Kirsipuu, never one to miss an opportunity, suggests that instead he buys a small parcel of land, and offers to design him an exquisite rural lodge.

Friday, 17 October 2014

90 - Seeking to benefit scroungers and hard-working terrorists

There are no events today in the ‘All About It’ festival as various local dignitaries are campaigning for the forthcoming by-election. A rickety stage has been erected in the public gardens,  and a jostling crowd is heckling the speakers. A rather unprepossessing dog called Sennacherib has escaped his owner (Lapricia Organdy) and has gathered up and chewed the carefully prepared notes of the speakers. Lapricia tries to make amends by hastily photocopying some of the rescued scraps of paper. In the confusion, all the copies are the same. As a result each orator starts by insisting that the government addresses the problems of ‘hard-working terrorists’ and seeks to benefit scroungers

Thursday, 16 October 2014

89 - A Working Wage

Today’s ‘All About It’ festival talk features a presentation by Elgin Nutwood of his  acclaimed biography of Asaph Hall. ’When in 1877, Hall discovered the Martian moon, Phobos, he was said to have explained that it was a mere diversion from his favored activity of experimentally determining the value of Pi using fine steel wire. It was in fact only under pressure from his wife that he applied himself to looking for Martian satellites. In fairness to his wife, it should be pointed out that she did a lot of the work, and only withdrew from the project when he refused to pay her a working wage for her efforts.'

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

88 - Ernesto Wrackham's Writings

The ‘All About It’ non-fiction festival kicks off with Axel Sanciere’s long and rather indigestible explanation about the workings of his book ‘The Invention of the Blue Fish Tipple’ – a poor opening for what was (dubiously) billed as the most important literary event in the Wye Valley. Nevertheless things brighten up with the arrival of a trio of travel writers on Wednesday. Their works are titled ‘The Colourful Villages of Lake Garda’ (Priscilla Fonteneau), ‘Huguenot Amsterdam’ (Letitia Thwaite) and ‘Send me back to Peking’ (Ernesto Wrackham). The talks given by these authors are extremely well-received by the audience, and the oddly spiced brew and buns served afterwards warm the atmosphere.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

87 - Today's Restaurant Review

The Hay and Gwair News and Gazette (aka Hagnag) finally reappears after the long term strike. It is under the stewardship of a new editor, and Antoine de Kunilemel has been given the brief of Food Correspondent. He decides to institute a Restaurant Review. For his first piece, he has chosen the most prestigious establishment in the district, the Maison D’Hote, which offers a good but tightly defined menu of international cuisine. For his visit tonight, Antoine dons his new white tuxedo, over which (during the main course) the waiter, unfortunately and inadvertently, spills a large serving of bright red hot chilli flavoured ratatouille. The resulting review is not complimentary.

Friday, 10 October 2014

86 - Blue Fish Tipple

In a further gesture of reconciliation, Dido Doolittle, the owner of the Back Room bookshop, and Samuel Quinine, the acting manager of the Gwair-on-Wye branch of Yifitsinprint Books, meet to plan the approaching ‘All About It’ festival of non-fiction books. The first problem is how to tactfully let Malvolio Claxendel know that he cannot front the event in order to publicise his latest turgid book on ‘The Third Epoch of Lyrian Archeology’. Dido favours offering the job to Abdul Hasib ibn Burd for his ‘Shorter History of  Psychiatric Misdiagnosis’, whilst Samuel’s preference is for Axel Sanciere in recognition of his latest volume ‘ The Invention of the Blue Fish Tipple’.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

85 - The Infamous Leecock-Proust mechanism

The astute reader will recall that many years ago Malvolio Claxendell invented a strange object popularly known as the Leecock-Proust mechanism.  Together with Myfanwy Detroit he is today coordinating a workshop at the Institute of Lyrian Archeology on the cultural heritage of Gwair-on-Wye (a heritage which some ignorant academics have questioned). Myfanwy’s contribution is a dynamic hip-hop reconstruction of a forgotten short story by Franz Kafka called ‘Halleluiah’.  The audience find this work approachable and energetic. By contrast Claxendell’s attempt to make his  practical history of the mechanism interesting, presents it through a manga illustrated powerpoint. In a post-seminar debrief, the Director of the Institute is completely lost for words.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

84 - Leroy's oniomania

Cecily and Leroy Fingal are reunited. Although Cecily’s indiscretions are now safe thanks to the timely strike at the local paper, Leroy’s secrets are less securely concealed. Whilst at the Management Seminar in Ystradgunlois he formed a friendship with a querulous artisan horologist called Anthony Rieussec, a descendent of the venerable royal watchmaker, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec of no. 14, Rue du Marché-Palu in Paris. They stayed up at nights discussing the intricacies of Tachymeter bezels and Rattrapante chronographs. Now Leroy is hiding from his innocent wife the fact that he has been spending hundreds of pounds on rare antique watch mechanisms. He is indeed totally addicted to his new oniomania.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

83 - Rough Winds

‘Methinks that summer's lease hath all too short a date' quotes Leporello Swinson as he struggles across the ridge near the Begwyns. It is rainy, and the rough winds have  interrupted his trek to collect rare late flowering plants for Xuan Ma, Gwendolyn Thorogood’s colleague who coordinates the Botany Research Group at the Borders University. Amongst the sample he has managed to collect however is an unusual  variety of utricularia gibba, a carnivorous plant that feeds off small aquatic invertebrates. When Malvolio Claxendell meets him and spots the killer plant, he is overwhelmed. At last an effective way of exterminating the garden snails who have made mincemeal of his begonias. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

82 - On the bookshelves

In his ongoing quest for self-clarification, Rabbi Oud Ramonides is looking through the shelves of Yifitsinprint Books, when he comes across an old volume on management theory (Semantics and Semiotics in Organisational Efficiency and Beyond). His son-in law Etrog Zinfandel once mentioned to him the business guru Walid Pfefferdinger who co-authored this book. In chapter seven he discovers the maxim he has long been seeking. ‘Every word counts - and that makes seven’. As he flicks through the pages he is aware that a pair of enquiring eyes is focussed on him. Aron Cledgling is of course looking for illustrated books about Afrofuturism, of which Pfefferdinger is the main man.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

81 – The Disappearance of Purple Prose

Although she is only Emeritus Chairman, when Ducats and Winoth Publishing bids to take over the Hay and Gwair News, it is Dame Katlyst Brough who heads up the campaign. The staff of the newspaper, led by Antoine de Kunilemel, calls an immediate strike. Luckily for Cecily Fingal, the newspaper cancels all articles, including the eloquent but somewhat purple essay by Melanie Grintclaw blaming Leroy Fingal for his wife’s stockpile of pornography. Cecily’s friend, Dido Doolittle, in whom she has confided elements of the situation (without detailing the more salacious bits) tells her to be very careful in her future dealings with Melanie Grintclaw. ‘She’s a Gwair-hating busybody,’ she declares.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

80 - The Purple Rhodedendron

As Rabbi Oud Ramonides falls asleep, images of his two grandfathers haunt his thoughts. In the half state between wakefulness and sleep, he hears their voices in discussion. The Ashkenazi patriarch gives the Thanatos view. Yield to the inevitable. Decay is your fate. Accept it. His Sephardi ancestor, the old Sage of Turkmenistan, the Eros of Bay’ramali, gives answer. Seize the day. Be the rare purple Trilby rhodedendron that survives despite all that threatens it. And letting that floral image fill his mind, the rabbi falls into a deep and untroubled sleep. With mindfulness, he has made his way through the troubled trajectory of the day. The rhodedendron rules, okay.