April 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Dear cousin Bert
How are ya? I am playing cricket for England.
The lads are a good bunch. There’s Straussy. Cooky. Belly. Broady. Swanny. Wrighty. Finny. Monty. The last one’s originally Indian. I say I’d love to go to India, heard it’s beautiful. He says he doesn’t know he grew up in Walsall. I say what about the names. Does his mean anything? Mont. He says he doesn’t know he grew up in Walsall and then starts to talk for 3 minutes but I don’t understand anything of what he’s going on about. I say niver mind.
Oh an there’s another Saffer in the team. Kiv Pietersen. Rally nice chip. He is big and is helping me settle in. He keeps saying that it will come good but don’t try too hard. He’s lent me all these things. Bat, pads, triangular face mask. He tells me not to worry about getting hit in the face, “Your ugly anyway Trotty,” he says. “Seriously mate, you’re lucky you don’t have a face like mine. Gold it is. Think about getting it insured sometimes. Then I think, nah best to age gracefully.”
Anyway bru I’ll give you a bell soon, just goin out to bat. Miss you, love to the folks
PS I tried to read that book, “The art of War”. Bit of a disappointment bru. I thought it was all about war and ninjas and shit. But it’s not. I don’t know what the hell it’s about.
April 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Average down to 46.24. Why God?
I’m on the dancefloor. I’m dancing. I’m doing that rolling thing with my hands, arms up in the sky, moving down, back up again.
You make me feel like the one, make me feel like the one, oh yeah….
All the eyes are on me. All of them.
Yeah I feel like the one, feel like the one.
O jeez. In the corner. It’s Belly. He’s looking at me while sipping a cocktail. Hooded eyes ravishing every inch of my body. Focus Kev. Feel like the…
O God. I’ve lost my rhythm. My feet feel heavy. Straussy is looking at me too. I’m sweating. I’m walking over to Belly. I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind.
Wait. I’m not in a disco. I’m at Lords. I’m on the field. It’s the 20/20 final. The whole team is staring at me. And laughing. Bellyyyyyyy!
I’ve been taking lessons in false modesty. My coach Rob Spear tells me I should use the phrase “I was lucky enough” more, as in “I was lucky enough to score a century today; I was lucky enough to visit a school of orphans in India; I was lucky enough to meet Mandela (LOL!!).”
He also says never to point with the finger but to use a thumb like claw approach. Also I shouldn’t mispronounce opposition players’ names.
I say, “are you kidding? Have you ever been to Sri Lanka?!!”
He says “c’mon Kevin.”
I say “it’s Kivan. KIVAN you fucking muppet.”
I lay into him with all my fury.
They’ve got a new player in from South Africa. He’s been drafted straight into the first team. Senior management think that his failure will turn on my success. His name’s Trott.
I got 15 today. Bowled.
Trott’s not understood his role in the side. He’s a fuckin idiot. C’mon Kivan.
God. I’ve never prayed to you before. But I’m praying now. I’m on my knees big guy. Firstly– as you know I am a great cricketer. But I don’t seem to be getting the scores in. C’mon God pal, give us a hand here mate.
“Have you ever scored a century at Lords? Have you ever scored a double century at the Wanderers? Have you? Have you? I mean what are you? What have you ever done man? Nothing! You are nothing to me!!”
I hang up the phone to Mandela and stride out onto the balcony wearing only my sunnies and a smile. Hold on. This is not my balcony. I’m at Lords. The whole world is watching. There are muted gasps from the members lounge and an old man dies in the stands.
My average is down to 46.21. Are you happy now God?
April 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
“I am Charles Burgess FRY!”
Thus I shouted as the policeman gripped my arm, and attempted to lock an iron bracelet around my wrist. The nerve of the man. The sheer unadulterated nerve!
It’d started pleasantly enough. I’d been dining at the Savage Club with two compatriots. We were picking over the ruins of the Lords match in which the Chinaman Ellis Achoo had devastated England with a new ball he had invented (that I named “the bad one”). It came as no surprise to me that the inept buffoons had lately lost their nerve, led as they were by that odious urn of excretia, Grace.
In any respects I was preparing to eat the haunch of pheasant cooked with a modicum of plumage which was when I discovered that I had no fork. Well of course one cannot eat pheasant with one’s hands these days and so I decided to take my neighbour’s. Doyle, however, is a most cantankerous fool and refused me.
Angered I took the nearest thing that I could find– a gold fork lying in the display cabinet on the wall and buried it deep into the partridge. As I raise it to my lips, I notice the room’s eyes on me!
“What,” I shouted out loudly as Messrs Rees, Jakes and Fosworthy looked on. “Think I know not how to eat a pheasant?”
I brought it to my lips and bit hard. Ah it tasted good. I was masticating it when a servant came over and stood above me.
“What is it you blithering idiot? What do you want?”
“Um, Sir,” quoth the discomposed lackey. “Please, but you may not use that fork. It’s not for use.”
“I’ll use any fork I like you fool. How dare you interrupt my luncheon. Now go away.”
“Sir, that fork belonged to Lord Nelson. We have it here on special display. It is priceless. It is gold!”
To say I was angry would be an understatement. I buried the fork deeper into the pheasant and ate directly from it, licking the utensil from top to bottom.
There was a visible gasp around me.
“Someone call the police,” arose a shout.
And then Doyle approached me with a grim look on his untidy face.
“I am arresting you in the name of the king.”
Well I wasn’t having this lickspittle arrest me and so I served him a mighty blow to his face. He went down in a crashing heap. Unfortunately another man took me from behind. He had grasped my arms in a lock and weighed me to the floor.
“I arrest you sir, for defiling Nelson’s fork!”
There were thirteen of them Poesy all upon me. I could not take them all, though I tried.
A few hours later I was at the dock of the Queen’s Court in the Old Bailey. The magistrate, Lord Kempton, used to be a friend of mine. We had shared rooms at Oxford. Unfortunately he had been lost to law and the sentence that he issued was a harsh one.
“You are to serve fifteen days in Pentonville for the defilement of her Majesty’s property!”
This could not be true. What travesty! For, Poesy, I was due to sail with the England XI to Australia in ten days time!
“No,” I cried. “You cannot do this. I am to sail to play cricket in Australia! You will undo a lifetime’s work!”
Kempton understood my plight but said the law was blind and that his hands were tied.
“Fear not Fry,” says he, “you will be there. We will get you to Australia. There is another boat. The greatest ship of her kind. She is faster, more navigable and more commodious than any other and she sets sail in 15 days. Her name– The Titanic!”
Fry’s Titanic diary
Gods! Finally I am set sail. Three days after my teammates are already departed. They en route while I languish here in the bowels of this ship.
In truth this ship is a hideous wreck. My quarters, are cramped, and carry a foul air of pestilence.
I dined with the Rt Hon George Absquith this evening. Lady Margaret and I did make badinage. My repartee was unparalleled. I got quite drunk on the champagne and tried to follow her back to her cabin, but she would not let me inside. One day she will realise what she has lost.
Canapes on the pavilion this evening. There is muttering of war. I tell everyone not to be stupid. Who would make war on the English? These are the days of peace and freedom. The only war is to be made on the pitch! Ha! I get quite drunk and attempt to swing from the chandelier in the main hall. Luckily I see sense and merely swan dive off the parapet.
Managed to get a net today. I commanded one of the deck hands—a small boy named Toby— to throw me a couple. One of my shots was hit so hard that it loosed a lifeboat. Ah well they will never need that!
The captain is a rum bloke called Smethwick. I fancy he likes a bit of the lash.
Supine supernumeraries! What an experience. I was playing tennis on the deck with the Rt Hon William Perry this morning. As I closed the match with a smash to his head, I saw a fine form floating past. O but how! Dressed head to toe in willowing white cloth she’d come to play. Her name is Penelope Simmons. I am enamoured. I am entrapped.
Curses. I have been dreaming about my team. I cannot help but wonder how that adipose barrel of butter Grace is faring. Undoubtedly he is turning them against me. On my boat! Where I should have been. If only we could go faster. I will tell the captain of this junk to burn more coal! Fry needs to reach Australia!
Good, we are making time. I threatened the captain last night to increase our speed to the maximus. He pointed that we were already travelling as fast as we could. Then I looked at the map. “There,” I said to him. “Why can’t we go that way?”
“Those are the North Atlantic straits Sir,” says he. “They are the most treacherous waters in the northern hemisphere.”
“O you quaking, quavering fool. Are you English or are you a coward? What straits ever bowed the English before. We must go that way—through there avaunt!”
After some hard slaps to the face the fool saw sense. Finally we are catching them!
I mustered up the courage to speak to Penelope. What an angel. She is going to holiday in India with her parent. I asked her if she likes cricket. She said yes and asked me the same. I could only look away and blush.
I must break out of my cabin.
The weather turns against us. These seas are cold. The ladies and gentlemen of the ship had a dance today. I charmed and wooed every lady. But my eyes were set on the fairest of them all. Penelope! We danced three roundels and a waltz. Ah the romance. At the end she slipped me her glove. I feel she is smitten.
I had a vociferous argument with the captain. The fool tells me we must change course. The seas are too rough by day. We shall sail by night then, says I. Under the stars. He tried to protest but I whipped him into understanding.
I have grown closer to Penny. She calls me Charles now. How felicitous!
O the error of my ways! O dogged mistakes! O painful fate! Earlier this afternoon I thought that I would surprise Penny by calling at her chambers and escorting her to luncheon. I reached her room to find the door ajar. Thinking my arrival would surely be a charming surprise I crept in. O but what I found! She was there lying insensate on her sofa. Her eyes drooped into a sort of oblivion and she made soft moaning noises. Lying next to her on the floor was a bottle of morphine! She is a morphineuse! I left immediately.
I have been in an ill humour for ten days now. Penny keeps calling around. She told me that she had taken medicine for an old ailment. I do not believe her. Fie the liar!
Today was another dinner. An American braggart was there—his name Boy Hoover. He is a large man and considers himself to be possessed of the deepest bass in the world. Over dinner I challenged him to have it out. Thus we stood abreast of each other. He went first. Indeed he produced a note of such ungodly profundity that I thought it would stir the beasts out of their briny lairs.
But he had not reckoned with Fry! I opened my mouth and yodelled a note of such ear-splitting intensity that many thought it was the ship’s foghorn itself. Ha! The American is defeated.
It was the ship’s foghorn!
The captain has been down in a funk. He announced that we have struck something in the water. I told him not to be foolish.
The ship is still. We do not move.
I am on deck. The scene is a riot. I believe we have hit a berg! The captain has lost him mind. I saw Penelope running around in circles! The poor wretch has lost her parent. She is like a little bird and relies on me utterly.
God I cannot get to a lifeboat. It’s women and children first. Do they not know that I above all need to get to Australia.
Uff the ship sinks. This is serious. I see all the women are off. Penelope has boarded one. In the confusion she lost her parents. She sees me. Suddenly she stands and screams “You are the only man I ever loved CB.” O God !How could I leave her. How could I let her go? NO! You are CB Fry. I will reach her boat. I can jump it! Yes I can jump this distance.
I made the boat! I produced a new world record long jump and bounded out of the poopdeck and into the lifeboat where Penelope sat. Unfortunately the force with which I hit the boat unbalanced it and sent Penelope flying out miles in the air and out into the sea. I trust that she will have been rescued by an able sailor.
The voyage was a perilous one. But I made it. I rowed for 16 days without food nor water until I made it to the southern tip of Australia just in time for the Melbourne Test. That same day I scored 141 and took 4 wickets for a measly figure. As ever I was a success.
But I never heard from Penelope again. They found her chiffon skirts floating downstream, and no one knows if she was alive or not. The tragedy of the Titanic will be told for years to come. God bless her and all those who sailed in her.
April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
I watch Belly going into the toilet. This is my chance. In my pocket are my brown, leather driving gloves, like the ones in Drive. I asked Ryan Gosling’s agent to send me his own, but he refused. So I got an imitation pair from Topshop. Viscose.
The sun is setting and the stars are coming out of the sky. Pakistan never looked so beautiful. I give it to the count of 50. Then I get up and ask to be excused.
I walk deliberately to the toilet. Just before I get in I put on my leather driving gloves. Belly is there at the urinal. He is wearing a purple sarong, flip flops and a muscle vest. I am wearing a purple sarong, flip flops and a vest. This must end. Now.
I walk up behind Belly and reach my arms to his neck. I ponder the situation for a second or two. Just as I am about to squeeze, he notices me and turns around. He continues to piss. He’s pissing all over me.
“O God. Finally.”
He moves my arms around him in an embrace and clutches me to him.
“I suspected it. But I never knew for certain. God, Kevin you fool. Why didn’t you tell me before.”
“No. No Belly. This isn’t…”
He tries to kiss me, but I back away. As I am moving back I slip on something liquid. I fall. Belly is still advancing on me. I scramble along the toilet floor. He’s still moving to me. I manage to burst out of the door. The boys look around. I am covered in liquid putrefaction. My sarong is a deeper shade of purple.
There is a gurgling noise from inside the toilet. I do not want to look. I get up and walk grimly out of the restaurant and up to my room. The night is over.
April 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
Delectable diaphanous Poesy. The cream of my lions. Fire of my breath. The vowel in my stuttering lisp the completeness of my meandering mind, my world, my six ball over, my clip for four, the medium in which I work, the cream of my loomspun pants, the worm that spins my silkened shirt.
March 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
CB FRY AND THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
The year is 1898. The place the Congress of the League of Nations, Cairo. The greatest gathering of leaders, princes and kings since the Royal Symposium of Sandwich last May.
I had been asked to attend by my Surrey cricket colleague Prince Ranjitsinhji. Prince, as I call him, posed the delicate matter of me last winter as we batted side by side in the Oval nets.
“CB,” says he.
“Yes,” says I.
“Would you like to attend the Congress of the League of Nations with me.”
“Yes,” says I, before shouting “WATCH THE BALL,” as a delivery from Tyson honed into his most private region (that which you know not off yet P) and shattered it irreversibly.
Two months subsequent and I was in Cairo.
Cairo!! City of thieves, beggars, slaves, vagabonds, mercenaries, pirates, imbeciles, neanderthals, uncultured oafs, sneaky cut-throats, sooty cutpurses, blaggards, viziers, footpads and desolates.
As I leaned out of my window I saw all the sights of the East. The pilgrims walking to mecca, mooselmen bartering in the shadows, the markets cramped with camels and elephants and beyond them the Sphinx, towering in the distance like a shuffling creature laden with gold and other exotic gems. I saw the dust dunes whispering in the wind. I saw the crescent moon newly risen into the sky and heard the yodelling call of the fakir. I saw a wizened brown man climbing up a rope that bent into the sky, as another laid himself upon a bed of nails and promptly screamed in pain.
In among all this hurly burly I almost felt at ease. And then suddenly it hit me. A rock thrown by a street urchin from below had entered the window and struck me a blow on the clavicle. In a state of vengeful anger I rushed to the street ready to slake my ire on this perpetrator. But by the time I reached down, there was no one there. He had disappeared.
I was mad at this trick. But you see this is the foul and pestilent way of the East dear Poesy. One minute she will lull you on the tides of a tranquil sea, the next plunge you into a hotbed of molten anger.
I retired to my chambers once more and comforted myself by smashing the wooden bed into smithereens. A few hours later I had recovered and accompanied Prince to the great congress hall of the fifteenth League of Nations.
O but what a sight it was Poesy! The greatest men of the day in concord. There was Wilhelm II of Schlafenschlaven, Prince of Prussia, Faure the famous pumper of France, Gonzalo of Spain with his frazzled skin, Little Charlemagne and Old Pinky the Bohemian Pumpernickel. There were Americans too, Beaky Jones, their president and Capt Custer, soon to be a great General. Lastly the orientals. Ching Chong Chee and Pee Chung Chang, feudal lords of Wankdon Province.
Behind the great seigneurs stood armies of natives, the hod carriers and food makers. Black African orderlies holding trays of multivarious fruit, moors the colour of nightshade silently manning the atrium, choleric Eskimaux with strange herbs and potions and sooty Hindoos pouring cordials.
Prince was in his element, striding this way and that like the Shah of Shahenshehabad himself. He wore a codpiece of massive girth and had upon his head a towering red turban so large that it seemed it would topple over any second and crush fifteen men in its wash.
I myself bestrode the halls with ease, picking a fruit from the bowl here, taking a drink of foaming sherbet there. How natural ‘twas for me CB Fry to be in this company. Finally in my milieu. With men who were of my ilk. My own standing. Great, wealthy men.
I was just about to place an exotic love apple into my mouth when of a sudden my reverie was shattered. For there peering into a copy of the Times, his two little eyes darting hither and thither, like an otters– it was him. Yes it was that adipose platypus. That foolish, hirsute vole. The bewhiskered buffoon, the very height of pomposity—Grace!
My humeur left me immediately.
“Fry,” he bellowed as he spied me through the folds of the paper, “what on earth are you doing here?”
“Grace,” I replied with some hauter, “I might ask you the same question.”
“As the representative of the Gentlemen of England CC and Marylebone XI I am of course entitled. But I wouldn’t have expected you, unless…ah, oh yes, I see. You come as the servant of that Indian. I see. It all becomes clear.”
“I am no servant Grace. I am here in a consolatory capacity. And it would appease me not to see your face again these days.”
“O come, come Fry,” he retorts. “We must treat each other like civilised Englishmen. I will be lunching in the consulate halls this afternoon should you care to join me.”
“I think not,” I replied curtly. I was about to deliver him an even more cutting thrust of my wit (which that great flaneur of Piccadilly, Fingal O’ Flaherty Wills himself has praised) when my ears were assailed by an infernal screech.
“Awrence!” came the cry.
I looked up to see a black-faced man flying towards me, his white robes billowing behind him like the wings of a gull.
“Awrence, Awrence! ‘Tis you ’tis you, here!!”
“Away with you Jamal,” I screamed, disgusted to my very shoes. “I have no need for manservants.”
“But Awrence tis me. Fawad. Do you not remember me?”
He looked at me through devious, hooded eyes, undoubtedly intoxicated on some Eastern narcotic—baklava, Turkish delight, fondant fancy ‘tis all the same— foul nauseating things unfit for an Englishman. The sight of him sickened me and the rage rose.
“Who are you, you impudent fool?” I cried at him. I could see Grace peering at me.
“I am no manservant Awrence. I am the Fawad of Al Khaleel al Jumeira Sharm el Sheikh, Kasheeef.
“Cover your nose man!”
“No, I am called Kasheef, that is my name. Have you forgotten me so soon?”
Indeed this hooked nose-bonobo was right. I had forgotten him. If I ever knew who he was. Enraged by the man’s contemptible familiarity, the nerve, the sheer unadulterated nerve, I took him by the collar and hauled him firmly over the palace tiles.
With the firm grip I had around his neck, the man started to howl and hurl words into the air.
“No, no ’tis I, ’tis I Kasheef al Fawad. You are mistaken.”
He was chattering like a macaque and just as I prepared to throw him out the door he screeched,
“They want you to be the king, king Awrence!”
“Yes Awrence I speak the truth. By God’s golden eye they want you to be the king!”
I dropped the fakir onto the floor.
“Once more to rule, as once you did. He sent me.”
“Who? What are you jabbering about man.”
“The Emir of Australia!”
I righted the man and looked him in the eye.
“A man of great standing Awrence. He knew of our friendship and sent me to be his emissary. They want to meet you. They want to offer you the kingship!”
“Who, exactly do you think I am?”
“You are Awrence. Our Awrence, of Arabia! You must come with me. You must come to the hotel Dar e Salaam, where the man from Australia awaits you. He told me to bring you this very night!”
I did not dissuade him from this pathetic fallacy, however trite it was. For I wanted to know more Poesy. And I found more. So much, much more.
Part the 2nd
The man called Fawad arrived on his camel at dusk. Of course I refused this hideous mount and walked. It was a warm evening and the air stirred with the scent of jasmine and lavender. With my noble bearing, my silk shirt and my high moustaches what a sight I looked. The very quintessence of nobility.
Indeed my curiosity had been piqued by this strange and jabbering wretch. From what I could gather the men of Australia had sent out a delegation to appoint me as their king. If this were true then it would indeed be an interesting prospect.
We arrived at the hotel in the winking evening light. A warty faced crone greeted us there. When asked where I could find the Emir of Australia she shook her head and shrieked “Australia no eeey.”
Her strange dialect, which I took to be one of the Haloumi tribe, was one of the few that I was not familiar with (and how could I for it was that of a goatherder’s clan). Even though I took her by the shoulders and repeated very slowly “The Emir of Australia” in the finest Queen’s, it was no good for the crone was insensible.
Fawad started jabbering something. I was about to throw him out of the door when I realised that they were communicating. After an age of alphabetical soup, with much finger pointing and head-shaking, the two sand people arrived at an accord and Fawad led me to the hall, a magnificent ante room outside of which stood two negroid slaves carrying broad camel spears.
At a word from Fawad one of them pulled a long golden cord and the doors fell open to reveal a fabulous room. O but what a sight it was Poesy! Not a room, but an entire theatre! A world within, long as the eye could see. It was filled with the finest antiquities, peacock feathers, jewel-encrusted tortoises and leopard hangings on the wall. Fountains poured purpulus into the air and the ground, sprinkling young vespertines which danced and came to life below. Servants stood here and there, some hunched on their haunches others idly playing musical instruments, harps, lyres, the clavichord. So much life in such exotic form!
At the very end of the room was a golden divan shrouded in a thin drape of silk upon which there lay a supine shape, munching grapes.
I drew closer and saw a small, reedy thing. In good humour I approached and offered a firm English salute.
“CB Fry at your service. Sah!”
“Ah Mr Awrence you have arrived!” it said in a barely audible drawl. “Good. Goooood. We are very glad you could make it.”
It was a man. He had swarthy, sun-tinkled skin, like an African manatee, black hooded-eyes and a round face at once Asiatic and European. He proffered me a lazy wink from his prone position, as if hardly able to draw strength to sit up.
“I am Egalabalus. And you are?”
“I am CB Fry.”
“Ah of course. Mr. Awrence. Yes you come to answer our invitation. Good, goooood. We are grateful Mr Awrence. Pipo, wine!”
Egalabalus clapped his hands and a manboy slave, the colour of wine himself, brought a carafe over. Now you know I am not one for the evils of drink Poesy so I refused, however Egalabalus was having none of it.
“Come my frieeeend. You must drinkkkk. For we all drink in our country. And if you are to be one of us you must put it to your lips and driiiink.”
Under this duress I broke the vow of a lifetime and imbibed. Bagalagabus continued,
“You answer us in our great time of need for we have gone masterless for too long. The country is in a ruin, the men run wild, the goats run free and the women simply run. It is not gooooood. My people are disunited and divided. Moreover they are disgruntled. They need a figurehead. A man of action. And so dear ‘Awerence we ask you to save us as you have done with the peoples of Fawad. We ask you to come to our country and be our Zod!”
“To be your God you say?”
“No Awrence, there is no such thing. We want you to be our Zod. The ruler of our lands. Our prime potentate. The divine incarnate. We want you to reign with a mighty hand, to sit and prevail over the peoples with a cruel benevolence. We wish for you to be our king. The king of Albania!”
He nodded his assent and I felt a thrill coarse down my aristocratic body. Yes Poesy I was chosen. But wait. Did I hear this oration correct.Good God, Albania? The poorest country in the world? I was nincompooped. I looked at Fawad askance. I would later hand him such a beating that he would remember it for the rest of his life. But, for now, I must be calm.
“You will come and reign in my land. With all the things our lands have of offer. The mountain of Dingo. The river of Dango. The city of Dongo. You will be served goatsmilk every day. And the women. You can take them all. That woman in this hotel! She is one of our countrywomen! Have her Awrence. For is she not a beauty? Have her, she is yours! It will all be yours. You will start immediately that you have passed the challenges.”
“What? What challenges?”
“Yes, but of course ‘Awry. You must pass the five hideous labours of Zog before you can become Zod. You must defeat the other challenger to the throne. For we have two candidates for the position. You and a man of much nobility from the Irish royal family of Donegoon.”
“The Irish royal family?”
“His name is Mr Seamus O’ Seamus, owner of the petroleum lands of Galway. A great white man like yourself. Not like my country where they are all brown, like goats! Yes dear ‘Awrence, win the throne and become the Emir of Albania! What say you?”
The wine hung heavy about my lips and I was unsure on my feet. But then it dawned on me. I must accept the position. I would undertake the challenge and I would prevail. And how could I not. For am I not CB Fry?
“Yes. In the name of Queen Victoria and the Royal consort I accept!”
Begabalus clapped his hands in glee and jumped off the divan.
“Good. Goooood. The procession of labours will begin at 1pm tomorrow. I will be here to crown the new King. One man shall prevail. It is destiny! Grape?”
I awoke in the best of humeurs. I’d slept like never before and after feasting on a break fast of kippers and quails followed by a soup of beefy gruel, I felt ready.
A rickshaw arrived to drive me to the appointed place, le bain douche de Cairo, a hammam sauna in the middle of the city. The driver was a small monkey-faced man whom I called Toby. He spoke the whole way down, though for one so small his speech was not offensive.
“In Egypt food is considered a delicacy,” said Toby, his two little feet scurrying forth through the narrow alleys. “Our national dish tis called kikriki dump dump! It is made of dung beetles and asses milk. Ooh Mr Fry you must taste this!”
“Would I were an innocent heathen like you Toby perhaps I would. But tell me, what of the great kings? What of the men who ruled over this impoverished state?”
“Ahhh! Yes. Yes Mr CB sir, we Egyptians are very proud of our rulers. Many a Pharaoh and kings have reigned here. You have no doubt heard of the great dynasty of the Tuts! Tut the first. Tut the second. Tut the third. Tut the fourth. Tut the fifth. Tut the erm….”
“Tut the sixth?”
“Oh so you know themmm Mr CB? Indeed Sir the Tuts: warriors, architects, lovers and erecters.”
“What’s that you say man?”
“Erections Sir erections! Look the pyramids! They erected them. The cold-hearted Sphinx! A Tut erection. The tower of Cock-man-Ra. Erected by Tut the fourth. They erected them all! They erected them and then they died. And after they buried there within their erections. With all their wealth!”
I noticed a dim haze appear in tiny Toby’s visage. His eyes became like two leering moons.
“Ah,” he continued, “silver like you have never seen. Rubies, amethysts and ambergris. But the most greatest of them, Tutankhamun, the boy king! Borne by Cleopatra, fathered by Caesar, grandfathered by Jimborobaman the goatherder! Husband to Tutankhawomun. Father to Tutankhasun. And yet…..and yet….”
I noticed another shudder coarse through Toby’s round gelatinous face.
“Oh but the currrse. I can speak no more.”
After five seconds we continued to chit-chat until at 1pm we arrived at the appointed place, the bain douche le Cairo. As I was leaving I got into a quarrel with young Toby over the fare, but it was settled in the proper English way.
“But where did Tutankahamun die?” I said as he was hobbling off with his broken rickshaw.
“Nobody knows Sireeeee. It is forbidden to speak of this!”
And with that, he was gone. Inside the bains, Egalabalus was awaiting munching on a bunch of grapes.
“Awreennceee. You are ere,” he cried, shifting a half centimetre on his divan. “Gooood. The great challenges must begin precisely on time.”
He pulled on a cord hanging from the ceiling that was connected to a bucket suspended in the air which upended and dropped a cascade of boiling water down onto his sullen slave Pipo, who’d been hiding in the shadows.
Pipo!” exclaimed Egalabalus, “Bring out the challenger. Do it now!”
The boy held aloft a tiny bugle to his lips and blew it with all his might. It produced no more than a peep, but the sound was enough to disturb the peace of the hammam. There among the dim vapours I saw a shape suddenly come to life.
“O God what is this?” I thought. The very carnality made me shudder. Out of the fog emerged a mountainous simian form. Huge towering jowels. A great white paunch. And that beard. I would recognise it anywhere. Yes Poesy! There, stood like the very spirit of turpitude, wearing nothing more than a small towel was W G Grace!
“Grace,” I cried.
“Oh begom an begorrah. Seamus ‘O Seamus of the Amarald Ayle. Pleased ta mayte yer.”
“This is Mr Seamus O Seamus of the Gallway monarchy of Ireland,” said Egalabalus. “And this is Awrence, the conquerer of Arabia.”
Never have I experienced a greater mix of beffudlement and wrath as then. The nerve of the man Poesy. He a charlatan, pretending to be an Irishman.
“But, what, man….”
“Mr… errr Lawrence is it?! Ef Arabia ye say?”
Egalabalus lay there in a state of inviolable ignorance.
“Yes he is I.”
“An so yar my mysterious challenger,” said Grace with a uncanny look in his eye. “Well good luck to youse, may de best man win.”
I shunned his hand, and readied my mind. Yesl Poesy, my destiny had been struck! Through all the quirks of fate, the meandering turns of life I had arrived here. To face my greatest enemy. To beat him. To become king. To destroy Grace!
“Good,” screamed Egalabalus in a state of nervous suspension. “Let us begin! Pipo!”
The wine dark boy tootled his horn once more.
“By God’s Golden eye let our challenges begin.”
Poesy the hour had come. Seamus O Sea, I mean Grace stood there in his tiny little towel smirking at me. This mass had haunted m throughout my life. But for him I would have become the England cricket captain. But now I would beat him and be king. Twas decreed.
“So the first challenge,” announced Pipo.
Egalabalus had a dark wooden box drawn out from within and placed before us. He spoke in barely a whisper.
“Gentlemen. The cigarette is our finest luxury. To be King of the Albans you must smoke than any other man alive. Please begin.”
My stratagem was to put the cigarettes into my mouth all at once and then create a small vacuum in my throat through which I would be able to jettison the smoke upwards and out through my ears and eyes.
I was able to fit in 53 ciggers at once and puffed away like one of Stephenson’s locomotives. They had never seen anything like it and to a man they applauded me in astounded amazement.
But I’d not reckoned with Grace. He comfortably put 245 cigarettes into his mouth and not only did he smoke them with ease, but he actually enjoyed it!
“That is victory to Seamus.”
“Oh begom an begorrah why thankin ye gladly.”
I admitted defeat and the score was one to nothing in his favour.
Next Egalabalus had a gigantic barrel brought out before us.
“And now gentlemen. The second test. Drinking of our wine. We will favour he who drinks the most.”
Grace drank fifteen quarts of wine at once drinking and urinating. I, of course, needed not to do this, being possessed of the strongest bladder in the world. Unfortunately when I came to tasting the wine it was such foul stuff that I might only bring myself to drink a few quarts before I had to stop and retch violently into the steam bucket.
Thus this challenge was won by Grace. I will admit Poesy my heart was beating a trifle faster than it should. Grace meanwhile wore the smug expression that I had seen so often on his face. Egalabalus suddenly arose from his divan and screamed:
“And now for feats of athletic prowess. First, the jumping of the Tiber. Jump the raging torrent and claim victory! Pipo!”
The wine dark slave led us around the back of the Hammam where there trickled a small stream. Well of course you know that no man in Christendom can beat me at the jump. And so it proved. Not only did I beat the man into oblivion with my forwards jump (setting a new world record in the process), but I also entertained the fellows with several instances of my backwards mantel jumps, which threw the crowded masses into a frenzy.
Egalabalus clapped loudly at this entertainment. And then was announced the test of valour and strength—the slaying of the ass. They brought a mule into the arena. In truth the fellow had quite a charming face and an affectionate way about him. Indeed he tried to rub his face against me quite tenderly such that I almost lost the will to battle it.
Try as I may, with buffets and blows to the head and flanks Dobbin would only become more placid, and he continued with his contented mastication. Eventually I decided t’would be best for me to cease. Grace, however, was no better. Indeed his wrestling technique served only to excite the beast who thought it all a game and rose up on his haunches to climb over the back of Grace, like a man embracing his spouse. We all laughed heartily at this and the challenge was called a draw.
As dusk dawned in that fateful place so we began the final challenge—the herding of the goats. Our task was to drive Egalabalus’s goats through a small gate into a pen. And we had to do this challenge in no more than one hundred steps.
It was Grace’s turn first. The bumbling, blundering oaf could barely herd one goat into the pen such was the ineptitude of his footwork, the heavy leadeness of his step. He spent 60 paces just in trying to avoid the manifold goats droppings which lay scattered throughout the maidan. I realised now that all these years of plenty on the pitch had been a lie! Surely he had been playing French cricket! In the end of it he stood there defeated, out of breath as the goats silently bumped their horns into his haunches.
Now t’was my turn. I had to win this Poesy. For God and for country. For the Fry family name. The goats seeing me rise scattered hither and thither. Some ran up trees, while others cowered in ditches. I used my nimble footwork to assail them. Brevity was my soul. One, two-two, one two-two, back, side quick quick. At the same time as moving I issued a murmuring herding call from my lips, such as I had seen from the shepherds in the Northern countries of England (Yorkshire I believe they are called): weiweiweimmmwhawhaweiwei. The goats started to collect into a single file and move to the gate. In they went. 20 steps, 40 steps, 60 steps, more than half in, 72 steps, three-quarters, 95…oh I was nearly there two more to get. 99 steps. But oh there was another goat. It was up the tree Poesy! The crowd looked on awed. Grace sat there smirking with delight.
But no I would not give up. I gathered all my strength and crouched into a ball. With one gigantic thrust I launched myself into the air and onto the very top of the tree appearing directly infront of the goat which shrieked loudly in terror and leapt off straight into the pen.
Huzzah! I had done it! I CB Fry had won!!!!!!!
Grace lay there in the dust gurgling like a disbelieving infant. Egalabalus clapped his hands with delight.
“Awrence! You are won. You are King of the Albans! Come, come the ceremony of king. We must not stop now”
I shot Grace a victor’s glance and kicked a goat dropping in his direction as they led me into the main hall. There I was sat on a throne all bedecked with feathers of pigeons and peahens. Many men came up to offer me tribute. Then Egalabalus announced:
“Thus we have a chosen you Awrence of Arabia to be our king. Take this topax crown and this wooden sceptre for they are thine own. And now all we require is the tribute of 200,000 pounds and the documents shall be signed.”
“Eh,” I cried. “What is this? 200,000 pounds? Whose tribute is this?”
“Yesss Awrence. We need your Majesty to share with us just a meagre portion of his private fortune thus we can live fruitfully, and restore the bounty to our ragged peoples. Of course you were aware of this, no?”
“By God you are mad man!!”
But more to the point I was mad. Mad with rage. I threw off the topax crown and broke the sceptre into smithereens. For I would not share my fortune with anyone! I swept Egalabalus off his divan and threw him onto the floor. Then I took Pipo and raised him unto the dais and placed the crown upon his head.
“Now my good man. I anoint you the King of the Albans. Take this nincompoop outside and shoot him!”
There was a rousing cheer from the gathered masses and on that tidal wave of approvals I CB Fry, strode out of those grounds with my head in the air. I, the man who would be king!
Just as I stepped onto the street it hit me. A missile thrown from the alley across had whistled in the air and struck me on the tibula. Well Poesy. I was mad. But this time I wasn’t going to let the perpetrator escape. There in the shadows he stood– a small tiny thing, like a monkey. Yes, by all that is infernal on this great earth, ’twas Toby!
Toby scurried away on his tiny little feet, dragging the rickshaw behind. I shot out an oath and set off in pursuit. Of course he had the advantage knowing the lay of the land. But my rage was such that I would not let him escape.
Two long hours I ran, bearing hard upon that native cur. Two long hours Toby scurried, turning this way and that, nipping and sliding through the greasy oriental alleyways.
“I see you Toby. You will not escape!!” I shouted. And yet he ran.
Eventually we reached a small sack bottom. His route was blocked by walls on three sides. His rickshaw had fallen apart and I saw my chance. Racing up to him I grabbed his collar and threw him into the wall which collapsed into a pile of bricks on his head. Just as I was about to advance on him and hand him more of vengeance than he had ever known I noticed a golden, glinting thing amongst the rubble. It was a plate Poesy. A golden plate.
I dragged Toby onto his feet and screamed “C’mon man look sharp. Help me clear out these ruins!”
We both began to dig out the dirt and the sand. By and by we uncovered a staircase which led into a dingy vault in the ground.
“Toby, a match.”
Toby handed me a light which I struck on his bristly scalp. Well Poesy even I was taken with surprise. For there, uncovered in glory, was a room full of glinting treasures, like heaven’s own trove.
“‘Tis the tomb of Tutankhamun!” cried Toby as he threw himself in a mound of coins. “Look the Gold, Mr Fry. We are rich!”
“Indeed Toby, indeed,” I said surveying the scene. “Take this gold coin and buy a new rickshaw. I have spent all I wish to here. We must leave now.”
“But Mr Fry the…”
But I preferred to leave this for another man. For I had seen all I wished of Egypt. You see Poesy this is the true trickery of the orient. Bejewelled and yet….nugatory. As the poet quoth neither lustre nor lucre do I love. For my heart is England.
December 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
Dear Charlie bzzzzzzzzzzzz
Today I realised that I am a c***. It happened as I was making my usual delivery of presents to the orphans of St Barnardos. Well I was dressed in my Santa suit, my close to the cheek dyed fuzz looking as horribly sombre as ever, my sly ratty eyes peeping this way and that, that horrible mullet which I’ve never been able to carry off but which I persisted with, hoping that it gives me an edge which I think I used to have in the 1980s when I killed a man on my show, scraggling over my neck, unsightly as ever.
The bags under my eyes were worse than usual since I had spent most of yesterday in a vile, drunken stupor telephoning my ex-wife to remind her how much she owed me (in cash and character) while devouring turkey and goose. God my breath stunk– like wolfbane.
As soon as I stepped into the hospice I was overtaken by a delirium tremens. It was as if my heart had just stopped working. I had this same problem in 1972, the year that I sold my soul to the devil, but had managed to bury it under a subterfuge of egomania and self-aggrandisement in the intervening years. But I always knew that it was there, creeping away in the background, like a child locked in a cabinet.
And now, as I prepared to dole out the first present to the little orphans of Barnardos, it struck me a blow so terrible that all of my facade shattered infront of my eyes instantly. And the child looked to me, stared deeply into my soul, which was full of misery, and said– “Please Mr Edmonds, what’s wrong?” I could only reply, “I am a c*** son, I am a c***.”