When you cannot quite reach

I suspect it may be just ‘one of those things.’ The average lady is slightly shorter than the average gentleman. This slight difference is far more important than one might otherwise think as with it comes a shift in perspective. So for example I will leave something in a sensible place, at eye level where I can see it and won’t forget it. But Shena, my lady wife, will ask why I have hidden it where nobody will ever look. Similarly I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on my hands and knees looking for stuff at the back of low shelves, when I’ve been informed, ‘you cannot miss it.’

Similarly I find that with patrons, whilst the lady herself delights in my verse and my humour, the parlour maid will sidle up to me as I’m leaving and whisper, ‘Cook wondered if you could just get the tureen down from the top shelf for her.’ Anybody who didn’t know what was going on would think my life was a series of below stairs assignations. Still I cannot complain, nobody but a fool ever upsets a cook, and I am on excellent terms with a score of them because, like my prestigious patrons, they know they can rely on Tallis.
Tallis will get the tureen down and not comment scathingly about the dust on the shelf that they cannot see, (indeed I’ve been known to quietly run a cloth along it to bring it up to the same sparkling standard as the rest of the kitchen). At the time there might be a brisk, ‘Thank you’ because she is a busy lady, but next time I call there might be, ‘Oh I put this to one side, I thought it would make a nice supper for you and Shena.’

The problem of ‘not quite being able to reach’ is even more pronounced when a lady is moving house. Maljie and Margarita had decided that it was time that they moved somewhere more convenient. Whilst their current house suited them and had facilities they would miss (How many houses have a combined flogging grating and gallows in the front yard) they perhaps needed ‘somewhere smaller and closer to the shops.’

Now when you’ve bought the house, you need to move the contents of the last house into the next one. I can understand the school of thought which reckons it’s faster and cheaper merely to furnish the new house from scratch and have an auctioneer empty the old one, but most people have treasured possessions which they want to have near them. For example, Maljie wouldn’t be parted from a cracked (and unusable) chamber pot, which she damaged when she hurled it after a fleeing suitor she had just ejected from the premises, via a first floor window. So having looked around their worldly goods the two sisters decided they would hire those who specialise in this trade. The problem came with the garden. There was an assortment of plants, statuary, pots, vases and similar which had to go. The largest piece, a cast iron horse trough which took sixteen men to lift, (and that whilst it was empty) Laxey acquired, claiming it would be perfect for him to grow herbs in. This was carried, coffin like, on the shoulders of a score of mendicants. But the lesser pieces also needed careful more moving.

It was with some regret that it was decided to leave the flogging grating and gallows. Yes it’s an ungainly thing, and even when painted pink and adorned with posies and a hanging basket it still had a grim and forbidding aspect. But Maljie felt that it was worth keeping if only because of the salutary effect it had on tradesmen who were never less than obliging in its presence. It was Margarita who pointed out that whilst their new abode had a secluded back yard it was too constrained. There literally wasn’t room to swing a cat. The front lawns ran, elegantly, down to the road, but were not enclosed. So were they to use their gallows and flogging grating, they were bound to attract an unseemly crowd of gawpers and lollygaggers. So regretfully it was left behind.

But there were other pieces that needed shifting, and with her usual foresight, Maljie had summoned to her assistance not merely mendicants but also the tree pirates. So work went with a swing and matters were soon resolved. Save, it must be admitted, for some plaques set high on a shelf overlooking the garden. These six plaques, which Maljie had inadvertently won in a raffle, showed in graphic detail the six mortifications of Stellan Vice. Maljie had put them there because they allowed her to shock and irritate three different neighbours simultaneously. She wanted to take them with her in case she had other neighbours she needed to irritate. The problem arose because the ladder had already gone on ahead to the new house. Even the tallest of the tree pirates couldn’t reach them. It was with increasing exasperation that Maljie watched their inept struggles.

Finally in frustration she stopped their futile attempts and took control. She selected the largest and instructed him to lift her up so she could reach the first of the plaques. This he did and she reached it easily. It would only take six trips to the cart and back for the job to be completed. But unfortunately as he carried her down the steps to put the plaque in the cart, her trailing clothing caught on the one statue they had decided not to move, and a garment was pulled off, leaving her in a state of increasing dishabille. Every damned time.  



Should you wish to know more about Port Naain

As a reviewer commented, “

I’m not sure what it is, but there is something irresistibly uplifting about the Maljie stories – well, to be honest about all but the very darkest tales by Jim Webster about Tallis Steelyard and his strange friends and acquaintances of Port Naain.

Maljie has to be the uncrowned queen of Port Naain, although I would not be surprised if one day we find she became queen too, it would be a completely Maljie thing to do, but she is a woman who needs no other authority than her own intense personality.

This is a book to cheer and warm, but it is packed with social commentary as well and no small amount of wisdom too:

“The law is like a monster which will gobble up everything in its path. But because it’s an elderly monster, lame and blind in one eye, it depends on people to help it. If the people are grown-up then sometimes you get justice and sometimes you get mercy, and sometimes you might get both.”

So with wisdom, with cleverness, with cunning, with a smile on her face and always with enough – usually very subtle but sometimes laugh out loud – humour to make you chuckle, Maljie dances her way through the pages of this third selection of her memoirs.”

11 thoughts on “When you cannot quite reach

  1. I can certainly identify with this. (Not the lady in a state of undress though!)
    I am not tall, by most reckoning. I am just a whisker over 5’7″ in bare feet. But I can reach the top shelf in our kitchen cabinets with ease.
    However, my much shorter wife has to use a small folding stool to reach things in the same location. I was recently chastised by her for ‘putting things out of reach to make life difficult’.
    And I thought I was just tidying up.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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