Academies, Academy status, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Council closed libraries to cut costs, then spent more to guard them

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A council that temporarily closed two libraries just before the exam revision season as a supposed money-saving measure has spent up to three times as much per day on private guards to secure the buildings as it would have cost to keep them open, it has emerged.

Details of the security costs at the libraries, run by Lambeth council in south London, were given to the Guardian following a freedom of information request.

The money spent on guards at one of the libraries was inflated as it was occupied for 10 days by local people protesting at the temporary closure plans. However, the figures show that even at another library not similarly targeted, the money paid for private security was almost twice the usual running costs.

'Due to cutbacks, we've removed the last 20 pages from every mystery novel.'

‘Due to cutbacks, we’ve removed the last 20 pages from every mystery novel.’

The two sites – the Carnegie library in Herne Hill, south-east London, and the Minet library nearby – closed their doors on 31 March before planned works to turn each one into a “community hub”, a combination of a largely unstaffed library and a private gym. The Labour-run council said this was the only option to keep both libraries open amid massive central government cuts to local authority budgets.

When the libraries were closed no work was scheduled to begin for months. Opponents of the plans questioned why the sites could not remain open for longer, allowing students to use them for revision for summer exams. At the time the Lambeth cabinet member whose brief covers libraries, Jane Edbrooke, said this was impossible because the council needed to save money before the start of the new financial year.

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The freedom of information response shows that from 31 March, when the libraries closed, until 15 April, when the request was made, Lambeth spent £35,392.68 on guards to secure both sites, a fraction over £2,212 a day. In contrast, the council’s 2014-15 budget gives a combined running cost for both of £874 a day. This excludes spending on books and computer services, but those are paid for centrally for all of Lambeth’s 10 libraries, and the council has said it has no plans to cut them.

Of the security costs, just under £25,000 was spent at the Carnegie, a figure made bigger by the occupation by several dozen local residents, which lasted from 31 March to 9 April. But even when this was over, the average daily security cost at the library was £1,382, nearly three times the daily running costs.

At the Minet library, which was not occupied, security costs averaged £677 a day over the 16-day period, almost double the £386 daily running costs.

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The Guardian contacted Lambeth council on Friday morning to seek its reaction, and to ask about current security costs at the libraries. The council has yet to provide its promised response.

Laura Swaffield, chair of the Friends of Lambeth Libraries, which opposes the library-gym hybrid model, said the group had long predicted the early closure would not save any money.

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“It has been apparent from the very start that wrecking the library service would cost more than preserving it,” she said. “Now all the flaws in their plan are showing up, the council is panicking. It seems prepared to spend any amount of money trying to make this turkey fly.”

Under the plans, sections of both libraries are being handed to the social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Limited so they can be turned into private gyms. The council is promising that both libraries will reopen in early 2017, but building work has yet to begin at either.

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(Excerpt from ‘The Guardian Newspaper’)

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Descendit Ad Inferos

 

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“Oh my dear Sirs! In what raptures I was, when first I came to Molten Tussock!” cried Monty Eckard, clutching the Testimonies of St Gove to his worsted frocked chest. “T’was as though the very ether of Sweet Gove had fallen upon my senses! The first time I heard Sweet Gove’s voice I was in the Iron Slitting pond, wading through the muddy waters sorting mud from Iron slit. T’was on a day when all seemed heavy and burdensome, t’was before the days of the Reverend Tout-Puissant”.

The Bow & Bromley Education Board, listening with ever increasing ire, to the wan faced child’s ‘religious’ experiences, remains silent. T’is more out of practicality than inclination, since they are moving at break neck speed along bumpy country roads and, must therefore concentrate their efforts on remaining upright. But one there is who, seated outside the carriage, alongside the carriage driver, leans forward into the oncoming wind like a Greyhound sniffing out his prey. His greying hair flies loose in the wind, his blue eyes are narrowed to mere slits and his lips, bluish with the cold, are pursed thin with foreboding.T’is none other than the Union Rep, or should I say the Member of Parliament for Bow & Bromley,”Dare’st we go no faster comrade? The greatest evil ever to befall man has befallen the Iron Slitting Apprentices at Molten Tussock! I know not what disaster we shall find ere we reach there!”

“My little Obed Plum is apprenticed at Molten Tussock Sir, as well you know! Any faster and the wheels may fall off the carriage! Were the fiends of hell at my horses’ heels I darest not gallop any faster than I do now Sir!” And so the coach and its glossy coated stallions gallop on, over hill and dale and tussock. Light fails and yet ever onwards they speed,through mire and mud, and the nefarious mists oozing forth from the marshlands that surround them. “Where is this?” asks the Union Rep, a fierce and sullen look clouding his brow, “T’is the swamplands of Brume Polder” replies Master Knowham with an equally fierce look. “Thats not the place where?” Master Knowham nods his head,”The same, nigh on twenty apprentices drowned tanning moleskin leather  trousers in the bogs, and the rest, struck down by the Scarlet Fever, t’was a terrible scandal Sir!”

“And who, pray tell, was held responsible?” asks the Member of Bow & Bromley but he thinks he already knows the answer,”T’was the most Reverend Tout-Puissant! He as had the boys worshipping and meditating on the testimonies of Gove for so many hours that, their constitutions being quite run down, t’is a wonder any of them survived the onlaught of the Scarlet Fever. And now you may answer me Sir! How such a one as he came to be made Headmaster of Molten Tussock!”

“I know not! And t’is to my shame to say that! Can ye not go faster comrade?” and suddenly having recalled the tragedy of Brume Polder, Master Knowham finds he can. Faster than the speed of light, faster even than the frigid breeze caressing their faces, so fast that the horses’ hooves seem scarcely to be touching the ground they pass over. And so as the miles pass the spectre of Molten Tussock looms ever nearer.

So, dear reader, let us turn our attentions back to Master Parnham. He whom we left venturing forth from the Slitting Iron Tower, hand-in-hand with little Obed Plum. Into the twilight evening they slip, limbs a-tremble and hearts beating so fiercely within their narrow chests, that t’would seem as if the fierce palpitations warned against their imminent entry of that fearful heathen sanctuary known to all apprentices as ‘The Chapel’. T’is twilight but the skies above are alight with colours seldom glimpsed in this world or the next. For t’is twelve hours since the slitting works was last attended to. “All is not right Master Parnham” wails Obed, his eyes widening with fear at the sight of the scarlet tinged blue flames belching forth from the cavernous mouth of the overheated slitting furnace.

“Worry not child, I am with thee” murmured Master Parnham patting little Obed’s tiny, calloused palm with his wizened hand. Master Parnham is serene, indeed murderously so, and as a thunderous rage courses through his blood he rediscovers a burst of youthful energy he believed had long since fled his weary bones. With one swift, wiry, kick the oak doors are flung open and the incense wreathed scandal within is piteously revealed.Pew after pew of weary starved looking apprentices turn to look at him, their faces etched with exhaustion their trembling fingers nervously clutching at their leathern testimonies. And all the while as he draws ever nearer to the altar that terrible unearthly singing,

“Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Up on the mountain Sweet Gove spoke,

Out of his mouth came fire and smoke!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray! “

The Most Reverend Tout-Puissant is deep in meditation, so deep that he does not see the outraged Inspector wrenching at his cassock until it is too late. To be one minute caught up in the ecstasies of Sweet Gove, and the next fending off an enraged School’s Inspector, well dear reader, is it possible to convey the degree of ignominious shame and humiliation which stole none too sweetly over the Reverend? I think not. But more was to follow for all of a sudden the ground beneath their wrestling bodies shook and trembled and a thunderous roaring noise ensued. “Look fast Master Parnham! Look fast! The furnace has blown!” bellowed little Obed his pale face a grim mask of horror. But looking up from the aisle floor Master Parnham smiled, leaping to his feet nimbly he grasped hold of Obed Plum shouting “Nay lad! But I have been here before! Apprentices of Molten Tussock to me!”. And so it t’was that the aged Mole-Trouser-Stretching Master rescued the apprentices of Molten Tussock.

To be continued…..

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Glorious Luminaries & Songs of Loss

169

T’was a Mid-Summer’s Eve at the Molten Tussock Industrial Academy, but the glorious dawn has long since made it’s escape;and now a purgatorial twilight has stolen over that unhappy place. To the outsider t’would seem as if the vast and shadowy grounds of the school had been abandoned, as if the inhabitants were asleep.

But t’is not so,come closer dear reader, and behold the undulating waves of incense carried from the windows of the Goveen Chapel, on a gentle breeze. Behold the flames of crimson and violet that swirl around the grounds as the sun sets on the horizon! And the smoke! For the iron smelting furnaces belch such an abundance of flame as t’would cause Hephaestus, that blacksmith to the gods to leap and dance. See there in the distance cowelled heads bowed in deep contemplation and little feet walking in single file to chapel. And at the vast oaken doors thrown wide for their admittance, stands one whose burning gaze sweeps over them all with grim satisfaction. Father Tout-Puissant,who having satisfied himself that all are safely ensconsed within the chapel pauses only to glance skyward at the Iron Slitting Tower (where sits imprisoned one errant schools inspector) before slamming the doors shut.

But whilst the novitiates of the Iron Slitting Mill sit pondering the sweet testimonies of their deity, one in error, has slipped away from the tender path of enlightenment. One , who, having grown disgruntled with the unceasing prayer, undaunting praise and Iron-Slitting, has determined to overthrow the regime of Father Tout-Puissant come hell or high water. And so, disguised as a tender serving wench from the master’s household he has slipped into the the Iron Slitting Tower; seeking the aid and succour of Master Parnham. He, who having first fled into the tower in a frantic and terrified bid to save life and limb; is now pondering the malignant storms of life that have seen him tossed from spiked pillar to post, and then back again.

“I have been buried here for how long?”

I can’t tell sir, almost eighteen days I think

“Shall I let you out sir?”

“Is it secret, is it safe?”

Out in the courtyard? Yes sir, but I can’t say for how long”

“Where have they gone?”

“To chapel sir t’is choir practice sir!”

And indeed t’was as the child had whispered, for the sweet, simple, strains of young melodious voices could be heard midst the churning racket and bellowing smoke of the Iron Slitting Mill. “Oh every time I feel the plumb-line moving on my breast I pray!” the mill apprentices uttered each note of the Goveen hymnal with such melodic yearning, that it made his flesh crawl.

“Sweet Mother of God! I had abandoned all hope of getting free! Choir practice?!”

“Each evening sir, after Father Tout Puissant has cried out to Sweet Gove on our behalf, we utter such songs of praise and thanksgiving as would cause the saints themselves to weep if they heard it”.

“Such as would cause your mothers to weep if they could hear it! I’ve heard ye sing aye, and seen ye sway maniacally to and fro, with nowt but pitch forks in one hand and a hunk of bread in the other!”.

“T’was ever the Molten Tussock way sir, we donts welcome strangers easily”

“What? Not even your own mothers?”

“Father Tout Puissant says they are heretics sir, back sliders from the Goveen path, cunningly cloaked denizens of hell and as such, have no share in the pleasures of Sweet Gove”.

“And those pleasures would be?”

“To move fervently from goodness to greatness by trusting the good and the great! To avert our gaze from the visceral horrors of blobbish decay and embrace subservient matyrdom to his great name!”

“Whose great name?”

“Sweet Gove!”

“Dear me!The Creed of Gove spread under our very noses! The Bow and Bromley Education Board shall know of this! I must escape! Is there no way out of here?”

A sly look has crept over the face of the mill apprentice, for like any shrewd and cunning soul he knows that once Master Parnham has escaped it may be some time before he returns and in that time any number of undescribable horrors might commence.

“There is a way…”

And now Master Parnham glances at the grimy child clad cunningly in bonnet and apron, barely five years old, though with his sooty, stiffened hair and raddled face, looking considerably older. He stares and stares at him until it dawns upon him with horror that some negotiation might be required. And when he sees the yearning hope growing in the child’s face he cannot help but to reel back in horror.

“No, child! You can’t ask that of me! You can’t!”

“Nowt but you can save us sir! We’re for them Iron Slitting Mills at Grodden Parnock unless you free us!Slitting and shaving iron day in and day out, no rest but for the creeds of Gove uttered in chapel till the early morn and the constant singing!I cannot bare it sir! None of us can!”

Clambering up onto the window sill the little boy leaned out of the window in such a way as to cause misgiving to rise in the breast of Master Parnham, who taking hold of the grimy child and clasping him firmly to his bosom, asked,

“Child what is thy name?”

“Obed Plum sir” came the muffled reply,

“Then come Obed!” cried Master Parnham valiantly, clenching his wizened fists,

“Let us to chapel!”

To be continued…

oyster-shuckers

Holy Thursday

Is this a holy thing to see,

In a rich and fruitful land,

Babes reduced to misery,

Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?

Can it be a song of joy?

And so many children poor?

It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine.

And their fields are bleak & bare.

And their ways are fill’d with thorns.

It is eternal winter there.

For where-e’er the sun does shine,

And where-e’er the rain does fall:

Babe can never hunger there,

Nor poverty the mind appall.

William Blake

 

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Of Black Holes & Endless Rapture

5690T’is more than eight years since the Silk Mill Riots of Grid-Iron Square and the overthrow of Lord Montaperti and his cronies. T’is less than five years since, at the urging of its constituents, the Union Rep was first elected Member of Parliament for Bow & Bromley. In that time he has scaled many a mountain of Tory opposition and with the help of his enraged Liberal comrades righted many a wrong. And by god if there isn’t such a wrong to be righted here in the midst of this education board, if he might but be allowed to sniff it out! Clearing his throat and getting to his feet the Union Rep examines the placid countenances of the men sat before him.

The air is redolent with the fragrant smoke of their Cuban Cigars, paid for by the blood and sweat of their workers no doubt. And yet for all that, when it comes to the proliferation of Industrial Academies for the training of their workers’ children, these education board members have plainly shown they have a conscience.

“Gentlemen, I would speak to you all on the matter of Molten Tussock Academy”

A look of puzzlement alights upon the flushed faces of the Bow & Bromley Education Board. Molten? Tussock? Would that be the name of  one of their schools? Glancing across the table on which sit several decanters of port and the remains of a prodigious luncheon,the Union Rep can make out the indolent face of Lord Elderberry who yawningly replies,”Molten Tussock Industrial Academy I think he means. Yes and what of it?”

And at this, this acknowledgement that such a school exists the Union Rep feels his heart skip a beat, so far so good. “T’is ten months since Molten Tussock Industrial Academy was inspected and nigh on twelve since Master Parnham’s inspection report was due; where is it and where is Master Parnham?”

“Master Parnham? The Mole Trouser Stretching Master? T’is hard to say, I’m told that from time to time he resides at Bethlem Asylum”

“Bethlem Asylum? He has not been seen there for some time, in fact since he undertook to inspect Molten Tussock he has not been seen at all”. Does the smile on Lord Elderberry’s gaunt face seem a little strained? Or is that just the Union Rep’s impression? He continues,”Indeed it is almost as if Master Parnham has fallen off the face of the earth and I could almost believe this to be the case, were it not for little Monty Eckard”

“Monty Eckard?” replies Master Dimmott a concerned look on his face, for the child’s parents and grandparents are some of his best Iron Slitters.

“Aye! The poor child has travelled many miles (and in fear of his life!) over Bow Creek Way and Bromley Marsh on foot and with much troubling news of Molten Tussock”.

“How so?”

“T’would be best if I allowed Master Eckard to recount his experiences to you all” he looked at all gathered there balefully,”Mayhap thou mightst decide what t’would be best to do…in the circumstances. Lydia?”.

“Yes Sir?”

“Fetch in Monty Eckard will thou lass?”

“Yes Sir” curtseying smartly the serving maid leaves the room for a moment,briskly re-entering with a little pinch faced boy trailing in her wake and loudly singing an infamous little ditty.

“Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Up on the mountain Sweet Gove spoke,

Out of his mouth came fire and smoke!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray! ”

Master Dimmott’s gentle inebriation is soon dissipated by a surge of anger,of outright indignation that only the singing of such a song can provoke. Other board members are disturbed by the sight of this eight year old child swaying hypnotically from side to side, his eyes half-closed his left hand clasped to his be-jacketed breast as if he were swearing an oath to some unknown deity.

“Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Up on the mountain Sweet Gove spoke,

Out of his mouth came fire and smoke!”

The Union Rep fixes Lord Elderberry with a sour smile, his Lordship squirming uneasily in his seat daren’t speak. Reaching down to the child swaying gently at his feet Master Dimmott seats him carefully upon his lap encouraging him to partake of the slice of pie left untouched upon his plate.”T’is Master Dimmock! Gove be praised! Thank ee Master Dimmock!” but the poor gentleman is more dismayed and more horrified than when the child had first begun to sing! The Union Rep sitting down alongside him and in front of the child disingenuously asks,

“T’is a beautiful song that you sang for these gentleman here, pray child what is it called?”

“T’is called the litany of Sweet Gove sir”

“And who taught it thee?” he asked,

“Reverend Tout-Puissant”

“Reverend Tout-Puissant?”

“Yes Sir, t’was the litany what we sung to Master Parnham as he was running into the Slitting Iron Tower”

“Why was he running child?”

“Reverend Tout-Puissant called him an unpatwi’otik heathen and tried to shoot him!”

“The litany of Sweet Gove! Heaven forfend!” declares Master Dimmock clenching his right fist,and he is not alone for several other industrialists at the table are similarly incensed. Lord Elderberry however, seems as one struck dumb and the Union Rep favours him with a fierce look. “Molten Tussock is non-denominational is it not gentleman?” the Bow & Bromley Education Board nod vigorously,

“Then gentleman t’were time it were paid a visit and I know just the gentlemen to send!”

Mother's Last Words c1876 illustration

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Warped & Wove For Public Wear

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Dear Reader, you will be sensible of the stark contrast between the cherub cheeked child, frolicking on the lawn of Osbourne House and the severe looking man (the Baron Von Hassleburke) laying out his and the Prince’s plans for the little sailor boy’s future.

“He must be kept apart from all children of course and his mind and character moulded to the highest standards of moral and intellectual excellence! He cannot be indulged!You must use strict discipline from the beginning. Lest he become as disspitated and weak as his forbears!”

“Quite so,Europe is in tumult and the only thing that might save us is the creation of a race of highly skilled princes! Bertie’s upbringing is a matter of the upmost importance!”

The men exchange a brief smile for not unlike a comfortably married husband and wife, they are of one mind on this matter.The little prince must be subject to a rigorous and exacting education if he is to be (eventually) fitted for public life. The Prince Consort’s upbringing was little different and, as the royal administrator of affairs political it has served him well.

“I take it I have your permission to consult the foremost educational experts London has to offer,Your Grace ?”

“You have, concentrate on those specialising in Theology, French, German and Latin, Maths and Chemistry, Geography and History”

“And Rugby?”

“A bourgeois sport! Military drills will serve him far better”.

T’is the last days of summer and as a gentle breeze dances amongst the trees, little Prince Bertie skips merrily about the lawn.T’is the end of term at Osbourne Industrial Academy and, having proven himself proficient at Carpentry and Brick-laying he has been allowed one month off prior to resuming the next stage of his studies. Galloping to and fro upon the lush green grass he imagines himself astride a proud and handsome stallion, such as he has seen in portraits of Hussars fighting in the Crimea. “Huzzah! Huzzah!” he pulls hard on the reins of his horse causing it to rear and then trample a panic stricken Russian Tartar underfoot. “Huzzah!” he roars whilst the Prince Consort and his adviser look blithely on.

“He has a wondrous imagination” Baron Von Hasslebuke remarks mournfully,”T’is a pity we shall have to squeeze all such inclinations out of him!”

But the Prince Consort has no such regrets so certain is he of this method of rigorous education,observing his son’s animated rompings he replies,”He is destined to ascend the throne of England, what need has he of an imagination when his duty is all that is required!”

Champagne Charlie

Some people go for funny drinks and down ’em by the pail

Like coffee, cocoa, tea and milk and even Adam’s ale

For my part they can keep the lot I never would complain

I wouldn’t touch the bloomin’ stuff, I only drink champagne. For,

Chorus: Champagne Charlie is my name

Champagne Charlie is my name

There’s no drink as good as fizz, fizz, fizz

I’ll drink every drop there is, is, is

All round town it is the same

By Pop! Pop! Pop! I rose to fame

I’m the idol of the barmaids

Champagne Charlie is my name.

I earned my famous title thro’ a hobby which I’ve got

Of never letting others pay however long the shot

Whoever drinks at my expense has no need to complain

For everyone I treat alike I make ’em drink champagne. For,

Chorus: Champagne Charlie is my name

Champagne Charlie is my name

There’s no drink as good as fizz, fizz, fizz

I’ll drink every drop there is, is, is

All round town it is the same

By Pop! Pop! Pop! I rose to fame

I’m the idol of the barmaids

Champagne Charlie is my name.

 

Perhaps you think what I say now is just a bit of chaff

And only put into this song to raise a little laugh

To prove that I’m not jesting and the sort of man I am

I’m going to stand champagne all round and stand it like a lamb.

For,

Chorus: Champagne Charlie is my name

Champagne Charlie is my name

There’s no drink as good as fizz, fizz, fizz

I’ll drink every drop there is, is, is

All round town it is the same

By Pop! Pop! Pop! I rose to fame

I’m the idol of the barmaids

Champagne Charlie is my name.

 

 

 

 

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Ignoramus et Ignorabimus or the Antonio Gramsci Academy of Excellence

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This post is dedicated to a well loved 19th century novel though, alas, the subject matter has been strongly influenced by American’isms.

Mrs Anabelle Hutchens is at home, a widowed mother of one she should by rights be attending to her son’s education, but he is a Lord and she a mere commoner. And so, having been lured abroad by the promise of an ‘allowance’, she now unhappily resides at Elderberry Cottage. Whilst her son (recently returned from Eton) takes up residence at Font-Le-Noy Castle with his Grand-Pa-Pa Lord Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy.

“You must, I suppose, accompany his Lordship on the hunt, though I would advise you to keep a discrete distance. His Lordship is not overly fond of Americans, even if they have had a hand in siring the next heir to the Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy Estate.”

Mrs Annabelle Hutchens is at home though she wishes she wasn’t, she has seen next to nothing of her son since they first arrived in England and the last thing on her mind is a fox hunt. “To hunt a fox across field and forest and dell it seems so unconscionably cruel!”.

Lord Clare chuckles at this,”Foxes?” he replies, “Fox hunting? A mundane practice! Oh no my dear we will not be culling foxes! Lord Elderberry eschews the traditional hunt, as do I. Nevertheless since it is his wish that you attend (and at a distance) it would be very bad form for you not to.” Attending a hunt but not of foxes? Examining Lord Clare’s fatherly, affable, moustachioed demeanour Mrs Annabelle Hutchens feels certain that whatever the nature of the hunt she is in safe hands.

And so it is that on a warm crisp Sunday morn she leaves her little cottage appropriately attired, mounts her horse and gallops gently across the meadow to the outer perimeter of the great house. It is here that she is met by none other than Lord Clare handsomely dressed in riding jacket and velveteen breeches, his glossy black boots gleaming most alluringly. Accompanying him are relatives of the Wessex bred Ruckle-Smoot-Frangeres, curious to behold the American widow duped into marrying a Hesketh-Elderberry.

“I present to you Mrs Annabelle Hutchens mother of little Cedric”

“Charming simply adorable! Little Cedric has a Mater? Well, well, the last one declared itself an orphan did it not Bertie?” the Marchioness is all avid curiosity but a warning glance from her husband forbids her from saying more.

“The last one? There is another Lord Font-Le-Noy?” Lord Clare smiles brightly at this query,”Oh quite a few. Lord Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy is a man steeped in halcyon tradition. And so it is not enough to be termed a Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy, one must be acknowledged a Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy, but I digress, onwards to the hunt!”. Galloping towards the edge of the Elderberry Woods at such a fast pace that Mrs Hutchens (dimpled cheeks a-flush) finds herself quite caught up in the thrill of the pursuit, they are soon close by the main hunting party led by Lord Hesketh-Elderberry. From this distance it is possible to see something pale and ghostly white darting about in the undergrowth, it is possible to hear it too.

“Ah!I’ll have at yer! Yer Gombeen! Make a hearth rug outta me will ye? I’ll slit your throat from ear to ear so I will! Walta! Walta! To my right! To me my lad! Bring the pike! Ah! You cursed Gombeen! I’ll tear your fatty heart out of you whilst it’s still beating! Walta! Walta! where’s the pike?!”

And at this violently ejaculated exclamation Annnabelle Hutchens is aghast with horror, for that is indeed no fox they are hunting. Alas, dear reader, it is a member of the tribe of Adam and a pitiful specimen at that. Another such specimen still more terrible for its stunning ferocity sits astride a horse looming over the tall ,thin, man stood defiantly in the midst of the undergrowth, “Lord Hesketh iz e being serious? E is clearly squatting your land, can I shoot the bugger?”. Flushed of countenance with a bull whip gripped firmly in his clenched fist, his Lordship is too busy whipping the hide off another young man attempting to wriggle out of his grasp to answer.

“Dear God!” shrieks Mrs Hutchens paling visibly, “What parlous state of affairs is this?”

“A population explosion of Fenians m’dear, it’s regrettable but this needs to be done, tally-ho!” and off Lord Clare gallops eager to participate in this clearing of Irish Gypsies from the woodlands of Elderberry. On the ground are two Irish women their grimy faces etched with misery attempting to make their escape, each with a child tied to her back.

Annabelle Hutchens fancies herself decidedly faint for all of the ten seconds it takes her to realise what is about to happen. And then something else kicks in, could it be that ferocious pioneering spirit that caused her forebears to toss crate after crate of East India Company tea into the stormy waters of Boston Harbour? Heaven forfend! With a “Yeehaaa!” and a quick flip of her wrist she unseats the crazed Boer warrior bearing down on the two women. And leaping quickly out of the saddle she scoops up his rifle aiming it at the crazed aristocratic horde seemingly intent upon slaughtering the two unfortunates.

“So far and no further or by heavens I’ll blast you all to smithereens!” she cries, now,in saner circumstances an uncomfortable silence would ensue but, Annabel’s untimely intervention has worked in the squatters’ favour. Armed to the teeth with pikes and blunderbusses they commence a harrying such as has never been seen outside of the more obscure annals of British history.”Shoot me would you? Ye godless warmongering Boer devil! Take that! An that!” cries an enraged Irish squatter discarding his blunderbuss and gripping a red faced huntsman by the throat. Not to be out done the huntsman twists himself sideways grabbing the squatter by his legs and tugging on them hard. “Aargh! Ye bugger!” cries another, this time a huntsman attempting to aim his rifle at a teenager who rips it out of his grasp hitting him over the head with it.

Unarmed combat has commenced and from where Annabel sits all are so mired in the dirt that t’is impossible to tell who is Irish and who British. Still one thing is certain, the young man seated alongside her in his right mind and, looking equally horrified is none other than her Cedric, who looking up at the mother he has hardly seen since he lit upon England’s shores has only one thing to say, “Maw can we go home?”

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

The Curate’s Egg

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I must dedicate these the humble fruit of my undertakings to that king of kings and lord of lords which dwelleth in the heavenly firmament, St. Gove (sweet Gove!). Since t’is the first attempt I have made to be a public writer there can only be one to whom I might dedicate such a delicate undertaking. T’is he whose benificent gaze shines ever downward upon us (miscreant or otherwise) and whose divine goodness urges us to ever greater heights of quality and rigour the Sainted Gove. The subject of my account is such that were it not for the sake of moral instruction it should not be regaled ‘cept in company so disreputable as to be beyond all redeeming, save at the end of the hangman’s noose.

On the fourteenth day of February, 1876, the Albatross sailed, with full compliment of men and provisions, from the East India Docks in London. The ship was cheered the harbour cleared and merrily did they drop, it did seem, off the face of the earth. For when the ship had run six days out of the harbour the crew were spirited up to an act of piracy by a shipmate on board, one Robby Farthengrodden. An experienced sailor and the only son of a wealthy industrialist of Sloane Square, who had once given into his care two industrial schools (the value of which and its students he had squandered away in profligate degeneracy,drunkeness and riot).

The aforesaid Robby Farthengrodden and the crew having ditched the ship’s officers in a long boat on the high seas, went on a six month long rampage of terror, taking many prizes (amongst them the younger daughter of the governor of Windeypoole) before dropping anchor at the Isle of Hispaniola. Once there and having thoroughly quenched all his wicked and delusive desires he betook himself aboard the Beleaguered Watchman from which he was rescued (it having sunk mid-journey).

Having disembarked at the Royal Docks in London, he was identified by a cabin boy as that depraved miscreant whose wickedness had led to the hanging of the Albatross’s quartermaster. And once taken into custody it was further revealed that this dissolute and hell-bound soul was none other than the ‘Crinoline Jerker’. A licentious being who having taken to diving beneath the skirts of the gentler sex, proceeded to tug violently at their petticoats jerking them to and fro, till at length the fainting women would awaken to find themselves stripped of bonnet, and purse. This evil man had been indicted many times for this offence and had served three years at Newgate Prison as a result and, was to have served a further four, but he absconded having been permitted a day’s release from prison to attend his mother’s funeral. 

Having been indicted for trial Robert Fathengrodden’s defence was this, that whilst Headmaster of St Tobias-in-the-North Industrial Academy, he had run up gambling debts to the sum of some four hundred pounds. Seeking some means whereby he might repay the debt, he had come upon that sum in the form of monies supplied for the purchase of a brass lavatorium and had stolen it (the monies not the lavatorium). Attributing his current predicament to that first misfortune he made his apologies and sought the forgiveness of the court for all offence caused whilst at sea. The court having been made aware of certain elements of his dissolute past (the deflowering and probable murder of Mary Parnham being among them),determined to send him to the gallows.

Indeed, had it not been for the testimony of the Most Reverend Father Antecletes the accused would have been for the long drop ere he departed the Old Bailey! At the place of his execution he stated that his would have been a joyous life devoted solely to the pursuit of ecstatic Goveen reflection had not several industrial schools and, the provision of a brass lavatorium fallen into his care. And that he knew there were many young men there, who followed the same evil course of life that he had done, and hoped they would take warning from his sad fate, and become in time honest and good men.

Reverend Amos Vanderbilt,

Ordinary of Newgate

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