Well, my journey to work at the Bookroom this morning became rather an adventure in itself- and I started to feel rather like GiGi the character in your little sister's new book!
It all began as normal- 'Rush Hour' hereabouts actually means me rushing because I'm late- free-wheeling down the lane, around a corner then so on downwards to meet the old railway line. Then it's a bare ten minute cycle along the leafy old track, with the odd interruption- a hello to a man and his dog, or a stop and let a horse-rider go by, and heigh-ho there I am opening up the shop for the day.
Not today though.
There I was cycling along amidst my own thoughts- admittedly vaguely noticing a few more puddles to navigate than usual- when I was suddenly caught short by a proper big flood barring my way. The house next to what used to be a crossroads, but was now a river- had been deserted. I must have been stock-still, mouth agape for quite some time. Late as usual, I pondered my choices. If I went round the road-way, which would also require turning back the way I came- it'd take me a good additional forty minutes. So, I decided to go 'off-piste' and walked through what I'd wrongly considered to be a large puddle leading to a field. Ordinarily the road must have dipped down quite a bit there- as I found my padded boots covered, and now rather heavy as they soaked up as much water as they could hold. My jeans reciprocated the favour, and I was reminded of conscious exercise sessions taken in Hyde Park in years gone by, when I would run its perimeter weighed down by choice with ankle weights. Not to be deterred, I spied a field, with a gate and without a Bull in- and traversed across this diagonally to ( I thought common-sensibly ) rejoin the railway track post-flood. I hadn't reckoned with the field also being water-logged. But, my trusty old 70's bike and I squished across this- and met with a small bracken-covered valley- a four tier barbed wire fence, and my beloved rush-hour normality beyond this. So- bike lifted over, I just about managed the fence myself- and with a rip on the seat of my jeans- rejoined the track, smoked a celebratory Camel, and continued as normal.
But still, a good two hours later as I begin to write this, with my boots drying on the radiator beside my desk, my socks past caring about in the bin- and two thirds of my days wages spent on a natty pair of red over the knee socks at a nearby establishment, my soaking jeans leave my feet rather cold- and I'm sneezing up a storm.
What a palaver Em! Back to our story methinks...
CHAPTER SEVEN- GIGI AND THE CAT- 'IT'S MY OWN UNINTENTION'.
" I heard no sound as I stood,
But the rivulet from the lawn,
Running down to my own dark wood,
Or the voice of the long sea-wave as it swell'd,
Now and then in the dim gray dawn"
AFTER A WHILE, the noise seemed to gradually die down, till all was dead silence, and GiGi lifted up her head in some alarm.
There was no-one to be seen, and her first thought was that she had missed something- as though something had happened but she didn't see it- with a feeling like a dream you cannot remember upon wakening- she thought later. She also remembered later, that it was at this point in her adventures that the sky was at its darkest, and that looking up into it- she had seen no Mrs Cameraman, no little Angel Alice, but she had thought she made out the face of a black cat, and that it was smiling from ear to ear at her.
Just then, her thoughts were interrupted by a loud shouting of:- "Ahoy! Ahoy! Mrs Middleton, I presume?"
This greeting came from a White Knight, who drew up at GiGi's side, and promptly tumbled off of his horse, head-first, into a ditch.
Mumbling away to himself, he stood up, re-mounted his horse, and put back his shaggy hair with both hands.
His armour was quite ill-fitting and GiGi thought he looked like quite the most unlikely soldier that she could ever imagine.
"Hello. Are you all-right, can I help?" she said.
"No, no, it's quite all-right" said the Knight "I am here to help you. I shall see you safe to the edge of the wood".
At this, he smiled gently, and slid sideways off of his horse.
Climbing back on, both horse and rider continued alongside GiGi repeating a series of unfortunate events along the way. This began with the horse stopping (which it frequently did) and then the Knight tumbling off either over its head, its back-side, or to the left or the right. GiGi learned quite quickly that it was best to walk at a fair distance between herself and the White Knight- just to be on the safe-side.
"Ahem, you appear to have quite a bit of trouble staying on your horse. Have you not had much practice?"
" No, no, yes, yes- I have had lot's of practise. Lots of time with horses, indeed its my own Unintention, that is the problem- always has been!" said the Knight by way of explanation. "Anyhow, the important thing is to see you safely out of the wood. My Unintention will always be the same, as ever!"
GiGi was just about to venture that she didn't quite understand, when the horse startled again, stopping short quite suddenly- which projected the Knight straight over its head and he then fell on top of his own head exactly in the path where GiGi was walking.
She was quite frightened this time, and said so in an anxious tone as she picked him up "I hope no bones are broken?"
"None to speak of" the Knight said, as if he didn't mind breaking two or three of them.
"As I was saying. My Unintention has always been like this- which is why I put a bell on his Bridle". So, GiGi gleaned, that the horse's name was Unintentional, and that he had always been like this. However, GiGi did not quite get the bell-bit.
"So, how does the bell help?" she said.
"Ah, well- that was a stroke of genius" said the Knight. 'He kept stopping you see. I decided that the bell would help keep him focussed on where he was going- rather like a carrot with a donkey- what is more- the sound of the bell would make him continue to look at it! Clever- huh?"
GiGi bit her lip- as she was about to say that it was not working very well- but the Knight carried on.
"And, it works! You should have seen him before. He was never able to walk more than five paces without stopping short and throwing me off.Now, as well, he has an audible early warning system- so others know he is coming!"
At this, he smiled and looked so pleased with himself that GiGi thought better of response.
There was a short silence after this, and then the Knight went on again. "I do have clever ideas you see, I daresay you noticed, last time when you picked me up, that I was looking rather thoughtful?"
"You were a little grave" said GiGi.
"Well, I was just inventing a new song- one which answers questions, you see. Would you like to hear it?"
"Ye, es" said GiGi hesitatingly. "Is it very long?" as she had heard a good deal of poetry already that hadn't really made an awful lot of sense to her ears.
"It's long" said the Knight " but, it is very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it- either it brings tears to their eyes, or else..."
"Or else what?" said GiGi, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.
"Or else it doesn't, you know. The name of the song is 'Past Forward', but that's just what it is called for now. I think it has a better name coming soon 'Ways and Means'. No, I changed that- better is 'Portals of Fate' or not, it could just as well be 'Passing through the Gate'."
So saying, he stopped his horse, and let the reigns fall on its neck, and then slowly beating the time with one hand, and with a faint smile lighting up his face, as if he was enjoying the music in his head, he began...
"I'll tell thee everything I know. There's little to relate.
It's all about Mrs Cameraman,
A-passing through a gate.
Where are you Mrs C, I said,
And why not in your crib?
And her answer trickled through my head,
Like water through a sieve.
She said she was among the skies,
And couldn't reach the gate.
Those in the House who couldn't see,
Had helped to seal her fate.
But while in uffish thought she stood,
A soul came gallumphing through,
And tallied in the Tulgy wood,
Giving hope as to what it would do.
So, tell her once, and tell her twice,
When they are in the 'Purgatreeeee!'
To get her broom, look twice at the moon,
And sweep the house 'thrice cleeen!'
( at the end of each second line in this verse, his voice got very shrill )
And now, if 'er I put,
My fingers into glue,
Or madly squeeze my right-hand foot,
Into a left-hand shoe.
I weep for it reminds me so,
Of the Mrs C, I used to know.
Whose look is mild, whose speech now slow,
Whose fame is whiter than the snow,
Whose eyes, like cinders all-aglow,
Who seemed distracted by her woe.
Who rocks her body to and fro.
And mutters mumblings sweet and low,
As if her mouth is full of dough,
And snorting like a Gruffalo,
It now seems like long ago,
She told me how she should be shown."
At the end of this ballad, he gathered up his reigns, and turned the horse's head along the road by which they had come. "You've only a few yards to go," he said "down the hill, and over that little brook, and then you'll be back at the house. But, you'll stay and see me off first?" he added as GiGi turned with an eager look in the direction to which he had pointed. "I sha'n't be long. You'll wait and wave your handkerchief when I get to that turn in the road! I think I will be encouraged you see."
"Of course I'll wait," said GiGi: "and thank you very much for coming so far- and for the song- I liked it very much."
"I hope so," the Knight said doubtfully: "But you didn't cry as much as I thought you would."
So they shook hands and the Knight rode slowly into the forest. "It won't take long to see him off, I expect," GiGi said to herself, as she stood watching him. "there he goes, right on his head as usual! However, he gets on again pretty easily- that comes of having things here and there so much." So she went on, talking to herself, as she watched the horse walking leisurely along the road, and the Knight tumbled off, first to one side and then the other. After the fourth or fifth tumble he reached the turn, and she waved her handkerchief to him, and waited until he was out of sight.
"I hope it encouraged him" she said, as she turned to run down the hill; "and now for the last brook, and back at last to the house, and my Cleaning! How grand it sounds!" A very few steps brought her to the edge of the brook "Home, at last!" she cried, as she bounded across.
And so we end tonight, dearest Em. lovely to chat with you yesterday. Shame your Magic Wand couldn't conjour up more fireworks!
Your ever-loving Grand-Mother, GiGi xxxx