A Picture Of Steam

Dear Mr Key, writes Olivia Funnel, I thought you would be interested to learn that I have in my possession a picture of steam coming out of Binder’s ears. It is not a photograph, alas, though to the untrained eye it may as well be, for it has been executed in the hyperrealist style. It is a mezzotint by the noted mezzotintist Rex Tint, and I believe it comes from an album of his mezzotints in which were gathered together portraits of titanic figures of the musical, literary, scientific and artistic worlds, made when they were fuming, impassioned, the worse for drink, stupefied, sobbing, or half dead.

The Binder picture appears to have been torn out of the album, savagely, as if attacked by squirrels. Luckily there is damage only to the border of the page along one edge, the picture itself remaining untouched. One admires the facility with which Rex Tint has depicted steam, expelled at high pressure from the magnificent ears of the composer. I cannot help wondering what has happened to the rest of the album, which apparently has an amusing preface by the mezzotintist’s sister Dot Tint.

I was privileged to meet Dot on a few occasions when I was young. My parents took me to the unveiling of a cardboard replica of the Garden of Gethsemane, and Dot was there, smoking furiously and dazzling everybody with her foul-mouthed impersonations of certain footballing legends. I think she also danced a rather daring hoo-cha before the police arrived. Detective Captain Cargpan’s face was a picture! In fact, had Rex Tint been there I’m sure he would have rattled off a quick mezzotint to add to his album of the fuming and impassioned, etcetera.

The second time I met Dot Tint was about a year later, in an aircraft hangar where she was mooching about to no apparent purpose. There was a great din in the press at the time about foreign spies and illegal maps, and I think Dot might have been trying to stir things up, in that way she had. Cargpan was on the scene again, much more in control of himself this time, but Dot worked her spell on him and she was released from custody after only three weeks. I don’t think she was really a foreign spy, but it would have been just like her to have an illegal map secreted in her pippy bag.

The third and last time I met her was in the teeth of a ferocious thunderstorm. I was hiking in Switzerland, and Dot was hiking in Switzerland too, though we were hiking in opposite directions. We passed each other on a mountain path. I never saw her again. And I never met her brother Rex Tint at all, though I would have liked to. By all accounts he could be splendid company, when he was not bedevilled by his demons.

Anyway, if by chance any of your readers knows what has become of the rest of the portrait album, I would be interested to know. There is always the possibility that it has been eaten by squirrels, of course. We know that was the fate of Rex Tint’s album of portraits of people whose heads resembled nuts.

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