3 August 2013

Short Witchy Story

I visited a country house the other day. The gardens were lovely, though there wasn't much to buy there.  While walking round the walled vegetable garden (which reminded me of Heligan) I found these pages scrunched up under the leaves of a courgette plant. I thought you might be interested, so I've typed them up for you. ;-)

[ This is a link to the Scribd version which may be easier to read. I would also like to experiment with sending the whole document to those of my many readers (!) whose email addresses I have - but I'll do that in a few days time.]

"Dear Friend (I’m always a little shocked to have one to be honest),

Dear Friend,

I find myself with some time to kill. Having exhausted one’s repertoire of songs to sing in idle moments, and having dug the dirt from under my nails, and re-laced the boots into a different left over right, right over left pattern I can no longer bare the tedium of this enforced period of stillness. One doesn’t want to bore you with my boredom, but I’m afraid the only activity now available to me that has any chance of preventing my head exploding is to scratch out a few words to you.

Can’t imagine how a pencil found its way in here, or this scrap of paper, but let’s count our blessings and carry on ...

Perhaps I should explain where I am and why indeed I am not tweeting or Facebooking the (in)action in real time. Darling, I left in such a hurry without a thought as to what would happen next, that it never occurred to my silly little head to bring the damn smartphone. Oh, impetuosity is as always my downfall. Before I flung myself out of the window I really should have collected a few supplies. A spare pair of socks would have been on top of the list, a torch not far below and lastly ... the bloody front door keys. When will I learn? Before rushing off into the night a little forethought would pay dividends. But then, hey, when Adventure calls we must obey without hesitation, mustn’t we?

So here I am, in the dark, writing and not tappy tapping on a screen. How retro of me. Come to think of it the whole situation feels Robinson Crusoe-ish. Wonder if there are some sticks round her to light a fire. Not that being marooned on a desert island is comparable to squatting in your own garden. My predicament is far from noble. Having said that, the unexpected appearance of Man Friday would certainly chase away any ennui. ;-).

How did I get here? Yes, that’s what I’ve been pondering too. What began as a simple idea has ended up bit of a pear-shaped disaster.

You see, I just could not not hear that man’s insufferable voice going on and on. Even in the tower room of the west wing (you know the one ... the one with the alembic and all that gubbins in it, not the east wing tower where the taxidermy collection is) I could hear him droning on; and Aunt Morganna witlessly encouraging him with her girly giggles. You would think an 83 year old crone would know better. Can’t imagine she was interested in Uncle Jeremy’s exposition on wines of the Alsace region. We’d already been through how soil types affect acidity levels and the naming of all thirteen grapes in Ch√Ęteauneuf du Pape. When Uncle Nigel chipped in with a speech on migrant grape pickers I thought the tide had turned, but no, on Uncle Jeremy ploughed, invigorated now the EU was fair game.

I don’t know why he thought we would be interested. When I visit Andre who runs my own vineyards I say ‘give me the wine and the profits, I don’t need to know the tannin levels’. It makes life so much simpler. We both know where we stand. I get the alcohol and the money; he gets to ponce about with his dipstick.

Being too polite (you know me and my impeccable manners) to say “Oh put a sock in it Jeremy”, I tried a cold hard stare, but I think he mistook it for my natural Bitchy Resting Face and just carried on.

I had to leave the room to find somewhere in the mansion where I couldn’t hear that pompous bass rumble. At first I went to the kitchen but the Aga was pumping out heat into the already hot air. The deep cold walls of the pantry seemed a good place to escape, but they were no match for this extraordinary summer heat, and the Gorgonzola was overpoweringly humming.

I headed upstairs, but not before overhearing an alarming exchange between the various relatives.

“Where’s she gone?”
“Didn’t she say she was going to the lavvy?”
“She’s been gone a while.”
“Yes, do you think she is having trouble?”
“I did think she left in a hurry.”
“It’s the fish course. I didn’t like the look of that fish. I must say, I didn’t eat mine.”
“Told you. What was it anyway? Pollack? Gurnard?”
“Not pleasant, whatever it was.”
“Poor woman. She has been a while. Do you think I should go and offer help?”
“Good God, no. You don’t want to have to deal with that.”

Maybe I should have gone back in, but couldn’t face the explanations and denials. The need to discuss my bowel movements with Uncle Jeremy was all the more reason to hide upstairs.

I tried the linen cupboard first, but the close darkness brought the sweat out on my upper lip and it really was a childish place to hide. Of course the bathrooms were off limits, and the bedrooms were too hot. Those velvet drapes may be opulent but they do cling on to heat. At last I climbed up into the west wing tower and stood quietly amongst the alchemy equipment.

I could still hear his voice; not distinct words, but the drone was inescapable. I pulled up a chair by an open casement window and looked out into the dark, enjoying the cool breeze. Suddenly a flash of light lit up the garden and two elephants later thunder cracked. Rain began to fall. This was the first rain for weeks. I leaned out further and sniffed the new freshness. It was beautiful. If I stretched my arm out into the night air I could feel raindrops prickle my sweaty palm. Delicious. Standing up I tipped as far as I could out of the window. The rush of the summer storm blew around my face eliciting a little whoop of joy. With my head out of the window I couldn’t hear Uncle Jeremy, and I was free from the stifling heat of the house.

“I would rather be out there,” I thought.

Which is when the trouble began.

The sensible, more adult response would have been to go back downstairs, clear up the diarrhoea misunderstanding, then clearly state my intention to walk in the rain. However, as I say, impetuosity is my downfall.

The broomstick was downstairs, so flying out was not possible, but, I don’t know if you noticed when you last visited, there is a tall fir tree growing very close to the tower. Jumping across to the tree and then shimmying down did look achievable. I’m not scared of heights, I reasoned, and leaps of faith into the air are my stock in trade. It was a tight squeeze through the window, and the skirts had to be bunched up around the legs, but I managed to balance on the window sill. Helpfully another flare of lightning lit up the tree. I judged the distance and leapt.

The manoeuvre was successful. I finished clinging to the main trunk, fifty or so feet up, at last free of the fetid mansion. Now, I may be a master of herb lore, but my arboreal knowledge is somewhat lacking. What I had not anticipated were the thousands of sharp needles sticking into my every inch. Ouch. The momentum of the jump had driven them though my clothes. My arms were pierced and they had managed to get passed the armoury of the corset. My inner thighs, so tightly clung to the trunk, were hedgehogged with them. The climb down then was excruciating. Once down I did my best to shake the little beggars free but for the rest of the night, in fact, right now as I write, every move was torture.

Still, ‘yer makes yer choices’ and all that, this hard won freedom was here to be enjoyed. I ran into the rain arms out wide, exalting in the cool air and the drama of nature. It was marvellous.

All of a sudden a shaft of lightning hit one of the weathercocks on the tower. Roof tiles crashed down. It was so near the force of it pushed me backwards. I stopped exalting and ran under a nearby horse chestnut tree, but then remembered the most dangerous place to be in a storm is under a tree, so I dashed back out in to the open, then remembered that being in the open was also a perilous place to be, so I scurried under a rose arbour, having some thoughts on standing in doorways during an earthquake, but then another fork of lightning hit a dovecot (the white one, not the green one), blowing it up and frazzling a few doves, so thoroughly freaked out by this point I darted across the lawn, zigzagging as though to dodge the bullets of a sniper, into the safety of the potting shed.

And here I remain, crouching amongst the pots and spiders, waiting for the storm to pass, scribbling my pickle to you, and trying to compose an explanation of my dishevelled state to the relatives."