Before embarking on this new story, I want to thank all Puffins for awarding me a prize in the June Competition. It is too much honour to bestow on an old bat like me holed up in a derelict flat with only a lazy dog and 53 dolls for company. I am infinitely grateful to all of you.
This fresh instalment recounts the arduous journey out of the Millenarian cult which calls itself Liberalism into sanity. Let me start by saying that it is not my own story.
Two years ago, Rosie was the live-in and kept mistress of a rich, spoilt lesbian called Mildred. Rosie put up with Mildred’s whims and temper tantrums, listened quasi religiously to Moaning Hour on Radio 4, believed the dross she was fed daily by the BBC, which needs not be repeated in these hallowed grounds, in short, talked the talk and walked the walk. Until one fine day, Mildred decided to unite her fortune (literally) to that of a wealthy American by the name of Ebenezer and, shortly before the magnificent nuptials were due to take place, Rosie found herself out on her hear and homeless.
Thereupon, the Council were kind enough to attribute a rat-hole in a rundown tower block to Rosie, at tax-payer’s expense, of course. After Mildred’s Tudor mansion, it was a bit of a come-down, but Rosie was in no position to complain. Though not uneducated, Rosie had never felt the need to work. Mildred kept her in idleness so long as Rosie saw to her own needs, which, for the sake of modesty, this parish being renowned for its modesty especially on Fridays, I shall keep shrouded in obscurity. Now, for the first time in her life, Rosie needed to work. Through liberal friends, she found a job at an art gallery, which pleased her immensely as what was expected of her was lazy, rather than hard, work.
Unfortunately for poor Rosie, the tenant of the flat below hers was a Jamaican drug dealer known as Leroy who had fathered 22 children he had never seen with 22 women he no longer saw. That respectable family man slept all day and blasted rap music all night heedless of the fact that he kept the whole block awake. The lyrics were of the utmost delicacy and refinement, consisting in a seemingly infinite number of plagues the singer, or narrator, wished to visit upon female dogs. Rosie did not have to show up at the gallery especially early in the morning since it rarely opened before midday. Still, unlike the afore mentioned gentleman, she had to be up before seven in the evening. Since her expulsion from the Garden of Eden, otherwise known as Mildred’s magnificent Tudor mansion, Rosie had become timid. She was, to boot, tiny whilst Leroy was huge; knocking on his door to ask him, ever so politely, to turn his music down was not an option she cared to consider. Rosie confided her dilemma in friends who advised against complaining to the authorities as they had heard of several people who had done just that and were now sitting in gaol accused of racism. So Rosie took to snatching an hour’s sleep, whenever possible, lying on old canvases in the gallery’s store room.
The gallery was soon to hold a major exhibition. For the first time in her life, Rosie would have to work hard. Notwithstanding the novelty of hard work, she knew she would not long survive on hardly any sleep. One day, a friend of a friend, dropped by the gallery. Gideon was a trainee journalist with a famous newspaper which guards nothing and specialises in transcendent subjects such as toilet roll destitution, migratory eunuchs and menstrual wall art. Gideon shared a flat with other young liberals no great distance from the gallery. A room, or rather the broom closet, had just become available, so Gideon suggested Rosie come and view it. The kitchen and bathroom were a health hazard, but hey, liberals in council flats cannot be choosers. Rosie said she would sleep on it, or rather stay awake all night on it.
When Rosie got home that evening, the walls were not wobbling yet as Leroy was still in bed. Rosie looked at the flat and the view from her only window. Everything was dreary and grey. The landscape outside offered nothing but more ugly tower blocks under a leaden sky.
“When did everything in my life go so wrong?” Rosie asked herself.
“When you chose to become Mildred’s whore rather than look for a real job and a place of your own,” answered a voice inside her head. “Come on, be honest for once. You always despised Mildred. At times she disgusted you, even, but you loved the feather beds and having myriad servants.”
It was then that Rosie felt an emotion hitherto completely alien to her: shame. Although she hardly knew Gideon and his flatmates not at all, she would take the broom closed-sized room.
The gallery’s forthcoming exhibition was to be a grand affair. The owner had sent invites to anyone who was anyone in London. The exhibits were many and, to say the least, quite extraordinary. Rosie was asked to cover the walls with one hundred small brown closeups of people defecating on the ground, forty large colour pictures depicting dwarf amputees engaged in countless iniquities of an amorous nature, and medium-sized photographs taken by a major American artist documenting the different stages of her battering by her drink and drug-addled boyfriend. In the centre of the room, Rosie and her co-workers set up a stage ready to receive the crown jewel of the show, generously donated by Jeff Kunts, the world famous sculptor, for 3.5 million dollars: a giant, black leather-bound Bible in a white chamber pot.
Rosie had misgivings about the artworks. None of them was pleasing to the eye and, she confided in Gideon with whom she had become good friends, she did not look forward to the opening. As it turned out, Rosie was only bodily present at the opening; her mind was far away for, as the guests began to pour into the gallery, Gideon called her on her mobile to say that Mr and Mrs. Cohen had been attacked.
Here we must pause and go back in time a little. In Liberal eyes, Gideon had a flaw: Gideon had a dog, a Westie to be precise. Dogs embody everything Liberals loathe and should be eradicated from the surface of the earth. Coming home from work at dusk one winter day, Gideon had caught sight of a car slowing down further up the street, a ball of white fur being pushed out and the car immediately speeding away. Instinctively, Gideon started running and gathered the ball of fur in his arms before it even had time to touch the tarmac. He took one look into the terrified dog’s eyes and was smitten for life. Being a liberal’s dog, the Westie was of course christened Marx although the name did not suit him one bit for he was easy-going and rather conservative in his canine ways. To his own dismay, Gideon soon realised that Marx had changed his life completely. He no longer stayed up all night partying with his friends. Instead, he started keeping regular hours and in general living an orderly life. Walking Marx became his favourite leisure activity and he made new friends thanks to Marx’s interference of a sort he would have laughed at only a few weeks before.
Mr and Mrs. Cohen were a quiet, elderly Jewish couple who for more than fifty years had lived on the first floor of Gideon’s building. Was it because Mrs. Cohen still looked pretty in a demure sort of way at seventy? Was Marx a canine philo-semite? Whatever the reason, Marx fell madly in love with Mrs. Cohen the very first time he passed her on the stairs and Mrs. Cohen who had never had a dog returned his tender feelings and Mr Cohen had enough common sense not to feel jealous at all and loved Marx nearly as much as his wife did. And so, Gideon and the Cohens became friends and, as his friendship with Rosie grew, she too became a friend of theirs.
Two hours before the opening at Rosie’s gallery, three “men” hid in the darkest corner of the first floor landing and waited until Mr and Mrs. Cohen returned from shopping laden with heavy bags. The minute they opened their door, the men sprang out of their hiding place, violently pushed the elderly couple against the wall, burst into the flat, smashed Jewish ornaments, wrote threats against Israel in Arabic and then left shouting at Mr and Mrs. Cohen that they would kill them if they did not leave Britain. The police were called and promised that the case would be investigated thoroughly, but of course the perpetrators were never caught. Gideon subsequently learned that there had been a string of such attacks in the neighbourhood, most targeting elderly Jews.
What amazed Gideon and Rosie was that their flatmates could talk about nothing else while they believed the attackers had been far-right Nazi bigots instantly radicalised by Going Postal; then when it became impossible to deny that they were gentlemen of the Peaceful Persuasion, they clammed up about the attack and even started deliberately avoiding Mr and Mrs. Cohen as if they were the ones who had done something wrong. Then, when they found out that Gideon had slept on the Cohens’ sofa until their lock was changed, it was his turn to be shunned, and even Rosie as his friend became tainted by association. A month later, one of their flatmates was brutally assaulted outside a West End nightclub by 35-year-old Syrian teenage refugees from Eritrea. Thereupon, young people who had been her friends since she could walk started whispering that she had brought the attack upon herself through drunkenness and promiscuity. The rumours and cold treatment became so disturbing that the victim decided to move back in with her parents in Essex.
She and Gideon, though acquainted, had never been close. Still, shortly after she had left, as he sat gloomily on his bed across from Rosie in the armchair, a word he had always judged corny and ridiculous formed in his mind, and that word was Evil.
“Do you remember Asta who married an illegal immigrant and then noticed that her friends stopped returning her calls and she was never invited to a party again?” Asked Rosie.
“Asta was an idiot,” said Gideon. “She couldn’t see the whole setup for the fraud it is. When Matilda found out she was dying of cancer she told Dennis she didn’t want Asta at her funeral. Matilda and Dennis were the most hypocritical of them all, but they were all hypocrites. No one ever told Asta that Matilda had died though before the wedding Matilda swore Asta was the best friend she’d ever had. And worst of all, after they’d been married barely three months Asta’s husband forged her will and tried to slash her throat with a butcher knife.”
“Let’s get out of here,” murmured Rosie.
“We’ll get out,” said Gideon, “but I want us to get married first.”
“Married! Why?” Asked Rosie.
“Because I want to be sure,” answered Gideon.
And so it came to pass that a few weeks later Rosie became Mrs. Gideon and not a single liberal was invited to the wedding, but there were lots of dog walkers and lovers.
Needless to say, Mr and Mrs. Gideon could not afford to get even on the first rung of the property ladder. They bought an aluminium Sixties caravan instead. Dog walking friends recommended the Andrei Sakharov campsite in North Devon and this is where they moved to, although the Yevgenia Ginzburg campsite in Derbyshire and the Alexander Solzhenitsyn campsite in Somerset had also been described as very good. Just before leaving London they went to the cinema to see Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille Trilogy which they loved so much that as soon as they got home Marx was renamed Marius, and Marius he has remained to this day.
The Andrei Sakharov campsite belonged to a British dissidents’ network. Only card-carrying dissidents were allowed to live there. Surrounded by lovely meadows, it had showers and a launderette kept spotlessly clean by Mrs. Noodle, a dissident from the nearest village. Mr and Mrs. Gideon were assigned a space between Selina’s camper van (you have all met Selina) and Savannah’s shack. Hopefully, you will meet Savannah in a coming instalment. Savannah is Rotherham Poofta’s biggest fan, which is a feat considering Poofta has seventy billion fans in this galaxy alone, but do not count on the BBC to tell you this.
Gideon was hired by a local newspaper and realised that he actually loved reporting on giant aubergines and runaway piglets. Rosie found a job at an agricultural museum run by a famous English dissident. There she learnt that a four hundred-year-old plough is of far greater interest than a Bible in a chamber pot, although the museum owned a vast collection of antique Bibles and chamber pots.
When Mr and Mrs. Gideon had finished painting and decorating their caravan, they invited Mr and Mrs. Cohen for a long weekend. Mr and Mrs. Cohen who loved camping pitched their Seventies tent next to Selina’s camper van. The minute it was up, Marius, whose heart had apparently grown fonder in her absence, moved in and settled on Mrs. Cohen’s sleeping bag.
Next summer, Mr and Mrs. Gideon are borrowing Beryl from Mrs. Jen the Blue and together with Selina and Savannah driving to Russia to visit Bill and Chiara at their dacha outside Moscow. Knowing Beryl it will take them a long time to get there, but get there they will.
© text & pictures Doxie 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file