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Dabbler Diary – H. G. Wells’ spare bedroom

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‘Tell me a story from your head instead’, commanded C, apparently bored by the mild misadventures of Paddington. A great weariness came upon me.
‘What about?’ I said, closing the book.
‘About… Mr Chocolate Cake,’ she said at random. ‘And a Princess.’
‘Oh for goodness sake’, I said, and proceeded to tell the most profoundly important story in the history of the universe.

***

I always knew that the Bloomsbury Group had some pretty entangled love lives, but it wasn’t until I wrote a piece about Bloomsbury Interiors last week that I became aware of the details about Angelica Garnett.

She was the daughter of painter Vanessa Bell, brought up as Angelica Bell and believing that Colin Bell, Vanessa’s husband, was her father. Whereas in fact – as all the Bloomsburys knew but concealed from her – she was the natural daughter of Duncan Grant, who had a very long relationship with Vanessa despite being otherwise exclusively gay. Grant had come to live with the Bells at Charleston Farmhouse with his lover David Garnett, who also attempted to seduce Vanessa. When Vanessa eventually told Angelica her true parentage she told her to keep it hushed so as to avoid gossip and inheritance issues. Vanessa apparently comforted herself with the notion that Angelica had two fathers but in her autobiography Angelica wrote: “In reality I had none”.

How appallingly selfish unconventional people can be. When Angelica was born, Garnett wrote to Lytton Strachey about the baby: “Its beauty is the remarkable thing … I think of marrying it; when she is 20 I shall be 46 – will it be scandalous?” In fact, Garnett was 50 and Angelica was 24 when he married her, having taken her virginity in HG Wells’ spare bedroom.

***

It seems that being slightly porky is better for your long-term health than being ‘normal’ weight. I suspect a lot of the conventional health lobby diktats will prove to be sheer quackery. Road running, for example, is surely terrible for your body. And probably fruit and veg will turn out to be not all they’re cracked up to be: that whole five portions a day thing has always had the ring of bollocks to it.

***

Look if you want a proper Dabbler Diary go and read the last one. This one is just a load of scraps all thrown together. Deal with it.

***

RIP Richie Benaud, a great commentator and cricket man whose voice was one of the first I couldn’t stop impersonating. I noticed that he was a very nice man who always made a point of mentioning that other people were also very nice. The impression went something like: “And there’s Victor Trumpington in the crowd. A very fine cricketer in his time. A very good betshmehn, a usheful fielder…. eeeehhhhhhhhnd a very nishe man esh well.” You’ll have to take my word that it was bang on the money.

Benaud joins CMJ and Bearders in the Sound Of The Summer box in heaven. Cricket – by which I mean Test cricket – always feels like it’s on the verge of collapse. There’s the empty grounds abroad, and the wild enthusiasm for the limited overs game (which is to Test cricket as tiddlywinks is to chess). Unfortunately not enough people seem to appreciate that Test cricket is the only team sport that incorporates long periods of boredom as a virtue. But on the positive side, we still sell out Test matches in this country, and the pinnacle of Test cricket, the golden age of the game, was very recent: just 10 years ago in the 2005 summer Ashes. Mind you, CMJ, Beaders and Richie Benaud were all still alive then.

***

Why doesn’t Ed Miliband want me to vote Labour? It’s becoming almost hurtful. I live in a Labour semi-marginal so you’d think he’d make some sort of effort. I voted Labour in each of the first three General Elections I was old enough to vote in, because I bought into the Blairite concept of allowing people to get rich so long as they paid taxes which could be redistributed to fund things for the poor. It turned out not to be as simple as that, but I still approve of the basic idea.

So why has Ed got nothing to say to me? I’m not convinced by any of the things he seems to think are the burning issues of this Election campaign. Yes, I abhor that some people could be so poor in 2015 that they rely on food banks to avoid hunger, but I’ve read enough on the subject to know that there is no straight correlation between the rising number of food distribution charities and the Coalition’s cuts to welfare, as Ed likes to imply. Likewise zero hours contracts. As for non-doms – who gives a toss? Fiddling around with some arcane rules to make a few very rich people slightly less rich if they don’t move abroad won’t benefit me or anyone else. In fact it seems likely that it would make absolutely everyone’s life a tiny bit worse as tax receipts from the super-rich would probably decrease. (And I won’t even get any vindictive pleasure from the abolition of non-doms since I don’t envy the super-rich. I only envy people who are a little bit richer than I am, as everyone else does.)

And on top of that, I’m also vicariously annoyed by Ed for the Labour people of the north of England, who must trudge unenthusiastically to the polling booths next month to vote him into Number 10 with nothing to motivate them other than a sectarian hatred of the Blue lot.

The Labour party is a great northern worker’s institution. How did it come to be reduced to a career vehicle for a Hampstead political geek who’s not only never worked in a traditional labour industry, but never had any kind of job at all? Food banks and non-doms: his causes come out of The Guardian instead of the lives of his supporters. Every time Ed speechifies he feels the need to say ‘that’s why I came into politics’ because he knows that we know that he went into politics because it was the next thing to do after university. The whole thing is broken, isn’t it? Ed M may yet scrape into power on the back of the Coalition’s failure to reform constituency boundaries, but surely if the next Labour leader is another southern middle-class book-learnin’ metro-lefty then what’s happening to Labour in Scotland will also happen in northern England, and that will be the end of that.

***

For some reason video dates much quicker than audio, and there can’t be many music promo videos that still look as awesome now as they did when first shown on MTV in the early 1980s. But this one does.

Sledgehammer is still brilliant too. And, um, that may well be about it…

***

Once upon a time there was a man called Mr Chocolate Cake who had a big chocolate cake instead of a head. Everywhere he went people tried to eat his head because the chocolate cake looked so delicious, and he had to continually fight them off or run away. He got fed up with this so one day he went to see a Wise Old Man to ask for some advice.

The Wise Old Man lived in a cottage on the edge of the town. He was sitting on his front porch when Mr Chocolate Cake came along.

‘Wise old man, won’t you help me please,’ said Mr Chocolate Cake. ‘My house is a squash and a squeeze’.

‘Not you as well!’ said the Wise Old Man [after strong objections concerning laziness and plagiarism from C].

‘Sorry, slip of the tongue,’ said Mr Chocolate Cake. ‘What I meant to say is this: I have a chocolate cake instead of a head, as you’ve probably noticed, and everywhere I go people try to eat me. Can you offer me any advice?’

‘Yes I can,’ said the Wise Old Man. ‘But you’ll have to give me ten pounds first. I’ll use it to buy some bacon and eggs, since I love bacon and eggs.’

‘Very well,’ said Mr Chocolate Cake, handing over the tenner.

The Wise Old Man pocketed the cash and said: ‘Go to the castle at the other end of the town and ask to see the Princess. She’s a magic Princess and is always helping people with her magic solutions’.

So thanking the Wise Old Man, Mr Chocolate Cake went on his way. He had to fight off three unruly boys who tried to eat his head, and run away from a hungry-looking donkey, and hide for an hour in a ditch from an obese man with a fork, but by and by he came to the castle gate.

He knocked on the gate and a hatch opened. ‘Who goes there?’ said the royal guard, who then immediately added: ‘Blimey that looks tasty,’ and reached an arm through to grab a bit of chocolate ganache.

‘Stop!’ cried Mr Chocolate Cake. ‘I’m not a chocolate cake, I’m a man. Indeed that’s the whole reason I’m here, and it would be a terrible irony if I got eaten now having come all this way. I want to ask the Princess for help.‘

‘Come on then,’ said the guard, and he let Mr Chocolate Cake through the gate and up various corridors and spiralling staircases until they came to a big hall full of people: minstrels and dancers and fire-eaters and courtiers and toadies and children running hither and thither with dogs. When Mr Chocolate Cake stepped into the hall they all fell suddenly silent, and the crowd parted so that at the far end he could see a throne upon which sat a beautiful magic Princess called C.

‘I want to eat that chocolate cake,’ piped up a small boy.

‘No!’ cried Mr Chocolate Cake. ‘Do not eat me! That’s the reason I came. I have a chocolate cake for a head, and everywhere I go people and animals want to eat me and I have to fight them off or run away, and it’s all getting too much. Dear Princess, can you help me please?’

‘Yes,’ said the Princess after a moment’s thought, and she beckoned over her little sister Princess E, who was precisely as pretty as she was, and whispered in her ear. E nodded, and then quick as a flash she ran across the hall to Mr Chocolate Cake, leapt up and ate his entire head in four large gulps.

The crowd were amazed, for there, on top of the man’s shoulders, where the chocolate cake had been, was nothing other than… an ordinary human head.

‘Good heavens,’ said Mr Chocolate Cake. ‘I didn’t have a chocolate cake instead of a head at all, merely a chocolate cake on my head. But… but how did you know, Princess?’

‘Well of course you didn’t have a chocolate cake instead of a head,’ said the Princess as kindly as she could. ‘That would be ridiculous. How else did you think you could talk and see where you were going and so on?’

‘Dear me’, said Mr Chocolate Cake, feeling pretty silly. ‘All these years. How foolish I’ve been. Well, thank you for your help.’

‘No thank you,’ said little Princess E, licking chocolate ganache from her lips.

On his way home Mr Chocolate Cake passed the cottage of the Wise Old Man, and he peeped in at the window. The Wise Old Man was sitting at his kitchen table eating bacon and eggs, and looking very pleased with himself, for they were his favourite things to eat, not just at breakfast but at any time of the day. The end.

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About Author Profile: Brit

'Brit' is the blogging name of Andrew Nixon, a writer and publisher who lives in Bristol. He is the editor and co-founder of The Dabbler.

One thought on “Dabbler Diary – H. G. Wells’ spare bedroom

  1. Worm
    April 13, 2015 at 10:42

    I am envious of your kid’s story-telling abilities… I normally run out of steam once we’ve got to the castle, and there being either a dragon or a bear, and some treasure made out of sweets…

    Ive been saying for a while that there will soon be a new, non-metropolitan labour party spin off. London/twitter liberalism is completely removed from Bevan-style ‘old labour’

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