Sunday, May 28, 2006

"From Brixton's lovely boulevards To Hammersmith's sightly shores"

From what I can tell, The Duke de Mondo is in the throes of another romantic entanglement, and he has done the very sensible thing of listening to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash while he figures things out:

...Aye, I tell her. These gloriously wretched tableau's and episodes, I been catching glimpses of them e'er since that momentous afternoon when first I hit play on Rum, Sodomy & The Lash.

But the other London Shane talks about, the London of "long-gone songs from day's gone by" carried along the swell o' the Thames, the London of "Rainy Night In Soho," I been pining for that, y'unnerstann.

"Rainy Night In Soho," I remind her, is maybe the most beautiful song ever written, certainly the most beautiful ever written about Soho.

Was goin to be the first song at the wedding I almost stumbled into, by the by. We used to dance drunkenly round the kitchen in time to the sway o' yon strings.

"I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms"

But beyond all that is the startling development that The Duke has made a decision regarding his literary future:

I got a burning in the belly reeks o' a craving for to be heard and read, I say. I point out that the longer I sit here in this back room with the fag in the maw and the fags in the brains, with the fringe getting blacker and the eyes getting redder, with the stacks o' Chapter One Paragraph One getting closer to the roof-slates with each tick o' the time-tock, the longer this goes on, I say, the closer the factory gets.

Fore a fella knows what's happened he's stood in yonder production line checking pharmaceutical paraphernalia for anything out of the ordinary, yacking all about how he's gonna get a novel out one day, soon as my agent gets back to me. Soon as the publisher's ready. Soon as this leg gets fixed. Soon as the doctors let me go. Soon as I get this black from out my lung.

What I say is don't get me wrong, not for a second. The factory, it's a place humming with strong and beautiful and soulful and special and dedicated human beings. But I'd be lying, I say, if I pretended yon grinding and sparking and thumping didn't scare the yellow out my pish.

So aye. I'm going to London. I'm taking a couple bags fulla personality, a guitar tuned to Blue and a case filled wi' y-fronts on account of I wore boxers once in 1999 and my knackers ended up moored off Arran for a fortnight.

Ever the one to encourage and enthuse, I'm reminded of George Orwell's delightfully brilliant Keep the Aspidistra Flying:

Sharply the menacing wind sweeps over
The bending poplars, newly bare.

As a matter of fact, though, there was not a breath of wind that afternoon. It was almost as mild as spring. Gordon repeated to himself the poem he had begun yesterday, in a cadenced whisper, simply for the pleasure of the sound of it. He was pleased with the poem at this moment. It was a good poem--or would be when it was finished, anyway. He had forgotten that last night it had almost made him sick.

The plane trees brooded motionless, dimmed by faint wreaths of mist. A tram boomed in the valley far below. Gordon walked up Malkin Hill, rustling instep-deep through the dry, drifted leaves. All down the pavement they were strewn, crinkly and golden, like the rustling flakes of some American breakfast cereal; as though the queen of Brobdingnag had upset her packet of Truweet Breakfast Crisps down the hillside.

Jolly, the windless winter days! Best time of all the year--or so Gordon thought at this moment. He was as happy as you can be when you haven't smoked all day and have only three-halfpence and a Joey in the world. This was Thursday, early-closing day and Gordon's afternoon off. He was going to the house of Paul Doring, the critic, who lived in Coleridge Grove and gave literary tea-parties.

It had taken him an hour or more to get himself ready. Social life is so complicated when your income is two quid a week. He had had a painful shave in cold water immediately after dinner. He had put on his best suit--three years old but just passable when he remembered to press the trousers under his mattress. He had turned
his collar inside out and tied his tie so that the torn place didn't show. With the point of a match he had scraped enough blacking from the tin to polish his shoes. He had even borrowed a needle from Lorenheim and darned his socks--a tedious job, but better than inking the places where your ankle shows through. Also he had procured an empty Gold Flake packet and put into it a single cigarette extracted from the penny-in-the-slot-machine. That was just for the look of the thing. You can't, of course, go to other people's houses with NO cigarettes. But if you have even one it's all right, because when people see one cigarette in a packet they assume that the packet has been full. It is fairly easy to pass the thing off as an accident.

'Have a cigarette?' you say casually to someone.


You push the packet open and then register surprise. 'Hell! I'm down to my last. And I could have sworn I had a full packet.'

'Oh, I won't take your last. Have one of MINE,' says the other.


And after that, of course, your host and hostess press cigarettes upon you. But you must have ONE cigarette, just for honour's sake.

Hmmm...on second thought, perhaps the Duke should avoid that particular read until he's on his own second or third publication.

I will be following the Duke's September adventures in the City of Dickens and Wilde with great interest.

No comments: