Grim and stoic are the clouds of London. With growing concerns about my vitamin D intake did I regard the unmoving, grey ceiling of the heavens from my little window in Leytonstone. Is it in the shadows of these bulbous cherubim that I must tread for the rest of my voyage through these streets, I asked myself? No! Well, yes. Upon reflection I was forced to admit that I was utterly impotent as far as the clouds and their divine movements were concerned. Was this, then, my lot? A long fall towards depression and rickets?
In desperation did I turn to the good people of London for inspiration. “Oy dung Noh lih’ul pup it” said one spotty fellow with a ring through his nose. I edged away from him with speed. “Oh, a serpentine, furred horror” said a man with a bowler hat. “Kurva Lalek!” exclaimed a dark-haired lady with loud cheek bones.
Ah, but such is the cacophony of London! A thousand tongues, mated with a thousand manners, to produce a thousand songs, and not a single one of them on key.
And still the clouds were fixed and firm above me. With a wary slither did I cross the historic Tower Bridge. How many existences have tumbled off into the belching embrace of the Thames from beneath those unseemly spires! There was a faint tickle at the back of my brain at the thought – perhaps I…? But no. First of all the Thames is undoubtedly cold and secondly – well, who has the energy for that sort of thing these days?
It was then that a djinni descended from behind one of the towers. He was a flurry of metal wings that spun like a turbine, releasing sparks and flourishes of golden ether. Two shining purple eyes stared at me fixedly from within that maelstrom with coy invitation, and with a hiss the whirl of magic and will settled on the pavement beside me.
“Oh djinni!” I shouted, “Oh symbol of a lost age! Tell me where I might find succour amidst this modern ennui!”
“Fancy a copy of the Star?” the djinni asked, shoving a fistful of finely decorated pulp under my nose, “Only a pound. Wait till you see our page three girl – she’s from SCOTLAND!”
It began to rain, and I hurried on.
On, London, London! I reflected on the history of this old and blasted place. How many wars you have endured! How many waves of immigration have rushed down your streets! How much construction, reconstruction, Roman conquest and Capital invest has stained, tarred and burned the stones at that surround me! How much culture, art, literature have gestated in your belly! How much wonder and terror has poured forth from your bowels, generation after generation, to scar and enliven this spinning ball of hope, of excrement! What muse, what deity, what fecund LIFE is it that sits in the heart of you to create such a wash of the incredible?
A sea serpent was stuck on a buoy just a few hundred yards from the south bank. It was a fat, green amphibian as long as a bus. A red crown of bulbous flesh pulsed steadily behind its jaws, and its smooth, oily skin shone dimly in the pale light of the afternoon. Several barges were navigating around it, prodding it, attempting to roll it off its perch.
“So sorry,” it muttered, not looking at anyone, “So sorry, dreadfully sorry, oh this is so embarrassing.”
A middle aged, round MP with a thick grey moustache starred at the serpent and the barges for a moment, and nodded. “Hmm Hmm,” he said with an approving nod, “Mmmurh,” and set off to towards Parliament.
And the rain was a drizzle now, and I had forgotten my raincoat. My fur was soaked to the skin, and it was a feeling of utter dejection that a sat upon a stone bench outside the national theatre, to watch the crowds pass before me. ‘In London,’ I thought, ‘humanity is a river,’ and it was with distracted pleasure that I watched them. There, the new family: tense father, desperate mother and child arms spread and smile golden. There, the lonely old man: back bent, cap stuck on tight and quietly aghast at the frank reality that life was a disappointment. There, the young lovers: hand in hand and lips nuzzling necks, clinging to each other for they know the currents are strong.
And there – but what is this? Two middle aged men, gaunt and trim and proper in spectacles, their shirtsleeves folded back over their elbows, faces frowning in concentration; these two men are putting on a puppet show.
But such puppets! At the end of each puppeteer’s arms there is a construction of cane, wood, fabric that resembles a crippled man at the end of a long life. With arthritic slowness these objects stumble about their apartment; with pained slowness do they admonish each other for their forgetfulness; with the practice of decades do they express their love.
And all of them wood! Wood! Wood! Ah, to make the dead dance, to make the inanimate shiver for cold! Too often do I neglect my faithful puppeteer whatzizname, my dear biped, and grant him little enough credit for his work to me. Without him, how would I ever reach my wheaties?
After their show, I crawled up to the puppeteers to offer my congragulations. They were sweaty, tired and goofily happy creatures. Their puppets and I exchanged respectful nods – we puppets, outside of our professional lives, rarely have time for each other.
It was then that I noticed thin tubes connected to the puppets’ necks, leading into bandages strapped around the puppeteers’ upper arms. A dark, pulsing liquid seemed to move from through these opaque pipes – heavens! Was it blood?
“Yah,” nodded the puppeteer with the close-cropped hair and the easy smile. “About a half a pint a day. We picked up on this trick about a year ago. We’re not sure why – and it’s not like the puppets ask for it – but it improves the performance.”
His partner, thin and serious, watched us intently, “Yah,” he said, “Now they move as if they were alive. It hurts a little, well, sometimes a lot. But,” and he looked thoughtful for a moment, “Not too much. Nah, it’s not too bad. And the audience loves it.”
I left them to the sound of coin tinkling in their hat, and wandered a while longer without thought, and with me went the immortal clouds of London.
A MOMENT WITH MUMBLES:
Good day, respected and responsible peers.
It is my duty to inform you that the puppet company referred
to above in Mister Verg's typically circuitous mannner
may in fact be "Handspring Puppet Company".
You may view their work on the interconnection network here:
Thank you. Please continue to read Russian Literature.