Originally this was a joint blog. We thought, the better half and I, that we would each write about the things that happened to us, she in Russian and I in English. There might be accounts of the cool things we got, our wacky friends and tips on how to eat well on a budget.
This didn’t happen, almost from the start. It turned into my blog, although the better half is a constant presence in it. I hope that she will relaunch her own blog.
Some time ago, I started writing about Carel Weight, a great painter and friend, and the posts about him are categorised and tagged accordingly. The idea is that this too should be hived off onto a separate site, dedicated to him, with major contributions from others. That hasn’t happened yet, but it will.
For late-comers, this is how we live.
The better half, the dog and I live in London. I am a lawyer of sorts. The better half assists her clients, who are often Russian, with the vicissitudes and opportunities of life in England – help that is usually vitiated by the clients’ contract drivers, over whom no one has any control.
After some characteristically gloomy adventures the dog died, on the same day as Dave Brubeck. He is very much mourned. Eventually we got another, called Bella.
We have three daughters and a son – all grown up – a granddaughter and a grandson. The daughters are a writer, an under-water archaeologist and treasure-hunter, and a social worker. The granddaughter, aged three, is unemployed, as is the grandson, who has only recently been born. The son is a philosopher and also a privateer (not a pirate) under the Coalition Government’s ‘Cut Red Tape with a Cutlass’ programme. He has a ship, The Jolly Thought, which is manned entirely by philosophers.
Apart from the work of Carel Weight, my obsessions include the narcotic effects of kefir and the music of Joseph Haydn, the Handsome Family and Morton Feldman, and I have a respectful affection for His Highness Sultan Qaboos, the hereditary ruler of Oman.
Much of my social life has in the past revolved around an opium den in Limehouse. Obviously I cannot disclose details, and you can assume that ‘Mr Lee’, the manager, is a pseudonym. The better half sometimes does not accompany me there. Often she has tatting to catch up with at home or is engaged for a punishing drinking session with her friends.
Apart from the people already named, a number of characters turn up more than once.
The Dawn Chorus of the Unattached is a sort of Greek chorus of Russians. Sometimes it is mob-handed and sometimes as few as two or even one. Its unnecessarily dramatic name derives from the fact that when I first saw them I thought that they were zombies.
Popes Я Us is a Vatican quango. Our relationship started when they threatened me over what they said was a trade mark infringement, but after that it improved and they have taken to telephoning me when they or His Holiness himself are baffled about aspects of modern life which they hope that I can explain for them.
As a result of a minor crime some fifty years ago, Alfredo and I have shared a passport for many years. he has used it sparingly but nefariously in his work as an assassin. He is possibly Italian. I call him my double, the assassin.
Amy and Aubergine Small were both slaves rescued by the son in a raid in the South China Sea. The other rescued slaves he turned over to social services but Amy and Aubergine Small returned with him to England.
Aubergine Small has become something of a right-hand man to him. This sometimes irritates the pirate ethicist, who is the official First Mate on The Jolly Thought. Small is a man of enormous size and strength, who, during his time as a slave, had his tongue torn out and so is mute. As a result of an altercation with a representative of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs he cannot safely enter Britain and when he does so is heavily disguised so as not to arouse the attention of the police. His current disguise is as an Edwardian washerwoman.
Amy is Chinese and may or may not have an English husband in Kettering. She has extensive experience of the opium business and other service industries. Like me she is an enthusiast for the narcotic effects of kefir and aims to develop its potential commercially, here in London. She has an establishment which I have recently come to prefer to Mr Lee’s. This has become known as Great Secret Miss, for reasons derived from the poetry of Abraham Cowley. The quality of the kefir is remarkable as it is taken from a culture originally prepared in Sixteenth Century Montenegro.
Amy has developed a passion for English literature. This started with her mistaken impression that the novelist Anthony Powell had written about her. Her English is fluent but idiosyncratic and as a result she sometimes says startling things – or, at least, things that I hope are startling.
I have a part-time position with a film and television production company. Through it I got to know The Jibjab Woman. She is a modest Moslem woman whose mission in life is to beat the shit out of the enemies of Islam. In spite of being fictional she has become a good friend and supporter of Amy and of me too.
My researches into family history, sparked by the wonderful television series Don’t You Know Who I Am?, led me to my great-uncle Edgerton. He lived in Lewisham between the Wars. A none-too-honest employee of an insurance company, he had a secret life as a zombie-fighter. I go back in time and help him from time to time.
His brother, my Uncle Winthrop was a priest. Latterly he lost his wits.
When great-uncle Edgerton wants to summon me back to the 1930s he sends P2. P2 is a sort of spirit, which has no body of its own but takes on the form, more or less, of women in my subconscious.
If there are too many zombies for just two, Aubergine Small helps us.
Now read on