Oh glorious Mr Key! writes Tim Thurn – is he being obsequious or sarcastic? It’s hard to tell – It was fascinating to read about the retired blacksmiths Bim, Bam, and Nat yesterday, and I was wondering if you had any further information about them.
Well, I don’t, Tim, but I know a man who does, as they say. For no less a blockbusterist than Pebblehead has recently published a thumping great triple biography, entitled Retired Blacksmiths! The True Story Of Bim And Bam And Nat, and a cracking good read it is. In fact, it was my source for that business about the goblin colour coding, a full account of which appears in Chapter XXXVIII, and then again, almost word for word, in Chapter XCIV. One could be forgiven for thinking that Pebblehead completely forgot what he had written earlier. It would not be the first time. Whole swathes of his potted history of jugged hare recipes, Jugged!, are repeated more than once in the book, having already appeared in earlier volumes in the Pebblehead oeuvre, one a history of jugs and the other an encyclopaedia of hares. This is why he is dismissed as a hack.
Hack or no, you or I would sell our grandmother’s bones to achieve his sales figures. Retired Blacksmiths! has only been in the shops for a week, and has already sold more copies than there are visible stars in the sky. And deservedly so, for in spite of the fact that his prose is repetitive and slapdash and descends at times into mawkishness, Pebblehead wrings from his subjects a tale well worth the telling.
We learn, for example, about the lives of the threesome before their retirement. There is Bim, at the random grim forge, fettling for a great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal! And there is Bam, also at a random grim forge, also fettling. And Nat, too, at the next forge along the lane, and he too fettling, as the sun beats down on a rustic scene redolent of Lark Rise To Candleford. Pebblehead gives us so much detail about random grim forges and the fettling of bright and battering sandals for great grey drayhorses that the reader could, with confidence, given an anvil and a few tools, set up their own smithy’s. I did, before I had even finished reading the book. Clang clang clang, that was the sound clanging from my chalet, as sparks flew and a line of great grey drayhorses formed outside, awaiting their bright and battering sandals. My neighbours were a great help, filling nosebags with hay for the horses, combing their manes, and brushing their fetlocks with horse-brushes. So busy was I fettling and smithying that I did not have any time to finish reading Pebblehead’s book, though my place is marked. I marked it, not with a standard bookmark, of flimsy cardboard, but with a great iron slab, beaten flat upon my anvil, bright and battering.
So I have not yet read beyond the point where, newly retired, Bim and Bam and Nat are co-opted onto the World Council of Goblins and set to work on their colour coding scheme. A scan of the contents page, however, suggests that there are thrills and spills aplenty still to come, including Bim’s involvement in the Profumo affair, Bam taking a dip in the Bosphorus, and Nat choking on a mouthful of genetically-modified spinach. When I have finished fettling all those great grey drayhorses lined up along the lane, waiting patiently, patiently, I shall return to the book, and tell you what more I learn about the three retired blacksmiths, their doings, their dreams, their pangs, and their dotage.