Omnia Nunc Se Continet atque Tres Tantum Res Anxius Optat, Panem et Circenses et Clysmum
Came now to Stokes Croft the tall cranes. Now was the tranquil somnolence of that forsaken place rent by the clattering of jackhammers. Hither and thither scurried gobshites in hard hats and hi-viz vests, issuing orders and venting the foulest imprecations. Huge balls on chains swung and shattered the facade of Penistone House, and great mechanised teeth abstracted from the corpus delicti of that once noble edifice the mangled debris, which wheeled scoops bore thence to sequestered purlieus known only to the pikeys.
Miss Minerva Ledwitch found it all tremendously exciting. Very soon, from the ruins of Penistone House, that den of duns, would rise the effulgent phoenix of an arts ’n’ cultural centre, the citadel of a New Jerusalem. The barbarous sevidges of Stokes Croft and Ashley Road would be brought out of darkness into light, prisoners would be freed, the naked clothed - unless of course they wished to avail themselves of the spa, in which case they might very well be required to remain sky-clad; come to that, the great unwashed would no longer find themselves in want of a bath. Miss Minerva Ledwitch, foreseeing her own role in all of this, allowed her mind to wander. She would be as a sort of lady Prometheus - Promethea, if you will - bringing colonic irrigation to the huddled, ignorant masses.
Miss Minerva Ledwitch, today as often in company with Mr Don Quicksotte, took her lunchtime repast in Bar Wanque, an establishment some metres further up Stokes Croft from the Ghastly Hipster, smaller and arguably more intimate, withal catering to a similar clientele of Edwardian beards and ridiculously tight trousers. At the adjacent table anomalously sat four or five booted and luminously-jacketed gentlemen, hard of countenance and rough in their ways, leavening the somewhat overheated and miasmic air of that place with the most unrefined epithets. Miss Minerva Ledwitch shuddered. Mr Don Quicksotte, observing her travails, awaited politely the passing of her spasm, then offered:-
Miss Minerva Ledwitch, struggling to comprehend, looked down at the mess of pottage presently cooling in the bowl set before the booster of wind, and ventured
Mr Don Quicksotte shook his head, giggled effeminately, very discreetly gestured, murmured then
“The horny-handed sons of toil.”
Miss Minerva Ledwitch viewed the hands just mentioned, finding the horniness thereof to be beyond question; now regarded quizzically and with no little disdain the soft and pudgy appendages with which Mr Don Quicksotte pretended to grapple such tenable objects as the world deigned to place within his ambit.
Miss Gamina Dročerpyatova chose this particular moment to sway, all hotpants and exposed midriff, past the window of Bar Wanque, much ribaldry on the part of the horny-handed toilers being by her passage occasioned. Miss Minerva Ledwitch looked sharply at the greasy features treading water on the face of Mr Don Quicksotte, as the booster of wind affected not to follow the progress of those Slavic buttocks.
“I can see you looking, Quicksotte,” said Miss Minerva Ledwitch, making no concession to pudeur.
“Not at all, my dear,” said very hastily her paramour, “I have eyes only for you, dear heart.”
“You may as well save yourself the trouble, Quicksotte, you don’t fool me. She’s virtually a child, and already a floozy.”
Having delivered herself of which, Miss Minerva Ledwitch returned to the contemplation of the luminously-jacketed gentlemen, who were so good as to oblige her by salting and larding and leavening the dropsical micro-climate in which they found themselves with further epithets and imprecations.
Mr Don Quicksotte with guilt spooned into his gob the soup, and dissented from the voiced opinion of the Edwardian harridan he was with, thinking not without justification that Miss Gamina Dročerpyatova would never more see five and thirty. Withal, he swallowed with his soup the urge to evince this thought. Miss Minerva Ledwitch had a way of unmanning a chap. He had of late begun to wonder if this was how things had been with Mr Crass Cheseham, and whether he had been altogether wise to take Minnie, delightful as she had initially seemed, off the hands of that truffle-hound.
Now there appeared before the Bar Wanque window the form, exquisitely-tailored as always, of Dr Mark Wankstain. The Poncemaker-General seemed to be in haste, and did not tarry, but very promptly scurried off in the direction just taken by his charming executive assistant.
“The very man!” said Miss Minerva Ledwitch, with a sudden access of energy, “I want to speak to him. Do be an angel, Quicksotte, and run after Dr Wankstain for me.”
Mr Don Quicksotte, looking down at his congealing soup, sighed, hauled himself up onto his legs.
“Do try to catch him, Don,” urged his concubine.
“I shall exert myself to the utmost,” promised her Mercury, betimes thinking of himself very much as one imagines a gentleman praying mantis must.
By such means underhand left temporarily to her own cognisance, Miss Minerva Ledwitch engaged in a succession of sighs and winks and pouts and flutterings of eyelash. A quality of postural daintiness - or at any rate something not unrelated thereunto, much as gurning parody apes matchless form - infused her manner of perching upon her chair. A compact from her bag being now unearthed, certain paints were daubed upon the fizzog which she presented to the world. Alas! All these measures availed her not, but were as pearls cast before swine, for the luminously-jacketed gentlemen looked straight through her, and went on turning the air blue.
Miss Minerva Ledwitch was on this account somewhat given over to dudgeon when eventually Mr Don Quicksotte returned, red of face and out of breath.
“I did my best,” he puffed, “but Wankstain was too fast for me,” and, sitting down very heavily and mopping his brow, added, “I am not as young as I was, you know.”
“I am only too aware of your age, Quicksotte,” said Miss Minerva Ledwitch crossly, “well I suppose I shall have to conduct my business with Dr Wankstain on another occasion. It is all frightfully inconvenient.”
Mr Don Quicksotte examined sorrowfully his bowl and decided to forgo the relict of his soup. At this moment arrived tardily but serendipitously the waitress, bearing a piece of slate. Upon this artificed contrivance, nested in an oily rocket salad and combled with rye bread, reposed elements of charcuterie, considerable relief at this turn of events being evinced by Mr Don Quicksotte. Miss Minerva Ledwitch now saw fit to question the provenance of the victuals on which chomped the Quicksotte gnashers.
“It is not organic and local, you know, Quicksotte, what you are putting in your body. It is cruel meat, the flesh of baby animals torn untimely from the udders of their mothers as they suckled. Probably in fucking France. And then,” elaborating on her theme, “packed in cheek to jowl by those Vichy butchers on lorries, like the Jews and sardines, and driven here to be murdered. Just so that you can dribble over the naked lunch on your plate. Your dietary choices leave a great deal to be desired, Quicksotte, really they do.”
Mr Don Quicksotte, quailing under this diatribe, lowered his bald head miserably over his swart assiette of artisanal donkey spam.
“We all must eat, my dear,” he fluted, “the human frame must needs be nourished.”
He cast an envious sidelong look at the luminously-jacketed gentlemen, who had been favoured with the non-hipster menu, and were insouciantly feasting upon white slicebread, farrow-stall bacon, black pudd’n fried in chipfat, gelatinously poached battery eggs with seeping yolks, beans enough to drive Odysseus back to Ithaca. Sharpened eyes of the Erinye caught then the scoping of Aeolus, and coiled cerebellum of that identical hag apprehended thereof the signification.
“I see you looking at those men, Quicksotte. I know what you are thinking. Why can’t I eat what they eat? Why can’t I have the menu for non-hipsters? Well you can’t. They are rough, working class fellows, who swink and swive with their hands and need proper sustenance, whereas you ponce away at your desk, and tap a shiny little keyboard with those milquetoast middle-class soft-soap hands of yours. And that factory-farmed food which they are forking with those rough hands of theirs is in their mouths a noble tradition to be cherished, when it is nothing but cruelty in yours. Oh yes! Let them have their bangers and rashers and toast and eggs and big mugs of builders’ tea. You can make do with a leaf of lettuce and a herbal infusion.”
Mr Don Quicksotte had for some time been working himself up to a disclosure to Miss Minerva Ledwitch of his denunciation some weeks previously of Mr Crass Cheseham to the Pierpont Morgan of Anchor Road. Now, as he contumeliously reflected on that episode, and gazed like a haruspex at the shreds of salami lingering on his slate, he determined that the omens were not auspicious, and postponed yet again the divulging. But now, very much to his alarm, he discerned that the his lady’s mind had changed course, and was running along the same tracks as his own.
“I must confess, Don,” quoth she, “that much as I am delighted to see such an industrious start being made on the project of developing the new arts centre, with my colonic irrigation spa and of course your windy contraptions on top - nonetheless, Don, I do consider there to be something of a loose end as regards the continuing presence of those … er … squatters, in that big house up the road where the workmen need to bore the holes.”
“I’m sure,” said Mr Don Quicksotte, smiling in such a way as utterly to belie his vaunted certainty, “that Sir Hearty and the Council people have the thing in hand. I really do not think you should trouble yourself on this account, my dear.”
“Only, you see,” said Miss Minerva Ledwitch returning a simpering and beatific smile of her own, “I do trouble myself Don. I do, you see. I have always been a woman who likes to be the mistress of her own destiny. And so I do trouble myself on this account, dear Don.”
“I quite see that, my dear,” said Mr Don Quicksotte, and now determining that it would be as well to take the minoheif by the horns while she was in this relatively emollient and docile state, added, “but you see, it is all to do with Cheseham, it is another of his stakeholder follies …”
A derisive snort from the daughter of Pasiphae.
“Oh do stop sniping, Quicksotte, it is exceedingly tiresome and does not become you.”
Mr Don Quicksotte writhed Heapishly in his seat, and decided not to press the issue.
At length, the luminously-coated gentlemen by the scraping of chairs signified the completion of their repast. Without the Bar Wanque doors, they congregated. Mucous particles were into the breach hawked up, there being then upon the pavement hurled from several throats the anticipated volley of expectorations, snouts and gobs wiped of residue with sleeves, final oaths flung over retreating backs. In this manner returned they to their toil at Penistone House.
Miss Minerva Ledwitch with wordless admiration witnessed the departure of those Parthians. After they had gone, turned to the Crassus or Julian of the piece, saying
“Settle the bill, Quicksotte.”