Raz­zler and the write stuff versus Hermione and the real deal

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - with David Medcalf med­der­s­me­[email protected]

‘DEAR sec­re­tary of the Ulan Ba­tor Club..’ I paused and sucked on my foun­tain pen, the one passed down to me through the gen­er­a­tions from great-grand­fa­ther Eras­mus. Gen­er­ally re­ferred to as Raz­zler, he died long be­fore I was born. Still his legacy lives on in the gold-nibbed form of a writ­ing im­ple­ment which is a joy to hold, though it leaks like a colan­der.

It is said that Raz­zler never used it much, ex­cept to sign the all too nu­mer­ous cheques he made out to his book-maker at the races in the Phoenix Park.

Usu­ally the mere act of pick­ing it up suf­fices to kick-start the flow of creative juices. I think of it as a Rolls Royce among pens, slightly dated in its ap­pear­ance but still ca­pa­ble of high per­for­mance in a stately sort of way. On this oc­ca­sion the Roller proved re­luc­tant to shift out of first gear as I set about my let­ter.

‘Dear sec­re­tary of the Ulan Ba­tor Club…..’ The prob­lem was that there were sim­ply too many dis­trac­tions.

Or rather there was one big dis­trac­tion – Hermione. Nor­mally the most un­flap­pable, nay serene, of be­ings, this af­ter­noon the loved one was buzzing around like a hor­net in heat.

‘Do you know that the Mul­li­gatawnies are com­ing to lunch on Sun­day?’ she asked as she wheeled the vac­uum cleaner into the study. I knew no such thing.

‘The Mul­li­gatawnies are com­ing, so the place will have to be spot­less. Marcia is a mar­tyr to al­ler­gies and dust trig­gers al­ler­gies. Find your­self a cloth, Med­ders, and start shining up the frames around the por­traits in the hall.’

She switched on the hoover and be­gan work­ing away at the Per­sian rug around my feet. The noise of the wretched ma­chine drowned out any mut­tered ob­ser­va­tion that the word ‘please’ would be nice. While I did not ex­actly snap to the com­mand, I did at least bow to her will and spent the next hour mak­ing the gilt around the fore­fa­thers gleam.

An hour of pol­ish­ing seemed a de­cent con­tri­bu­tion to the run­ning of the house­hold. I gave old Raz­zler’s oil painted like­ness one last wipe and re­tired to the peace of the par­lour.

Perched on the sofa and hunched over a ma­hogany cof­fee ta­ble, the act of cor­re­spon­dence was re­sumed.

‘Dear sec­re­tary of the Ulan Ba­tor Club…..’ The peace of the par­lour lasted no longer than the few sec­onds it took to re­move the cap from the pen be­fore Hermione bus­tled in.

‘Do you know that young Perse­phone is go­ing to the ball the day af­ter to­mor­row?’

I knew no such thing but it was ev­i­dently high time that I did. Imag­ine, our lit­tle girl go­ing to a debs, with painted eye­brows, with high-heeled shoes, with a new hair-do. With a boy!

Hermione waxed dreamy-eyed for a while about ball-gowns and lip-stick while I sat silent, full of re­gret at al­low­ing the shot­gun li­cence to lapse. It was time for some fresh air. Tuck­ing pen and pa­per into jacket pocket, I ad­journed to the gar­den.

In the shade of the weep­ing wil­low, sit­ting on a bench, I was soon lost once more in com­po­si­tion.

‘Dear sec­re­tary of the Ulan Ba­tor Club…..’ Hermione seemed to ma­te­ri­alise from nowhere, point­ing with dis­taste at The Pooch as he lay curled sleep­ily around my brogues.

‘Do you know that dog smells?’ she de­manded. I knew no such thing. Nose bunged up by a sum­mer cold, I have smelled noth­ing since May.

Washing The Pooch is a fraught two-per­son op­er­a­tion, one hold­ing the protest­ing pet and two ad­min­is­ter­ing the sham­poo.

We knelt to­gether be­side the bath as it ex­ploded with snarling ca­nine and blood-tinted suds. She asked what it was that I had been writ­ing. I ex­plained that I was hop­ing to join a pub quiz team. The min­i­mum re­quire­ment for new re­cruits is knowing the cap­i­tal of Mon­go­lia. Hence the name – the Ulan Ba­tor Club.

She shook her head sadly: ‘Oh dear, you for­get who is com­ing to lunch and over­look our daugh­ter’s lat­est mile­stone. These are the things you re­ally need to know. The cap­i­tal of Mon­go­lia, or Mada­gas­car, or Mali are all on Google.’

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