Fire-Priestess

“You must be that fire-priestess everyone is talking about.”

This is a line from Game Of Thrones that I have been hoping to use in everyday conversation. I could, of course, just say it next time I find myself leaning insouciantly against a mantelpiece at a swish cocktail party, to any woman within earshot, but even I realise how foolish that would be. No, what I need to do is to find the right milieu, one where not only can I fall naturally into conversation with a fire-priestess, but one where she is a common subject of discussion among the bien pensants. That is very unlikely to happen in my bailiwick, where I do not think I have ever met a fire-priestess. Nor have I heard anybody talking about one, though to be fair most of the people who live around here speak in barbaric incoherent grunts, if they speak at all.

Shortly after writing the above paragraph, I decided to immerse myself in some serious fire-priestess research. I took the phone off the hook, drew down the blinds, barricaded the door, and crouched in the middle of the living room in the stance Blötzmann calls “the alert chaffinch” (see the Third Notebook, Lilac Series). Concentrating hard for twenty seconds as recommended, I was then able to proceed. I put on my shoes and Tyrolean sports casual jacket, unbarricaded the door, and pranced off to the railway station, where I bought a ticket to Shoeburyness.

Using the Blötzmann method, I had ascertained that the Essex coastal town was a likely milieu to find everyone babbling about a fire-priestess and, indeed, a fire-priestess herself. I would then be able to meet with her and deploy the line from Game Of Thrones. To do so had become my dearest wish, to the point, I suppose, of mania.

Shoeburyness is notable for its proximity to the large Ministry of Defence facility at Pig’s Bay and also for its bottomless viper pit, of which I have written previously. As I disembarked from my train, I was confident that my Blötzmann-inspired hunch was correct, and I immediately pranced into the railway station canteen to commune with Shoeburynessites who, I felt sure, would have no other topic on their lips than the presence in the town of a fire-priestess. I bought a cup of tea, a sausage snack, and a slice of fruitcake, and sat down at one of the tables, cocking my ears.

To my bitter disappointment, in the time it took me to munch my sausage and fruitcake and to drain my teacup, I heard not a single mention of a fire-priestess. Ukip, badgers, foopball, Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera, the weather – these seemed to be the hot topics in Shoeburyness that day. I crashed out of the door and went prancing through the streets, down to the beach. Nobody I passed had a word to say about a fire-priestess.

I wondered if perhaps I might draw her to me by setting fire to a waste bin. I found one, overflowing with paper and cardboard and seaside detritus, and ignited it with my lighter. As I hoped, a woman came rushing towards me. She was dressed in the uniform of a Shoeburyness Seaside Community Support Patrol Officer, but I knew, deep down in my gut, that it was merely a disguise. I opened my mouth, about to speak the magical words, but before I could do so she unleashed a Tazer and zapped me, deep down in my gut.

As I lay writhing on the ground, panting and frazzled, she doused the flames in the waste bin. But here is the curious thing. She did so by making the tiniest gesture, a significant sweeping movement of her hand through the air, so quick it was virtually imperceptible. Only a fire-priestess could do that!, I thought, before losing consciousness.

When I came to, I discovered I had been bundled into the freight van of a train, and it was just pulling out of Shoeburyness station. Pinned to my Tyrolean sports casual jacket was a civic proclamation banning me from ever setting foot in the town again. I staggered to my feet, and peered out of the train window, and there on the platform I saw, waving at me, her flaming red Pre-Raphaelite tresses blowing in the breeze, her eyes pools of fathomless inky-black witchery, the Shoeburyness Seaside Community Support Patrol Officer. Only I knew her for what she truly was. But as I gazed, the train gathered speed, and soon she was but a speck in the distance, and then she was gone.

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