Sometimes I feel the need to be discreet lest my tales cause embarrassment or disillusionment to those who remain. In this case my discretion is based on a justified suspicion that if she thinks I’m taking notes, the stories that she tells will be even more scandalous.
If you are lucky you will doubtless know ladies like Maljie. Of indeterminate age, but unlikely to see sixty again. Indeed, given the quoted ages of their daughters and grandchildren, they were obviously child brides.
Maljie is one of those ladies whom I meet at the various soirees and entertainments I am asked to organise here in Port Naain. Sometimes she is present at one where I merely turn up to perform. She is rarely a friend of the hostess, instead she is a friend of the mother of the hostess and has been invited at mother’s insistence so that she does at least have somebody to talk to. (With the obvious inference that daughter’s friends are too pallid and lacklustre to be worth holding a conversation with.)
It has to be said that there are occasions when Mother is correct in her inference and the wise poet always spends time with these older ladies. If questioned you can merely point out that one of your duties is to ensure that everybody feels included in the event, but in reality the conversation is inevitably better.
By definition these ladies have a considerable familiarity with people and their foibles. As one so nicely expressed it, “There’s an awful lot of experience trapped under this corset.”
Maljie is merely the one who comes most readily to mind, she is not an extreme example. Her tales include an account of when she and her sister ventured into Uttermost Partann to provide succour to orphans. With nothing more than a pony cart and a sharp wit she ventured into places where most Condottiere would venture, nervously, at the head of a thousand horse. She danced the falango with one bandit chieftain; she probably, and possibly inadvertently, caused another to be eaten by his concubines. All the time giving the impression that she was an innocent abroad.
One result of her travels is that both she and her sister drive. They have used age and frailty as an excuse to acquire a governess cart. This is pulled, at breakneck speed, by a wild-eyed pony of doubtful temperament and more teeth than an equid really needs. Thus their passage along the roads locally is best described as a wild career with people frantically running for cover.
Still there are times when Maljie grows reflective. I remember one occasion when she fell into reverie and mentioned that whilst still a young woman she was courted by a member of one of the clog dancing troops. These tend to be burly young men, muscular and fit. Apparently one pleasant summer’s day they were performing at the Goldclaw Baths and Maljie, always supportive, had attended the event and wearing a dress best described as ‘floating and summery’ had then gone ‘backstage’ to congratulate them. The fact that ‘backstage’ was actually a communal bath where a score of naked clog dancers disported themselves, washing away evidence of their labours, hadn’t apparently occurred to her.
Indeed it appears that somehow, whether due to accident, malice, or the sense of fun clog dancers everywhere seem to exhibit, she was precipitated, fully clothed, into the water with them. Apparently she managed to extract herself, probably by the simple expedient of frolicking winsomely on her way to the edge.
I remember well as she told the tale. Finally as it drew to a halt, she lapsed into a soft silence and a mischievous light flickered in her eyes.
“Back then I used to do ‘wet-look’ really well.”
The old they reminisce
The stories bubble forth
Fearful of the sweet remembered ghosts of the past.
More stories from Port Naain are easily found, try
As a reviewer commented, “This is a great collection of quirky little tales which are a spin-off from a series featuring Benor Dorffingil. Tallis is his friend, landlord, drinking companion and a jobbing poet. There are some lovely phrases used in here, as you would expect from a wordsmith like Tallis, who presents us with his pragmatic take on life. It’s an example of what happens when a minor character takes the reins and gallops off on his own. A great little book.”