Thursday, 29 April 2010

Out damn spot

It’s been a strange old day today. It was muggy to begin with and then windy and now it’s raining. I’ve been busily trying to finish off this particular draft of my motet, so there’s space between it and the symphony. I think I've probably finished it. I’m certainly at a stage when I need to stick it in a draw and come back to it with fresh ears. Sadly, I don't feel very much like celebrating, as I'm not sure the last movement is any good.


We had a very perplexing situation in lower Highgate today. There’s been a suspicious smell floating around the pet shop at the end of the alleyway that leads to our house. It’s a putrid kind of smell. A smell that made me gag. It’s like 400 durian fruits bathed in sick. It’s the smell of the offal trucks that used to rattle through Higham Ferrers on their way to the glue factories. Something had obviously died.

Nathan and I ‘phoned the council, because it’s not the first time strange rotting smells have floated around the area. We had to wade through the most astonishing amount of red tape; 

“Where is the smell coming from?”

“We can’t tell...”

“In which case we can’t help you because we won’t know which team to send out”


“Well that’s plainly not good enough! What if someone's died?”


“Could you just hold for a second?”

And round and round it went. Nathan spoke to a particularly useless jobs-worth for a grand total of 54 minutes and at the end of the conversation, was back where he’d started from. Somewhat annoying when we were simply trying to be responsible citizens. I immediately ‘phoned back and demanded to speak to the press office and suggested that in the wake of the Baby P scandal, Haringey Council ought to be more sympathetic towards someone reporting the sweet stench of death on their streets. It was a bit below the belt, but it did the trick and someone was with us within an hour.

Of course, by then, the smell, which had been present for 4 rancid days and even caused local builders to gag, had dissipated somewhat, to the extent that Nathan suggested it might have been some kind of nostril haunting! (You can imagine how well that went down with the man holding the clip board!) Fortunately it was still just about present enough for the man to smell it, identify it as death and start a detailed search of the area. Sadly there were no doors, vents or drains that could give him any indication of where the smell might be coming from.

Eventually we had to admit defeat and agreed with the man that if the smell got any worse, we’d give him another call. We went back inside with our tails between our legs.

A few minutes later the guy called me again. Fortunately (or not so much for him) whilst looking at a bin bag in the vicinity, he’d stumbled and put his hand into a sort of stain on the pavement. And that, he said, was our smell! A tiny, almost invisible patch on the pavement was actually a rancid, repugnant, puddle of death and the poor man had fallen into it. He told me he thought a fox might have died there and been carried away by the council, who'd left a few of the poor creature's internal juices on the pavement. I bet he was thrilled to have them all over his hands. Out damn spot...

The 29th April 1660 was a Sunday and Pepys dressed for the occasion in his best suit which had been recycled from a cloak he’d bought the year before which seemed to have got covered in poo somehow. “This day I put on... my fine cloth suit, made of a cloak that had like to have been beshit behind a year ago the very day that I put it on.” Maybe that explains the smell...

Things were hotting up in London. A letter from the King had arrived and been placed under lock and key until Tuesday when it could be read out to the Parliament. Montagu informed Pepys that the Puritans and Fanatiques had finally and conclusively been tamed by the Cavaliers, and that it was a matter of weeks at the most before the King would step once again upon English soil.

1 comment:

  1. oh ben...your life is just one showbiz whirl!

    ReplyDelete