The Queen Writes for Privatt Eye
THE KING – MY MAD AXEMAN HUSBAND!
An exclusif tale by Catherine Parr
Astonished. That was the onlie word to describe my feelings on learning the true nature of Henry V111, my late husband. Before our marriage he had seemed a meeke, gentle soul, devoted to his hobbies of falconry, minstrelsy and making war. Yet what a shock awaited me on our wedding night.
“Look ye, wife,” he said. “I am sent by god as a holy mission to destroy those that are unfaithful and whoremongers, Already I have slain two wives and thou shalt be the third at the first sign of nookey.”
Thus began my life of terror with ye Tudor Ripper. Of an evening he would go I know not where and yet I dare not stir from my room, for spies were set about me. Now at last I can tell the gentle readers of Privatt Eye how he would come back from his escapades, half-crazed with sack and breathing threats.
“My wives have all been separated,” quoth he many times, “sometimes with an axe, sometimes by my Lord Cranmer with a piece of paper. Thou canst truly say that I have chopped and changed! So watch thy step!”
And his jest would make him roar with laughter. But I, to whom could I turn? To the constabulary, perchance? Do not make me laugh. I was truly a tragic prisoner in a royal terror love-nest situatione.
(Next week: King tellest me, a male heir or else. My night of passion with the Tudor Ripper. I find an axe beneath his pillow. Only in Privatt Eye!) Copywrighte Catherine Parr 1548
2004-Draft Introduction to an Autobiography
My mother and I were in a shoe shop once, in the small town where I grew up, and the salesman started talking to my mother about all the varied people that came to buy shoes, and the odd way in which they behaved, notably the way in which most women chose the shoes for most men. I can see, looking back, that if you are stuck in a shoe shop all day long, your experience of life is limited to the people who come to buy shoes. Of course, that includes everyone. On the other hand, people who come to buy shoes are in a certain frame of mind. Surly, in the case of children; solicitous and caring, in the case of mothers.
‘I could write a book about the people who have passed through here,’ he said, chuckling and getting another box down for my mother to hesitate over. ‘I do not exaggerate. A whole book.’
Equally, I could not imagine ever getting to meet them. By that time I had started learning Latin, which meant that I had already done a bit of Julius Caesar’s Campaigns, those military histories written in gruff simple Latin as befits a gruff simple soldier, yet I don’t think it had ever occurred to me how odd it was that a man would lead an army all the way across Europe as far as Britain, conquering everyone in his path, the Belgae and the Gallae and whatever the British were called in those days, and then go back to Rome and write it all down in a book.
How did it come about?
Did Caesar say to his wife one day: ‘You know, darling, the things I’ve done and the people I’ve slaughtered. I could write a book about it, I really could!?
And did Caesar say ‘All right, I will!’?
So that two thousand years later children were still wishing his wife had minded her own business?
These are the kinds of thing we shall never know about Caesar, because he had the good sense to keep personal details out of his books, and because he was born before the day of the modern author interview, the kind in which the writer is asked to reveal everything about his book, the writing of his book and the funny stories about the writing of the book.
‘So, Caesar, you have brought out another volume of campaign reports. Who have you conquered this time?’
‘Yes, my new book, Campaigns in Britain, tells the story of how we have finally cleaned up the last unoccupied part of Europe, the huge windswept island across the seas from Gaul known as Britannia. It was tough, because these British are really good fighters, and the weather was awful, but we did the job anyway, it’s all there in the book, now on sale for twenty-three libra.’
‘Can you tell us why you decided to write the book?’
‘I thought it was time to set the record straight. There has been a lot of uninformed gossip about the behaviour of my men and the expense of the whole expedition, so I just wanted to present the facts, as well as tell a rattling good yarn with lots of excitement and killing.’
We really have no idea what Julius Caesar the writer was like, and I never had much idea what Conan Doyle was like either (I once heard an ancient recording of his voice and I was surprised at the time either by how Scottish his voice was, or by how there was no Scottish tinge left in his accent at all - I only wish I could remember which) but I have a clear memory of what the shoe salesman was like who told my mother about the book he could write. He was middle-aged and pale and balding, and had glasses, which tried to fall off every time he bent forward to force my foot into a shoe, and for the first twenty years of my life he was the only person I ever met who expressed any desire to write a book.
I am glad of this, because it put my own writing ambitions into proportion. Others of my contemporaries who thought they might become writers one day tended to want to pit themselves against Hemingway or James Joyce or Dylan Thomas, and not surprisingly none of them ever made the effort. The challenge was too great and the thought too daunting. I, on the other hand, wanted to write a book better than the shoe salesman in my home town, which I thought was an eminently reachable target. Especially as he had never written one, only thought about it.
1. Which countries are the main producers of:
a) rotting tomatoes on quaysides
b) non-existent sugar
c) the champagne drunk at 10 Downing Street?
2. Describe how you would give apparent independence to an apparently independent region without actually letting it have any real say in its own affairs. Would you argue most in favour of:
b) an incomprehensible new system of three-tier local government
3. Give some idea of the effect on a national communications system of the following factors:
a) a national strike
b) a walk–out by ten drivers at Victoria
c) motorway madness
d) snow on the points at Basingstoke
e) a defective blackboard announcement at Oxford Circus underground station
f) the opening of a £5,000,000 2-mile by-pass round Carlisle
g) the disappearance of Rutland
h) the return of Fawlty Towers
4. Bearing in mind that Awayday concessions do not start until 9.30 am and that the average delay of trains is half an hour, would a day-tripper to York from London:
a) get three hours sightseeing in the city
b) be lucky to get a glimpse of the Minster from the station c) be best advised to get off and have a good time in Grantham?
5. The River Thames has been described as London’s “heart”. Given that the focus of shipping has been moving downstream from the Pool of London at the rate of ten miles a year since 1965, will London’s heart by AD2000 be at
6. Where did Rutland go to? Do not confuse with Jutland.
Hospital Plan Insurance services
Oct 22nd 1997
That’s all he does. He does nothing else.
God only knows.'
Dear Mr Brett,
You keep writing to me saying that I have won a TOP CASH AWARD and wondering why I haven't got back to you. Well, I'll tell you. Shortly before my mother died, she made me promise to do three things: never to eat in a Little Chef, never to help old ladies cross the road ('They will only want to be helped back later, and then they'll want to come and stay with you, and they they'll try to take over' she said) and never to accept free gifts. I promised. Later, I wondered if by "free gifts" she meant large cash blandishments or simply free CDs and lipstick samples stuck to the front of magazines, but it was too late to ask her by then. I did once attend a spiritualist séance where the medium got in touch with my mum, and I was about to ask her what kind of free gifts she meant, when the medium said: 'Hold on- your mother has thought of a couple of other things she doesn't want you to do either', so I asked her to lose contact immediately before she could tell me. I hope you understand.
A Scene, discarded by the playwright, from Julius Caesar, in which JC is seen to have exactly the same relationship with his publisher as modern authors.
The scene is Rome. Enter Caesar, Casca, Antonius and others. There follows them Flaminius, a publisher.
Flaminius: O, Caesar, stay! I would have words with you!
Casca: What is it, fellow, that ye interrupt
The peaceful passage of our noble Caesar? .
Flaminius: I would not for the world disturb his peace,
But I have a bond with Caesar, signed and sealed,
And need to jog his memory now and then,
For fear he does forget his debt to me.
Casca: : His debt to you? O, thou'rt but a slave!
Say, how could mighty Caesar owe you aught?
Flaminius: I am a publisher, Flaminius by name,
And many moons ago did Caesar vow
To hand to me a brand new manuscript
Wherein he told the story of his wars,
With fulsome details of his strategy,
And now and then a little bit of sex.
The better to remind him of our compact
I did upon that day a sum advance
Into-his-private purse, as if to say:
"Here is my pledge.
Now let us see the book!"
No word of it has come my way since then.
And so I stand and ask of him, what news?
Or, at the least, to ask my money back!
Casca: A likely tale, indeed! Now clear the way!
Flaminius: Ho, Caesar! Has thou writ a chapter yet?
Caesar: What is this noise? Who makes this brutal clamour?
Casca: Some publisher, my Lord, who dares to make
A claim upon you for unwritten words
About your late campaigns. I'll beat the churl
And send him packing for his saucy words.
Caesar: No, stay your hand. There's truth in what he says.
Good Flaminius, I have been so busy
That I have had but very little time
To write the history of my glorious wars.
But have no fear. I'll keep my promised word
And wield the pen as if it were a sword!
Caesar, Casca and the others pass on, leaving Flaminius.
Flaminius: It sickens me to hear the same excuse,
From Julius Caesar as from other hacks.
All writers are the same, be they high or low.
They take your money, then they onward go.
Emperor, general, peasant, all the same.
Ye gods - this publishing is a poxy game !
I enclose your entire worldly wealth, as found on top of our washing machine, viz-
1 lottery ticket
1 hand-rolled joint
1 set mouse droppings
1 piece of the True Cross
1 left-over jigsaw piece from the puzzle, "Salisbury Cathedral on a Sunny Day" (400 pieces)
1 semi-used tooth pick
1 expired battery
1 10p piece
1 sea shell picked up on holiday in Scotland which has now lost its bright pink colour
1 top but no bottom to a Bic pen
1 key which fits no lock..... No, hold on! That's all my stuff! THIS is your stuff!
A scrap written by Miles in the early 70s parodying his travels with cartoonist, Geoff Dickinson when sent on assignments by Punch, the cheapest routes verged on the surreal. "
Spain is not at all as I expected it," said dickinson excitedly, as we stepped out on to the snow-plastered expanse of Warsaw airport.
Our travels had started some three years earlier at Ealing Ongar. There are two ways of getting to Heathrow Airport – you can either take the expensive bus from the terminal or, if you are lucky enough to have a reciprocal arrangement with London Transport, you can get a free ride to Hounslow. As long as you go via Ealing Ongar.
" So this is Ealing Ongar!" gasped dickinson as he lost his passport for the third time that day. As a matter of fact, it wasn't. It was Oslo Central Bus Station, and our taxi was waiting to take us to our connecting flight to Hanover. When you're travelling the modern way, you don't get much time for leisurely meals, so I pulled out the salami sandwiches I'd managed to grab at Orly, dickinson was quick to tuck in.
"Did you have a nice trip?" said a familiar voice. It was the second time that day we'd passed through customs at Lyons, once coming from Turin, once flying in from Marseilles. You have to do it that way if you aren't going to waste money on airline tickets. It's something to do with modern timetables, or do I mean duty-free perfume?
"Is that Spain?" said dickinson cautiously, pointing to the nut-brown sierras below us. I nodded.
'Then why are we leaving it behind us?" he said, indicating that we were about to fly out over the turquoise Mediterranean. Sometimes I think dickinson doesn't understand about modern travel.
'Because," I said patiently, "this isn't our flight to Spain. It's our flight to Dar Es Salaam, where we get our connection to Spain. The fact that we are flying over Spain is coincidental."
'So this is Dar Es Salaam,' thrilled dickinson, as we stepped out into Liverpool (Lime Street) forecourt.
"Ssh! Did you hear that echo?" I said.
"Echo-o!" shouted a man selling local gossip.
The Gare du Nord was just as I had always dreamed about it- smelly and noisy, with garlic the way other countries have fresh air.
My name is Miles Kington, and when I have nothing batter to do I just sit here and zap away at the typewriter about anything that comes into my mind, bicycles, bus tickets, Dickinson, that kind of agreeable thing. They tell me it's possible to earn a living this way, but I'm more of an orator and bass player myself. Thank you sir, God bless, wife and London Museum to support, ta.
We never know ourselves from behind.
We never know ourselves.