Spooky Centenarian

“Congratulations . . . to Peggy Laugher, Ann and Zillah Bottom, Almeria Goatpath, Thisbe Brownjohn, Teresa Twistleton, Rebecca Bramblebrook, Junie Jones, Susannah Sneep, Peter Palafox, Flo Flook, Simon Toole, Molly Ark, Nellie Knight, Fanny Beard, May Thatcher, May Heaven, George Kissington, Tircis Tree, Gerry Bosboom, Gilbert Soham, Lily Quickstep, Doris Country, Anna Clootz, Mary Teeworthy, Dorothy Tooke, Patrick Flynn, Rosa Sweet, Laurette Venum, Violet Ebbing, Horace Hardly, Mary Wilks -”

Since the turn of the year I have been immersing myself in the novels of Ronald Firbank. The quotation above, from Valmouth (1919), is a list of the centenarians of the eponymous townlet, where something in the air means “Valmouth centenarians will be soon as common as peas!” This is the only one of Firbank’s books I have read previously, and because I have a chronological list of every book I have read over the past thirty years, I can date that earlier reading to 1989.

Two years earlier, in 1987, under the Malice Aforethought Press imprint, I published a set of twenty-six alphabetic potted biographies entitled A Zest For Crumpled Things. The fifth of these was named . . . Violet Ebbing. I still remember the weird tingle of surprise as I read Firbank in 1989 and saw that name, which I had plucked out of the aether. What spooky forces were at work?, I wondered, and still wonder.

I don’t think I have ever put the text of A Zest For Crumpled Things online, so I shall endeavour to do so at some point. Meanwhile, it seems you can pick up a copy for the bargain price of £88.44 here.

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