In Memoriam

‘The Conjugial Angel’ is the title of the second novella in A. S. Byatt’s diptych published as ‘Angels & Insects’ that I featured recently.

I finished reading this one today.

The link between the two shorter works is the treatment of Victorian obsessions. Using the medium of a dramatic s√©ance ‘The Conjugial Angel’ takes us into the fantasy world invoked by Spiritualism; and the preoccupation with death, grief, and mourning. The Widow of Windsor, as some termed Queen Victoria herself, was the classic bereaved who dressed in weeds for the rest of her life after the death of her beloved consort, Albert.

With her usual richly descriptive language, Byatt evokes the tangible auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations experienced around the tricky tables in darkened drawing rooms. She catches the sexual electricity burning beneath the surface. One of the participants was the sister of Alfred Lord Tennyson, who loved and lost A. A. H., the subject of the poet’s ‘In Memoriam.’. For me, it is the quotations from that great elegy that more aptly enhance the text than some of the others that are woven into the pages. The author does, however, blend the earthly and the erudite in her style.

As with the first story, small vignettes enhance the text. I have chosen to include one of a raven, giving a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s eponymous poem describing a visit to a distraught lover descending into madness.

Jackie and I sit side by side watching television in the evenings. Because we only have one arm on each side of the sofa, my current seating and rising performance has been excruciating for me and rather perturbing to witness. As is her wont, Mrs Knight has applied herself to the problem and provided me with a plastic prosthesis.

I availed myself of this while finishing the book.

This evening we dined on The Culinary Queen’s excellent chicken jalfrezi, vegetable samosas, and savoury rice.

The Knocker

Soon after 6 a.m., reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, there he was, the blackbird, ‘rapping, rapping, at my’ office window. This went on for hours this morning. Jackie is quite worried about the poor creature. Let’s hope he gets fixed up with a mate soon.
When preparing for the fray he perches on a shrub we may be able to identify once it has bloomed.
Last night Jackie had researched architectural salvage outlets that might provide the missing article from our front door. She came up with Ace Reclaim at West Parley near Ferndown. We didn’t think we’d have time yesterday to get there before they closed, so deferred our trip to this morning.

Down a very rough track beside a garden centre, we found a veritable aladdin’s cave of treasures from bygone eras for the home and garden. What I liked was that almost everything carried an individual price tag. This makes life easier for me as I am emotionally ill equipped to haggle. I would have played the part of Brian in his eponymous film’s haggling scene rather well.
The men on site were friendly and unobtrusive. We were allowed to wander at will and were left alone to forage in the cabinet containing what we required.

Maybe it was the knocker on the window that focussed us on the missing one on our front door. Maybe we were becoming self-conscious about Jackie’s invitation to all and sundry:

Maybe it was both. Anyway, we found one. It didn’t have any bolts with it, so off we went to B & Q. Before reaching this DIY store at Christchurch we were tempted by Mum’s cafe. Situated on Fairmile Road between Norfolk and Suffolk Avenues this marvellous establishment serves a range of beautifully home cooked food of excellent quality.

Naturally we had brunch.

The bolts in B & Q were sold in packets of ten with their measurements in millimetres. I am quite used to seeing packets of peanuts bearing the warning ‘may contain nuts’. The bolt containers were unequivocal in their message that they did contain nuts. Actually we didn’t need the nuts, but I don’t suppose the company would take them back and give us a discount.

Working out the thread diameters was fairly straightforward, given that we had the knocker with us. The length we would require was a little more problematic since we hadn’t brought the relevant door with us. Jackie had the brilliant idea that we could measure the thickness of one of the doors on sale in the store. She did that whilst I went to choose a drill.

Back home we discovered that our front door, although comparatively modern, was thicker than those at B & Q. So back we went to change the bolts, and returned home in time for me to receive a welcome phone call from Sam.

There were no bits provided with the drill, which was no problem because I had a case of drills at home. Somewhere. In a box. Somewhere.

I had seen them. I know I had. In this house. In a box.

So a search ensued. Eventually I found them in a box marked fragile. From a previous move. Obviously.

Then I had to decide which bit to use. Which ones were for masonry and which for wood? A bit of trial and error was employed. Finally I had drilled two neat holes through the centre of the door. Just not quite the right distance apart.

‘One bolt will hold it firmly in place’, was Jackie’s encouraging observation. It did. I will do my best to forget my error. It might take some time.

This evening Jackie drove us to Totton and back, so we could dine at The Family House. Our continued custom after the move paled into insignificance when compared to that of a woman and her son who had returned on holiday from Queensland in Australia. When they had lived in Totton they had been regulars of  this restaurant. The food was as good as ever, the company as convivial, and the T’Sing Tao beer as thirst quenching.