There is a… would you call it a jingle?… my wife was taught at her Grammar School. It was part of the How to improve your class-credentials, type of tuition. It goes:

Father’s car is a jaguar
and pa drives rather fast;
castles and farms, and draughty barns
we go charging past.

Got it so far? It’s all in the accentuation as yet: that ‘a’ is looong, it is ar, and not as here in the north, a short and abrupt a. And Jaguar, is given full pronunciation, where otherwise it would be more like Jagua. This lengthens the pronunciation, evens out the demotic, and levels emotive expression. All words are given the same value by this system, nothing as course as the personal can creep in.
And, look at the castles, that charging. Where are we? What part of the country – England – is this this? It is one connected intimately with conquest, and landed gentry (farms as part of their ‘landed estate’?). We instantly think of the south-east, and of the ‘home counties.’ The following commentator thought the same:
http://tlatet.blogspot.com/2010/02/surrey-apology.html
One comment on this link suggested they consider the area of Cranleigh, as a place still retaining something of the England that the jingle conjures.

Now comes the emphasis on expectation and prospects:

Arthur’s car is far less smart
and does not go half as fast –
but I’d rather ride in Arthur’s car
than in pa’s fast car.

Not one’s own car, mind, but ‘looked after,’ driven, escorted, and thereby treated as a prospective house wife, not career girl. All this is subtly implicated in learning the jingle. And yes, it did have to be learned, and recited regularly.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/11140150/A-posh-RP-voice-can-break-down-barriers.html

But I cannot help thinking of some of John Betjeman’s playful, wry, poems: A Subaltern’s Love Song/Miss J Hunter Dunn, say (- ‘furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun’. Why the abbreviations? A nineteenth century poetic metre redundancy, played up to tweak the reader’s resources)
But Betjeman’s ladies are all self-sufficient, strong, and resourceful.
Betjeman, himself, carefully hid his ‘trade’ background among Oxford ‘friends.’ That is, those from upper class backgrounds.

Would this, then, be the same ‘grammar school accent’ that Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves joked about, talking of Wilfred Owen? Public school chums laughing at the parvenus. Wilfred Owens poems of that time have certainly outlasted Graves’. Sassoon…?
Have they lasted because they have the direct speech of people, and not the ‘clubby,’ insider talk, of the public shoolers?

What of our white-gloved, and parasol’d, young leddy in pa’s car? ‘Leddy’? This is the further reach of this teaching: Received Pronunciation. Received Pronunciation was the lingua franca of the new radio and TV media. At that time regional accent retained strength, and, some would say, impenetrability. We witnessed it fairly recently when Geordie, Cheryl Tweedie’s, American debut was met with incomprehension.
But RP got its information through. Unfortunately some adopted it as ‘a tongue’ in itself, the language of the upwardly mobile.

– Remember Frasier, on TV? Frasier’s dad, playing an American ex-cop, was from Manchester originally. And the actress playing Daphne Moon, from southern England, was playing a Mancunian, – badly.

Yet accent can so lift a piece of writing. The many accents in Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos – we only hear the thick (and adenoidal? Or is that more New Jersey?) Noo Yoik tones towards the end of the book. Southern writers traded on the baroque language of their States (and how I miss Justified: Timothy Olyphant at his best?).

When was the period of America’s accents? The strong Texan, the Appalachian, the New York, and Detroit?
I was recently reading A Pioneer Woman’s Memoir, of Arabella Clemens, based on the diaries of a young woman taking the pioneer trail from North Carolina, to Oregon, in the 18860s.
https://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-Womans-Memoir-Their-Words/dp/053111211X
She does not mention State accents – no proof in itself, but nor does she mention problems in understanding people’s speech in the States she passed through between North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho.

This Wiki article suggests many American accents are ‘recent’ – that phrase needs definition, though.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_English

 

We do have to distinguish between accent and slang. Slang can never be right in work’s professional situations, can it? I’ve heard young professionals using the ‘f’ for ‘th’  deviation: ‘free’ for ‘three’ etc. Just baby talk, to me. And the glottal stop: bo’le for bottle…. Conversely, there’s the over-emphasis eg mod-del for model etc. And then there’s the execrable ‘ta’oo,’ for ‘tattoo’.

 

I do wonder, in the jingle, about pa, showing off to his daughter by charging down country lanes in his Jaguar.
Parading his virility – to his daughter? Setting up for her impossible expectations?
Yep, we get the message, some arrogant, wealthy, ego maniac, caring nothing for anyone but himself and his own.
Ownership, and thereby deference.

You could just slap him, couldn’t you.

But then, that would be bad manners.

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from Parameters, ebooks, Amazon kindle:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parameters-Michael-Murray-ebook/dp/B07893LB8Z/ref=sr_1_8?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1529693778&sr=1-8&keywords=Parameters

 The Tango is a passion, a way of life.

Tango was born on the Rio De La Plata delta, when Buenos Aires was a child: holes in pockets, scuffed shoes, a tattered bandanna called Monserrat.

The dance tales a story: In the long struggle between the power of the Rancheros and the centralised State, the Pampas felt the hand of man.

The economy is a snake, it twists and turns, at times it devours its own children. In the 1850s it twisted again. Rural workers made their way to the city, they fetched up in Monserrat.

With them came the old dances, music; the milonga was danced on the street of Corrientes. The music of European immigrants trickled through alleyways; the German religious accordion, the Bandaneon, was prominent. Lutheran austerity met Catholic poverty. Pride was in the mastery of its 71 buttons, in elaboration upon a frugal base. The withheld gesture, syncopation: all the arts of drawing from a 4:4 structure the utmost gestures.

The Tango, the Condorelle, the Fandango grew up in the barrio, fostered by uncertainty, fed by hunger, and the bitter herbal tea, Mate, a substitute for coffee. For all the coffee was exported.

As the snake lay glutted in the country’s Golden Age, the Tango grew into its youth: everyone was young again, the future possible. Everyone danced to ‘La Cumparista’s marching tune, tweaked and as polished as patent leather shoes.

Songs added an extra sound. So when a world at war no longer found safe footing, they listened to songs of loss: of pride and confidence, and loss.

The singers held them with a sob in the voice, as the world reeled.

Nothing was the same; the snake turned, and columns shook and crumbled. Argentina became a backward look, a lost glory, the plaster falling from the cornice of the fashionable street, never to be replaced.

The long, troubled look into the dark of La Plata at night; only warships churned, some never to return. Later, the Belgrano, sunk like the fortunes of Presidents, before and after.

To remember the songs. Tango is a passion. At times it shows a light across the delta, a boat perhaps, where fishermen can still make a living.

Tango lives on in the wilderness, far from home. It establishes cult centres: Paris, New Orleans, even Helsinki, Tokyo.

Lately the Paris based performers, dancers, musicians, singers joined in a dance-based beat and rhythm to become ‘The Gotan Project.’

But it always returns home: Buenos Aires, its’ columns and chipped marble, the peeling paint. The passion as strong as ever.  Whenever the blood is taxed in its artery, the economy lays its stifling torpid weight on all, bodies can still transport the soul, dance it out into the brag, and the ultimate sacrifice of self, that Tango enacts.

Out of the head of the snake a bird flies, from its body the blood beat and rhythm; its poised draw-back places precisely the footstep of new rhythms.

 

From SUR (South) 1948, lyrics Homero Manzi:

Ancient San Juan and Boeda street corner, the whole sky,

                                             Pompeya and farther down, the floods

                                             Your loose hair of a bride in my memory

                                             And your name floating in the farewell.

                                             The blacksmith’s corner, mud and pampa,

                                             Our house, our sidewalk, and the ditch

                                             And a scent of weeds and alfalfa

                                             That fills the heart all over again.

 Or the accumulation of urban details: witnesses: A MEDIA LUZ (In Half Light), 1925. Lyrics: Carlos Cesar Lenzi

Corrientes three-four-eight

                                            Second floor, elevator.

                                            There are no doorman, nor neighbours.

                                            Inside, cocktail and love.

                                            Loft furnished by Maple:

                                            Piano, rug and nightlamp,

                                            A telephone that answers,

                                            A phonograph that cries

                                            Old tangos of my flower,

                                            And a porcelain cat.

 

 

The mystery of: CHARLMOS (Let’s Chat) 1942. Lyrics: Luis Rubinstein

                                            Belgrano 6-0-1-1?

                                           I would like to speak to Renee…

                                           She doesn’t live there?… No, don’t hang up…

                                           Could I talk with you?

 

                                           Don’t hang up…the afternoon is gloomy.

                                           I feel sentimental.

                                           I know Renee does not exist…

                                           Let’s chat…

                                           …life is so short…

                                           let’s dream, in the grey

                                           rainy afternoon…

 

From the same period the highly impressionistic, almost surreal: TINTA ROJA (Red Ink) 1942. Lyrics: Catulo Castillo

                                         Thick wall,

                                                               Red ink in the

                                         Gray of yesterday…

                                         Your emotion

                                         Of brick, happy

                                         Over my alley.

                                         And a blotch

                                         Painted the corner,

                                         And the cop

                                         That in the wide of the night

                                         Placed to the end of the beat

                                         As a clasp…

 And then suddenly, possibly a future: PRELUDIO PARA EL ANO 3001. (Prelude for the year 3001) Lyrics: Horacio Ferrer, and music by the modern master Astor Piazollo.

                                            I’ll be reborn in Buenos Aires in another June afternoon

                                            With a tremendous desire to love and to live.

                                            I’ll be reborn fatally, it will be the year 3001

                                            And there will be an Autumn Sunday at san Martin square

                                            Little stray dogs will bark at my shadow

                                            With my modest baggage I’ll arrive from the beyond

                                           And kneeling down on my dirty and pretty River Plate

                                            I’ll knead me another tireless heart of mud and salt

                                            And three shoe shiners, three clowns and three

                                           Sorcerers will come, my immortal accomplices…..

 

I know you can still hear me, the voice was saying. Remember. You must remember everything. Remember what we agreed.

What does remember mean?

All our work here, the voice was still talking, softly, close by, somewhere, all your own research with The Earth Council. You must remember everything. Remem…..

Dark.

Peter, love… Oh, my love… don’t leave me…. You must let… go….

Has he gone?

My love. Rebecca. Ah, Rebecca.
And for a moment he stirred, struggled towards her voice. But the effort was too much.

Dark.

There was a slowly increasing crushing sensation. He jerked awake, panicky. His body was crushing him.
Remember. Leap for the light.
He remembered, but this sensation was not on the list. No one knew about this. Crushing inward. He held on, as they had agreed, held on, and held on. He was panicking now. The crushing grew to a frenzy of noise; it was like a screeching, as though his whole body was screaming out.
He held on, held on, until it reached top pitch… then let go.
He was flung out. Into the light, the light streaming in.
It was overwhelming.
From crushing, to release. From frenzy, to peace. From  noise, to silence.
Overwhelming.

And coming towards him, out of the light, he saw old comrades, his parents, his infant son. None had aged, all were just as he remembered them. All did… exactly as he expected them to do. He’d dreamed this, so many times. And now here they were… doing… just exactly what he… dreamed.
Through their bodies the light was still bright. He looked towards it, looked closely. And looking took him there.

He was bodiless.
All was so familiar; more familiar than his living state.
He was memory, and knowledge. He was awareness.
And before him was the world of spirit. With all its endless rebirths.
Knowledge, though, that was of a different nature to what he knew: the research, dissertations, theories he was to remember. Knowledge was the body’s own.
And he’d left that. His body was gone now, and he felt its essential knowledge fading.

He felt the power of life now, undiminished, no longer filtered through his senses, through the switchback structure of his brain, his mind, and the world.
This and that, this and that, always this play of the world and its effects on him.
But the real knowledge was fading.

The aim of their higher research at the Earth Council was to focus the minds’ energy back into the earth, to replenish it, heal it. That had been their life’s work.
But the world of spirit was not like that. The world of spirit was all about rebirths.
And all the previous births, lives, now came to mind, to instant recall, were no longer caught up in the thick webs of the body.
But each life, he saw it now in the fading knowledge, was a stumbling, fumbling, inching towards learning.  Many times he had not made it all. His last one… his last one….
The only brightness in it was Rebecca.
He felt a strengthening, the knowledge pulsed again a moment. She was the life and the light in all that clumsiness. And he had leapt away, and was now lost here, without her.
Lost, and back on the rebirth treadmill.
She had been his chance. To stay with her, to return his life energy to the earth properly. To die in his body, and return all he owed back to earth.
In the dark grave.

At last. An end to the treadmill.

That light – was his body tearing open, before it?
Is that what had happened there? Or was that the serene glow they had tried to tell each other it was? An evening pathway leading to peace?
A ragged intrusion, or a blossoming? And the screaming out, wasn’t it more a kind of sigh, as his cells released their energy?
Oh, language, language lies so easily.
Each new life, rebirth, was not as they had tried to make it, a building on previous experience, attainments – no, each life was always from point zero again.
Older hands at this rebirthing had dragged bits with them into next lives, memories lingering, as they rushed into it all over again.
There are always these anomalies, and they have no particular meaning or use to anyone.
The memories that lingered were never the ones with any importance, those were taken up, absorbed,  into one’s deeper self. Into the body. The ones that still fluttered about were wisps of no interest.

 

And the facilitators had now noticed him. They were coming over.
He had done this himself in previous leaps, gently coaxing the bewildered back into births.
Less trouble, that way: a wandering lifeforce  – always in the way of the flow.

But that is not how the earth is healed!
He saw it in that pulse of knowledge that memory of Rebecca had released in his fading body.
We heal it, by returning everything to it.
He looked around, sensed the great busyness.
If we’d all gone back into the earth, the dark of the grave, then, rather than depleting the earth, denying it the life energies we take into the light…. We’ve denuded the earth; we’re constantly weakening it, leaving it unreplenished. And all to feed our own sense of self, with all these lives.

That is the problem with that crucifixion. The death in the sky, that life into spirit. That leap was out, and away.

She has been five years buried in my illness with me, and now released.
I took her away from her friends, and her family; now she can find them again.
I gave her a marriage of sadness and the loss of our only child.
All that blame and recrimination; now she can let it go.

The light in her hair, though; I will never forget that.
This is what I should remember. These things are what matter; what I should remember.

And the facilitators guided him away from the body he continued to hover within, from the wife who wept.

What does… memember… mean…?

 

 

Nothing has excited me as much as this in quite some time.
OK, it’s only a book. Relax.

Contemporary Stained Glass, by Andrew Moor. Published by Mitchell Beazley, 1989.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Contemporary-Stained-Glass-Andrew-Moor/dp/1857324374/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526148225&sr=1-1&keywords=contemporary+stained+glass

Note the date of publication: 1989. So it is not new; it is probably not ‘contemporary’ any more. And this hits one gripe that I have: there is a present-day-only directive to a lot of attitudes. There probably always has always been – that is, after all, how things get done, by concentrating on the immediate. In culture, though, no – and this book is proof to me: there is work here from the 1950s that is really outstanding.
Note the current price. This is such a shame – the book is a lovely work, and remains so.

Why so old – 1989? A bit of back story.
It was shortly after this date I went through a period of the worst-jobs-I–have-ever-had. One of those was working in a warehouse – but it was a book warehouse, of remaindered and damaged in production books. It was horrible. Being able to bring money in, helped, of course. And then I had access to these books. I got so desperate at times that these books became my lifeline: I accumulated them wildly. This was one.

I got down to properly looking at the book only recently. It took my breath away. The reproductions are outstanding – full colour photographs of not only publically accessible works, but also works from private collections, private houses.

Take Germany.
Straight after the War, there was little perishable art left intact. Stained glass was mostly ecclesiastical, and churches suffered from bombing, and the destruction of war.
The 1950s was a period of reconstruction – speed was of the essence. West Germany needed artists and crafts people. Stained glass took off, it bridged art and crafts. What was possible in the field was unrestricted. The book comments that although German stained glass work was extensive, not all was particularly good.
But the good was stupendous.

Take for instance, the work of Ludwig Schaffrath:

also
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/519884350711103076
His design for the Aachen bank, 1986, for four arched windows is outstanding.

Then go and explore –
Johannes Schreiter:
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikolagrozdanov/johannes-schreiter/

Jochem Poensgen:
http://www.jochempoensgen.de/category/neue-projekte/

First of all stained glass need not be full-colour. Minimalist design and palates were experimented with, as here: a rectilinear, two-tone work.

The medium is glass.
But glass can be Antique Glass – that is:
Plain
Seedy
Streaky
Reamy (danziger/water glass)
Flashed (simple opak, opalescent or opal)

It can be machine rolled glass:
Cathedral glass (tinted, and clear)
Clear patterned (ribbed)
American opalescent (Tiffany)
It can be Bevelled, or Cast glass.

Plain glass was created from a relatively new technique. This was the cheapest to make, and is what constitutes large shop and apartment windows.
The book gives examples of each of these.

It then goes on to describe the techniques used in presenting the glass: use of black iron-oxide and borax paint that is fired to produce stains. Or with designs scraped in it.

Etching, capable of great subtlety of effect, is an old technique, but also time consuming.

Flashing is a relatively new technique using high temperatures, but produces a stained effect that is capable of fine tones.

The use of leading developed a form of its own in the works of Johannes Schreiver, above.

From an historical angle, we saw a boom in stained glass use and development in domestic use of glass in Victorian England.
One particular innovator was Frank Lloyd Wright, in America. His use of, again, domestic stained glass was a very promising avenue. It did not turn off to a highway, unfortunately.
PreWar in Europe, the Dutch De Stijl and German Bauhaus groups explored stained glass use.

Not all stained glass need be full colour, as I commented above. One design approach has been the use of black and white (ie plain, clear glass), with touches of colour. We can see an example in the Jochem Poensgen, above. Other approaches to use of the medium involve rectilinear designs, use of pattern, use of ‘float glass.’
Naturally the artists mix their techniques, to great effect. Figurative techniques lead to use of glass as a canvas for paint and stain techniques.

Narcissus Quagliata continues to produce wonderful work. Take, for example, this commissioned work:

COMMISSIONED WORKS

http://www.narcissusquagliata.com/

The motif in the top right panel, was made for him by Venetian glass makers, and proved very intricate, and expensive.

The book gives us glimpses of work produced in America, Canada, UK, New Zealand, for commissions all around the world.

http://www.lindalichtman.net/portfolio.html#slide-1

Image02

 

http://sashazhitneva.com/?page_id=71

 

Stained glass enhances an inner environment. What about the outer prospect?
Anyone viewing a wonderful stained glass window from the outside is usually very disappointed.
Ludwig Schaffrath took this on, and produced work that has both inner and outer effectiveness. Their effects are necessarily altered by the source of light, and by the demands of technique. The outer effect cannot reproduce the inner effect, and so each view point has its own viability.

The development and exploration of the uses of stained glass continues. Glass screens were developed, and backlit panels.
As always, art vies fruitfully with decorative function.

We see above examples of high art, of decoration, of functional, and of exploratory works.

Initially published in 1925, the book gained dramatic chiaroscuro from the Wall Street Crash.
A book about the new meteoric metropolis of New York, teetering on the edge of success – and collapse.

A modernist classic. This and others of the period influenced writing throughout Europe.
It’s the style: the blurb calls them filmic jump-cuts, which means the narrative consists of episodes, rather than linear stories. We jump from character to character, situation to situation, but within a clearly demarked radius of people.

This works for me – the book is a blend of fact and fiction. But to write of the tragedies of factual lives within a fictional framework, I find steps over the line somewhat . The suspension of disbelief so necessary for a good story; the distancing of an imagined depiction, gain our willingness to trust the author, to take on the book, to go with it. But to present faction – where are we, then?
John dos Passos gets around that with this style, this technique: there is no dwelling on catastrophe, we see it, feel it, oh yes, but we are not mired in it. Because it is part of the whole fabric.

And so, when we read the tragic interludes of Bud, aged 25, coming in from some upcountry farm, to lose himself here, we allow his story.
Bud could not find a job, no matter what he did. He asked an old guy, Any Jobs? The man replied, I’m 65, and worked since I was 5. I’ve never had a job.

Here we begin to glimpse it: how to survive in a city, especially one like this. You have to hustle. Day on day. Hustle.
If you’re like me, and never learned this, or learned it and hated its face, you’d go back home. Except Bud couldn’t.

Then there’s Ed Slatcher, accountant, whose wife died young, and left just him and his young daughter. He had the chance, a big sure-thing laid at his feet: this was it, the chance everyone gets to break it big. But he didn’t chose it; he stayed on as an accountant, even though he could see how fraudulent his clients were.
And here we see it again: Wall Street, waiting to happen.
If he’d gone for it, got the break, could they have got out before the Crash? It wasn’t in his character to either take the chance, or to get out.

John dos Passos was of Portugese heritage; he was far enough outside to see all sides to the city.
Where books of the same period dealt with the top ranks: The Great Gatsby, say, John dos Passos gives us the others as well, the French sailors jumping ship because this was the new metropolis. And so they wait tables, and dream.
In Europe, they said, you live well, but the pay is bad; here, the pay is good, but the life bad.
And so, between the two, what do you do? Like Congo, do you try both, continually? No, Congo stays – becomes successful, through bootlegging: rich.

This brings us to the language: the author gives us the accents, tones, the macro-languages of immigrants and older natives.

I was wondering about this: one book influenced by this was Alfred Doblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.
How would you translate the Germanised English of Mr Zucher, into German? ‘A man vat is ambeetious must take chances. Ambeetions is vat I came here from Frankfort mit at the age of twelf years….

The point is, John dos Passos does not ridicule their speech, their poverty, their weaknesses, he gives us people we can recognise to a great extent.

I was reading Willa Cartha shortly before this, written about ten years previously (maybe the same time as this one, then?) and based in the gothic South, the characters are like caricatures, comic creations by comparison.
If we read Joseph Mitchell’s writing from the 1930s onwards, they work together, open up the period. Joe Gould’s Secret references the old bohemians of Greenwich Village.
Manhattan Transfer was their period – and we see into the actor’s world from the footlights, the back stage. It’s sordid, amoral even, but it’s full of life and energy.

Where G R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire is structured on character per chapter, Manhattan Transfer’s chapters illustrate an aspect of hustle/survival/life in N/Y. Each chapter continues several character stories, not necessarily sequentially on the same time frame. We move from character to character, setting to setting, almost seamlessly: the narrative voice carries and combines the movements, the currents, the flow.
The proliferation of characters, whose stars rise and fall, does bear close parallel at times.

Oh, and one of the earlier characters in the book is described as wearing a baseball cap, back to front.
1925.

PS

I would like to know what happened to Ed Slatcher – his daughter Ellen/Helena became a huge and popular stage actor, then editor. Her work was hugely successful; she was a New York beauty – but inside she never found what it was she needed.

There is no mention of organised crime – the Crime Wave that’s flagged up consists of isolated individuals.
Likewise, no mention of The Gangs of New York. Jimmy, as crime reporter, would know about those.

THE DETAILS cont

Had he been asleep? Something had changed. He looked around and there stood Mr Frederickson, section engineer.

‘What on earth…?’ Chris began. Frederickson in his shabby clothes: jumper and trousers a size too big – either that, or he had a lost a whole size recently. How was that possible? And how could he get away with dressing so shabby in the ultra-regulated offices of the Block? He must have friends on the inside. That was the only answer.

‘Have to disconnect the phone. Orders.’

‘How did you get in here?’

‘My little secret,’ he smirked.

‘I don’t suppose you feel like sharing it? For a…’ he rummaged in his pockets. Frederickson was already shaking his head. He walked to the phone and… yanked it from the wall.

‘Very skilled, your job.’

‘At times. Actually, it can be very skilled. And here is the interesting part: I am come to offer you a deal.’

‘Oh yes?’ warily.

‘Yes.’ confidently. ‘A way out of here.’

‘…for..?’

‘OK, let’s say, someone wants to meet you. You say hello, and, well, take it from there.’

‘Tell me more.’ Chris said. ‘No promises, mind.’

‘It’s in the details.’ said Frederickson.

‘There are the details that matter, and the details that don’t. The details that matter you can’t change, they’re always the same, evidence, provable in a court of law. But the details that don’t matter… ah, there we have it. They are the key.’

‘With a little manipulation it can all be altered. The room is still a room… take this one,’ he said, ‘as a for-instance, ok? This room holds you locked in. Door, window, ceiling, floor, wall, skirting… you get me? A little attention to the details that don’t matter, and, well, it’s still a room, but it can be a Waiting Room, or better still an Ante-Room, or Entrance Room. And the window a window of opportunity: the window-cleaner’s cradle, see, an elevator!’

‘How… er… how do I, does one, get to the elevator?’ he attempted a disinterested face.

‘One simply walks and takes it.’

‘But the window ledge…’

‘… is a corridor. A narrow one, with only one wall, but still a corridor.’

Got it. Chris thought. All in the mind. Like bladder control. All in the mind. ‘Ok,’ he said ‘… let’s give it a go.’

‘No, no, no. It’s an IS, not a maybe. Open that window when I say and… there you are. It’s not what you see, but what Is. But only when I say.’

‘It either is there or it’s not? I open the window and it is, or… not?’

‘No. Open the window When I Say. And Then it is.’

‘So,’ Frederickson said, ‘are we ready?’

Chris dashed to the window and hand on latch, turned. Frederickson was already stood right behind him. Chris nearly went through the window, glass and all.
‘No! No! No! Look, I’LL say. Ok? Aaand… open the window… NOW.’
Chris swung it wide, and…
‘Oooh, yes. Just look at that! Look. Look.’ he was tugging Frederickson’s sleeve.

‘Not such a big deal.’ So they stepped out into the narrow corridor, and…

‘Still a long way down, isn’t it.’ Chris said.

Frederickson paused, looked. Did he turn a little pale? ‘Yes; yes it is, isn’t it. Erm – perhaps a little recap. Inside. OK?’

They returned to the room. He walked Chris away from the window. Chris kept his elbows in; didn’t want any more of that business. Frederickson stood looking at the wall. Grey painted plasterboard. Was that a sheen of sweat on his face?

‘Ahem,’ clearing his throat, Frederickson seemed to be addressing the wall. ‘See this wall,’ he said, ‘It’s always a wall, yes? But what if it was a wall of fog, say? Yes?’

‘Right colour,’

‘Yes. So. Fog then. We can handle that one. Together then, and… step forward…Now!’ They did. And it was. Choking, blinding fog.

Chris heard him somewhere; it sounded like he was having trouble.

‘This wiring,’ he was muttering. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed. Definitely a Health and Safety issue. All this damned wiring.’

 

Excerpts from my 3-part urban fantasy novel, QUEEN OF THE CITY.
Amazon Kindle, now.https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CQSVNV5/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1524942001&sr=1-1&keywords=queen+of+the+city

The Details

Chris shut the door quietly and stood looking at the phone, ringing.
It had rung about four or five times, and then all of a sudden auto-pilot kicked in; he knelt, picked up the receiver and went into the script:

‘Good morning’ (was it still morning? Who knows),
‘Epith, Wrang and Company.
This is Christopher speaking.
How may I be of assistance?’
He had always thought this last part too long-winded, Chris’ attention floated: the script was a little flowery perhaps. No, he had come to prefer something a little more snappier, like….

‘Christopher? Is that you?’

Who was this? Female. Young. Familiar voice, a Birmingham echo still in the vowel sounds. Very familiar. He was coming in to land quite rapidly…
Incredulously:

‘Andrea?’

‘Christopher?’

At that he gurgled incoherently. Too many words, and too little mouth.

‘I don’t know where I am,’ she said.

‘It’s been days.’

‘I don’t know where I am.’

‘It was all arranged; everyone contacted…’

‘I don’t know where I am.’

‘… all the invites sent out; flowers; caterers…’

‘Christopher…’

‘…hall booked, engagement party…’

‘Christopher.’

‘…and then you ring up days later and say…’

‘Christopher!’

‘…you don’t know… where you are? What do you mean you don’t where you are?’

‘I don’t. I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know where here is, it’s…’

‘Well, where is it?’

‘I Don’t Know.’

‘Well, well… describe it.’

‘It’s just a room. No windows, no chairs, tables. Nothing.’

‘What are you doing there?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘How do you eat?’

‘A cat flap. In the door. A polystyrene tray. No one says anything. No one comes in.’

‘How do you… toilet?’

‘Christopher.’

‘Go on, how do you, you know?’ A pause, silence; phone static. Then:

‘Cat litter tray.’

‘And…’

‘Through the cat flap.’

‘How do you…’

‘What?’ It didn’t sound like a question.

‘… you know… wipe…’

‘I don’t believe this. I am asking for help here, and you ask me …?’

‘Sorry.’

‘I don’t believe you.’

‘Sorry.’

Silence again; static. ‘Are you going to help me? Or not?’

‘You don’t know where you are?’

‘No, I don’t.’

‘And you don’t see anyone to ask, or…. You don’t remember…’

And then the phone went dead.
Chris knelt looking stupidly at the receiver. It purred to him like a cat. A robotic but contented cat. Gradually some confidence returned: ‘Look,’ he said to it, ‘I’ve always been good at the details. I love details; the more the better for me. I had to ask how, you know. It’s the details that tell, make it, ahem, real. Put the phone down, you fool.’ Did he hear a stifled laugh, somewhere? No. How could he?

He did hear voices approaching, though, and the shush-shush of shoes over carpet. Louder, approaching the door. Chris froze. The handle was held, turned. The door swung open. Silence.

‘I heard voices. I’m sure of it. No one here. Witherswill, there’s no one here.’ It was the CEO. Sir.

And head of Security.

‘Look, keep this door locked in future.’

‘Aye-aye, sir.’

Then he strode away. Chris was about to let out a long-held breath, when

‘I know you’re there,’ said Witherswill. He pulled the door shut smartly. Locked it with a sharp click. He whistled as he shush-shushed off. At that moment Chris would have given his shoes for a litter tray.

Gently, he tried the door. Nothing. Locked. That only left… the window, and the cradle. Even the thought of it gave him bladder pressure. He looked back at the phone. ‘I should at least have asked for her phone number.’ he muttered, aware now how empty rooms make noise. He tried re-dial. Nothing. He tried call-back. Nothing. He ran through the repertoire of phone knowledge. Nothing helpful for this situation. Then it struck him: ‘My god! I am the bridegroom!’

Andrea… he just couldn’t face the memory of that evening again, and sat staring blankly out of the window at grey on grey sky. A smattering of rain. ‘It’d make the cradle slippery. So that’s that.’
And besides, his stomach and leg muscles were aching from all that exercise.