Bored by stamps, coins, and football paraphernalia, I decided to collect flies in mud. I began my collection last Saturday, and what with one thing and another have not been able to devote as much time to it as I would have liked, so it is very much in what you could call its pupate stage. I have one fly trapped in mud, but have assembled much of the kit I will need to add to my collection, which I envisage becoming the finest in the world one day, if I stick at it.
Currently the collection is small enough to present no display problems. My fly in mud is resting on an ornate Frampton stand in my parlour. Few people these days designate one of their rooms as a parlour, but I do, and with reason. Some time ago, I had an astonishingly vivid dream in which a terrifying divinity – I think it may have been the hideous bat-god Fatso – appeared before me, shimmering, and roared “You will have flies in mud in your parlour!”
I do not always act upon instructions given to me by frightful gods in dreams, you understand, otherwise my life might be untenable. But I was happy to go along with Fatso, if indeed it was He, partly because, as I say, I was bored by stamps and so on, but partly, too, because it gave me a chance to redesignate one of my rooms.
There was a chance I had slightly misheard the spooky intonation in my dream, and that what the god had actually said was “flies and mud” rather than “flies in mud”. I pondered this for a while, before realising that the “in” would meet both cases, whereas if I went with the “and”, I might be at risk of mucking up what was quite obviously an important pointer to my future.
It is not difficult to find mud around where I live. I will not go into detail, but if you think about constant rainfall, unsurfaced rustic tracks, and the clopping of drayhorses back and forth morning, noon and night, you will get the idea. As for flies, they are plentiful, as they always will be in an area with a large number of illegal butcher’s shops. Time was I got involved in hopeless attempts to shut them down, or at least to stop them selling contaminated pork, but I had my arms broken and skull cracked once too often to continue with my civic duties. Now I try to do my bit by subsisting on a diet of peas and radishes and gooseberry fool. Very occasionally I have one of my pork cravings, but I have found I can satisfy it by carving a radish into the shape of a pig and using my imagination.
Of course, I use different cutters and slicers for radish-carving and for hewing the tidy cubes of mud in which my flies are entrapped. Well, more accurately I should say “cube of mud in which my fly is entrapped”, for as I said, so far I have only had time to make a start on my collection. The cutter-slicer is one of the crucial elements of my kit, which also includes a Bolsover scope, tinted contact lenses, pincers, an illustrated fly identification pamphlet, and a modified pippy bag. Making the necessary adjustments to the pippy bag was a nail-biting process, and in the end I called in expert help. One of the illegal butchers had been “turned”, regularly attending a twelve-choking-fit programme set up by Illegal Butchers Anonymous, and he proved invaluable. Where I had been screwing my courage to the sticking place, he ignored the sticking place entirely and soon had my pippy bag ready for flies in mud. I was so pleased I gave him a handful of peas as a gift.
I am hoping to add to my collection this coming weekend, and have in mind a particular stretch of mud over by the Ringo Starr Caterpillar Breeding Centre. Armed with my kit, I shall trudge out in the rain, at dawn, tum packed with a hearty gooseberry fool breakfast, the world, thanks to my contact lenses, all gold and purple and brown and green and puce and mauve and blue. If you see me, doff your cap, if you have a cap to doff. If not, just tilt your head at the angle prescribed by Blötzmann (Second Handbook).