Dressing appropriately

Dressing appropriately

Some people are notorious for their ability to enjoy ill health. They revel in it. They take to their beds with alacrity and when the inevitable stream of visitors arrive bearing fruit or delicacies for the invalid, they are met by the patient coughing pathetically, but still managing to smile faintly in an ‘oh so tired’ manner. The cynic would comment that at least they are out of the way. Their voice too faint to reach the ears of those working downstairs, they are forced to draw attention to their needs by hammering on the floor with a shoe.

Eventually they rise from their beds and shuffle gingerly downstairs, husbanding what little strength they have. They take their place on a couch, perhaps with a light blanket drawn over them. There, enthroned, they dominate the household. Nothing happens without them noticing, commenting upon, and of course wisely suggesting ways it could have been done better (and more quietly, without disturbing them) had they only been asked.

Some weeks later they will finally admit to having almost recovered, and they will then heroically throw themselves, (gently) back into the hurly burly of life.

Others take a more robust stance to these matters. They are the sort who will notice a cut, smear it with honey and return once more to the fray. Indeed I know some who, should they catch cold, immediately head outside and work in the wildest and most distressing weather they can find. The theory appears to be that the cold finds the conditions so intolerable it departs, leaving the victim laughing happily into the face of the gale.

To be fair, the theory appears sound. In my experience I am unlikely to be welcome in polite salons whilst streaming with cold, I will instead go out with one of the fishing boats for a day. A few hours hauling on nets in the driving rain and with waves breaking over you, drives the cold away and I come home tired but breathing once more through my nose.

Maljie was, as you would expect, of the heroic tendency. But in her case she did tend to take it a little to extremes. It transpired that she had to have an operation on a shoulder. Too much axe work had torn a tendon and her friends at the Shrine of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm gave the matter some considerable thought. Eventually we found a sympathetic veterinary surgeon who had considerable experience carrying out this sort of operation on horses.

He inspected Maljie, probing the area in a far gentler manner than a doctor might use. When I asked about this he merely commented that few doctors have to deal with a patient who, if annoyed, can kick you across the room and out through a closed door. He then asked Maljie whether she had any problems taking poppy syrup for the pain.

She thought briefly and said, “Well it makes me act strangely.”
At this point she saw Laxey glaring at her and added, “Or at least more strangely.”
Thus and so, he gave her a large glass full of poppy syrup dissolved in a glass of pure spirit spiced with three different lichens. Then as this seemed to perk her up rather that pacify her, he gave her a second glassful. Ten minutes later she decided she ought to lie down and have a beautiful sleep. Before she started to snore, the veterinary surgeon had his bag open and was already to make the first incision.

To be fair to him it was a complicated operation and by the time he sewed it up, he was shattered. He sat down in a chair next to the table Maljie lay sprawled across and drank off in one a mug of coffee laced with plum brandy.

Maljie’s sister, Margarita, asked, “Well, did it go all right?”

He leaned back in his chair. “I’m happy with it. The last patient I did so nice a job on went on to breed twice more.”

Margarita looked at him uncertainly. “I won’t mention it to her if you don’t.”




Once Maljie can round, we had to keep her on the poppy juice for some time. One of two of the mendicants referred to this as ‘the happy time’. Eventually we had to take the bottle off her when we discovered she was sharing it with all and sundry.

Of more import was the fact that her arm was tied up across her chest so she couldn’t move it. As you can imagine, getting dressed was not easy. Also she had no shirts or other garments large enough to fasten across her. It was here that Laxey came to the rescue.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the smocks that fishermen and peasant farmers wear? They’re actually a useful garment. They’re baggy and you just pull them over your head, putting your arms into the sleeves. They fit over anything and I know painters who wear them when they’re painting. They protect far more expensive garments.

Laxey had several, perhaps as a legacy of his time at sea, and these he loaned to Maljie. They were large enough so she could pull it over her head, put her good arm down the sleeve and then just let the other sleeve hang down empty.

Whilst warmth was guaranteed and decency satisfied, there was the issue of the designs painted on the smocks. When I saw Maljie she was wearing one which sported a large barbarian wearing what appeared to be a leather subjugation outfit and brandishing a large axe. Given that Maljie was still giggling rather more than one would expect, merely from the side effects of the medication, it was a somewhat disconcerting sight.

As well as dressing there was the problem of washing. Maljie was under strict instructions not to get any of her dressings wet. So whilst it was possible for her to stand in front of a bowl and wash herself one handed, this wasn’t ideal. Fortunately a gentleman admirer offered to bath her. At that point I confess to fading quietly out of the conversation, there is surely a limit to the tasks one can impose upon one’s poet!


Bath time can be soothing,

A time of new hope.

But it all ends in tears,

When you lose the soap.



Should you feel the urge to spend more time in the company of Maljie, I would recommend you purchased the following, either in paperback as an ebook


As a reviewer commented, “This author has created a rich world, filled with interesting characters – of whom Maljie is one of the most colourful. Her life and adventures are presented though the gossip of the poet Tallis Steelyard who has a sharp eye and a sharper tongue. Reminiscent somewhat of Pepys’ diaries about the small and large events of London, Tallis is a better writer. And why is Mr Webster dangerous – too much of my money is being spent on his books.”

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