Showing a leg

I love the way that a community will gather round to help when somebody needs support. Thus, when Maljie started experiencing problems with her knee, she was never short of advice and even practical assistance. Certainly there was a general feeling that she ought to have it looked at. Indeed we went so far as to encourage Mord Filch to take an interest in her case. Mord is a damned fine doctor as well as a fine human being. I suppose he has, in some manner, retired. But this merely means he rarely makes house calls and those who knock at his door are never turned away, and he somehow neglects to charge them.

But in Maljie’s case, Mord was happy to make a house call, and expressed a view that there would have to be an operation. Obviously our concern knew no limits. Until this point one or two people had presented Maljie with nicely carved walking sticks. One, with a ball and claw foot at either end, was something of a favourite of hers as when grasped firmly by the ‘wrong end,’ the other end had a certain heft. So when brought down with adequate force across the shoulders of a malefactor or delinquent, it managed to convey her displeasure in a way mere words struggled to match.

But when Mord started talking of operations, there was an outpouring of craftsmanship. I genuinely lost count of the number of artificial legs people produced. At this point you could easily see how the world was divided into optimists and pessimists. The pessimists arrived with a leg which assumed that most of the thigh would go as well. The optimists on the other hand assumed that only the leg below the knee would be removed.

I confess that I was overwhelmed by the originality of design. Some were merely beautifully polished timber. Several were exquisitely carved. One that comes immediately to mind had nymphs and satyrs disporting themselves in a most uninhibited manner. Another, perhaps more theologically sound, featured grinning demonic faces peering out of tastefully carved foliage whilst priapic imps frolicked among them.

Some were inset with ivory. One cunningly had a ‘knee’ of whalebone so that the leg had some ‘bend’ in it. There were even some that were blacksmith’s work. They had braided twists, basket twists, and one even had dragon scale twist. What more could a lady ask for?
As it was, Mord was thinking of something more sophisticated. He hunted high and low and finally found a small brass drawer knob, and a silvered egg cup of the same size. Hence the drawer knob could rotate smoothly in the egg cup.

Now I never witnessed the operation, Mord kept me too busy grinding poppy seeds which were then simmered gently in plum brandy. After drinking a fair quantity of this, Maljie had eventually gone to sleep, but Mord decided he needed another quart in case she awoke before he had finished.

Still, as far as I understand it, Mord somehow replaced the end of one bone with the drawer knob, and the end of the other bone with the egg cup. Then he sewed the leg up. It was at this point that there was a somewhat heated discussion, and a number of people felt that the new joint would need lubrication. Indeed one person had gone so far as to bring a grease nipple for him to install. This Mord dismissed, pointing out that cart grease was hardly appropriate.

Still, eventually everything was sewn up, and Mord professed himself reasonably content with his work. The obvious next step was to wait for Maljie to regain consciousness. This, it was decided, was a process that couldn’t be rushed, and given I had a quart of brandy and poppy seeds to hand, it seemed a pity not to use it. So whenever she was awake enough to swallow, she was given more of this to help settle her.

One way and another the return to consciousness took a couple of days, and there was a sudden panic when it was realised she was short of suitable night attire for when she finally was ready to receive visitors. Here, Laxey stepped into the breach. He hunted through those clothing emporiums which are happy to dress the older lady and found several suitable garments. He stressed the importance of bright colours, feeling that these would provide an important psychological lift for the patient. Who can feel down when dressed in bright pink with yellow spots?
Given that the other garments were not so restrained, it was suggested that they be hung around her boudoir to give it a bit of colour. Maljie vetoed this, pointing out that she would then have to permanently wear smoked glass spectacles. The alternative would be to risk perpetual headaches.

Still, whilst Maljie might not have been entirely at home with the choice of colours, she was willing to forgive Laxey any indiscretion in this area. It was only when she realised that the various garments had arrived in a bag that was decorated with the name of ‘Billinton and Daughters, Marque Hire,’ that she took umbrage. Laxey fled, slamming the door behind him just in time. A wrought iron artificial leg, all braided twists and dragon scale struck the door at head height and stuck there, quivering.

As it is, Maljie is now recuperating in the garden. Margarita has her sister feeding birds on the terrace.


Should you want to know more about Maljie

As a reviewer commented, “

Maljie and Tallis start by taking action to protect their incumbent from being involuntarily removed from her post in order to serve the ambitions of Battass Droom. They then have to go on to protect each other from being elected Patriarch, which is, by definition, a job best done by somebody who does NOT want the appointment.

The efforts to achieve their aims become steadily more and more tortuous, including an attempt to delay a key meeting by employing such diverse methods as elaborate food poisoning and a trebuchet with an unusual payload, a race against time involving a one way balloon ride and having, temporarily, two Patriarchs (or are they non-Patriarchs?) with too much time on their hands.

Along the way, Jim takes delight in lampooning bureaucracy and its devotees, with some jaw-dropping moments that challenge the way things work. What would be non sequiturs anywhere else are hilariously believable in Port Naain and make you consider “real life” in a new light.

Do NOT read this book anywhere that full volume belly laughs are not socially acceptable.”

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