Mrs. B.: “Would you like a punch, Vicar, ’tis the season?”
Vicar of Aldenham and Radlett: “Well, I don’t mind if I do, Mrs Broadbridge!”
So, quick as a flash, I gave him a playful and fairly gentle punch on the rib-cage. He was quite rattled.
“Only joking, Padre!” I reassured him. “Look what I’ve just been cooking up!”
“Oh, I say, Mrs Broadbridge, the devil’s brew! I’d be most partial to some, just a drop or two, mind. I don’t wish to be had up for failing my breath-test.”
“Don’t let those interfering socialists bother you, especially at Christmas, Vicar! We can toast Margaret and Dennis Thatcher!”
2-3 bottles of red Hirondelle wine
½ -¾ cup of Leslie’s Drambuie or Glayva
½ – ¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
1-2 oranges, sliced, or even 1 orange and 1 lemon
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and bring to the boil. Stir occasionally.
Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cook for a further 5-7 minutes.
Pass it through a strainer into the Broadbridge punch bowl.
Garnish with a further slice of orange and, if you are really being fancy, a cinnamon stick. Les quite likes canned tangerines rather than an orange in the mixture but to me this removes all the subtle tanginess from it.
Serve hot, and enjoy with cheese footballs or Marmite ™ twiglets. Serves 4.
Vicar: “In the name of the Father, Son and not forgetting the Holy Spirit, I give you my thanks and blessing – may I call you Lilian?”
Mrs B: “Ooh, vicar, you’ve made this little girl blush!”
Vicar: “I feel a jolly Christmas Carol coming on. ‘When shepherds washed their socks by night… 🎵’”
The Two Cravats: A Broadbridge Christmas Anecdote
I thought I’d give Leslie a pair of silk cravats, one polka dot and the other paisley, for Christmas. They give a man a certain je ne sais choir [sic], a sophistication, and a cravat looks very good worn with a suede-fronted cardigan. Just the ticket, too, at Porters Park clubhouse at the 19th hole.
Once when we were holidaying in Sussex, I even saw an old chap in a cravat picking blackberries! So, I went to Austin Reed in Watford, and enjoyed a pleasant half-hour choosing and discussing the niceties of cravats with my favourite assistant there, Roger, a real lady’s man but with an intelligent eye for other men and their needs too.
So, the great day came and Leslie seemed quite chuffed: ‘A nice variation on the theme of the two ties, Lilian, and very smart they are too’. Every other Boxing Day we book a buffet table, usually with Violet and that smoothie of a husband of hers, Lionel, at the Red Lion (in alternate years they take us to the Griffon in Godalming, a somewhat chi-chi place but they do an excellent Dover sole there).
Well, Leslie was all ready to go and what do I see but him with the paisley cravat round his neck and beaming, perhaps just a little full of himself.
“So,” I said, “You didn’t like the other…”
But then I noticed he had folded the polka dot one into his Burton jacket top pocket.
“Les, you didn’t go to Watford Grammar or manage a branch of Barclay’s for nothing! Our Liam would call you a cool dud, or whatever the slang is.”
And I gave Les a real smacker of a kiss, which I had to immediately wipe off, having carefully applied my Max Factor not ten minutes earlier. But I’m a spontaneous woman and, I hope, a warm-hearted one!
Editor: That’s it, Dr. Stocker, you are now retired as the Postil Magazine’s gag-writer!
Dr. Stocker: Hey! That’s a grave blow, I’m taking this real hard.
Editor: Man up! In 2022 you will be our regular pop music correspondent. And I fully expect our dear lady friend, Mrs. Broadbridge, to make the odd appearance in these columns.
Dr. Stocker: Okay, bro… whatever!
The featured image shows, “The Spirit of Christmas in Regent Street,” by William Heath Robinson; painted in 1928.
While the venerated Postil Magazine rigorously upholds family values (Editor: ‘I should hope so, my girlfriend watches my every move!’) and while predominantly conformist sexualities prevail among its readership (thanks be to God), this episode of the ever popular “Wit Collection” is unprecedently edgy, courageous and even risqué. I urge readers to enjoy exploring with me potentially delicate themes of fancy, desire and longing without ever descending into the graphic or the remotely vulgar. Lest you tremble, I will seek some kind of intellectual imprimatur by pointing to a proud British tradition of faintly smutty innuendo, while at the same time maintaining a façade of the utmost propriety and decency. The most famous seaside postcard, after all, is one that I cannot for a moment rival, and comes courtesy of the artist/gag-writer Donald McGill:
A bookish man and an embarrassed pretty woman are sitting under a tree. Bookish man: “Do you like Kipling?” Blushing girl: “I don’t know, you naughty boy, I’ve never kippled!” “Kippled? Was ist dass?” asked my puzzled friend Zbig, who earnestly and nobly desires to become more English but still has some way to go.
Some hints for fellow learners: the Bloomsbury Group were a pretty dirty lot. As far as I know, no scholar has attempted to constructed a diagram to indicate who bedded whom, where, when, why or how. This would surely defeat the finest Cambridge minds. Lytton Strachey was one of its naughtiest members, but E.M. Forster was the worst of the bunch when he famously declared “Only connect.” Here, I will confine myself to the marriage of Clive Bell and Vanessa Stephen, and the aesthetic precepts of their much-admired Roger Fry and Bernard Berenson. Oh, and Gwen John was one of a number of the lecherous, ageing Rodin’s girlfriends. Kiki Smith is a famous contemporary sculptor. Barnett Newman described the meaningful verticals in his impenetrable abstract paintings as zips. How much more need I explain to you plebs?
One final thing to add. There are more jokes which our somewhat prim and spoilsport editor has felt fit to censor. These can be provided on receipt of a postal order to the value of £6 (mailing address provided upon request).
What did Clive say to Vanessa when they exchanged their wedding kiss?’ “Tu es très Bell!” And the morning after, to his best friend, who asked him whether he knew what to do: “Roger, Roger of course! I knew I was right about her Significant Form… not to mention Berenson’s tactile values.”
The military tribunal in 1915 is assessing a problematic recruit. “So, Mr Strachey, what would you do if a German solder were attempting to violate your sister?” “Ha, I’d come between them!”
What did Picasso say to the otherly-abled hitch-hiker with three eyes, no arms and one leg? “Aye, aye, aye, you look like my kind of girl, ’armless enough. Hop in!”
Back in the 1970s, a notorious Cambridge college imposed a strict R18 admissions policy: Emanuelle.
I’ve set up a dating agency for unsexy chemists which, of course, is called “Love Chemistry.” Unfortunately, we attracted lots of geeks in anoraks who, of course, love chemistry. They had to be explained that our prime aim is covalent bonding.
As a practising photographer myself (did you say pornographer? see me afterwards!) I felt it appropriate to create a still-life homage to the iconic Robert Mapplethorpe, Banana and Sliced Pawpaw.
What did Dr Stocker, art critic of The Sun, say of an abject, sexualised, edgy exhibition by a well-known American sculptress? “Very Kinky Smith!”
Barnett Newman had just spent a shattering day working in the studio. His girlfriend (looking very demure) therefore demanded: “Barney, please unzip!”
Guido Reni had just painted a remarkably camp looking Jesus. The title was obvious: Ecce Homo.
What did Rodin’s mistresses call him? The Monarch of the Gwen.
What was Quentin Crisp’s favourite Noel Coward song? The Stately Homos of England.
The raunchy Pop Artist Allen Jones has just been convicted for an act of gross indecency. Noting previous good conduct, however, the Magistrate informed him: “Mr Jones, I think this calls for a suspender sentence.”
What is Giovanna Arnolfini coyly saying to her husband in Van Eyck’s famous portrait? “You turn me on, Vladimir!”
The title of a new exhibition of highly select etchings, containing suspect erotic content, is “Top of the Rops.”
What did the feminists write on the door to The Turkish Bath? NO INGRESS.
Captions for Ingres’s Turkish Bath: Waiting for Hugh Hefner. Or possibly… Women for Trump HQ.
What was Angelica Kauffmann’s advertising slogan? Put the Madam into Adam!
What is the bumper sticker of gay-friendly Flemish art historians? I likes Van Dycks.
What did a witty Mannerist art critic observe of Parmigianino’s latest masterpiece? “He gives a whole new meaning to neckrophilia.”
Sub-title of my fine new book on American Architecture from Green & Green to the Chrysler Building: Organic to Orgasmic.
My friend Moshe reacted fiercely to Barry Manilow coming out: “Oy vey! Next thing he’ll be telling us he’s Jewish!”
My mate Ron has just come out. “I’m a pansexual, Mark,” he told me. “Me too,” I replied, “Those Le Creuset ones, wow, they’re really hot!”
Real Estate Ad: Shabby Mackintosh for sale. Suit Art Nouveau pervert.
An evil-looking man in a long raincoat goes into the newsagents and asks the young shop girl: “Have you a copy of The Spectator?” The blushing girl replies: “Oh no, Sir! We don’t stock that sort of thing!”
Binary soul star Marvin Gaye is a real he-man (despite the name). His latest hit is “It takes 10, baby!”
My portly non-binary friend Don(na) urges me to opt for pretzels as “Trans fat chips are fat trans unfriendly!”
Dr. Mark Stocker is the resident humorist for the Postil Magazine. Overdoses of his jokes can damage your health. Please indulge with caution.
The featured image shows, “The Arnolfini Portrait,” by Jan van Eyck; painted 1434.
Dear reader – it’s just possible that you missed out on reading (or if you have nerves of steel watching) Candace Owens’s recent modest proposal to invade Australia. A good account of it can be found here.
That arch neo-conservative, Dr. Stocker, was deeply moved by Ms Owens’s utterances and accordingly felt impelled to lend her his warm support. He rattled his sabre (actually his Solingen kitchen knife) as he penned the following stirring message…
Power to Candace, whose nuanced intellect and lifelong knowledge of international relations I salute. Across the pond we heartily loathe the Australians whose attitude to NZ has a track record of being consistently arrogant and patronising. They even bowl under-arm in cricket – it’s not cricket!
God, how I hate them. Personally, I have been turned down for jobs in Australia three times, the first when I was insulted at my interview, the second when the museum director capriciously changed his mind and decided to appoint no-one to the job and the third when I had approximately five times the number of publications of the successful, in-house candidate.
As if that weren’t enough, the conspicuous recent lack of interest among Australian numismatists in my book, When Britain Went Decimal: The Coinage of 1971, has been deeply hurtful. Our onetime prime minister, Rob Muldoon, famously said of Australia: we welcome the emigration of New Zealanders there; each departing Kiwi doubles our nation’s average IQ rating, and in turn doubles Australia’s – win, win!
To augment the US forces sent to liberate Australia, I would advocate top level deployment of NZ’s armed services. You don’t trifle with them, particularly our brave Māori fighters who made Rommel himself tremble in World War Two! The recent “AUKUS” military alliance signed by Australia, the UK and the US, is a mere bagatelle, a feint to disguise Candace’s ulterior plan, and can be torn up as easily as Herr Hitler shredded the gormless Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace in Our Time” scrap of paper, biting the carpet for good measure. So, go Candace, the US and NZ! And may our Aussie foes crumple and crumble, just as they do so unerringly on the footy field!
NOTE: Dr. Stocker’s statement has been vigorously endorsed by his good friend and fellow Postil Magazine contributor Dr. Zbigniew Janowski who comments: “It’s currently compulsory to vote in Australia – can you believe this egalitarian madness? Their franchise must henceforth be restricted to graduates of Oxford and Cambridge Universities with MA degrees or higher. Invasion will surely facilitate this!”
Dr. Mark Stocker is a leading New Zealand political commentator and president of the Candace Owens Appreciation Society.
The chart from Nicholas Vallard’s manuscript sea atlas (1547), showing Jave La Grande’s west coast (the first map of Australia).
Well, I’m literally over the moon! Nirmal (we’re on first name terms!) says that he was so impressed by my political vision and the short shrift I gave to those feminist sacred cows, that he wants more from me. Rather than everything being politics, politics, politics (reminds me of the rather rude “Boobies, boobies, boobies,” I know it’s trashy but I did so enjoy Valley of the Dolls!), I thought this month things should take a more intellectual turn. I also know that Doctor Mark would approve.
And so, without much further ado, here is my 5 pence, I won’t say 5 new pence or heaven forbid – cents – on the worlds of art and music. And as there are probably more “petrol heads” reading this magazine than they would ever admit, I thought I’d add my perspective on cars.
It’s just possible that some readers who haven’t had the privilege of living in Radlett during the time I was in my true prime there (from the 1950s to the 1980s) may not know a few of the names I drop, so I’ve asked Doctor Mark to supply a brief glossary. Enjoy!
Mark Stocker: Sigh, how much am I paid? But anything for a quiet life, so here goes:
Sir William Russell Flint – slightly risqué British early 20th century watercolour painter of nudes and landscapes.
Rowland Hilder – hugely popular mid-20th century British landscape painter
Pietro Annigoni – kitsch, skilled and popular Italian 20th century painter, famous for portraits of the Queen. No known ballerina works, but never underestimate Mrs Broadbridge’s fertile imagination.
Matt Monro – British later 20th century singer, normally in the ‘lounge’ genre. Outstanding vibrato. Fond of golf, and alas, the bottle. Died too young.
Semprini – mid 20th century pianist, composer and conductor. Despite the name, British.
Mantovani – British orchestra leader, and with his pal Semprini, purveyors of popular dance music. Unlike Semprini, totally Italian, but bless him, says Mrs Broadbridge, he died in Tunbridge Wells!
Sir Jimmy Young – prominent later 20th century British radio host, formerly a hit parade crooner. Marginally more trendy than Manto and Semps,but not much.
Austin Allegro, Austin Maxi and Ferrari Dino – three kinds of cars, the first two outstanding British engineering of the late 60s/early 70s, the third foreign rubbish, though beloved of the utterly vulgar Mark Broadbridge.
Mrs Broadbridge On Gay Lib
It’s in my name and it’s in my character – Broadbridge and broad-minded. As a lifelong Tory you’d probably think I would be very intolerant about men loving other men, but though it’s wrong, I can understand it a bit and sympathise quite a lot. Certainly it’s unnatural – a man and a woman should love each other, marry and have children – that’s the normal run of things and god save us if it was anything else though sometimes these days you do honestly wonder.
That reminds me of a very funny joke I heard the other day, I think it was that clever young man David Frost. His friend told Mr Frost he was emigrating. Why? Homosexuality. But surely you’re not one of those people? No, of course not, but that’s the whole problem. First it was a capital offence, then it was corporal, then you’d simply be fined, and now it’s legal. I’m leaving before it becomes compulsory!
Seriously, I think there’s a good case for being true to one’s innermost feelings, and I don’t think any amount of Jesus can cure them. And let’s face it, there are some pretty dreadful women around, so sometimes I hardly blame them! It’s unnatural, yes, but homosexuals are human, they have thoughts and feelings, and Barry, my hairdresser, even seems to know my thoughts and feelings better than me. Lovely man.
I wanted him and his friend, Clint, to come to tea but Leslie wouldn’t have it. “Those homos, surely not? Whatever has come over you, Lilian?” Well, I was cross and said “You’re a homo too!” He got very angry but I quickly added “Homo sapiens! And I’m a Les-bian, hahaha!” He did manage a wan smile, and nothing came of it. Hate the sin, I say, though sometimes I am really quite fascinated about exactly who does what to whom, when and where (I have a curious mind, you may have noticed), but love the sinner.
Oh, talking of all that, the American lady down the road whose husband Bill is a big shot in Handley Page, Cleo, Miss San Diego 1920 she was I’ll have you know, always leaves very particular orders to our milkman – I think she must fancy him or something. Well, the other day I took a little peep at one of her notes by the empty bottles and she’d written this: ‘2 homos’ [laughs uproariously].
Mrs B On The Royals, c. 1980
I wish our Charlie Boy would hurry up and get married and settled. It’s getting ridiculous, everybody bar him can see that. He needs a good woman to talk to him, just as I do to Leslie, rather than all that talking he does to oak trees or some elderly Highland stag he’s hunting. You won’t get much sense out of them. I do like him but he can be a bit daft at times, unlike his father, who I love and admire to bits.
The Queen is a very, very fine woman, my idea of a perfect Englishwoman, don’t misunderstand me. But she’s not a patch on that terrific, witty, intelligent and oh so handsome husband of hers. Honestly, Philip is like a Greek god – well, he is Greek after all – and I can just picture him on Mount Olympus where the gods feast on Ambrosia – good old English creamed rice pudding!
I know I should bone up on the British constitution before I speak my mind, but I’ve got this idea. Tell me, just why is it that the Duke of Windsor, who cosied up to the Nazis and had that horrid, skinny, greedy American woman Mrs Simpson telling him what to do all the time, why was he able to abdicate perfectly easily whereas they can’t make Philip our king? Couldn’t they simply swap their positions and have the Queen as his consort? It’s degrading for a fine man like Philip to always be following two steps back, downright silly, and I take my hat off to him for never complaining. And if they swapped jobs, she’d have much more time to spend with her beloved horses, so it would be a win-win situation!
She may be a rich woman but she must be an ever so lonely one, our Queen. Like Mrs Thatcher, it’s an isolated situation she’s in and it really must get to her sometimes, despite her lovely husband and the good old Queen Mum. Margaret and her playboys wouldn’t help much though, and I’m none too keen on that rather calculating and wilful Princess Anne either.
All this made me think about the Queen having those corgis around her. On the face of it, it’s a puzzle – a very fine woman indeed but a breed of dog I don’t care for at all. But then it all made sense. Corgis love their owners and hate everybody else – probably poor old Philip too [giggles]. She though gets unquestioning love from those corgis and they help keep the horrible pappa – what’s that Italian word for them? Papa…papageno? No, paparazzi – the corgis keep those intrusive papa… bastards (sorry) away. I always wanted an apricot poodle myself, but it was a rare moment when Leslie put his foot down: ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle. The Broadbridge home is not a poodle parlour!’ I was cross at the time but secretly quite impressed.
Mrs Broadbridge On Art
When I said to young Mark ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, he told me “That’s very Kantian, Mrs Broadbridge!”
Well, whatever these eggheads care to call it is fine by me, but I must be careful how I pronounce such a strange word. I can’t claim to have the sophistication or knowledge of Sir Kenneth Clark – or even Mark, but both Leslie and I certainly know what we like. The female nude is the most beautiful and time-honoured object ever known to man in art, and I admired Les’s sophistication when he bought our two signed prints by Sir William Russell Flint. He’s a knighted academician you know – and that’s what I always say to anyone who calls them ‘sexy’ – a bit embarrassing but I have to laugh!
To me, the more accurate and realistic the art is, the more impressive I find it. Abstract art does nothing, nothing to me: it’s 99.9% pretentiousness. I know a bit of Cockney rhyming slang from the telly and have a guess what rhymes with a load of Jackson Pollocks [prolonged giggling]. As for Picasso, I feel frankly sorry for him. I know he’s rich and has got all those silly girlfriends one third his age and is always swanning around in the South of France, but he lost his way badly with all that cubed rubbish after painting those lovely, very sad circus folk. What went wrong, I ask?
Henry Moore, well, he makes me think of one of my favourite hymns but not in a flattering way: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’! [giggles] Back to the art that we have in our humble abode. We’re a cut above the folk who are satisfied with reproductions everywhere, though they are fine for the spare bedrooms and the hallway. I’m a generous supporter of Radlett Art Society, and I have a number of their nice landscapes and flowers in vases – still lifes, as they call them – or is it lives?
And I’m very proud of my Rowland Hilder original signed print, it’s so wonderfully English – a corner of England ought to be in every self-respecting person’s lounge, I say. If Leslie had his way, he’d have more of the Russell Flints, but I tell him there’s a fine line between respectable art, and art that makes you blush. Broadbridges are broad-minded, but we definitely draw the line at Hawaiian girls on velvet, though I am partial to those rather magnificent stallions in sunset.
If I had a lot of money, I’d definitely get an Annigoni ballerina – that to me would be the ultimate. Oh, I must tell you, Leslie told me many years ago that he’d like one of those [rolls her eyes] tiger-skin rugs but I shut him up promptly: ‘Les, that’s vulgar! Over my dead body!’ He’s said nothing about it since. I feel I’ve hardly started so now I must tell you all about our joint passion, our pride and joy, our small but highly selective collection of Royal Doulton Toby Jugs…
Mrs Broadbridge On Music
Music has really gone to the dogs since the late 1950s, I think it must be, what with that horrid rock and roll. Music by juvenile delinquents for juvenile delinquents I call it. And though I liked the Beatles, especially Paul, and the Seekers, it all nosedived again in the late 1960s and now seems to be at the beck and call of long-haired druggie weirdos and those squalid, promiscuous festivals. Gone to pot, haha! No, thank you. Give me a good melody, any day: Oh what a beautiful morning, Three coins in the fountain, Stardust, proper songs like that – Michelle by the Beatles is rather lovely, too.
The key thing is, you could hear every word they were singing, whereas singers today don’t have a clue apart from Matt Monro – I hear he used to be a bus conductor and I can just imagine him singing out ‘Fares, please!’ to the tune of ‘Born free’ [giggles]. I wouldn’t really call myself musical – when I grew up we had a nicely polished walnut Broadwood piano, but only my elder sister Violet was allowed to touch it and I can never forgive her for that. She lives in Surrey, and is honestly rather hoity-toity. We still see each other at Christmas, so it’s quite civil really.
But I can sing in tune – this may surprise you but I’ve got quite a powerful voice, and I beat time well. I certainly don’t mind what I call light classical – In a monastery garden, the lovely Mario Lanza (Elvis tried to imitate him – ‘It’s now or never’, and the answer is obviously never!) And those wonderful bands that Les and I would dance to in our courting days – I may be a large woman but I have genuinely dainty feet, or at least I did till those horrid bunions. We would dance away to Semprini, Mantovani, the Joe Loss Orchestra and more. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Happy days – and the youth of today just don’t know what they’re missing!
Mrs Broadbridge On Race Relations
If I may say so, and I know it’s very controversial, but Enoch really has a point. I don’t think it’s really being racist to admit we have allowed too many of these Coloured Folk into our overcrowded country and you certainly won’t catch me in that curry house, stinks to high heaven, I bet.
Though I’ll tell you this [winks conspiratorially] Leslie and I do like our sweet and sour pork – Les likes his lemon chicken actually – at the New Garden, just for a bit of a treat every now and again. And, Joshua, Joshua, our very own Negro ticket collector at the station, he’s a real gentleman, lovely smile, and honestly, he puts the likes of us to shame. It’s a complicated world, isn’t it?
Mrs Broadbridge On Cars
I’m not one to hold forth on cars, I have plenty of other interests, leave that one to the men of the family. But when Les and I buy a new one, which is every 8 to 10 years or so, of course I like to try them all out and weigh up their pros and cons. It’s got to have a tasteful colour: beige, light green and primrose all appeal to me, nice and very fashionable colours for bathrooms too these days I believe.
And I do like a firm front seat, high up, so I’m Queen of the Road, and I can see everything ahead of me but also comment if need be on Les’s driving. He’s very good, but even he has his occasional lapses, like that silly little boy playing on the drive – but that could have happened to anyone, he wasn’t badly hurt and we even gave him a box of mini Mars bars when he was in hospital. We’re kind souls!
Well, I can’t abide those seat belts or any government which forces you to wear them – they can belt up, as far as I’m concerned. I do like my simulated sheepskin seat cover, and as a little luxury, a stereo radio, so I can listen in to Jimmy Young if we’re out at the time. As for the make of the car, I still say, when all is said and done, buy British. Les drives our beige Allegro with pride and honestly, it doesn’t break down at all often. And we certainly haven’t had a mishap like Mr Curtis with his Austin Maxi when he opened the door and the handle came off in his hand [giggles] – but Theo can be rather a rough man! No, very few breakdowns, touch wood – and I think there’s still a bit of veneered wood on the dashboard, though it’s not like it used to be.
Fancy cars are strictly for the younger generation. So far I’ve said nothing about my Mark. He was a bright kid and very much his own man, downright willful, really. Still is. His profession, which sounds very grand, is a purveyor of recreational medication, and he’s certainly done very well for himself there – a grander house than Violet’s in Surrey and a villa in Spain, I’ll have you know. And a new girlfriend, they’re mostly blonde, seems to pop up every other month, though some of them really do speak “common,” as they say.
But you should see his car! A bright red Ferrari Diana, I think it’s called. He might have been a bit of a rebel but, bless him, he’s proud of the Broadbridge name and he’s got this cherished number plate which he tells me cost him several thousand which reads, wait for it, BB 69. The BB is obvious, but the 69 is more puzzling, unless dear Mark was thinking of his father, who indeed turned 69 only the other day. Boys will be boys!
Mrs Broadbridge On God
Though I don’t go to church except at Christmas, I like it because it’s there, a reminder of God and a reminder of that good Vicar, the Rev Manley, that we had for so many years. He once admired my jam at the Horticultural show, second prize for damson it was. Peggy Major’s was all runny – a damson in distress [giggles]. But that new young vicar looks like Mick Jagger, if you ask me, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he plays the guitar in Christ Church – perish the thought. If I was God, I certainly wouldn’t want to be serenaded like that, even though Cliff Richard isn’t bad – and such a handsome lad with a touch of the Indian in him.
Looking at the world today, we really could do with another Jesus, or at the very least another visit from Jesus, but if he prefers to stay safe up in heaven, I wouldn’t blame him one little bit. God help us! Occasionally a churchy friend asks me about what I believe in, and whether Jesus matters to me. I tell them I’m full of admiration for him. He was obviously a very great, wonderful man who performed all these miracles, turning water into wine, turning loaves into fishes, when all poor old Uri Geller can do is bend spoons, of all the useless things!
If there is a saviour of today, I’d definitely say it was Margaret Thatcher. She really is quite someone. Almost spiritual, I reckon, there’s an aura about her whole being and that handbag is like the symbol of a great saint. Her eyes are a seer’s eyes and her mind is extraordinary. Jesus himself would look up to her! The Christians I can’t stand are those RC’s – dumb Irish mostly – always crossing themselves, and saying Father this, and Father that, while the chances are their beloved Father is sleeping with his housekeeper.
Bloody hypocrites (excuse my French) but I have to say I do rather like that Cardinal Hume – he makes you think it can’t be all bad. Basil. Nice man! But even worse are those Christians who go from door to door, spreading the word so they say, more like spreading diseases says I. The Broadbridge oak is firmly closed to them. Those Jehovahs people don’t believe in blood donations – I know I should give my blood but I’m squeamish, I would faint, but they’re always needing other people’s blood for this and that, so why in god’s name can’t they see this?
The best thing ever said to the door-knockers was by Mrs Stocker, who lives in that semi in Theobald Street. She opened the door and saw a couple of these men in dark suits. I know she’s a foreigner and her English can be faulty but you’d never believe what she said to them: “Hello, are you hormones?” They just fled, serves ’em right! I had such a laugh when she told me.
But now for a serious question, which Christians who are deeper thinkers than me are always going on about. Is there life after death? Ooh, my brain hurts is what my lovely grandson, Liam, would say to that but as I’m quite an intelligent woman, I’ll give it some thought.
No matter how good we are, when we’re dead we’re dead – we simply crumble into dust and that’s why I want a good Christian burial myself, the idea of being microwaved in a crematorium is dreadful – and you should hear the cheap recorded music they play there these days – “Come on baby, light my fire” was one of the songs [giggles]. But seriously, I know I’d die happy if the remains of Lilian Broadbridge become part of the soil that gives birth to a beautiful Peace rose, with a thrush perched on it, singing. Peace, perfect Peace, they should write on my gravestone.
Mrs Broadbridge On Her Nearest And Dearest
Mrs Broadbridge confessed to me the following in a lucid moment: ‘I do know I talk a fair bit about myself, but I’m considerably shyer than you think, and also, this may surprise you, I’m really quite a private person when it comes down to it. Keep your private life private is what I tell my nearest and dearest. Leslie knows that full well, and my Mark has worked that one out too in his profession.
By the way, I’ve always wanted to try one of his medications but he seems to keep the lid firmly shut on that. “No, Mrs B (that’s what he calls me, isn’t that lovely?), you cope fine on that modest dose of Valium that Dr Saunders puts you on – it helps make you the Mum you are. You won’t need that stuff I deal in, I mean purvey, honest!” Fair enough!
As for Susan, Mrs Broadbridge changes the subject, rolls her eyes, or looks the other way at the very mention of her daughter, a primary school aide in St Albans, while Roger, her son-in-law, ‘that bearded, geography teacher in a comprehensive… a bit of a drip if you ask me’, is if anything worse. Roger’s Labour Party activities are of course completely beyond the pale.
In her more compassionate moments, Mrs Broadbridge realises she’s being a little tough on Susan and at one point even briefly dabbed her primrose Kleenex when she told me this:
‘Let’s face it, that well-known Broadbridge charm has somehow by-passed our Susan. And she’s rather a plain girl with it. But she means well, I know that in my heart of hearts. And she’s flesh and blood, though she’s now Susan Jones, and you can’t take that away from her.
Her daughter Amy [shudders] does take after her mother, but I do remember her birthdays and she always gets a little something from Les and me at Christmas. She really needs to get her adenoids seen to. But Liam, Liam – the young scamp! I’d cross Tyke’s Water, I’d fight Hitler’s war for him.
That reminds me, I must go down the village to check at the pet shop when that ferret will be ready for him. Repulsive creature (the ferret I mean, of course!) but I’d love to see his face when he opens the box.
Talking of ferrets, I was watching Sir Kenneth Clark on da Vinci the other day and he was holding forth, as Sir Kenneth does with such style, about this portrait in communist Poland of a lovely blonde aristocratic girl which he called “Lady with an Ermine.” Well, these arty people really don’t have a clue – it’s obviously a ferret; my Fowler ancestors were good North Country people, and back in the day the menfolk, when they were in their cups, were known to stuff a live ferret down their mates’ trousers! I got that from Granny Fowler when I was a little girl and it all makes sense when I see my Liam and Mark!’
To confirm the above, and though no eavesdropper, this author was passing by the Broadbridge household just the other day and noticed Susan’s Ford Anglia parked there. The oak front door had been left inadvertently open, no doubt by her. Crouching down low beside the ivied wall, he was an unwitting witness to the somewhat one-sided conversation that follows. Clearly, Susan had been momentarily careless…
‘Don’t call me Mum, why do I have to tell you this? I never call you Sue though you say you wouldn’t mind. Call me Mother, or even, dammit, Mrs Broadbridge, if that won’t suit you. As for those flowers you gave me, you should know that reds and pinks shouldn’t be mixed like that and anyway, Leslie would tell you we’ve got quite enough Michaelmas daisies in our garden. But I suppose it was a kind thought. Now, here’s a shopping list of special things we can’t get down the village to get me in St Albans because the Allegro is in with the mechanics for the next few days. Normally I wouldn’t be imposing on you like this, and I’m sure you know that too. Though I’ve got one of those free passes they seem to dole out willy-nilly, I simply can’t abide those buses which never come, and when they do, they always seem to be full of silly pensioners!”
“Yes, Mother, and I’ll pay of course!”
“No, Susan, I know you mean well but I have my Mother’s Pride, and I don’t mean the bread. Here’s a £10 note and don’t lose your change, though it was your brother who’d always do that, bless him! Why not let our Liam keep the change, he could get himself a couple of those… what do they call them… transformers?”
I resolved to linger no longer, but I noticed Susan grinning bravely, knowing that Mrs Broadbridge’s unquestioning love of one of her two grandchildren was something to hold on to, and no doubt resolving to split the change between Liam and Amy.
More Politics With Mrs Broadbridge
Young Mark, our near neighbour who’s a rising university star, tells me he’s a liberal. A man of intelligence and culture (you should hear him talking about art, mark my words, he’ll be the new Kenneth Clark before you can say palette knife!) – but – and it’s a big but, I think his brain must have turned into mush when it comes to politics.
I have words for him: wishy-washy, flip-flop, wet behind the ears and more. He’s so interested in what the person he’s supposed to be arguing with him says, half the time he ends up agreeing with them, though occasionally he can show sense and agrees with me! But that doesn’t stop him coming up with daft sayings every now and then like “A lot of crime is a cry for help. It’s not the criminals, it’s society that’s to blame!” [puts on a high pitched, feminine voice]. One of those bleeding-heart do-gooders who live in cloud cuckoo land is our Dr Mark.
Honestly, you need the intelligence of a five-year-old to know right from wrong and all those Cambridge degrees must have turned him a bit soft in the head. I say, let the punishment fit the crime – the Bible was on to a good thing when it said “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
The other day, would you believe it, my bright little spark Liam bit poor Mr Van Noorden, the dentist! Well, he got his comeuppance alright when Mr Van Noorden went on to remove two of his teeth. That’ll learn him, as they say. ‘And count yourself lucky I don’t tie them to the door and slam it!’ he told him. Liam was quiet that whole evening Susan tells me, which must be a first. I reckon a bit of wisdom (not a wisdom tooth, he’s too young for that!) had sunk in.
Now back to politics: though I’m a true blue Tory, I don’t welcome all the kowtowing they do to those Brussels folk in the Common Market. It might benefit our trade but it certainly doesn’t benefit the cost of living. After decimalisation – they decimated us, as I tell people, there’s going to be metrication, and if that isn’t enough, fluoride in the water supply, all by order of Brussels!
I really don’t care much for those Continentals; at least all those coloured folk, well the older ones holding down jobs at least, do love and respect our Queen. While I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting we should have another war with the Jerries (though I loved wartime, I have to say), I’m very wary of them all the same. They need to remember that the three most important dates in German history are 1918, 1945 and (after extra time), 1966.
Those effete French aren’t much better: just imagine what it would be like on the buses and trains when we’re swamped with them and they’re breathing garlic at you. Their cooking is ever so la-di-da – cooking for poofs I call it – but the meat is just gristle and the way they disguise it with any amount of subtle sauces would never fool me. Chances are it’s rabbit or horsemeat – and they even ate cats and rats when they fought with the Germans a century ago! What with our problems with the coloureds, who wants a swarm of continentals on top of that?
Yet I do admit I have a soft spot for Italians, their men are ever so handsome in those tailored jackets and tight trousers (I can’t for a moment imagine my Leslie in a pair of them, he’d do the splits in seconds!). And to a man, those Italians know how to treat a lady, they have real charm. I’ve been to the Costa del Sol a couple of times and lovely and warm it is too (and getting all tiddly on far too much sherry and paella, yum yum!) but I would love a romantic holiday in Venice. I’d get a season ticket for those gondolas, and would look up with delight at the charming pilot who, while he’s steering me to the Doge’s Palace would be serenading me, just me, with “O sole mio!”
Back to politics. No wishy-washy liberals for me, and no stinking socialists taxing Leslie and me out of existence, and caving into striking miners, giving us power cuts and all those foul-mouthed trade union leaders with their Yorkshire and Scottish accents – at least you can’t understand a word the Scots say! Government by the government, say I, not those pesky unions.
Quite frankly, and if only more people could see it, the Conservatives are the only party with any backbone, and what with Mrs Thatcher now in No. 10, I believe she will be the greatest thing since Churchill and will make us all proud to be British again. With any luck she may even lead us out of the Common Market! The Tories are the party of the nation – One Nation as some of them call it – the party of the Queen and the Church (and don’t get me started on those liberal clergymen); the party of the armed forces, the police, law and order, an eye for an eye, three strikes and you’re in the clink.
A couple of years ago, Lady Radley took me along with her to the Conservatives’ conference in Brighton – I wore my best hat and quite enjoyed it for a couple of hours, though those politicos did talk a bit too much for my liking. A real highlight was that handsome Michael Heseltine, ‘Tarzan’ as some of the cheeky journalists call him – well, I can tell you, I’d be his Jane any day!
Appendix: The Mrs Broadbridge Limericks
Mrs Broadbridge Down the village, on each working day Mrs Broadbridge would chatter away On the dear price of meat, On her bunionèd feet And whether that vicar was gay.
Mr Broadbridge’s revenge The bank clerk who murdered his wife Spoke thus, before sentenced to life: ‘Such a truculent nag, An insufferable hag, So I went – like this – with my knife!’
Mrs Broadbridge in heaven The food, it’s all pretty and pink! That angel, he gave me a wink! James Last plays all day, Frank sings us ‘My Way’, I’ll stay here a while, I think!
I grew up in Radlett, Hertfordshire, about 15 miles from London, in the same cunningly modified semi-detached late 1930s home for the first 19 years of my life, and would periodically return there, sometimes from New Zealand, for a further 19 years.
Our place was right by a bluebell wood and opposite wheat fields. Back then, Radlett was a rather smug, solidly, perhaps even slightly upper, middle-class place. Today it is dominated by footballers, plutocrats and other nouveaux riches. In my day, there were two titled people on my Horticultural Society delivery list (Dad was an avid dahlia grower) – and our quarterly bulletin was the splendidly titled, Weeder’s Digest.
The heroine of the literary amuse-bouches that follow, Mrs. Lilian Broadbridge, long gone to Jesus, lived in a detached house in the street running parallel to us, Newberries Avenue. Fortunately her back garden was one along, but within easy hailing distance – and, by Jove, her voice carried.
Were she alive today, I think she would be tickled pink by the thought of having her views on race relations and the Royal Family as well as her wider Weltanschauung committed to print (these are coming up in the months ahead)!. There’s even a thank-you letter from her to Dr Dass to that effect.
Her husband, Leslie, was a shadowy presence, whose later years were absorbed in his stamp collection, watching cricket on TV, and silently working in the garden during her lengthy absences ‘down the village’, as everyone called it.
Mrs. Broadbridge Talks Politics
Though I always vote what my Leslie votes for, for us it’s just like what Henry Ford said about cars. You can have any colour, so long as it’s true blue [laughs]. He actually said black, I know a thing or two about history, but you know what I mean. A proud, true blue Tory, that’s me, born, bred – and educated.
Mrs. Thatcher wants to protect our great grammar schools, and I can tell you that getting into Watford Grammar was a life-saver for young Les. You won’t catch me dead in a ditch voting Labour! Their aim is to make everyone, regardless of their ability and intelligence, everyone equal. That’s alright on a desert island maybe, but on our island with 55 million people on it, it’s another matter. Equality is the slippery slope to communism, mark my words. And what did we fight the War for, with Winston at the helm, if it wasn’t to keep out those nasty Nazis and their pals the Reds?
Labour wants to tax you up to the hilt, down to the final penny. Les and I have precious little to show for after the taxman cometh, even with Mrs. Thatcher, thank heaven she’s in no. 10 now. And the price of those fresh vegetables at Draper’s (you’d never catch me going to Daryll’s on the other side of Watling Street), is really shocking. Melons 50p each! Never did I ever think it would come to this.
We have to scrimp and save, Les and me. And when we drove through the council estate on our way to Watford the other day, there was a late model Rover, or even worse a Toyota (I’ll never forgive them for what they did to our lads in the War).
Where was I? Yes, a gleaming Toyota parked on just about every drive, it made me almost ashamed of our Allegro. I ask you, where does all their money come from? And you should see what they cram into their trolleys in the supermarket, honestly, all those Cola bottles, beer cans by the dozen, huge packets of crisps, it’s money no object – alright for some!
Well, talking of shopping, I’d best be going down the village again myself, Les is clean out of his pipe tobacco, he’s a very particular man is our Les, but let me tell you this, though I love watching Cilla on Blind Date and some of those young men are really handsome, I’d never, ever hope to find a better or more loving husband…
Mark interjects (no chance earlier): So he’s a real man, is he?
Mrs Broadbridge: Oh you are a one! [Dissolves into laughter].
Mrs Broadbridge On Feminism
Those feminists are whiners and whingers. I never needed feminism and just look at me now! As for bra-burning, well that’s even more stupid. When Leslie was courting me, he admired my endowments. Wearing a bra is part and parcel of them. Burning it would be like smashing my lovely, privately prescribed, tortoiseshell glasses, cutting off your nose to spite your face.
And let me tell you this. If a woman can’t influence her husband in every way, she must be some kind of a ninny. I’m quite progressive, really, and once the children are at school, I quite understand it if a woman wants to go back into the big wide world and find a job – and do very well in it. But that’s about as far as my feminism goes and if that cocky Germaine Greer ever comes anywhere near Newberries Avenue, I’ll jolly well give her a piece of my mind!
Mrs Broadbridge Says Thank You
[Ooh! I have a soft spot for handsome Indian gents, while Les is a big fan of that cunning slow bowler in the pink turban, the Venerable Bedi he calls him!]
Dear Dr Dass, Never would I have thought that our clever young Mark, from that semi-detached in Theobald Street, would be featuring an article on the likes of us!! Truth be told, I’m really chuffed. You notice, as a literary man, how I write it correctly, not “never would I of thought.” There lies a story! I wrote that in primary school and got a black star, my only one. My teacher said, and full of sarcasm Miss Venables was, ‘You don’t want to be one of the great unwashed!’
No I do not, and to this day I’ll have you know I enjoy two hot baths a week, complete with my lovely Yardley Lavender salts. Leslie, he does the same, and – I’ll let you into a little secret – he sings rather loudly in the bath. Lordy, I heard him bellowing out :We all live in a yellow submarine” last night, and it gave me quite a giggle.
Well, that’s more than enough of our private lives for the time being at least, but before I go, just to say many thanks indeed for publishing our boy!!
Sincerely yours and God bless, Lilian Broadbridge (Mrs.)
The featured image shows, “Housewives’ Choice,” by Winifred Hartley; painted in 1956. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Crawford.
Sorry, fans, I’m being more taciturn and less loquacious this month. But every word counts and every poem and joke is paradigm shifting. Take the Andy Warhol joke below: it will surely make my many feminist readers question themselves, just as they question the patriarchy, male gaze n’ stuff, during most of their waking (or should I say woke?) hours.
My political acumen aside, let me tell you that hundreds of hours of poetic and comedic toil are involved behind the scenes to attain the right level of polish and wit in my contributions. In fact, I’m remarkably like another great poet, John Berryman, albeit marginally less agonised, but that’s quite enough self-analysis for now.
OVER TO THE EDITOR…
This month’s dollop of delights rounds off a year since Dr Stocker’s first hesitant and nervous contributions to the Postil Magazine.
In the interim period, thanks very largely to me, he has morphed from an awkward, pimply adolescent to a craggily handsome 65-year-old, as iconic as best period Eastwood (an excellent Republican, by the way). Not only does he promise another year of jokes and poetry, but he will follow you all the way home from the shopping mall declaiming them through his megaphone, and if you’re British, will irrepressibly continue with many more via the letter-box on your front door. There’s no escape!
This month’s selection involves both poetic elegance and a modicum of frankly rather laboured, groan-eliciting jokes, punctuated by the rapier-like wit of the final one.
In case you’re wondering, the editor wrote every word of this, Scout’s honour. And he’s one discerning fellow…
Two limericks On Antonio Canova
(Mario Praz was a celebrated Italian critic and man of letters. He was perhaps fortunate to have died before Damien Hirst came to fame).
A sculptor of genuine flair, Praz nicknamed him “frigidaire.” But his carving – all white – Is no longer all right, And scholars of colour despair!
Roll over, Canova, your white Carving no longer looks right. You’re effete and slack, Not gifted and black, A discredited aesthete’s delight.
A fine limerick from Dr. Stocker’s art historian friend, James, and his boorish riposte:
A high gothic statue at Rheims Adopted a classical stance. When they asked: “Are you gay?” He replied, “Hell, no way, I’m the straightest stone statue in France!”
Fastidious James, how he screams When I dare pronounce Rheims as “Reems;” And St Denis “Dennis,” Compounds the menace. Vulgarity rules, so it seems!
A gnome admirer of the late Donald Rumsfeld was ostracised when he claimed: “There are no gnomes!”
Excerpt from Dr Stocker’s 101 art history lecture on the great Andy: “Arguably Warhol took his flirtation with radical outsiders a trifle far when he was shot by one of them. His would-be assassin, feminist Valerie Solanas, was profoundly unappealing – indeed, one of the SCUM of the earth.”
Critic Mark Stocker’s opening words to his Damien Hirst review: “Hirst in a pickle:”
“I have little time for Damien Hirst. A confident artist, for sure, but too easily cowed. Hirst has powerful artworld allies and any critical reviewer senses he is circled by sharks. Yet Hirst’s talent blooms in his pretty flower pieces. They are not made by him, I will have you know, but they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat…”
My trendy artworld sister refused to talk about the magnificent paintings by wildlife artist David Shepherd hanging on my walls. It was clearly the elephant in the room.
A typing error which unconsciously reveals a lot about the state of the world today: homophobiz.
A conservative art critic subjected the late work of Matisse to a cutting review.
The featured image shows, “The Merry Drinker,” by Judith Leyster, painted in 1630.
Me, I’ve been a poet since the age of six or seven, when my mentor was the very great Spike Milligan. The following was my favourite “Uncle Spike,” and I somewhat fear, dear readers, that it isn’t especially woke: “A thousand hairy savages/ Sitting down to lunch/ Gobble-gobble, glub-glub/ Munch, munch, munch!”
Not only did I admire its visceral intelligence, but for a six-year-old, being taught stuffy English middle-class manners and mores, it was irresistibly subversive. Under Spike’s influence, I penned the following couplet:
“My dear,” said I, “my bonnie lass.” But she replied, “You silly ass!”
It would prove uncannily prophetic à propos my subsequent overtures to the fair sex. Though my creativity and quality have somewhat dimmed since, I now find the Muse hits me powerfully, and in my unbiased view, not unimpressively. Blame semi-retirement for that. So here, dear reader, find a number of art historical Limericks – these shouldn’t upset anyone fearing an abrupt transition from the genre of my jokes. Talking of which, one really good joke does accompany this selection.
In this preface – the editor considers my output here worthy of Dr Johnson on the Bard (and he’s spot-on, as usual) – I will refrain from providing any of the usual, tedious art historical summaries. Apart from the Kiwi-Croatian painter Milan Mrkusich (1925-2018), an abstract artist of singular intellect, rigour and impenetrability to fools who wish every picture to tell a story, my exemplars are all well-known figures, compatible with everybody’s cultural arsenal. “Bloody Arsenal!” protests one reader (the epithet was stronger), “What about Spurs?”
My good man, is my reply, pray what do you think you are doing, reading this erudite journal?
But first, some amuses-bouche…
A well-known writer, Marcus Stocker, had just written a novel which he was quite pleased with, but for reasons best known to himself, decided to change the name of his leading character from David to Geoff. The “find” and “replace” function did its bit. Rather too well, as Stocker only remembered when it was too late that he had referred to a famous statue by Michelangelo…
My friend Lisa, an attractive young woman with plucked eyebrows who has a lovely smile the rare moments she is serene, is nonetheless prone to whine and whinge. You qualify as an art historian if you can guess her nickname.
My Maori friend Tama is slightly affected, and has artistic aspirations. Hence, he named his beloved daughter Moana Lisa. [pause for laughs] Later on in life, Tama was prone to eloquence in praising Moana’s beauty: “Moana Lisa rocks; she’s older than the rocks among which she sits”, blahblahblah. Moana is a smart lass, and and her response is “Oh shut up, Pater!”
Right. Now on to the much-anticipated limericks…
Eat your poor heart out Yeats, You’re no better than Stocker or Keats There was once a time You could make it rhyme But now who admires your bleats?
An elderly painter named Milan Said, “I’ve got this brilliant p-lan I’ll paint a red square, What it means I don’t care, But critics will all praise my e-lan”
Rodin told Camille Claudel, You really are my kind of gel, You’re a real good looker Ma petite French cooker, Now, help with those damn Gates of Hell!’
A very idiomatic translation of the above follows from Mark’s attractive friend, Antoinette. He asks, “Why do the French always end up going to bed when we’d rather play Scrabble™?” To which she replies, “Come with me, Dr Stocker, and find out!” But I digress!
Rodin dit à Camille: T’es quand même une chic fille! Tu excelles au ciseau Presque autant qu’aux fourneaux. Mais tu es, mon canard, Encore mieux au plumard!
The heterosexual male Will try but invariably fail De ne jamais toucher Le grand sexy Boucher; He really is beyond the pale!
Georg Baselitz leaped into fame With paintings that all looked the same. His figures – inverted – Made us once disconcerted, But he’s now at the top of his game!
Henry Moore said, “My sculpture is goals, Organic and pierced with great holes. This was Barbara’s idea, Now it’s mine – the poor dear, You women have second’ry roles!”
An erudite scholar of Mich- elangelo, Klee and Van Dyck [not our Bard – Ed.] Claimed, “For my part, I know all about art, But I’ve no idea what I like!”
Picasso’s Les Demoiselles Insults sweet Avignon gels. But he said, “I don’t care If they’re cubic or square So long as my masterpiece sells!”
David resolved for a laugh, He’d paint old Marat’s last bath. He paid for his error, Supporting the Terror, And did Charlotte hurt him? Not half!
Bernini, when sculpting Theresa, Said, “I just know what will please her. An angel – so fierce Her body will pierce As heavenly sentiments seize her!”
As an apt aside, here are some of my favourite artists… There’s Jackson, the painterly dripper, Fontana the loose canvas ripper, The pious Giotto, The decadent Watteau And Frith, the Ramsgate day tripper!
Dr Mark Stocker is a former academic and art curator who lives in New Zealand. Besides his jokes, he has 230 marginally more serious publications, many of which are on Victorian public monuments, numismatics and New Zealand art. His book When Britain Went Decimal: The Coinage of 1971 will be published by the Royal Mint in 2021.
The featured image shows, “Self-caricature in profile, standing,” a drawing by Edward Lear, October 1870.
Some shocked readers will say disbelievingly, “No art this time?” In response, I feel a tautly-argued paper, “The aesthetics of garden gnomes,” coming on. I would write it with Andy Williams’s “Gnome lovin’ man” as background music. If anyone is interested, I did the comparable exercise with Lego(TM). I told the chairman of the board of my museum he would benefit from reading it, and was no doubt unwittingly signing my death-warrant in the imminent restructure.
But I digress. My liberal left-wing mid-century modernist parents, bless them, brought me up to despise garden gnomes as signifiers of vulgar and contemptible petit-bourgeois values upholding hegemonic capitalism. This thesis was confirmed by the late Shirley Williams, an endearing left-liberal British politician, who rapidly came to the conclusion that attempting to canvas any gnome-infested household during elections was doomed to failure, as their guardians were invariably complacent Tory philistines. Naturally I was intrigued by all of this, and felt like sticking up for these delightful little men and their Tory owners, and even defying parental admonitions. Were gnomes not subaltern victims of oppressive academic/art world culture?
It was not until my 50s, however, that I quite summoned up the nerve to buy two “collectible” gnomes, rather worse for wear, and left them happily in their garden when I moved locations and into an apartment. So, after this brief fling, I am once more gnomeless. Any analyst, Lacanian or otherwise, would nonetheless tell from these jokes that I have a deep-seated sense of identity with gnomes, before quizzing me on my love-life and innermost desires, possibly beyond gnomes – but reader, my lips are sealed! Someone who enjoyed a far more colourful love-life than mine was the great poet and writer of the Claudius novels, Robert Graves. He was a war hero with a zest for life, sharp intelligence and lack of political correctness that compares with the badly-missed Prince Philip. The two men would have got on like a house on fire. Graves’s famous poem “Down, wonton [sic] down” is brilliantly raunchy – Lord Rochester recast some 250 years later…
What is the favourite poem of Gnomes? Robert Browning: “Gnome thoughts from abroad.”
Here’s a favourite Gnome saying (NB: they are pretty right-wing): “A woman’s place is in the gnome.” It vies in popularity with “Gnome, sweet gnome!”
The government of the Gnomes recently funded a project to determine everybody’s DNA sequencing. It was naturally called the Gegnome Project.
Gnomes are, as I say, a conservative lot. Accordingly, the standard occupation for their fair sex is “Gnome-maker.”
What is the favourite magazine of lady Gnomes? Gnome and Garden.
What is yet another favourite saying of their culture? “All roads lead to Gnome.”
A slightly troubled Gnome goes to a psychiatrist, who asks him, “I hope you don’t mind telling me as to whom you are sexually attracted?” “Male Gnomes, of course, the bushier the beard the better!” “Ah, then you must be a gnomosexual!” (I trust this isn’t gnomophobic)!
The Gnomes decide to build a very large monument of a triumphant gnome which has the simple and obvious title of Gnome. Being industrious little chappies, the monument is nearly completed by the end of the day whereupon, most unfortunately, the gardener collides into it with his wheelbarrow, causing untold damage. The gnomes are in a state of grief and denial, but their glib project manager tells them reassuringly, “It’s OK, guys, stay cool. Gnome wasn’t built in a day.”
Gnomes are avid historians. Here is a timeline of important events:
753 BCE: Founding of Gnome
1066 CE: The Gnome-man Conquest
1922 Gnome rule for Ireland. Civil war ensues with the Leprechauns.
In their intellectual tastes, our little friends particularly esteem baffling thinkers, e.g., Duns Scotus, Hegel and Heidegger. Indeed, the more “gnomic” the better!
Moving right along …
When Robert Graves was in a Chinese restaurant, a gorgeous dollybird entered the premises and made him choke with emotion. He spluttered: “Down, wonton, down!”
What is the specialist cuisine of the Chinese navy? Junk food.
The Ballymoney Debating Society rashly decided to hold a gentlemanly debate: “This house believes that the Irish have something in common.” Fisticuffs and shillelagh-bashing ensued, before the motion was unanimously defeated.
Well, chaps, one or two of these are likely to be over the heads of the common herd, so I am assisting with a few select images. The first joke alludes to a famous Caspar Friedrich painting. Ernest Trobridge designed fantastic houses in unfashionable petit-bourgeois London suburbs like Kingsbury. Hands up who’d prefer to live in one of these rather than an overpraised Le Corbusier villa, baking in summer, freezing in winter, with a roof that constantly leaked?
Talking of over-praise, someone all of you will have heard of (and I bet you wish you hadn’t) is Patti Smith. Excellent LP in Horses, but she should have been confined to her stables these past 40 years. I have a good mind to start a campaign to get her expelled from the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The juxtaposition of Alfred Stevens’s Valour and Cowardice and the endearing Oscar the Grouch (clearly inspired by Diogenes), is too irresistible not to reproduce. I wanted to include this reference in the entry I penned on Stevens for the Grove Dictionary of Art, but the editor said no, probably because many readers of the GDoA wouldn’t know their Sesame Street. But they do have a sense of humour, as attested by volume 19 of the series, “Leather to Macho.” Furthermore, at my insistence they included an entry on Maurice Sendak. Bless! I will squeeze in an extra joke in the hope that Nirmal won’t notice [Ed. he noticed!]. You didn’t know this but Maurice Sendak had aspirations as a songwriter as well as an illustrator. So he sent his idol, Elvis Presley, his new song. Unfortunately Elvis was distinctly unimpressed, and told Colonel Parker: “Return to Sendak!”
How might one best describe an unsuspecting student exposed to the New Art History in c. 1990? A Wanderer in the Sea of Fog.
A great G.F. Watts painting fetched a record price at Sotheby’s yesterday. The Sun’s headline: “500,000 Watts!”
Exhibitions they would never dare put on: Popular vs Art World Realism: W.P. Frith and Edouard Manet Bastien-Lepage vs. The Impressionists Battle of the Styles: Le Corbusier and Ernest Troubridge Miami Baroque: The Architecture of Maurice Lapidus Good and bad pottery: Alan Caiger-Smith and Grayson Perry Prince Charles and the Architecture of Good Manners Making Britain Great Again: The Margaret Thatcher Era (V&A) Contrasted Bodies: Alberto Giacometti and Fernando Botero (or maybe Ample Bodies: Gaston Lachaise and Fernando Botero) The Male Gaze: Alberto Vargas and Mel Ramos.
And major retrospectives of any of the following: Félicien Rops; Frank Brangwyn (outside Brugge); Frank O. Salisbury; Rowland Hilder; Albert Speer; John Bratby; Rolf Harris; Beryl Cook; Thomas Kinkade; Margaret Keane.
And major exhibitions I hope will never be put on: Bob Dylan; George W. Bush; the watercolours of Prince Charles; Winston Churchill, painter; anything by or about Patti Smith or Derek Jarman.
Great art historical juxtapositions somehow avoided by curators: William Holman Hunt, The Scapegoat; Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram. Edward Burne-Jones, The Golden Stairs; Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. Pablo Picasso, Guernica; Frank O. Salisbury, The Coronation of King George VI (both 1937). Alfred Stevens, Valour and Cowardice; Sesame Street Workshop, Oscar the Grouch.
What did a French photographic connoisseur say when he was shown a Fox Talbot calotype? “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas Daguerre!”
What is Rodin’s yummiest sculpture? The Burgers of Calais.
Art to charm your vegan friends: The Butcher’s Shop (Annibale Carracci); almost anything by Snyders, Oudry or Damien Hirst; Carcass of Beef (Chaim Soutine); and of course, Figure with Meat (Francis Bacon).
Added Joke (Rather, Five Added Jokes! Ed.)
The singer Shirley Bassey had an intellectual side, little known to her many fans. She was an avid reader of British poetry of the 1930s. Hence her famous hit, “Hey, Big Spender!”
A Hitler witticism: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Röhm was destroyed in a night!”
13th century political gossip: “My friend Lance is a bit of a leftie… Doesn’t believe those vilains are villains and he signed the Magna Carta, don’t you know!”
A famous politically correct Anglo-Saxon: Hereward the Woke.
Dr Mark Stocker is a former academic and art curator who lives in New Zealand. Besides his jokes, he has 230 marginally more serious publications, many of which are on Victorian public monuments, numismatics and New Zealand art. His book When Britain Went Decimal: The Coinage of 1971 will be published by the Royal Mint in 2021.
The featured image shows, “The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten),” by Robert Henri; painted in 1910.