Friday, December 12, 2008

frost, mouse, bear

Posted by PicasaThe secret ministry of the frost.

My friend Anna tells me about her cat which, having killed a mouse, hid it without her knowledge, in her bag. "I was on the underground between Embankment and Sloan Square," she says, "when, not knowing what my hand had encountered , I pulled the mouse out by its tail, and stared at it in amazement, which was nothing to the amazement of the other passengers."

In the train on the way home: the man is like an overweight bear. As he reaches up to stow his bags on the rack, he reveals a large, loose paunch which falls over the top of his trousers. There are already three people occupying the four places round the table. He makes the fourth. He spreads his files, calculator and mobile phone on the table , and extends his ham-like elbows on either side of them. The man sitting next to him politely shrinks into himself. When he has regained his breath, the newcomer begins his telephone calls at the top of his voice. First on the list is Terry. "What you're looking at, Terry, is total. I'm paying pound notes. You know what I mean. .. Alright I 'll give you a grand on Friday...I'll have to have a word with Liza. ... I'll meet you half way. It'll be in "£20.00 notes . Half on Friday. Cash. Alright buddy, no problem. Alright then, matey. Alright. OK."
Next is Liza: "I said, call it three grand. He said, there's one other thing: I need some money. Just something to tide me over. It was just crap. I knocked him down again. He was just gutted. I said, 'No, Terry'. He said what about the extras? A meter of tiling, he said. He's such an idiot. But you've got to hand it to him for trying."When he has finished, he slumps forward with a sullen expression. It is too late to open my book. So I go over my notes. The time has passed, as it so often does on the train nowadays, not without amusement.


Anonymous said...

'secret ministry of the frost' - I like that, and the photo! That conversation sounds like right out of a gangster movie, heh.... and you wrote it all down?!

Unknown said...

Lest I appear to be claiming it as my own, the phrase comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's wonderful poem Frost at Midnight.
" ...or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining in the quiet moon."

Writing the conversation down was the only way of coping with the intrusion. To have asked him to belt up would have been rash, given his size and likely capacity for malevolence. It seemed to me that I could not have been accused of evesdropping. What I was noting down was, by his own volition public knowledge.

Roderick Robinson said...

But now he knows. It'll probably be a relief to him. There he was thinking the Old Bill was finally giving employment to a superior type of detective.

On the other hand if he really needs something to tide him over Christmas he may well not be a cutting-edge crook.

Dave King said...

We've all met them, but they still strike you as unbelievable! I agree that writing the monologue down was a fab' idea.

Lucas said...

Coleridge's is a wonderful metaphor, especially when we consider that he started out as a preacher. I will look the poem up. Thanks for the photograph. Joyce loved the story about the Boots Library books.

Lucy said...

Even writing it down might have been consdidered rash...

However, your discomfiture has been more than rewarded by the amusement it has given us!

Lucy said...

Come to think, had you told him to belt up, it could have been 'exit pursued by...'

Relucent Reader said...

Enjoyed the post, and the allusion to STC's 'Frost at Midnight' one of this poet's conversational best pieces.

Unknown said...

Thank you, RR. Frost at Midnight ought to be better know. Likewise, This lime tree bower my prison is, another what I guess you would call a conversational poem.

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