A Daze Indeed

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dear Maud,

Though distant, you are a close reader – this much I know (or hope). As such, you will have gleaned a vital fact from my recent erroneous offerings: that the pecorino in my pide, Queen Jane, is away, and has been for days.

A daze indeed. To escape it, I cycled into the city, a mission in mind: to capture the kings. That’s right, Maud – like a knight-errant I went in search of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, England’s ‘Old Testament’ and, for what it is worth, the first real record of the Arthurian legend.

My home city, incidentally, is a wizard place. Strung between river and range, its character is seemly and staid. But by far its best virtue is its half-dozen bookshops, the footprint of which is walkable. (The sum being greater than its parts.)

Conscious of this happy fact, I pursued my quarry on foot. As journeys go, this one went.

It did, however, feature one telling exchange. My interlocutor was a shop assistant and, it transpired, a granny. ‘For her birthday,’ she said (referring, of course, to the grandkid), ‘I bought her an abacus.’ I nodded; she sighed. ‘Now they’re off to Tashkent – without the abacus, of course.’ I nodded again, and assumed I understood. To one so numberless and naive, would the experience count?

Miraculously, Maud, the kings found me, albeit at my final stop. And oh! what a yawn – yarn, I mean – their history is proving to be. But then how could the derring-deeds of men like Gurguit Barbtruc and Ferrex plus Porrex fail to make a mark?

What’s more, Geoffrey the Monmouth seems to have taken a leaf out of a certain letter-filled lunchbox. ‘I have gathered no gaudy flowers of speech in other men’s gardens,’ he explains. ‘If I had adorned my page with high-flown rhetorical figures, I should have bored my readers…’

Still with me, Maud?

Yours etc.