Yesterday, I noted that Elspeth, a character in the soap opera These Plastic Betrayals, was undone by foxgloves. This prompted a letter from Dr Ruth Pastry.
Dear Mijnheer Key, she writes, presuming me to be a Dutchman for reasons best known to herself, I could not help noticing that in the latest episode of These Plastic Betrayals, Elspeth is undone by foxgloves. Now, I yield to no one in the sheer intensity of my admiration for your sure grasp of just about everything in the known universe – with the obvious exception of ornithology, of which you are quite dramatically ignorant – but I must confess as I read these words I spat out my lukewarm vitamin-enhanced milk ‘n’ Lucozade pep drink, all over the tablecloth, embroidered, as it so happens, with a design of foxgloves, by the noted tablecloth designer Dot Foxglovecloth.
Certain other details in the episode, such as vinegar dusks, and stunned nightingales plummeting from rooftops, have the unmistakeable stamp of verisimilitude, of actual phenomena in an actual world actually occurring. But to be undone by foxgloves? Come, come, Mijnheer Key, this strikes me, and I am sure many others, as a fancy born of an overheated brain. I think you would be well advised to go and lie down in a darkened room with a cold compress upon your forehead, and perhaps a cassette recording of sounds designed to encourage relaxation, such as the songs of whales, the breeze rustling through a clump of aspens, or Aleister Crowley invoking the Great God Pan.
Yours more in sorrow than in actuality, Dr Ruth Pastry
It is always a pleasure to hear from Dr Pastry, and I usually reread her letters several times before adding them to the bundle, tied with pink ribbon, which I keep in a cardboard box underneath my sink. On this occasion, however, I tossed the letter aside after a single reading, and am minded to set fire to it later, after I have set out on my very own Quest For Fire, babbling in an artificial primitive language devised by the late Mancunian polymath Anthony Burgess.
Dr Pastry will, I hope, forgive me for asserting that she has no idea what she is talking about, whereas I, as always, do. Unlike Dr Pastry, I have scoured the literature, and found innumerable – innumerable! – instances, particularly in soap operas, of characters being undone by foxgloves, unhinged by petunias, and unmanned by primroses. I cannot actually provide any concrete examples here and now, obviously, because I have far better things to do with my time, such as going on a Quest For Fire, and eating my breakfast, and gazing disconsolately out of the window at the crows on the lawn in the rain, and it may well be that I have not really scoured the literature and not really found any examples of floral undoing, or unhingement, or unmanning, whatever that latter might mean, and my claim to have done so is but the product of an overheated brain, but let us not forget that in the country of the Swiss roll, the roll is Swiss.
Now, if somebody will hand me a megaphone, I will shout my head off from a vantage point on a promontory looking out over the vast wet hysterical sea, and I shall frighten the fish and the dolphins and the plankton and the krill, and I shall awake the Kraken!