During my long life, one thing I have learned is that whenever one experiences a triumph, it is a capital idea to erect an arch in commemoration. Thus, to give but one example, when I had a playground spat with a ruffian child, as a mere child myself, and I came out on top by bashing the little git on the head with a shovel, I proceeded to build an arch, out of cement and straw and pipe-cleaners, which I put up in a corner of the playground, so that none would ever forget that on that spot, on a hot May morn, I triumphed over Perkins, or whatever his name was.
Well, I am being disingenuous. Of course his name was Perkins, I remember it well, for I built the arch of triumph specifically to commemorate my victory. It was to be the first of many arches of triumph in my life. As it happened, Perkins prompted a second arch, many years later, when the pair of us, long estranged, met up by chance one winter’s day. I had no idea who he was, but he recognised me, probably because I was wearing the insignia of Goosehaven. He began to berate me with words, and then with fists, until I grabbed hold of a nearby shovel and bashed him on the head with it, again, and he crumpled. The second Perkinsesque Arch of Triumph was constructed from concrete and brick and pebbles and the saliva of otters. It stands next to a river, in the vicinity of Goosehaven itself.
I am often asked whether I like to pass underneath my arches of triumph, either on foot or borne by a suitably resplendent carriage. My answer, invariably, is long-winded and pompous and orotund, and I leave my listeners in some doubt as to whether I was saying, in essence, “yes” or “no”. This is a quite deliberate ruse on my part. I do not wish to be tied down to certainties. They are such a bore.
The one certainty I will avow is that I am a man of Goosehaven, born and bred. A surprising number of people find this either exasperating or objectionable, or both, and do not stint in letting me know their feelings. My usual response is to bash such persons on the head with a shovel and then to erect upon the spot an arch of triumph. It keeps me busy, which is a boon, for we all know that the devil finds work for idle hands to do, or at least so I was told, at my mother’s knee, when I was a tot, in the Goosehaven of yore, long ago buried under car parks and supermarkets and so-called retail ‘n’ leisure complexes. There are ghosts there now, parading in their thousands, borne on resplendent phantom carriages, passing under my arches of triumph.