News From Home 18, Part I
2/20/2005 (updated 2/20/2005)

I am disappointed that my traditional role as Mr. Alphonso’s ‘pusher’ has been usurped by his new flame, the 60-ish, vixen-ish, Sandy Briggs, wife of frequently absentee Colonel Briggs, and surely the most scandalous woman in our small community. Indeed, it is as the pusher of his wheelchair that Mrs. Briggs first got into close proximity to my old friend, and made her fateful overtures. Both are members of our local Garden Society, and at this time of year, there are many open days, visiting interesting and outstanding gardens in the area. Thus, on several weekends this month, they have cemented their relationship, and I have been marginalised. I really cannot abide that woman – Her skin has been stretched and lifted so often over her bones that there is little more than a millimeter now to mask the skull. She makes Nancy Reagan look youthful, plump, and generous of heart. These garden tours attract upwards of a hundred keen amateur horticulturalists, plus a few folk on day release from the Old Peoples’ Home or the Mental Institution; and I was particularly delighted this year, as our own garden at the ‘Trellises’ was included on the tour! Hashimoto has been scrambling for days to get every errant leaf and grass blade pointing in the right direction, pruning with the eye for detail of a royal wedding hair stylist. It is only when strangers are poring over your cymbidiums that you suddenly see it all from their point of view, and you want to run before them, sweeping and smoothing. Just in time, we managed to install the new Japanese lantern; Hashimoto found a real charmer, beautifully carved and finished by a friend of his, and set on a pole, rather like a birdhouse.

It is remarkable what a mess a hundred-odd middle-aged genteel folk, plus a few advanced cases of senile dementia and some genuine nutcases can make just passing through one’s abode, and of course you have to look out for the cleptos (mostly the neighbours), intent on stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, including cuttings of your plants. But we got our own back on the concession stand, hastily erected and manned by the stoic Honourable Sons Numbers One and Three; they sold lemonade, home-made out of the tin, a small selection of ‘My Old Flame’ candles – ‘Spring at Kew’ being very popular, (rhodedendrons, tree blossoms, grasses, hint of tea shop and aviation fuel from the Heathrow flight path); and a selection of useless, unfertile seeds I’ve been amassing from around the world – strange huge things from Africa and Australia that probably need a forest fire to germinate.

I took Georgio, our pool man, and his beau, our very own Mavis, (our child-minder and zookeeper), to the latest in trendy restaurants; called “The Table of Contents”, this luxurious eatery was started by a disgruntled Mills and Boon authoress, who had tired of purple covers and ripped bodices, but being of a literary bent, she wanted to theme a restaurant in that direction. The Alphabet Soup, for instance, not only continues the usual practice of pasta letters floating on the top of a tomato-based broth, but the letters are joined – quite how, I can’t imagine – does some sous-chef in the back glue them together? – to form the names of literary giants. I was thrilled to find THACKERAY bobbing there below expectant spoon, and Mrs. RT got the rather arresting ASS, not a novelist I’d read; after trawling the depths for a second or two, she brought up G and R, so I presume this was meant to be Gunter. Mavis got the watery EAU, before discovering JAN and STEN, and Georgio was confused by CHARLE SICKENS, and had to have the whole ruse explained to him, upon which he remarked, with typical Slovakian rural wit, that good fences make sheep good pole-vaulters. The significance of this was lost on the company. Mavis was amused no end to discover CUNT TOLSTOY, and said that was what she used to call him at school. Mrs. RT’s not-so-subtle manipulation of T S ELIOT into TOILETS was unfortunately seen by the whole table, and lost some of its intent. My ‘BronteBurger’ was a trifle overcooked, Mrs. RT’s ‘Pot-Boiler’ had been stewing for far too long, Mavis had the ‘Salad Days’, and Georgio settled for the Salmon ‘Rushdie’, which was worthy but controversial. All dishes accompanied by Wilde Rice, the Veggie Plato, and a Pynchon of salt. The desert menu was, of course, a case of ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’.