A Prose by Any Other Name

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A return to a very old idea: a change of scene, the little Bluetooth keyboard and the mobile phone that keeps tipping over as I type.  The same old words, just a different way of using them…

I was mulling over a return to The Writer’s Circle – exactly why I’m uncertain, as so very few people read it the first time around – but I think that I was really just hoping to find a new way of telling an old story.  ‘What story?’ you might well ask.  (Perfectly acceptable as long as you do not do it aloud and on the top deck of a bus.)  Well then, here’s the thing… 

Not unusually for me, I sat down with the ken to do something – in this case to write a little fiction – but with no real idea of the specifics eg what it was going to be about; how would it start; how should it finish; who kills the butler and why?  You know, the usual trivial stuff: nothing to get too worked up about.  I would, I thought, start with a name and see where that would lead me and… well, it led me here.

I toyed with Dirk Valiant initially.  (Please don’t make up your own jokes – especially if they’re going to be of that ilk.)  I couldn’t fail to build a plot around a name like that.  Dirk would wear a suit, scarlet velvet probably, with a cravat.  Possibly a hat.  He would almost certainly be from the sixties – although not in them – and probably a secret agent of some kind, battling against some unlikely acronym or another.  Oh yes, I was ready, except I couldn’t drag my mind away from The Avengers, or, more correctly, Tara King, which was an issue I had in fact faced before, in my childhood, long before I had any real idea of why.  So I did away with Dirk and I tried to think of something a little more…  erm… well, a little less Steed, all in all.

Geoffrey Chelmont, with whom I subsequently trifled, was an altogether different kettle of fish.  Also impeccably dressed, although probably more chalk-stripe 3-piece lounge than velvet lounging, Geoffrey, I felt, was almost certainly ten years older than Dirk with a little of the Raffles about him, although with less of a tendency towards nicking other people’s stuff.  Geoffrey would be an amateur Private Investigator – I pictured a male Miss Marple (more Hickson than Rutherford) with slightly less in the way of broderie anglais collars and sweet sherry, but with a tendency towards the odd ‘lost day’ in the seedy environs of a smoky Soho casino in the company of somebody, the like of which he hoped his mother – or his father come to that – had never become familiar. 

He would need a sidekick of course, probably female, who would make his tea, straighten his tie and solve the crimes when he wasn’t looking.  She would be called… not easy is it?  It’s got to sit right: Morecambe and Wise, Ant and Dec, Eisenhower and Stalin, it has to trip off the tongue just so, and somehow the only thing I could think of was Lady Cecilia Pencroft, which was altogether too Agatha Christie.  I couldn’t see me succesfully pulling a Whodunnit? together when, more often than not, I struggle to fully comprehend a whatdayisit?, so Geoffrey and Lady Cecilia remained, scrawled and embryonic for all eternity, on their little cradle of Wilkinson’s cash receipt and I hoped they would be happy there.

Anyway, if I’m honest, I didn’t really see myself writing about the past.  Maybe the future might be more my kind of thing.  Perhaps a future hero would need only one name: Trieste perhaps, Andromeda, Maffei, Doris…  I became becalmed upon the seas of Blake’s Seven (which towards the end, I seem to recall, featured only five people, and none of them called Blake) and the memory of Servalan, who way-back-then managed to turn my young head in directions it really was not designed to be turned.  Like a decidedly less wholesome Sally James, she made ‘leather-clad’ so much more interesting than a Hardback ‘Confessions’ Anthology and the ‘straight-into-lens’ Servalan sneer beat Samantha’s* cheeky nose-twitch into a cocked-hat when it came to stirring up hormones.  However, as I don’t have as much of it left to me these days, I thought it might be better for me to forget the future for now and concentrate on the present.  At least I know where I am with the present**.

Simeon*** Atterbridge sounded so familiar that I had to Google it in case I’d seen it somewhere before – a Liverpool gravestone perhaps, or a London roadsign.  It sounded like a country name to me.  It conjured up images of cycling in a raincoat, scraping the who-knows-what out of the tread of wellie soles with a teaspoon, and murder by gin-trap.  It has a solid sound to it, like a restored country pile (and God Knows, I’ve suffered with those for years).  Simeon sounds like the kind of a man who, although he might take a little time about it, will always get there in the end.  He sounds like the kind of man who can simultaneously handle a glass of wine, a fork, and a plate of canapés without once dropping vol-eau-vent crumbs on the floor, tipping his Chateau Neuf on the cockerpoo, or dipping his tie into the punch whilst leaning over to help himself to the hostess’s cupcakes.  He would, I think, be equally at home in Dinner Jacket, lounge suit or pastel-coloured M&S chinos and Ralph Lauren ‘T’ shirt.  He would never stand on the dog’s favourite toy, tread something brown and sticky across the living room carpet, or sit in the baby’s dinner when visiting somebody for the first time.  He would never drop a jam doughnut in a lady’s lap and attempt to rub the consequent mess off with what turned out to be a recently divested nappy. ‘Young’ Simeon Atterbridge – anything under fifty years of age, own teeth and tonsure that can be hidden under the average radius of a flat cap qualifies – would be able to handle himself, but only if he was attacked by a rotter who fully deserved a good thrashing anyway.  Oh yes, I really like the sound of Simeon Atterbridge.

If only I could think what to do with him?…

*The oh-so delightful Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched.

**Usually lost.

***Pronounced ‘Simon’, the additional ‘e’ serving only to a) thoroughly hack off the registrar and b) lend an air of gravitas, particularly when wearing a name badge with gold stars attached.

N.B. In case you should think that I am ignoring the enormous and fearful problems currently engulfing this general part of the globe, you are quite right.  I am just as terrified as everybody else about the possibilities that are presenting themselves, just as sick about the terror being experienced by innocent people, just as appalled by the absolutely pointless loss of life propogated by one man and a raging ego, but I am also utterly certain that there is absolutely nothing that I can say or do that will improve things in any way.  There are plenty of wise people who might have the words to make an impact (although none of them has yet managed to lodge a whisper in the ear of the idiot in the Kremlin) but I am not amongst them.  If I have a function – and it is very much open to discussion – in this world, it is not to change things, but to take minds off them.  At worst, I hope that we all live long enough to regret it…

39 thoughts on “A Prose by Any Other Name

  1. I once knew a person of the female persuasion called Veronica Ellingham. The name conjures up an image, I think. But it did not fit. As for events, I share your feelings, totally.

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  2. You drew my mind to the apt-or not names-to-be-used library. I have toyed with the idea of using them but maybe only I see any humour in them? Denis Aberhart, Wilberforce Armbruster, Arnold Toynbee, Ignatius Goggins, Murray McCoobery, and a kid (poor sod!) I went to school with, Sydney Wilfred Brimble! And what is it with the twisted ars- aristocratic absurdity that makes a perfectly simple and saintly St John a Sin-gin? Only in the olde upper class country…

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      1. A real personage too, like the poor Syd. Use it as you want, the name is/was in the phone book when we used to leaf through them, not stack them up, unopened, beside the pigeon coops.
        ‘Ere, who’s this Nick It you speak of?’

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  3. I mean to say, are you really asking me what to do with Simeon Atterbridge? Well I never!! I say Mrs, what is the world coming to when someone has to ask what to do with Simeon Atterbridge. Not for me to say, but we all know what others do with Simeon Atterbridge!

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      1. Yeah yer do, remember when Simeon did that hilarious thing in the lecture theatre before the teacher came in? Oh and wasn’t it Simeon who dared you to put that… Well I thought I’d die laughing, but that you did it in any case (you minx you). No, we all know what Simeon can get up to or more like what Simeon will ask someone else to get up to!

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      2. Oh you can laugh about it now then. Well done, that’s the spirit and at least you had enough WD40 at hand and a packet of digestives to hand. You were lucky you didn’t get caught.

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      3. You remember nothing ol’ bean, you think you do, but you were pretty hammered if I recall. You kept saying “Mum” and “is the word”, but always with a gap between to catch your breath. > silently {{{laughing}}}

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      4. You is edoocatin me isn’ it? Four I adds t looks up “abstemious” and nows I nose. I don’t totally approve of abstemious in all situations, for sometimes life calls for “Full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes!” < something my father would say.

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    1. N.B. There are three businesses in this world: 1) Our business. 2) Other peoples business. 3) The business of the universe (some might say gods). When we are in other peoples business or the business of the universe, who is looking after ours? So, while I cannot concern myself with what is in the minds of others or have any ability to stand in their way, I will concern myself with being kind to others and myself in this moment. Oh and as for the business of the universe and when life as I know it (mine) ends, well that’s none of my business and therefore I will get on with keeping my little part clean, perhaps a bit untidy and welcoming of a sorts. More tea vicar?

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      1. Drats, that was the safe word wasn’t it. All that “Monkey” ~ “Monkey” ~ “Monkey” and now that makes perfect sense. Sorry about that ol’ bean, no wonder we needed so much “3-in-1” and “Hob~knobs” > BIG GRIN

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      2. You know to ‘ave the last word, I have to add that it was only on leaving my croft in Orkney that I used the front door key. Never locked it while I lived in it, never needed to. Things change, it is the way of thing.

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  4. Quote; Dirk would wear a suit, scarlet velvet probably, with a cravat. Possibly a hat. He would almost certainly be from the sixties… Add a nice horseshoe moustache and you’ve absolutely summed up ‘Jason King’ of ‘Department S’ with that description. Played by Peter Wyngarde, of whom, Mike Myers cited as his inspiration for Austin Powers.

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    1. I know. I realised after I read it through, but I was committed to Tara King so it couldn’t change – and then I found a picture of Steed in a red velvet suit, so all was well. How much I miss those nonsensical spy and detective ‘dramas’ of the sixties and early seventies. Nothing made, or needed to make, any sense at all. Everything ended with Peter Wyngarde’s gap-toothed leer at screen. We do not have anything like enough nonsense in our lives now.

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  5. I love this post Because I too love to make names and figure out who they are. In the case of this post, I see Dirk and Geoffrey as partners in a law firm They get the strangest cases, and their clerk Simeon and assistant Doris solve them and get no credit whatsoever. The firm is famous, but the real brains are behind the scenes. Just a thought
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    Take time to laugh

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