I have had a couple of enquiries from readers asking if Hubermannâ€™s department store (motto: a byword for utter gorgeousness) has a mail order service. Hubermannâ€™s was mentioned in both Balsa Wood Crow and Annals Of The Frankish Kings, for those of you who need to catch up. I am slightly fretful about Tim Thurn, whose request is rather more specific.
Dear Frank, he writes, I am on the lookout for a penis-melting Zionist robot comb, not the kind of item a diffident chap like me is going to march into a shop and ask for, even in a whisper. I wonder if Hubermannâ€™s runs a mail order service, and if so whether this is the kind of thing I might find in its catalogue?
Well, Tim, even if Hubermannâ€™s did do mail order, this is not the kind of thing youâ€™d find in it, for the simple reason that a penis-melting Zionist robot comb lacks gorgeousness. Only the gorgeous is to be found in that legendary department store.
The original shop was opened in 1909 by Jacopo Hubermann, and sold only cream crackers, shellac and baize. It was Jacopoâ€™s paramour Loopy, an international woman of intrigue, who extended the range of stock to include other forms of gorgeousness. She believed firmly that the gorgeous could be found in all things, both expensive and cheap, hand-crafted and mass-produced, decorative and functional. At times, her choices â€“ and those of the smitten Jacopo â€“ were questionable, and stretched the definition of gorgeousness to an alarming degree. Loopy was very fond, for example, of mud-splattered gewgaws and filthy discarded things, some of which crumbled to dust when picked up. Just before the Great War, she was given the run of what became the â€œbargain bin basementâ€ of Hubermannâ€™s in its new premises, a fin de siÃ¨cle monstrosity which had previously been the headquarters of a SMERSHesque cabal. There were rumours that Loopy continued the cabalâ€™s sinister business from her hidey-hole next to the pneumatic piping system hub, but that was probably just tittle-tattle. Queer stories attached themselves to Jacopo Hubermann, too, for it was said that his limp was exaggerated, that his startling walrus moustache was counterfeit, that his penumbra of sobriety masked the looning of a madcap, and that his cakes were mere crumbs, and breadcrumbs at that. All false, of course, for the signal fact about Hubermann was that he shimmered like a saint.
Today there is no bargain bin basement, and the pneumatic piping system has been replaced by a new-fangled Ã¼berpneumatic piping system, but otherwise Hubermannâ€™s is, as it has been for nigh on a hundred years, the brightest star in the retail sector firmament. The absence of a mail order service so perplexed Dobson that he wrote a pamphlet on the subject, which is regrettably out of print. He devoted almost forty pages to worrying away at the problem, but was unable to reach a sensible conclusion. By the time he finished writing his essay, he was in such a foul temper that Marigold Chew dragged him off to the snackbar at Hubermannâ€™s to stuff his face with lemon meringue pie.
Incidentally, the snackbar at Hubermannâ€™s is the very same snackbar where lumbered and stalked the snackbar hooligans mentioned at the end of Cargpan And Beppo. And so we find that everything in this world is linked by loops of intricate yet unfathomable significance. Or so it seems.