Join the commuters one morning in the capital city of the seagirt land of Amphisia. Hurry! Walk east on the north side of the Rostral Square by the facade of the Great Gallery of Art to St Swallows slender spire, or west, to the adjacent Granite Bank. HURRY! – this twentieth centuries summer sun triplicates each step. Some dozen plane trees ring the Square an islet beleaguered by a metal floodtide. HURRY, hurry, HURRY.
And an upright male pudenda! Does this euphemism offend? Fancy a prim minus supine and on the first page! High above the tree tops soars this Grecian Phallus, Victory’s Rostral Column. Twin fountains (twin testicles) nestle below these plane tree pubes – shorn now, alas, Seek ye the scrotum scorbutic. With the Square as a social ilium, the Great Gallery becomes the artistic loins of the Nation, slung between the iliac crests of Church Sinistra and banker’s Dextran.
Southwards, the Great Government Ministries that line a famous way make stout limbs for our limber colossus and the northern terrain promises a new Flora, an old Mars or a refurbished Mammon for the matrix of our Hermaphrodite.
Let not your vision stray to ensure you see, in the vestibule of the Great Gallery, a blues clad figure squeegee-ing water o’er the grimy mosaic or a-polishing the brasses at the Best Door nearby; brasses for LETTERS and PRESS, lumpy knobs and chains with grey-green remnants of yesterday’s yesterdays dried Brasso clinging to those shallows that escape the laggard rag. Breath with our shadowy hero, rub the saucery bell-press and observe – oh please observe! In this home spun camera-obscura. The Lilliputian square and its ant like orbiting minions, dominated by a porcelain press-button and snot free hairy nostrils.
Then turn to the multi-hued pigeon shit be-splattering the short path leading to the purple-grand Best Door; grey, crimson and bottle-green, this guano (especially on Monday, having lain over the weekend) defies brush and water and creates a desiccated aroma that pervades the Square and the Gallery’s façade. The pigeons dine at the fruit market over the week-end, the office workers rest then, and Friday’s sliced bread is but a memory by Sunday.
Myself, me, I – Solly Hughes – I in my turn will perform these duties and others. A few weeks before I’d become an attendant after what seemed a cursory interview; aren’t the Gallery’s masterpieces priceless? The loss of my previous job was a disaster for me. I had applied freedom and enterprise to my duty-dreams, but the cup was dashed from my lips, my secretions of success spilled. I was not yet one of the ‘Elect’. The courtesy of my accountant interviewer restored me. He shook my hand and wished me luck.
At ten o’clock the Monday after I presented myself at the brown Least Door for my first day in that city nick-named ‘The Laxative of the world.’ Things move quicker there! In a honeymoon daydream I was ‘shown the ropes’ by a chirpy man named Alfie (retired now) and moved tables, chairs and boxes to and fro. ‘Getting the hang of the place’ said my naïf mentor: one of the courtyards – outside steps and lime pit pocale – was made for executions! Alfie might well officiate with an apologetic flick of the rope, while the victim – that’s you brother – presses a sovereign into his palm.
The endless passages, our winsome forays, much bemused me. I gazed upon many a mystery; the pulse of the traffic outside a measure of man’s might. A fine dust lay everywhere and a milky way of microbes danced in the abbreviated sun shafts.
Breath gently sweet Solly (I was bedevilled by sinusitis, acquired at an avant-garde Gallery, no names, beware their antiquated coke heating). My stuffed up snout cost me many a bleary day and rheumy night. So I kept a close rein and handled my scruffy burdens WITH CARE.
Soon I had a uniform, made in a black roughage, hacked to misfit. My awful past: when I was a clippie; the sweaty arm-crotch, the gawky ankle-wrist and that pinched Army cut a la Dunkirk! Clad thus, I was posted at the Best Door as Doorman. I lurked behind the ponderous doors, engaging in speed contests for the knob with pre-occupied souls who descended upon me unheralded, hell-bent for the exit… But for hour upon hour no-one knocked. I was a week in this ante-room to nowhere, a generous dimensioned cell. A cell graced by two great cartoons; one above the radiator, that grilled my day to a frazzle, and one on the wall before me depicting Pygmalion and his statue.
The ardent embrace kneads the figure alive – it’s a rare feeling. Mighty muscled and intent piggy he grasps the marble flesh and she yields her rocky realms. La Dolce Vita! But I had no floozy handy – though plenty of stone – yes, all those stony faces coming and going, milestones of recessive humanity.
It was great at the end of the day to see the Starlings wild, wide flight; the cheerful chatter and the dizzy stoop atoned for my solitude; but… yes, oh yes, there’s a BUT! I was wary of my new mates and resolved to keep ‘meself’ to ‘meself’ except when duty called. Up the Flag… On-paryde…
So I took coffee in the gallery restaurant and lunch in a pub, divorcing myself from the gossipy restroom (we attendants had a cooker there). Playing the toff hurt my pocket, but it was worth it to sit at a table away from our benevolent Director and his staff. They brought the outer world to my claustrophobic day and I sketched them (I’ve taken lessons). So far so good… I drifted KON TIKI like semaphoring a nod when undertaking a chore or directing the public. Serene as a sunbeam, I reflected the genuine ochre. Yes, yes that’s me! And how nice to be in these wild flung reaches and not until ten o’clock of the civilised morn; in wet weather you dry out in comfort, everything’s spicker than span and the place is stocked with oceans of endeavour.
I did talk to one blithe spirit – you Mac! – you said I’d be a week here and a week there ‘round the rooms like a satellite’, your very expression. I knew then that you were simpatico, bless you! ‘Be careful of Farley – the Top Attendant’. Remember? So I was prepared when I overheard gossip re-unreal duties, concerning toilets (more of this in a minute). In these high latitudes in the Kingdom of Amphysia – the sun never sets on her – you’ve to battle for your rights. I was getting to know the pictures all the same.