Biscuit-related Literature

There’s a kind of sub-theme emerging here.  Out of the novel came the idea of biscuits with words on being like books and writing a kind of biscuit bible.  Also, my postcard story which was not chosen to appear in the window of Waterstone’s, was about biscuits and literature.  Here it is:

Can’t find it.  It was called “A Nice Cup of Tea with Dickens” and was about someone writing a thesis on the incidence of biscuits in the novels of Dickens.  I thought it was quite amusing.  But it’s vanished.

In this context I must mention the seminal work “A Nice Cup of Tea and A Sit Down” written by Nicey and Wifey.

Sounds twee.  Isn’t.  Very comforting.  There’s something very English, not only about the theme of tea and biscuits, but about the idea of appearing to take totally seriously such a banal theme.  It’s a kind of Mornington Crescent-ish undercutting of our tendency to at times  take life too seriously. – 36k

Are you a “foreigner”?  Are you baffled by the English?  Don’t be.  We do it on purpose.  Refuse to be. Alternatively, drink six pints of Adnams beer and all will become clear.

More tea Vicar?

Chapter Six

I’ve always considered the number six to be somewhat smug. You know, like two rows of neat schoolgirls chanting “two-times-three-and-three-times-two” as though butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Perhaps that’s why when I was wearing this raincoat –

Ah! Yes. I’ll tell you the story of this raincoat. In many ways the story of my life is the story of these coats I’ve had. Anyway, at the time when I wore this, I was a smoker. About twenty a day, I guess – enough for my friend at college to cruelly imitate my morning cough.

Biscuit? No, I haven’t – oh, I see! Yes, sounds like a biscuit. Those horrible thin brown ones on which the writing was the most exciting part. I used to like the writing on biscuits. You could imagine each one to be a book: The Book of Bourbon, the Book of Nice, the Book of Morning Coffee. Maybe I should write them one day. But I digress. Digestive – yes, the Book of Digestive. Biscuit bible! But before biscuits there were cigarettes. i was about to say that in my student days I smoked Number six, perhaps as an antidote to the smugness of the number six itself. So you can see me here, hands in pockets, and imagine a smoking No.6 between index and middle finger. You can probably make out the brown patch on the inside of the third finger there. Yes, I played piano. How do you make that out? Very astute of you. Actually my piano teacher smoked – about two hundred a day. Imagine getting one of those cartons like you do at the airport and finishing it – in one day! So: the coat. It was my habit to buy from jumble sales and this one caught my eye, I can’t really say why. Maybe it had a whiff of the vagrant about it – maybe I wanted to be on the road in all weathers…something like that. Does that sound mad? No – don’t answer. But it represented something. Anyway, John and Carla laughed at me and made some comments about the stains – look, there! – which I didn’t get. I was very naive then. Can you tell? Perhaps not. I was altogether a mixture of parts. So I bought the raincoat and ignored both stains and comments. I don’t think I wore it much though. Leaving home is a much harder affair then just buying a raincoat to walk out in.

Second Slice of the Novel

Is your tea strong enough? Not too strong? So we can be quite comfortable. Move the cushions if you don’t like them. So. Where was I? Yes.

To begin at the beginning is the most tedious thing imaginable, don’t you think? Much better to begin in the middle. So here: look at this one. Here I am in the playground. It’s not only the costume that makes me uncomfortable (though after leaving I did swear an oath never to wear tights again. Abominable instrument of torture! If George Orwell had ever worn tights I’m sure he would have written a book on the subject). Yes, the costume was deeply uncomfortable, but that wasn’t the main thing. The main thing was the role. And somehow the role always seems more important than the actions. You know what I mean?

Look at the woman there, in front of me. See the children lined up, boys and girls separate? As each boy passes her, she says:

– Take your hands out of your pockets!

– Take your hands out of your pockets!

– Take your hands out of your pockets!

It’s like some kind of demented mantra, and I don’t know what it’s for. No-one else notices – I’m here alone.

Now. See this one? That’s Ronnie. She’s Canadian. That table there was for Senior Staff only – you get that just from the picture, don’t you? The joke was that no-one could say anything because in theory, anyone could sit anywhere – the whole thing relied on the unspoken. Ronnie wasn’t big on the unspoken. She needed words: loud words, clear words. Strong words. And no-one could tell her! The things they resorted to – the rudeness, the talking across her, freezing her out! It would have sent any English woman scuttling back to Probationers’ Corner, pronto. But not she. I forget how it ended. Maybe someone had a quiet word. Probably to say – not that she couldn’t sit there – oh no! – but to talk up the delights of having one’s own corner, the desirability of spending time with those in the same position, swapping tips… something like that. I imagine it was something like that.

One’s own corner. Furthest from the door, the tea urn, and the loos. Yep. That’s us..

Three of us. See? There – in this picture. That’s Mindy – she had a chip on her shoulder from not having a degree like the rest of us. That’s Julie, who almost liked me. You can see her mouth curved in semi-serious deprecation at my antics. And me, the hair practically vanished from my forehead due to my despairing habit of pushing it back. There we were, shepherded almost literally by this woman here, Head of English and, for her sins, In Charge Of Probationers. Incidentally, you might as well know that, having skipped bail, I am to all intents and purposes still on probation. But more of that anon.

Yes, I realise the pun. I realise I still haven’t told you my name. I will! I will. Just not yet.

So there we were. And here’s the moment of beginning. Make of it what you will, because I haven’t really started yet – but here’s where it begins. It would never have occurred to me to penetrate the circle of Senior Staff Only: when I entered the staff room I did so with a sigh of relief at attaining this temporary refuge, scuttled crab-wise towards the tea urn and thence in another diagonal to Our Corner. Once there I would join in whatever conversation there was and enjoy the brief illusion of recreation.

See this one? This is my peace being punctured. This could be any one of the following:

– There’s a boy outside to see you

– Can you sign this?

– Do you want tickets for the Christmas show?

– Did you read the memo I sent round?

And so on. I used to envy the science teachers their store rooms where they could check supplies of CA-OH and drink coffee while the brain roamed at will.

I won’t weary you by describing the dread I came to feel at the sound of the bell. For some reasons of special torture, at this particular place it rang not once, nor twice or three times but nine times. Nine times at the start and end of every lesson! Jokes about Pavlov’s dogs were not out of place: I was certainly foaming at the lips by Friday.

Well, as I said, I used to watch the progress of the clock as my punctured break dripped away and the moment of “going over the top” approached. And it was at just such a moment, when the bell rang – and rang – and rang – so that all nine of its syllables seemed joined together – and I gathered up my armful of impotent books and still more futile lesson plan and stood bewildered in the doorway –

There: that’s the moment. That’s when we start. See that? there I am in the doorway, the sound of the bells still rippling the injured air, people passing me to right and left, my Head of Department and (for her sins) In Charge Of Probationers on the brink of noticing, of coming to hurry me along: right there is where it starts. And this is what I’m thinking. It’s very clear to me, clearer than any other thought. Two words ring in my mind, and these are they:

“I’m Jesus”.

And that’s when I know for sure. That’s when I know everything for sure.


Here’s today’s poem:

The Tick Inside

A goal

is a box

with a tick


It burrows into your heart

it sucks.

The title is a reference to Kate Bush’s LP The Kick Inside.

The whole thing was a response to waking up and having lots of ideas about things I wanted to do (see below) and the ego forming these into a list. So that instead of the wind blowing where it listeth the wind will be directed where I list!

Here’s today’s prophecy:

The ricorso will bring women to the surface

it will embrace all

as the waters cover the sea

(not sure what that last line means.

It is a line from a hymn which we used to sing when I was a child, when we lived in the vicarage where the shadow of the church spire cut a dark slice through the lawn where we sat in summer. What is the ricorso?

So what were the things I wanted to do today? Put the above on this blog – tick!

Mark a student’s essay and look at another’s lesson plan

Ah! This was today’s big idea – which like Proust, I am going to save for another post. the idea is to write a novel which has already been written. I shall leave you with that thought while I go to my breakfast.

Pip pip!