Friday, 17 September 2010

Ma Cherie Amour - Encore! Encore!

Chapter 14.

Antonio and Cherie, having breakfasted, discuss the genre of the political memoir. Unbeknownst to them, Baron Brown has set spies to work within their household ...

‘Your interminable diary!’ Cherie threw my Smythson journal across the room. I flinched, fearing for the rare African Ostrich leather. Would I be able to buff the scuffs occasioned by its sudden exodus?

“Listen to me, Antonio.” She was a woman on fire - although, I hasten to add, not literally - her dark eyes blazing with passion, that wide, scarlet-lipped mouth quivering with indignation. “You are straying into dangerous territory. What if the Baron were to hear of this?”

“I have not the slightest fear of him! I have taken lessons in literary technique from a Mr. Trollope.” I strode across the polished walnut floor, retrieved my journal and placed it on the rosewood armoire.

Cherie’s embonpoint shivered like a milk pudding above the strictures of her corset, but I noted with some relief that her mouth was less tremulous.

I gazed towards the Houses of Parliament, visible had not the heavy, tapestried curtains been left unopened by Ann, our idle chit of a parlourmaid. “Yes. Trollope has instructed me in the art of writing a Roman á Clef. I shall be describing real life, behind a façade of fiction.”

Cherie plucked a bonbon from a Meissen dish and nibbled at the sugared crust, the crystals coating her little, pink tongue like a small snake caught in snow.

My speech quickened in my heartfelt excitement. “But, Cherie, my book shall be different from the traditional political memoir. Most such memoirs are, I have found, rather easy to put down.” I examined my fingernails modestly. Yesterday’s manicure was bearing up well. “So what you will read here is not a conventional description of who I met or what I did.”

“Thank Heavens for that!” Cherie threw herself, somewhat dramatically, onto the velvet chaise longue. Her pansy-printed taffeta gown floated like the petals of a delicate flower around her voluptuous curves. “Shall you write about me, my love?”

I blew her a kiss. “How could one not? You shall have more mentions than Petros and McAllister put together!”

My mood was exuberant, and a heady giddiness fuelled my generosity.

I stood in front of the magnificent marble fireplace. The coals burned merrily, my posterior glowing as I warmed to my theme. “In my books,” I said, reaching for a thin porcelain cup of Indian Breakfast tea, “there is a range of events and dates. Other politicians are absent from it, not because they don’t matter, but because my aim was to write not as a historian, like Herodotus, Tacitus or even Gibbon, but rather as a leader."

“A leader?” Cherie raised a quizzical eyebrow, the coquettish effect of which brought a slight but pleasurable tremor to my breeches.

I girded myself. “There have been plenty of accounts – and no doubt there will be dozens more – of the history of my ten years as prime minister, and numerous people could write them – shall we say? – passably well -”

My train of thought was broken as ma Cherie choked back a sob.

“O! That dreadful book by that dreadful man!”

I rushed towards her, knelt at her feet and clasped her hands. They trembled like distraught doves in my manly grip.

A single tear formed a silvery track down her porcelain cheek. “He said dreadful things about me, Antonio!”

“Which one, my sweet?"

I thought of the countless blackguards who had sworn friendship then betrayed us. The bearded chap with the dog; Lepre-Scott, the opera singer from the Far North whose vulgar calling card bore the legend Lepre-Scott, The Voice That Can Clear Fog. So many, so many ...


A shadow of a wince flitted across my youthfully smooth brow. Cherie had recovered her composure and was calling for the new lady’s maid. No matter the money spent on elocution and tutors, one could take the girl out of Bootle but –

“Yes, ‘um.” The accent of The Colonies grated coarsely on my ear.

Carole stood before her mistress. She was a good girl, with an honest expression; a maid to be trusted, one who would not run tittle-tattling to the guttersnipes who frequented the sordid alehouses of Fleet Street.

“Carole.” Although still on my knees, I had an air of absolute authority. “Please arrange hot water for your mistress to bathe. That will be all.” I dismissed her formally, but with a kindly glimmer in my strikingly blue eyes.

I turned back to Cherie. “Let us continue our discussion of my meagre literary efforts. There is only one person who can write an account of what it is to be the human – singular not plural – being at the centre of history."

“Moi?” Cherie blushed fetchingly. Her gentle laugh like the trickle of a mountain stream through tiny quartz pebbles.

“No, my darling, little ninny. Me."

To be continued

Monday, 13 September 2010

Ma Cherie Amour - part 2

The story so far.

Having sated his love - like an animal - with the object of his adoration, Cherie, our hero, Antonio, sips a whisky and remembers times past.

Chapter 13

Where had it all gone wrong? I dismissed the butler for the evening, laid my first edition copy of I,Claudius down on the occasional gilt table and gazed into my stiff whisky glass. The years melted away ...

A chill November night. We had dined at Grand Vita, an establishment frequented by actresses, dancing girls, dressers, usherettes and other theatrical types. Outside, heavy rain softened the orange glow of the gas lamps. Hansom cabs splashed past us, the horses blackly sleek with water, the drivers perched atop their conveyances like little waterproofed molehills, sharp white noses peeking like beaks from under the brims of sou’westers.

“Come, Baron Brown, shelter beneath my umbrella. Walk with me a while.” I offered my arm with its pristine white-gloved hand.

The Baron, an imposing figure in a long, tweed cape which reached almost to the hem of his dress kilt, stood head and shoulders above the others. He prodded me with his silver-topped ebony cane.

“Aye, it’s a generous offer, Antonio, but I’m gaein’ in this direction,” he growled in that rough, manly baritone I was to grow so fond and then so frightened of.

He gestured vaguely, somewhere towards the left, where the wide, well-paved streets petered into alleyways with stinking gutters. What devilish scheme was he concocting?

“I’m the leader and you’re not! If we go my way,” I wheedled, using all the considerable charm at my disposal, “and head in a more central direction with perhaps a few right turns, we’ll almost arrive where you’d like to –“

The door to Grand Vita banged open. A sudden pool of light; laughter, the clatter of silverware, the pungent odour of eels en croute. Harriet, a pretty young thing with a sullen mouth, lately employed as the understudy to the Scottish King at The Duke’s, swayed and hitched up her stays. She broke wind loudly, giggled and returned whence she'd came.

I turned back to the Baron. He had gone, his hulking bulk merging with the dark shadows. And I was left alone, with my umbrella sheltering just my own slim and athletically erect frame, a disappointed yet private relief etched across my face...

I was startled from my reverie by my valet, Campbell McAllister, and my Camp Aide, Petros Mendlesohn.

Mendlesohn was shaking me awake, his grip surprisingly firm. “Lord Antonio! Wake up, Sir!”

His speech was indistinct, muted by the hideous clanking of McAllister’s huge balls.

“Please put them away, Campbell,” I murmured, covering my piercing blue eyes with a delicate hand. “Why have you dressed for dinner so early? I have asked you not to wear full regalia in my personal quarters. It is too, too unseemly.”

He produced a great quantity of linen handkerchief from the bottomless depths of his pocket, spat and then polished his balls lovingly. “But it’s a great honour, my Lord Antonio, awarded for services to the Pawnbroker Industry.”

I sighed. If only ma Cherie was here with me. She was a rock – as in Ignatius not Blackpool - to me, strong when I was weak, determined when I was tempted to fall over. One steely glance from her and –

But, thankfully, the good-natured, simple man was unpinning the medals from his chest.

Petros edged closer, his breath hot against my ear. He hissed softly, like a snake with a puncture.

“Antonio, the State Banquet for the Texan oilman. There is a problem. The new Chef, Monsieur Picquelles, he has eaten all the pies!”

I slumped in my beautifully carved mahogany chair. Do they really suppose I don't care, don't feel, don't regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those pies? To be indifferent to that would be inhuman, emotionally warped -

What flavour where the pies? What is Baron Brown up to? Who is the Texan Oilman and will Monsieur Picquelles eat him, too?

To be continued

Friday, 10 September 2010

And today we'll be studying Cats Do the Funniest Things

Banshee: O, I am so stressed!
Ma: It's only your first week.
Banshee: But if I don't get all As, I'll never get into university.
Ma: Says who?
Banshee: All the newspapers, all the TV channels, all the teachers -
Ma: Erm -
Banshee: And it's going to be much worse in two years' time.
Ma: Well -
Banshee: If I don't get into university, I'll have to be a plumber.
Ma: A plumber?
Banshee: I don't want to be a plumber!
Ma: You could be a dog-groomer. You like dogs.
Banshee: Aprons make me look fat.
Ma: Or a -

But we'll draw a veil over the mother's well-meaning, but ultimately stupid, unhelpful and depressing (quote) suggestions.

O, the poor younger generation! We pile on so much pressure throughout school: exams, exams, exams. Results, results, results. And there are few jobs at the end of it all anyway.

When I was at school, we ran books on who could distract the teacher from his/her subject the longest. (Richard Meeks won in a German double lesson by stating that all German pillows were as flat as envelopes and setting Frau Taillby off like a battery of Howitzers.)

Today, Banshee is distraught because her double lesson of Religious Studies was spent watching The Truman Show. Why? Because apparently Plato's Allegory of the Cave is 'too difficult'. (I think the teacher wanted a nap.) History was spent watching  The Tudors, and English was spent watching - O, I forget. I'd zoned out as the level of indignation rose.

Banshee: I didn't sign up for two years of TV.

Watching a film - and it was a film, in flickering black and white, projected onto the gym's wall - was a real treat in my school days. For seven years, if a class teacher was off work, the Head, Mr Turner, showed us a slide show of his honeymoon in Venice and a film about a steam train. We knew the script by heart, but never failed to be thrilled by it.

Still, that's probably because the rest of the time we were stuffed full of books and encouraged to discuss, challenge, and debate.

I am aware that many on Blogger battle to deliver an enriching educational experience. Somehow I suspect the Hollywood blockbuster isn't part of their source material, and thus cannot help feeling that Banshee is being cheated.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Mystery Driver Unmasked

Actor Ben Collins has revealed in his new biography that he plays the part of Jeremy Clarkson in television’s hit show, Top Gear. The show, which has run since 1977, was relaunched in 2002 when the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the original presenter came to the attention of the series’ producers.

The first Jeremy Clarkson had apparently begun to press for more coverage of green transport issues and had even started cycling into work. He insisted on a female driver for his BBC Staff car as he "felt safer when a woman was at the wheel" and spent his lunch breaks jogging around the Silverstone circuit.

Clarkson ran his Citroen 2CV on recycled cooking oil. “It smelled like a bloody chip shop,” said Adrian Philbin, the programme’s director. “He’d joined CND and gone on anti-fox hunting rallies. It was beyond a joke.”

For months, producers tried to cover up Clarkson’s eccentricities, even going so far as to publish a ghost-written column in The Sun.

However, when Clarkson attended filming wearing a pair of Farah slacks stating “I’m too old for jeans” it was clear that decisive action needed to be taken.

“That’s when I stepped in," said Collins. “I’d just passed my test on my fourth attempt and I’ve never liked Americans. It was typecasting really, but the money was good and I couldn’t say no.”

Collins had to practise lines such as I’d rather eat my own hair and If he steps on my land I’ll shoot him and signed a contract which confined him to listening only to soft rock music.

“It’s been a huge relief getting it all out in the open,” said Collins. “I really couldn’t face another Genesis track. Also, denim’s been setting off my psoriasis. All down to chafing really.”

Grinning, as he left his publisher’s offices he said, “And that little runt Richard Hammond is played by -.”

But, no, you’ll have to buy the book.

Like Shit Off a Shovel, is published by Harper Collins on Wednesday 15th September.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Disgruntled Film-goer Sues Sly

It was revealed today that Liverpool solicitor Max Rekin has served a writ on Hollywood icon, Sylvester Stallone. Denying accusations of opportunism and wanton limelight-seeking, Mr Rekin claimed that he was merely responding to instructions from his client, Mrs Susan Curley.

"Mrs Curley attended her local cinema to watch Mr Stallone in an action-thriller adventure. Not only did Mr Stallone not strip down to his vest in sub-zero temperatures - as he did with much success in Cliffhanger - but the role of Sylvester appeared to have been filled by his mother, Jackie. My client is suing Mr Stallone for the cost of her ticket - £7.85 - and for £250,000 for emotional distress. Mrs Curley last watched Jackie Stallone in Celebrity Big Brother 2005 and vowed never to watch the lady in question again."

In a hastily convened press conference, Mr Rekin provided video evidence to support Mrs Curley's allegations. Using images from the film The Expendables, the solicitor highlighted various features on the actor's face.

"The eyebrows have clearly been tattooed on to achieve an archly flirtatious expression. Lip implants have resulted in a duck-like pout," he said using a laser pointer to circle the areas causing most concern.

An expert witness from the Rimmel counter in Boots agreed that eyeliner was in evidence. "It's an amateurish application," said Chantelle Trill. "Reminiscent of the school of Amy Winehouse and, revealingly, a trademark of Jackie Stallone."

Mrs Curley was not available to talk to the Press, but her neighbour, James Kelly, 74, read out a statement on her behalf. "No action hero - especially one who has gone fifteen rounds with Apollo Creed - would ever stoop to such feminine behaviour. Besides which, he runs like a girl."

A spokesman for Universal Studios declined to discuss the case in detail saying only that Jackie Stallone was concentrating on her business, Rumpology Enterprises, and had no desire to invade a South American island or fight rogue CIA agents.

Randy Couture, who also starred in the film said,  "This is a total crock. Sly is an experienced and highly-skilled actor. It is not easy running in high heels, but Jason Stathom refused to stand in a trench in their joint scenes."

The case continues.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Ma Cherie Amour - A Novel by Antonia Cartland-Blair

The story so far: In the middle of the night, our hero Antonio has fled from the malevolent grip of the brooding Baron Brown. After several hours of wandering around Islington, he espies a lit window in a much more tasteful mansion, filled with elegant soft furnishings, healing crystals and scented candles. He has found solace with his childhood sweetheart, Cherie.

Chapter 12

The rain set early in tonight. The sullen wind was soon awake. The tree-tops tried their utmost to resist the elements, as I, too, tried in vain to resist the attractions of the raven-haired temptress sitting by the glowing embers of the log fire, an antique glass of even more antique whiskey - a gift from Signorio Sergio Bersculonio - in her beautifully manicured hand.

The heady scent of burning applewood, the rich amber tones of the spirit, the deliciously seductive fragrance of Tramp by Lentheric affected my senses. I threw caution to the winds and myself at my beloved's feet.

She cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me; made me feel that what I was about to do was right... And that the rug could be dry-cleaned anyway.

On that night of the 12th May, 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. In that I was selfish, not she - my syntax is unclear. She, as softly plump as a silk, goose-feather-stuffed counterpane; she, raking those manicured talons across my back like a snake with fingers; she, giving me her utmost attention whilst simultaneously checking the property ads for Bristol ...

O! O! O! I devoured it to give me strength, I was an animal - a panda, a tiger, a horned rhinoceros - following my instinct, knowing I would need every fibre of emotional power and resilience to cope with what lay ahead. I was exhilarated, afraid and determined in roughly equal quantities as I kissed her roughly - as in approximately rather than without due care and consideration as it was dark and not easy to find (just like those pesky weapons of mass destruction) - on her swollen lips and took her roughly - as in approximately as well as without due care and attention - on the Axminster rug.

"Was that it?" she murmured in slightly petulant tones as she reached for my vest.

I was restored, victorious, ready to face my vicious Scottish foe, my arch enemy, my nemesis, the man with the emotional intelligence of an amoeba. Ma Cherie amour! I am a man once more.

To be continued

More of this overwrought tosh tomorrow, the day after, next week, October, November, December, most of 2011 and coming to a Pay Per View Channel  soon.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Penny for your thoughts

I was in Oxford over the weekend and took the Banshee on a tour of the Bodleian Library. Top tip: tell any young person that Harry Potter was filmed here and they'll be immediately attentive and enthusiastic.

This ruse has worked - with some little success - at The Lawnmower Museum, The Pencil Museum and The Dog Collar Museum - amongst others.

C'mon, you must remember the enchanted lawnmower that Harry, Ron and Hermione use to escape from Voldemort? It's in Harry Potter and Overgrown Lawn.

Banshee (PUZZLED): I don't remember that one ...
Me (AIRILY): O, I read it to you when you were very small.
Banshee: What happens?
Me: Um, the usual stuff ... Plus! There are giant, evil dandelions, some poisonous daisies and an invasion of couch grass, but Sirius posts a Black'n'Decker Strimmer to Hogwarts which doubles - the Strimmer, not Hogwarts - as a, um, Blunderbus 2000 broomstick and -
Banshee: You're making all off this up, aren't you?
Me: Yes.

I love museums (almost as much as I love libraries). This love was established from an early age as wet half terms and holidays saw me marched around the Kirkstall Abbey Museum.

Before it was refurbished (A.K.A. ruined) one could put a Bun Penny into a Victorian 'penny slot' machine and see Madame Le Guillotine do her bloodiest worst; watch a pretty housemaid fall out of a wardrobe shot through the heart; follow the trial of a murderer up to the point where he is hanged by the neck until dead - and more. Clockwork puppets in fabulous 2D with juddery animation and a very moral message. (Never hide in a wardrobe when an angry husband's brandishing a gun.)

It was a perfectly thrilling place to visit and one could endure the endless display cabinets of Scrimshaw work and edifying embroidered samplers with the promise of a penny for Being Good.

Museums for the Young are not nearly so much fun these days. Small people pretend to be a poo and waddle through a labyrinth of intestines, or dress up in 100% polyester Tudor clothing, or press a lot of buttons. It's all about being interactive.

Curators! There is nothing wrong at all with pressing ones nose against a display cabinet and just looking. Why, it never did me any harm ...