Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Velvet Cudgel

Any excuse for using this picture again and again.

The shortcut to the “Rat and Ferret”.

Your indulgence is required, patient yeomen. For the last few weeks, two ideas have fought over my creative juices. (Note 1)

These conflicting ideas buzzing around my skull is doing me no good. The squabble and fight for prominence. They buzz into consciousness at the most inopportune times. Whenever I sit at my keyboard, they grab and snatch at my fingers to deny other ideas freedom.

So it is that I have to let one idea take flight in the hope that I can settle into my routine. (Note 2) The really big idea is a political one, this is the bully. This is the one that thrusts its way into my mind every time I watch the news. The second idea is smaller, yet just as insistent.

Together, they form a symbiotic relationship. The big political idea has shaken my beliefs to the very core. It threatens my core values. It is so big that I doubt my ability to form the words to describe it and to explain in a way that others will understand.

The smaller idea, well, that is a creative idea. Something that just might offer an opportunity to give the political idea wings in a way that will not scare the horses or have my liberal friends chocking on their Chardonnay. It isn’t new. I employed it in my entry, Imbibing the Spirit.

So it is, good yeomen, I share with you the opening few paragraphs of something that is to Jonathan Swift what Kinky Friedman is to Political Correctness.

The recipe for Dr. Ethaniel Nightswerve’s Velvet Cudgel started out as a nerve tonic. With Ethaniel’s gift for weaving magic with words, a confidence built from never getting caught, an almost endless supply of purple glass bottles and access to a printing press, the fortune that followed was never in doubt.

The recipe changed over the years. Governments have declared a number of the herbs used in the fermentation illegal. One or two of the fungi added to give body are almost impossible to find and harvest. A couple of the minerals now require a special license to enable purchase.

Yet Albert Nightswerve, the Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandson of Ethaniel, aided by the great fortune, keeps the recipe alive. Along with the breeding of exotic amphibians and the growing of exotic orchids, he brews a few kegs of “Doctor Ethaniel’s Velvet Cudgel” which he sells to my local as a guest beer.

Nigel and Anne, the hosts of “The George”, don’t include the beer on the little blackboard that proudly announces the ‘beer of the month’, the place of origin and the ABV. (Note 3) The beer engine is in a corner of the bar, hidden behind the charity collection jar, various boxes of dominoes and a sign advertising the Christmas Club.

All guaranteed to exercise my curiosity. For over a year, I would ask about the “Velvet Cudgel”, only to be politely told that it was off, or settling. It became a routine. I would wander in and greet my hosts and the regulars. When asked what I wanted, my eyes would scan the pumps at the front of the bar and the blackboard. After appearing to give the question much consideration, I would ask for a pint of the “Velvet Cudgel” only to receive a broad smile and an excuse, forcing me to make another choice.

A little over eighteen months after starting this routine, I walked into “The George” on a particularly cold, wet grey February evening. Only a handful of the hardiest locals had ventured out and clustered around the fire.

I went through my routine, but Anne gave no excuse. Instead, she looked at Nigel who stopped reading the “Daily Telegraph” and gave a little shrug. Anne opened a drawer and withdrew a pair of industrial rubber gloves.

”I’ll serve you at the snug window.” Anne pointed to the corridor that led to the snug bar and the toilets. “Just in case of spillage, dear.”

I walked through the now silent lounge to the window. Leaning forward, I watched Anne hand the gloves to Nigel who pulled them on with great ceremony. Anne backed away as Nigel took a half pint glass and held it under the tarnished nozzle. His right hand flexed and grasped the black handle of the pump. He pulled. Dark brown liquid sloshed into the glass. The handle sprung back into place. Nigel gave it half a pull and the glass was full.

Nigel placed the glass gingerly on the drip cloth in font of me.

The drink was the colour of ancient furniture. There was no head, but inside the glass, streams of bubbles churned and swirled like a tissue in a washing machine. For a second, I thought the bubbles formed a picture by Edvard Munch. When I held it up to the light, the light bulb looked like the sun viewed through a bushfire.

Nothing like hammering an idea home.

”Best not to look too long, Sir.” Nigel chided me.

Bringing the glass towards my lips, there was an audible intake of breath from the regulars at the fire. My mouth filled with flavours. Salty nuts, smoky bacon where replaced by the richness of figs, and sweet honey. There was a brief explosion of redcurrant and then the bitter tang of raspberry as I swallowed.

The next swig started with the taste of shellfish and vegetables. There was hint of roast meet and apricots before my head filled with strawberries and the cloying aftertaste of rum.

Grinning, I turned to my hosts. Nigel took the glass from my hand and set it down on the mat. Before words could form, something inside of me twitched and shifted. Abdominal muscles that I had long thought retired clenched and cramped. Intestines started to quiver and quake.

Raucous laughter erupted as I sprinted to the toilets.

My footsteps echoed off the clinical white tiles as I burst into the gents and rushed into the nearest cubicle. Finding myself in front of the modern WC, I was unsure whether to kneel or sit. My innards continued to knot and lurch. A wave of dizziness had me staggering backwards. My vision blurred, clouded and then returned.

The clinical modern toilet had morphed. The walls were now half tiled with cobalt blue and white tiles. The individual urinals replaced by a large decorative trough. The stalls now sported WC that must have been the very pinnacle Victorian waste management.

I spun round in response to a cough to find myself looking at a ginning Albert Nightswerve holding a large plastic bucket.

”Welcome! Welcome!” He thrust out a hand for me to shake. “Welcome to the “Rat and Ferret”.

OK. It needs some work. That is a problem with the medium and my style of writing. I need to wait a week or so before I can effectively edit my writing. Keep a Blog requires that posts are almost immediate. Still, it gives you an idea.

Pint of Velvet Cudgel anyone?

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: In some cultures, digestive juices are a highly prized delicacy which grace only the very best of dinner parties and restaurants where you have to predict your hunger pangs many months in advance. I hope you appreciate that I’m offering you samples of my own juices so generously and without thought for financial gain. Click to return

NOTE 2 : Claiming a routine is perhaps overstating the case. I tend to have this rather optimistic view of how my schedule will pan out over the course of the day. Then the actual course of the day tends to feel like I’m a leaf caught in a gale. Click to return

NOTE 3: The real ale mafia would want us to believe that this stands for “Alcohol By Volume”. It is actually a cunning way of measuring liver damage by use of the Richter scale. If you ever drink a beer with a ABV of greater than 9, in the morning, you risk your liver cracking the porcelain in its attempt to escape. Click to return

The sun viewed through the smoke of a bushfire.

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1 comment:

pippa said...

time travel? or are you in an alternate universe? think of the possibilities! i am anxious to read more.;) i enjoy your fiction. you should write more of it.