I miss the Court of Appeal judge, said Amy.
It was a quiet moment at the Great Secret Miss Slumber Party. At least it seemed like a quiet moment at the time, but it got quieter later. A slumber party follows an entirely different arc from a normal party, which starts quietly, gets noisy and finally gets quiet again just before people go home. A slumber party has long stretches when absolutely nothing appears to happen, and those are often the best bits.
Anyway, this was a blip on the early part of the arc of the Great Secret Miss Slumber Party. In general it was still getting noisier but in particular there was a lull, Amy’s attention was not for the time being required elsewhere and there was time for a chat.
So do I, I said, but it was different for me. Our professional relationship as lawyers was inescapable. I had to treat him with a certain deference.
Even at my place?
(The judge had died before it had become known as Great Secret Miss.)
Less than anywhere else at your place, but still a bit. If I met him at a garden party I’d probably call him Sir.
If at garden party he not hanging on my tit, spilling kefir on Garrick tie.
The death and unintended relocation by private plane of the body of the Court of Appeal judge, clad like a modest Muslim woman in a jibjab, to Novosibirsk seemed to have passed off as unobtrusively as could be hoped. There were notices in the broadsheet newspapers which were vague as to the circumstances of his death, a memorial service in the Temple church but no mention of a funeral. The Dawn Chorus of the Unattached had come up with increasingly paranoid and outrageous theories about what had ‘really happened’, but no one took much notice of them at the best of times. Of course I told nothing. Our dear friend P had a theory linking it all personally and malignantly to Mr Putin, but then most of her theories did.
He always want have sex with me, said Amy. I say no: you married people from Hampshire, I married people from Kettering: no sex.
The judge had been devoted to her and had followed her from Mr Lee’s opium den, which, despite all the benefits of kefir, must have been a wrench for him as it certainly had been for Mr Lee and his stakeholders. It may also have been the occasion of opium withdrawal symptoms on the judge’s part and, in consequence, questionable legal reasoning on the Bench.
I recalled as regards the question of sex, the judge and Amy a rare confidence that he had imparted to me once, as we sat on the divan together drinking green tea.
“Little Chinese girl. Got a hand into her knickers. Great success. She shouted, ‘Oh! Excuse me! I come!’”
Maybe he meant one of Amy’s girls rather than Amy herself. Maybe it was a story from his remoter past. Maybe he simply made it up.
I reflected not for the first time on the difficulties consequent on the absence among the Chinese and Russians, and to a large extent the English upper classes, of definite and indefinite articles. If he had said ‘the little Chinese girl’ or ‘a little Chinese girl’ the story would have been clearer even if still untrue. And now we would never know, as I certainly would never ask Amy directly.
Anyway, at that point she was called away. The moment had arrived for the unveiling of the new kefir: that made with The Culture.
I knew that there had been trial runs and that Amy was very excited about them, but this was the first time that the new kefir was to be made available to anyone outside a small circle of intimates, which excluded me.
People gathered round.
A number of familiar faces were there.
The better half was explaining in Russian some of the subtleties to the Dawn Chorus of the Unattached, who were responding with expressions of cynical disbelief.
The son had returned to the South China Sea, daughter one could not have brought my grandchildren and daughter three was in the North, but daughter two was there, Parrot on her shoulder. Parrot was enjoying a succes d’estime. His sampled speech on Kurd Maverick’s latest release Pieces of Eight had attracted the attentions of the music press and his articulations generally, unusual for an otter, particularly when overlying what the son strenuously maintained was semantic bedrock, had attracted the attentions of the scientific press. His photo graced the cover of the latest editions of both Q Magazine and Nature: a first, I believe – certainly for an otter.
Daughter two had become Parrot’s representative with the press and was making the most of it. Kurd Maverick, irritated as a composer that Parrot had stolen his musical thunder – the cries of ‘Pieces of Eight!’ were after all intended as no more than a witty embellishment to the master’s electronic concepts – and infuriated as a lover of dairy products that even Nature referred to the beast as ‘Parrot’ and not as ‘Rick Otter’, was sulking and had returned to Montenegro where he was properly appreciated.
No Kurd, I said to daughter two, stirring it. He would have loved to be at the conclusion of the story of The Culture, in which he played such a part.
Daughter two responded obscenely.
An American graduate had been dispatched, either at the behest or merely with the approval (stories differed) of Professor Chomsky to find out whether Parrot’s little brain was hard-wired with the great man’s Universal Grammar. This person hovered with a tape recorder a step behind daughter two, on whose shoulder Parrot sat looking as pleased with himself as might have been expected.
I caught the eye of Aubergine Small. He had abandoned his habitual disguise as an Edwardian washerwoman and was dressed as a rear admiral. Possibly, on reflection, that was his uniform on The Jolly Thought. He grinned and held up a sign:
KEFIR AT GREAT SECRET MISS: WE NEVER KNOW WHEN WE’RE BEATEN
A new friend was The Porridge Man, who had been introduced to me recently by my friend Céleste. His interest in dairy products was, he frankly admitted, not disinterested. As The Porridge Man, he said, my passion is relationships. Porridge and dairy products. Dairy products and porridge. But I believe, he said, that we’re in for something special today.
Amy uncovered a brimming china bowl and clapped her hands.
I don’t tell you, she said, about Apa’tman, great Golden Age Montenegrin warlord. I don’t tell you about Kurd Maverick, his great voyage and his great rescue by the ketch Scintilla. There are rumours about these. Rumours are best that way. I don’t tell you about this kefir, except one thing. It’s the best. It’s better than Mr Lee opium (and Pft, incidentally, to Mr Lee’s stakeholders). It’s better than chasing best of all possible dragons or sipping tastiest gin and tonic.
It’s even better than green tea.
It’s kefir at Great Secret Miss.