Frank Mapes took the head of the table, not our hostess Claire, as it was his 90th birthday.
On Frank’s right was Vera, and I was on Vera’s right.
Though I play down the poetical side of life these days I appreciate that the others still have their oar in those waters. Soon Vera is telling me how she got her start in the poetic world with so-and-so of such-and-such a small press. Now, in her eighties, she can look back on her pamphlets, some of them well reviewed, with satisfaction.
“Well, that’s great.” I say, “and here we all are, stars, I take it, of Parnassus in our way, but I for one have given up on it now because all along what I really and truly wanted was never going to arrive via the small press: fame, fortune and eccles cakes.”
“They never arrived for you,” said Angie, “any more than they did for the figures you lampooned in that ebook of yours on the subject.”
“You talking about Outrageous Lilliput?”
“You know I am. You got some mean licks in on that one. People are dealt with pseudonymously, but they’re recognisable for all that.”
“Was I fair, though? Did I attack anyone out of malice?” I asked.
“No,” admitted Angie, “you just happened to say what should be left unsaid.”
After the meal we went into the sitting room and to launch things, Frank got up. He delivered a bit of background about each number before diving one-two-three into “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” then “I’m In the Mood for Love." Yours truly strummed the nylon-strung box.
It being after all his 90th, Frank had provided champagne.
The evening then turned into a read-round of poems from the company, though I preferred to keep swinging and belted out “I Only Have Eyes for You” and a half-spoken version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”
Also Angie, who was putting Jade and myself up that night, sang an unaccompanied folkish air and the next time around got out a black and white concertina and played a jig that would not have been out of place on the deck of Benbow’s flagship.
Angie lives in a renovated Victorian pile in Felixstowe which has a nice guest bedroom. Her children are now grown up and flown, one living in New Zealand and making strides as a photographer.
I got out of the shower next morning and passed the full-length mirror Angie brought back from France. Seemed as if the new exercise régime had done something after all.
The reflection brought back memories of an illustration of a silver-backed bull ape that ought to have been castrated. Still, who would want to look like an aesthete?
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A stand-alone short story about Vauclare, the anti-hero of Easy Blood, has been put online at the fabulous Back Road Café. Check it out here.
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