I was walking with Bella, the dog, to West Ham Park for our daily constitutional. We passed a house from which we could clearly hear Fairytale of New York. This was not the recorded version. There were two voices, a man’s and a woman’s, exchanging the insults crafted all those years ago by Shane MacGowan when he wrote the song. They were accompanied by a piano. Their voices were live. From the street they sounded as if they might have originated in the Indian Subcontinent.
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last
Then there was the peremptory sound of someone tapping on a hard surface to attract the singers’ attention, so that they stopped singing, and then there was the sound of a third voice, also I would guess from the Indian Subcontinent, possibly the pianist’s:
“Not ‘Happy Christmas your arse’. Not ‘your arse’. ‘Yer arse.’ ‘Yer’. Again!”
As we passed on up the street, Bella and I, and out of range, I could hear improvement, a distinct MacGowanesque sneer. I wondered in what context the finished performance would take place. Would we be allowed to hear it?
I told the story to our neighbour Maria. I had dropped in on my way home from the park to apologise that Augustus Sly, who had been despatched to Vienna to investigate possible links between her bottom and that of the model who sat (‘sat’ is of course is absolutely the wrong word for what she did in this instance, but there is no other one) for Egon Schiele, seemed to have disappeared. He had not reported to me and he was no longer picking up calls to his mobile. In fact I was rather worried, and also cross, since I had paid for him to go to Vienna in the first place.
“Has he got your credit card details, there in Vienna?”
“No, he hasn’t, and anyway I trust him to that extent, but he’s quite capable of getting bored with your bottom and going off on a wild goose chase. When I first met him, as a matter of fact, he had taken himself to Montenegro to travel the length and breadth of that country, tracing the tracks – so he told me at the time: the forced marches, the triumphal processions – of the great Sixteenth Century Balkan warlord Apa’tman. We met by coincidence when I was uploading a post to my blog from a café in Montenegro that had WiFi.”
“Ah, Apa’tman. He is my country too,” said Maria.
“Apa’tman was in Romania too?”
“A great man, I think, in the end.”
Actually I know little of the detail of the career of the great Sixteenth Century Balkan warlord Apa’tman, so I changed the subject and told her, as I have related, the story of the performance, overheard from the street, of Fairytale of New York.
“’Yer arse!’”, she exclaimed.
“That’s what I call multiculturalism,” I said, “a song about America, written and recorded by Irish people living in London and now being redone by Indian people living in London. What a great city we live in!”
“No, that’s not multiculturalism,” said Maria, frowning. “Multiculturalism is when people say that because I am Romanian I am prostitute and a thief and I can complain about this, which is hate crime. I am told this by a person from the Council.”
“Multiculturalism has different aspects,” I said. “It is a subtle business, this multiculturalism.”
“I am not prostitute and a thief.”
“It never occurred to me that you were.”
“My good friend Lavinia is both, but I am not prostitute and a thief.”
I wondered whether to return conversationally to Apa’tman or to call it a day, and decided on the latter.
“I’ll be on my way. I just thought that you might be curious about what Augustus Sly might have discovered about a link between you and the woman in the Schiele picture.”
She drew the different conversational strands together:
“Yer want to see my arse?”
“Aren’t people difficult?” I said to Bella.
Obviously, being a dog, she neither understood nor replied, but I suspect that she sympathises. When we are in West Ham Park she avoids the company of other dogs. I believe that she regards this as a sensible precaution since she was bitten there by a liver-coloured bitch, but I don’t think that she warms to other dogs in principle. People too she will accept if we introduce them to her but they are of no interest otherwise. When we stand outside food shops, which the better half enters alone since Bella would be a health and safety issue, and people come up to us and try to engage her attention, she regards them with contempt.
“Does he bite?” they say, shivering deliciously and prodding at her from arm’s length.
“Seldom,” I say, wondering yet again why cynophobes are usually so incapable of sexing the objects of their fear.
Augustus Sly has sometimes accused me of having imaginary friends. He believes that Amy is a metaphor and has often said so, though not to her face. Bella certainly has imaginary friends. Her favourite is Dead Rabbit, a constant bed-fellow and companion whom she always gathers up into her mouth at times of excitement. He has a limp and vestigial physical existence but his friendship is entirely imaginary.
Lest this sound cute, she then shakes him vigorously so as to break his neck, again. She is a terrier, after all.
Some people have said recently that the Jesus and the Rabbit sequence, on the restricted access part of this blog, is rather running out of steam. Perhaps I should introduce Dead Rabbit into it. That would beef it up as bit.
Actually if I am going to do that I should continue this whole discussion on the restricted access section. I’ll do that now, if you’ll excuse me.