Academies, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

An Odyssean Education

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The fangs of the serpent are hid in the bowl,
Deeply the poison will enter thy soul,
Soon will it plunge thee beyond thy control;
Touch not the cup, touch it not….

– A Temperance Hymn

And as he stared at her intently he was struck afresh by her beauty, for it seemed to him that he had never seen her so attired. For her extraordinary yellow and black outfit was so befitting her handsome figure, and serene countenance, that she ought always to dress in this manner (weather and police constables permitting).

“I” she declared, “Am an ant! Indeed” said she fastening her bright yellow souwester firmly under her chin, “I am one of a legion of constituent ants! I ” she said, pointing one pale tapered finger heavenwards, “Am part of a veritable spiritual hive of battle-ants! Invulnerable to fire and impervious to flood!”, she buckled her yellow sailor’s waterproof tightly around her waist, pulled on a vast pair of black, oil-skin breeches and stepping nimbly from the boat anchored to the docks, waded into the shallow waters of the River Thames. Almira Fielding was not alone, for upon hearing of the Toolley Street conflagration, the entire temperance society (armed with yellow souwesters and oil skin waterproofs),hailed several hackney cabs, and sped round the corner from the ‘The Sozzled Maidshead’, to the source of the roaring conflagration. Indeed, they would have buckled on their waterproofs and sallied forth much sooner, had it not been for the river engines rendering the waterways around the back of the Tooley Street warehouses impassable.

“What does they thinks they is doing?” exclaimed Jakes Monmouth, the owner of the Rye Street distillery, “Don’ts they knows that there’s a fire a-roaring out of control but seventy yards in front o them?! They’ll be burn’t to a cinder crisp if we ain’t careful! Gilly! Gilly! Get afta them! Bring ’em back or so God elp me we’ll swing for it! There’s five amongst em at least listed in Lord Swansby’s who’s who! Get after them!”

Gilly Croft shrugged, there was blazes sprouting up all over the shop, his hands were full, besides which them temperance ladies could be marvellous spiteful if they was messed with, he’d near lost a toe on more than one occasion round them! “You seem them axes they’s carrying? Ever seen them in action over a bar? I ave and I ain’t touchin em!”

“Sister ants! Fix thy courage to the sticking place! And let us march forth!The Parnham Industrial schools lie just ahead! Our little charges lie in the path of a monstrous, devouring conflagration with none to defend them! ” drenching his cloak in the foul waters of the Thames, Lord Harry Pembroke wrapped the heavy garment around his head and shoulders and followed in their wake. In truth Lord Harry had meant to risk what little vestige of reputation he had at the Nag’s head, but the beauteous ferocity of Miss Fielding had left him smitten. He would have followed her to hell and back, indeed he was about to…..

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Hypocritical Cant

On The Irregular Indulgence Of A Natural Impulse

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‘It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.’

– Edgar Allan Poe

It is well past midnight when the eminent politician’s Brougham pulls up outside Ah Tack’s Lodging House in Pennyfields. The mood of his driver is baleful for has he not spent the greater part of two hours travelling through every iniquitous den and dive in London, being made to wait in the cold (and the pouring wet), outside many a strike-ridden nunnery? There is hardly a dive in London where his Lordship has not tried to threaten or admonish proprietor after proprietor. And now, here they are at last, forced to canter down into ChinaTown to Ah Tacks, where, much to the suspicion of his Lordship’s driver, the eminent politician is welcomed with open arms by none other than the voluptuous Canton Katey ‘erself. “Oh lor! My Lordship! After all these years! Well I nevah! What brings you ere?! You ave not deigned to sample our wares in some time!” she winks lewdly, chuckles raucously and at last his lordship starts to relax. Sliding a plump arm around his waist she whisks him into the utter darkness of her rookery.

Lit just well enough for its denizens to find their way deeper still into its nooks and crannies but not lit too well. Led by the plump well-rounded hand around his waist, the eminent politician travels deeper still into the lodging house that Canton Katey calls home. It is like fumbling one’s way through a dense London fog, for the air is suffused with the heady aroma of opium, thick and dense and intoxicating. All around him he can hear the pain filled groans and unearthly sighs of men awash on the ethereal shores of opium addiction. The pragmatic, principled side of his nature is horrified. What in God’s name is he doing here? But his fleshly and more carnal impulses prevail, he has no wife, he has no fiancee and there are certain entirely natural impulses which must be sated if he is to remain sane and by God! Sate them he will!

“Off with that hat my Lord! Make yourself comfy! Ah Tak! Attend ‘is Lordship! Ang Sing? where’s Ang Sing? There’s a gent ‘ere needs soothing and no mistake! Fetch Ang Sing!”

Ang Sing, the command is uttered by one mouth, and then another, until the room his ‘lordship’ is in resounds with that name wondrously spoken and until at length, Ang Sing appears. His Lordship is uncloaked, his cravat loosened, he reclines easefully on Canton Katey’s chaise longue and Ang Sing, a prodigious beauty of not inconsiderable girth, materialises and lies beside him. Gone is his irritation at being nay-sayed by a professed leader of the lower classes, one whom he has consigned to Newgate (along with all those intellectually challenged fools who followed his lead). His irritations soothed, his natural impulses sated, he slides into slumber like one drugged.

“Poor Sot! A fine time he’s had of it!”

“Who? Him?” the eminent politician’s driver jerks his thumb towards his Lordship and raises an enquiring eyebrow, Canton Katey displaying genuine affection for  a gent? Well he never! Smirking, Katey shook her head, “The union rep ye dolt! Him as called the mill workers strike! What I should like to know is why ‘im as has the best interests of all at heart should be destined for Botany Bay!” Glaring down at the supine figure of the eminent politician she let rip a mirthless chuckle, “As for him? Such as he should know by now that when we calls a strike we means it!”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would!”

“You didn’t!”

“Oh calm down won’t you! It’ll be at least a month before the symptoms show, plenty of time for you to find other employment”

“He’ll do for you!”

Now Katey cocks her head at an angle and stares at him hard and direct, the smoke has cleared, all the dreamers have gone and a cold wind whistles through a broken, rag stuffed window pane. “He’ll do for me will e? What? Like e’s done for the sons and daughters of the ‘fallen women’ he’s so fond of ‘avin? Get im out of ere!”

And so, dear reader, the driver departs with an eminent politician in tow and a dark foreboding in his heart. Driving back through the near empty streets of London in the glistening, glittering dark, hunched low in his seat he reflects grimly on this night’s doings. All unionised girls were clean, it therefore followed that the girl Katey had given to his Lordship wasn’t unionised and therefore hadn’t yet been given a clean bill of health.His Lordship had always been a man of probity where his natural impulses were concerned, he’d always made sure he’d indulged them with the very best. How could he have fallen so low.

“Terrible! Simply terrible!” the driver utters these words aloud and in the same breath curses his luck. Whipping his horses into a dreadful frenzy so that the Brougham quickly gathers pace he departs the hinterlands of ChinaTown and heads back to the plush surroundings of the eminent politician’s residence in Sloane Square.

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

The Ruminations of Jedidiah Kane Thickett

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She was but two years old and the taint was already in her, Jedidiah Thickett laid a heavy hand on his King James Bible, handed down through generations from his great-great grand-daddy to his great grand-daddy to his grand-daddy then to his daddy and finally to him. He laid a thick, gnarled and heavy hand upon his bible and he looked down at the little girl he was dandling on his knee and he sighed, a ponderous heavy sigh. “Louisa” he murmured in that deep whisper of his “Yes paw?” his daughter replied in that tremulous way of hers, “Fetch maw” Louisa pondered the dark clouds of wrath massing on her father’s brow and trembled. She did not have to ask what the matter was, she did not have to guess it, for had she not also heard the forbidden word which had tumbled innocently from her sister’s lips, she rushed to fetch her mother.

Bettina Thickett burbled happily on her fathers lap, as he ruffled her hair with his bear paw of a hand, whilst at the same time rifling through the pages of his bible with a thickened, gnarled, finger. Turning to the New Testament he saw that his finger had landed on that part of the bible to do with the temptation of Christ. Taking care to underline each word, and each phrase with his finger he read the episode, from time to time murmuring in assent at some aspect of the saviour’s response to the devil, that he found worthy. He was still reading the episode and dandling his daughter on his knee when his wife crept trembling into the room. “You asked for me paw?” Jedidiah sighed, a heavy, ponderous sigh, but this time slightly quickened as if fueled by some inner fire. Maw Thickett knew the sign of rage when it lit upon her husband, as she had known it half her married life and she eyed the heavy tome on which his heavy hand was laid with severe misgivings. Taking his finger out of the King James bible, Jedidiah placed his hand under his daughter’s legs and bouncing her gently up and down whilst he cooed to her, “Aren’t you my little darling!” he cooed to her, “Aren’t you my little darling? Tell maw your new words!”

She steeled herself as her daughter chortled with glee and uttered the phrase “Gove bweee pwaised! Gove bweee pwaised!” Maw Thickett flinched, Jedidiah Thickett’s lips thinned, and when he raised his eyes she paled and inadvertently made the sign of a cross behind her back. “Is this how you raise our daughter?! Is this how you ensure that she has a fine southern upbringing?!”

“Why Jed–”

“Woman if you were a man! So God help me! I’d have you shot for this…this treacherous act of dishonour! No blood of mine will embrace the nefarious teachings of an imperialist! You are a daughter of the revolution are you not madam? And you will raise my child likewise!”

Getting to his feet, he tumbled the child into the arms of her trembling and shaking mother, Maw was barely able to grasp her daughter firmly enough to stop her from tumbling to the ground. Standing as he did six foot tall with his wife cowering before him, he seemed almost like a god and indeed he was in his home, for all the women folk stood in fear of him, whilst his followers (and there were many) looked up to him in awe.

“Why I cannot think of more godly texts than the nursery rhymes of Thomas Paine and the King James bible. Learn her those and bring her back to me on Sunday so that I may see what progress she has made”

Nodding in submissive assent Maw Thickett left the room, sitting down once more Jedidiah continued to read the remainder of his text and when he finally rose and pulled on the servant’s bell it was as if he had formed a definite resolution about some matter,

“Yes Sir?” inquired the Butler, the only individual to remain unperturbed by his  master’s disposition,

“Send in Mr Geraghty”

“Yes Sir”

Mr Geraghty whom he had kept waiting for nigh on an hour in the front parlour, Mr Geraghty who had travelled miles over land and sea to find and secure the one man who alone could be held responsible for the eviction, and subsequent starvation, of a third of his family. Mr Geraghty who had taken full advantage of the Battle of Grid-Iron Square in order to exact his revenge on Lord Grid-Iron only to see him slip out of his hands and through a collapsing roof.

“Mr Geraghty, ever a pleasure sir! Please, please take a seat” Jedidiah drew up an armchair before the fire place and bade Geraghty join him, this Geraghty duly did pulling out a cigar which he duly lit from the fire. Jedidiah pulled out his pipe stuffed it with Cherrywood tobacco and having lit it proceeded to draw in the near sweet smoke at regular intervals slowly exhaling it in vast streams. They sat for a while staring into the fire, puffing and exhaling, at length Jedidiah spoke,

“The dynamite?”

“Paid for and well hidden, Gantry has the keys”

“And the Nitroglycerin?”

“Also paid for and well hidden at Turkles”

“And the guns?”

“Safe and secure in the basement of the Theatre Royal, the theatre manager is in our employ”

“And you trust his allegiance?”

“He’s my Uncle”

“Very well then” Jedidiah Thickett arose from his armchair leaning against the fire place, he looked down upon Geraghty from his great height , his piercing blue eyes staring into the blazing fire,

“There is a certain haunt frequented by disreputable persons (and equally by certain reputable persons), where a room can be got for a shilling and Opium can be had for a penny a piece. I am told by a fellow believer who runs the place, that the haunt, though frequently overrun by the sons of the aristocracy, only tenants one of that ilk at the present time. One George Laidlaw, a softly spoken man with soft, white, hands.” he uttered the words ‘soft’ and ‘white’ with heavy sarcasm, “I’m told, that a woman frequently visits him there, a lady of uncertain birth, with flame coloured hair?” he glanced quickly at the taut features of Geraghty and then back at the fire, “Bow & Barking Creek is where you’ll find your quarry, lodged just as cosy as you please at the Nags Head Tavern. If I were you I’d hurry…”

Jedidiah continued gazing into the fire, pretending not to hear the ferocity with which Geraghty stubbed out his cigar, nor the unseemly haste with which he swept out of the room, over turning his armchair in the process. Jedidiah was too busy contemplating the swift retribution he intended to exact on behalf of the daughters and sons of the revolution.

“The Theatre Royal” he muttered to himself “TheTheatre Royal”  sitting back in his armchair he pondered, he reflected and he brooded. And then at length with a heavy sigh he opened his King James bible.

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Wendy Woodbine And The Little Match Factory

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There once was a child, and he was young, and tender, and wondered a great deal about many things, this child had a sister, and she was also young and tender, though made of sterner moral stuff than her sibling, who could sit for hours, and hours, gazing at fires, as they crackled and sizzled in the fireplace, in fact, gazing at all kinds of fires, and eventually (to the great misfortune of many), setting them.

Once, the two siblings skipped merrily along broken cobblestones, wondering at the fragile off-white daisies that stubbornly grew in their muddy back yard. But, alas, though both were initiated into the Govean way, only one elected to cling to the path, and so they had parted, the one to pursue her sainted calling, the other his incendiary lusts. From time to time Boodo would think about his sister and he did so now, imagining her bathed in the moonlight flooding through the factory skylight, dancing hither and thither, her dull, grey, eyes fixed reverentially on the testament of St. Gove held aloft in her small hands.

“Now gentlemen, let’s be clear about this, what we’re involved in ‘ere is the art of primitive accumulation”

“D’you what?”

“Primitive accumulation, the discovery of silver and gold (if there is any), and the extirpation of anything what might bring us a little bit of profit”

“Extir-what?”

“The surgical removal of valuable stuff you dunce!….Thieving!”

“Oh yeah!”

“This ‘ere warren, what we intends to plunder, has one extremely, lucrative, piece of merchandise, what we needs to find specifically and extirpate, but there’s also this primitive accumulation what we needs to extirpate also, so that we may profit them pawnbrokers and also….eat!”

“Oh and what’s that then?”

“Ask ‘im” they all looked expectantly at Boodoo, Francis stifled a groan,

“Phosphorus, large quantities of it, enough to blow London sky high if we wanted to” muttered Boodo, If it was possible for human eyes to glow, Boodoo LeFevre’s eyes were doing so now as he contemplated the multifarious, and incendiary uses to which the said phosphorus might be put. He was in seventh heaven though he didn’t look it, and the fact that he didn’t look it made Frances uneasy, for Boodoo’s penchant for wandering off midway through a job, and then setting fires, burning factories down whilst his accomplices were still in them, was well known. Francis expressed his concerns about Boodoo to his mistress repeatedly, but all she did was chuckle as Bert his vagabond-in-arms was doing now.

“Oh Boodoo!” said he, the rotted stumps of his teeth in full view, “You are a card! Blow up London? There ain’t no money in it!”

Frances muttered a quick prayer under his breath, “Gentlemen our time is somewhat limited, the longer we spend here the more likely it is that we shall be detected. Feel free to steal anything you wish, in fact you may dismantle the entire factory” Francis eyes glittered with malevolence, “Just make sure you fulfill my client’s wishes to the last degree”

Boodoo and Bert glanced at each other and then at the little black page boy, ” Complained about our services ‘as she? Lady Grid-Iron we means. We’d like to see her hitch up her petticoats and climb up them ladders that’s hard work that is, then clambering back down them with them boxes full of phosphorus….”

“BISMILLAHIIIII!!!!!!” Frances hissed in frustration, he struggled to calm himself,” Gentlemen if I threw doubt on your abilities I humbly apologise”

Bert snickered, “That’s more like it. Boodooo where’s the phosphorus?”

“Storeroom at the back. You know Ella Ward what has the crumbly jaw?” a warning glance from Bert shut him up and they all quickly set to work, it took less than an forty minutes for them to remove sufficient quantities of phosphorus for indeed an hour was all they had. They were almost done when a sudden commotion alerted them to the fact that somebody else was moving about on the factory floor, hastening quickly into its darkest corners they unsheathed their bludgers and lay in wait.

“Beer, beer, duty-free beer!
Fill yourselves right up to here!
Drink a good deal of it-make a good meal of it,
Stick to your old-fashioned beer!
Don’t be afraid of it-drink till you’re made of it-
Now altogether a cheer!
Up with the sale of it-down with the pail of it-
Glorious, duty-free beer!”

The cheery little voice warbled and tottered its way through the verse, only occasionally faltering, as the grimy faced, teenage girl singing it, swung her hips first this way, then that, twirling her tattered and torn skirt with her grubby hands and throwing a flirtacious glance here and a shoulder there. For an instant Boodoo’s hands twitched and shook with the urge to simply knock her on the head, and get on with the business of removing the final load of phosphorus. But it was what she did next that altered his inclination. Her smile faltered, then crumpled altogether, and with her eyes gazing heavenward and a worn copy of the ‘King James Bible’ clasped to her chest, she uttered the following prayer,

“St. Gove, father to all of God’s desolate children, comfort my Dominic, St. Gove, as he flys to thy side, wrap thy loving arms about him”

“This is blasphemy!” muttered Francis yet even he was moved by the sobbing, supplications of the pale and grimy little match-stick girl whose rags gave off a phosphorescent glow. Boodoo stepped slowly out of the shadows so as not to frighten her, “It’s Wendy Woodbine, isn’t it? Wot you doing ere girl?” at the sight of Boodoo, Wendy, drew back, everybody knew creepy Boodooo,

“What you doing here?” she challenged him, her eyes casting about anxiously.

“Now now my girl” said Bert stepping out of the shadows, “There’s no need for that, he means you no harm”

“Uncle Bert!” Wendy Woodbine exclaimed,”Dominic’s dead Uncle Bert! Master Turple-Sleath made him go up a burning chimney and now he’s dead! He’s dead!” Francis,keeping to the shadows (for his mistress sake), murmured a speedy rakat for the poor, abused, and now apparently dead, chimney sweep’s soul. And when he was done, he said this, “You’ll need to take the girl to Madam Guacamoley’s music-hall and you need to do so now. Master LeFevre! Stay where you are! There’ll be no factory burning today! We will visit Master Turple-Sleath first, and then, well, we shall see”

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T’was on a midnight dreary whilst I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of St. Govean lore,that all at once I heard a tapping as of someone gently rapping, whilst I lay there nearly napping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Who is it?”
“T’is I, Sir Nicholas, come to warm thy sheets”
“Enter”
Little Emily LeFevre shuffled meekly through the door, both tiny hands clasping the bed pan. Staggering towards the bed she managed somehow to slip it between the sheets. I couldn’t help but to reflect upon her prodigious fortitude. Rescued from a Lint Tweaking apprenticeship at St. Bacchanalia’s cotton mill, she was adapting to her new position as a scullery maid marvellous well.
“Is cook still awake?”
“Yes sir”
“Have her send something up. I shan’t be falling asleep just yet”
“Yes sir”
She made a deep curtsey, turned and left the room. Sighing deeply and reaching for my dressing gown I pondered the events that had led up to this distressing night. Who would have thought it? Our famed academy teetering on the brink of ruin, and all for a pair of moleskin britches. Slipping my feet into a pair of velvet slippers and taking care to wrap a thick woollen shawl around my shoulders before knocking back the remains of my brandy, I left my bed chamber and climbed the staircase leading to the Faculty of Leatherwork and Tailoring.
“St.Gove, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Warrior-King ‘gainst the enemies of promise I come to thee for aid…”
The higher I climbed the heavier my foreboding. Master Farquar had been there all night, Master Parnham by his side (the devil take him!) but I myself could see no way through this disgrace.Higher and higher I climbed, as the rain beat hard against the leaden window casements and the thunder boomed overhead, I clutched the shawl tightly around my neck and hurried on the creed of St. Gove upon my lips.
“Headmaster”
“Master Farquar”
“Headmaster”
“Master Parnham” his eyes slid sideways, he lifted a tiny pallid hand to hide a half-smile. I loathed the man and would gladly have opened a casement window and booted him head first out of it, were it not for the impending visit of the exam board, the reputation of the academy lay in the hands of this plebeian ingrate.
“It won’t work sir”
“Won’t?” in an effort to ease the throbbing in my head, I massaged my temples,
“We’ve tried and tried but it’s no use sir, the britches won’t come right, no matter how much we stretch ’em”
My eyes fell upon a heap of mangled silken leathery garments.Oh dear Gove! My throbbing temples! “But they’ve been studying leather work for at least a year! They should be able to stitch in their sleep! It’s hardly rocket science!”
Master Parnham coughed politely,
“Beggin’ your pardon sir but there is another way, remember 1847? Hemphill Skinner was Master of Leatherwork then, very fond of his opium pipe was Master Skinner”
I shook my head, my headache was easing somewhat,
“We’re an academy now Parnham. A cut above all the rest, spurning the onslaught of ignorance. Why last year we were rated as an Industrial School of outstanding reputation.”
“The written work’s no good ‘edmaster, not since they banned the phonics. If they fail the moleskin britches evaluation there’s no telling what might happen. There’s scarcely a garment to be made but what l makes, leave it to us sir.”
Tugging his forelock Master Parnham limped towards the back office leaving me alone with young Master Farquar who hopped nervously from foot to foot looking sheepish all the while, as well he might. For were it not for his own shortcomings, his students might have been considerably more able.
Lightning crackled overhead and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a tiny boot-clad foot and then a flash of white rather like the tail end of a night-shirt, just outside the window casement, but in this weather? No, it couldn’t be. Surely not?
“Master Farquar” I inquired, massaging my throbbing temples as I did so.
“Where’s Boodoo?”
A look of unease stole across his face and that is when it happened..

Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

Quoth The Raven Nevermore (Part 1)

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