The Great Emblotchment

Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the Great Emblotchment. There were countless other emblotchments throughout our history, but the one we commemorate today was of a blotchy magnitude well above those other emblotchments.

It all started in a commercial laundry on Pudding Boulevard. A man named Pim – who may or may not have been related to the late Francis Pym, Foreign Secretary from 1982 to 1983 – was bundling some towels into a basket when he noticed that one of the towels had been subjected to emblotchment. A man of piercing eyesight, a bit like Ray Milland in The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963) but obviously not quite as piercing as that, Pim was able at a glance to divine the cause of the emblotchment, and it sent him into a panic. He scampered up the staircase from the laundry to street level, and ran the length of Pudding Boulevard waving the emblotched towel in the air. Thus microscopic blotchy bits were released into the atmosphere, invisible but none the less blotchy.

The authorities acted with admirable speed. Pim was carted off to a mysterious institute hidden behind trees in the countryside, the sort of place that would later become familiar to viewers of the 1960s television series The Avengers. He was placed in isolation and fitted with a metal helmet wired up to bleeping consoles. The emblotched towel was torn from his grasp and sent to another mysterious institute in the countryside to be analysed by trained emblotchment analysts. Meanwhile, Pudding Boulevard was cordoned off with what at the time was an entirely new cordoning technique. A controlled explosion destroyed the laundry and its neighbouring buildings, and the rubble was taken away by over fifty horse-drawn carts and tossed down a pit. It was not a bottomless pit, but the nearest thing to a bottomless pit that could be identified at short notice. When the last bit of rubble was thrown down it, the pit opening was covered with layers of cement over which a rich, loamy soil was scattered, and lupins and primroses were planted there. A similar operation was carried out on the site of the laundry, except that hollyhocks and hyacinths were planted instead of lupins and primroses. There were compelling reasons for this.

Before the day was out, big pumps were moved into position at either end of Pudding Boulevard, and the air was sucked into them, deblotched, and pumped back out. Thousands of starlings were lured to flock over the laundry site and kept there by a magnetic barrier. They were monitored by a team of top ornithologists in a lead-lined cabin just beyond the Boulevard, around which a flowerbed was dug and planted with geraniums and wisteria. At nightfall, volunteers from Pang Hill Orphanage were sent to scurry through the cordoned-off area and, as soon as they emerged, were tested for emblotchment in a hastily-rigged up lab the floors of which were strewn with lilies and petunias.

As we know, none of this hectic activity succeeded in stopping the emblotchment. Not only were the starlings and orphans and top ornithologists emblotched, so too were the gardeners who planted the lupins and primroses and hollyhocks and hyacinths and geraniums and wisteria. Soon everything was emblotched, and I mean absolutely everything. Even the stars in their heavens, the outer planets, the gas giants, all succumbed to what is rightly called the Great Emblotchment. And exactly one year later, on the fifteenth of May 1909, the actor James Mason was born in Huddersfield. Some see this as a coincidence, but those of us who have studied such things see deeper patterns, patterns not unlike the embroidered curlicues on the towel that Pim waved as he dashed frantically down Pudding Boulevard and let loose the Great Emblotchment, one hundred years ago today.

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