It was time, I decided, for a brisk splosh, so I went to find a puddle. The deeper the puddle, the sploshier the splosh, as Curbingham reminds us. What you do not want to do, however, is to mistake, for a deep puddle, an unusually small yet unexpectedly deep pond, or mere, or cwm, or, great heavens to Betsy!, a waterlogged bottomless viper pit. For that reason it is wise to arm yourself, before setting out, or somewhere along the way, with a stick. The stick ought to be stout and of a certain length, such that, when one end of the stick is placed on the ground, and the stick held vertically, the other end is no higher than the top of your head. Then, when you probe the puddle with the stick, you will be able to judge its depth in relation to your own height. The basic idea is that you do not find yourself making a brisk splosh in a body of water so deep that the top of your head will vanish below the surface, till human voices wake you, and you drown. That is not a splosh – it is tomfoolery, and perilously so.
On the day I am telling you about, I neglected to heed my own advice, and I did not have a stick about my person when I arrived at what I took to be an apt puddle. It was in the middle of a bosky lane stretching from Loopy Copse to the godforsaken piggery at Mustard Parva. I judged it to be a recent puddle, taking into account the meteorological conditions and the time of day, which, looking at my wristwatch, I had as 7.45 a.m.. This was erroneous. Unbeknown to me, my watch was running fast, and the true time was more likely somewhere between twenty to thirty minutes earlier.
Taken all in all, my having the wrong time was of no relevance vis-à-vis the depth of the puddle, but it was, I think, symptomatic of my jumbleheadedness that morning. There was also my failure to obtain a stick, as noted, and the fact that I had had only one sausage rather than the usual two for my breakfast, which played havoc with my innards, including the brain. I am a creature of habit.
This is not the place to indulge in a rant about the café, which had so mismanaged its affairs that it was exhausted of sausages at 7.00 a.m. by my watch, or roughly 6.35 a.m. in brute reality. Or, contrarily, perhaps this is the very place to cast anathemas upon Mr Boggis and his helpmeets at the café Where else am I to give vent to my exasperation? When I was told there was only a single sausage left on the premises, so early in the day, I suggested to Mr Boggis that he might send one of the helpmeets to replenish the supplies. Where, he asked me, did I think it possible to get hold of dozens of sausages at such an early hour? This had me stumped, for I know nothing of the wholesale sausage business, as why should I? Unable to frame a coherent response, I babbled invective and tore my paper napkin to shreds. Mr Boggis disappeared into the kitchen. When, shortly afterwards, he returned with the last sausage on a plate, I announced that “going forward”, as is the phrase nowadays, I would be taking my breakfast elsewhere. He reminded me that Tuck In With Mr Boggis was the only café for miles upon miles in any direction, and certainly the only one within walking distance of my hovel. I think, he said provocatively, you will find a rather gruesome cafeteria at Sawdust Bridge station, far far away at the other end of the branch line, should you wish to make a lengthy and expensive railway journey before breakfast every morning. For the second time in as many minutes I was stumped. I decided to eat my sausage in silence, and it was while doing so that it occurred to me the best way to shake off my feelings of distress, dejection, and incandescent rage was to go for a brisk splosh.
Which brings us neatly back to the scene on the bosky lane. There I was, stickless, anent a puddle. I was confident it was a suitable sploshing puddle, and not something in which I might drown. Burned into my brain is a map of the several bottomless viper pits dotted hither and thither between Loopy Copse and the godforsaken piggery at Mustard Parva, and by getting my bearings from a study of the time and the sun and the trees and the compass stored in the heel of my boot I was able to ascertain that the puddle could not possibly be one of the bottomless viper pits, filled to the brim with rainwater. It was safe to splosh.
Curbingham has given us the most comprehensive list of the benefits of a brisk splosh in a puddle. I long ago committed his list to memory, and I rehearsed it now, as a chaffinch or something similar started chirruping in a nearby tree. When, eventually, I was completely “in the zone”, I leapt into the puddle. But it was not a puddle! I landed on something solid, with a clang, and sprained my ankle. Sprawled in the lane, weeping with the sudden spasm of pain, I noticed, for the first time, a small metal plaque embedded in the earth a few inches away. Engraved upon it were the words Transgressive Rustic Fixture : Trompe L’oeil Puddle VII by Cosmo Hoxtonwanker. I had been undone by art!
What I had thought to be a puddle was in fact a construction of glass and metal and light-reflecting booster technology, commissioned by the municipality, for which they had paid a preposterous amount of money. I learned as much from Mr Boggis, to whose café I limped back after binding my ankle with a filthy rag I found discarded in a real puddle a few yards down the lane. Mr Boggis, it turned out, was not only the proprietor of a newly sausageless café, but an alderman on the parish council and an aficionado of transgressive rustic fixture artworks. It was he who had hoo ha hee hop hig hub haw hee hoo ha . . . dammit. This is what art does to me. It sprains my ankle and turns my brain to jelly. What I need is a brisk splosh in a puddle. And a second sausage.
A recollection in tranquility of Hoxtonwankerism abroad; I lived in Boston (Massachusetts, U.S.), or Bopston as I came to call it, for a year. There was a wonderful Public Art installation throughout one of the overwhelmingly cobbled tourist areas. The artist cast all kinds of everyday trash in bronze and embedded them in the stone, here and there. I discovered this when I bent to pick one up off the street, intending to throw it into a bin.
Some time later I passed through again and noted that the cast styrofoam cup that had been installed on top of a granite post was filled with water and being used by passing smokers for their spent cigarettes.
Hoxtonwankerism abroad: I was living in Paris; I stopped to refuel at a nearby cafe (presumably saucisse-stocked though, regrettably, I didn’t ask) … When, on a quiet right-bank lane, I encountered Victor Gingembre installing something called ‘Erotic Bridge’. I didn’t stick around – my watch said I was running late.