Mrs Beaten does not like children. She detests their sticky hands and snot encrusted faces, and lives in fear that some horrible, uncouth creature will touch her when she is outside. She is very glad that nature did not see fit to make her the mother of such monsters. Mrs Beaten is uncertain of the exact process leading to the presence of yet more vile children in the world. Mr Beaten never expressed a desire for children. He tended to say thing like “you are both my child and my wife.” Mrs Beaten did not find this statement creepy.
On those nights when she cannot sleep, Mrs Beaten lies in bed and thinks about solutions for children. The island seems to have rather a lot of them, and the excess ends up in the orphanage. She suspects islanders of giving away children they can no longer bear. She understands this – she would give away her own children, she feels certain. However, she has managed not to have any and she feels that other islanders aren’t doing enough in that regard. Sometimes she worries about where, exactly, all these children come from, but has been unable to imagine the mechanism. She assumes it must be rather unseemly.
Mrs Beaten wonders if she could lead a fundraiser to provide the orphanage with swimming lessons. The fundraiser is mostly to legitimise the whole process. She would give the lessons herself, she thinks. She would stand on a big rock and encourage them all to get into the sea. Some of them would probably die of cold. Some would be eaten. A few might learn to swim. As she sees it, there would be nothing but win, here.
No one really has a problem with death, she understands. It’s just that these things must be seen to be done properly. One cannot simply murder orphans for being annoying. One must have a publicly endorsed program that appears to be for some other purpose entirely.
It has come to my attention that some of the persons wearing trousers and sporting cropped hair are not in fact men at all! I had been making the perfectly reasonable assumption that anyone dressing like a man or possessed of locks that do not reach the jawline must of course be a man. However, yesterday I chanced upon three young creatures who were involved in such an indelicate conversation that the truth did not escape me! Women! In trousers! With short hair! And one of them had her hands shoved roughly into her pockets for good measure!
What next? Swaggering? How are the ladypersons of Hopeless Maine to tell if they are being courted by a proper boy or by another ladyperson? Now that I’ve started looking for this, I find I’m not at all sure who are the boys and who are the girls dressed up as boys, and who has linked arms with whom does not clarify matters at all. Could they be doing it on purpose? Why would they do that? It is most confusing.
It led me to the uneasy possibility that the reason some of the women of Hopeless Maine look so oddly proportioned is that they could be men, wearing dresses.
Then it struck me (oh, horror) that the reason Doc Willoughby always sounds as though he is putting inverted commas around the ‘Mrs’ when he addresses me, might be because he thinks I am in fact a chap wearing a dress. Oh, the shame of it! And I can hardly go round telling people that I’m not a chap wearing a dress because it will only serve to confirm whatever suspicions they now have.
Mrs Beaten also feels that you should brush your hair out regularly, or else something might nest in your bun.
It is a mystery to me why certain women feel that trousers are suitable attire for them. Such women have always been a puzzle to me, but they exist on this island in greater numbers. Trousers do not flatter the female form, nor do they conceal it appropriately. Instead, they can lead to rude highlighting of knees at moments of leg bending, and careless exposure of the sock, or worse yet, the ankle. What kind of woman wishes to display her ankle to all and sundry?
What is the trouser for? Do they imagine that by wearing it, they can partake of masculine power in some way? Do they wish to do things that cannot properly be done in skirts? I do not know what those things might be, having worn skirts my whole life and found them perfectly suitable for almost everything I have undertaken. I admit, that my experience of wading ashore in the aftermath of the shipwreck was a time when I felt my skirts and petticoats to be less than advantageous, but no normal person leaves the house of a morning with a view to having to deal with being shipwrecked.
There is a dignity in skirts. There is a smoothness of movement and a pleasing swish when one turns a corner. There is no unwholesome suggestion of the knee. One might imagine that beneath the skirt, a woman is not the same as a man at all. We might contain any mystery there. We may have wheels, or tentacles, or complex mechanical parts, or extra teeth. Why ruin this by wearing the trouser and dispelling uncertainty about the frequency and placement of limbs? It makes no sense to me at all.
Mrs Beaten has somewhat romanticised the Hopeless Maine mermaids for the purposes of this poster. She cannot bear to dwell too much on what she has seen…
Today I tried to speak with Frampton Jones about the exceptional presentation of his shirt collars. He was clearly not interested in my opinion which disappointed me. I assumed that a man with a good collar standard would also have more elevated manners. He was in a hurry to be elsewhere and did not handle this with grace.
People are so self involved. It’s always all about them. Here I am, trying to make positive changes for the good of one and all, and no one can even make the time to listen to me. Do they not understand how much better life would be if everyone had presentable collars? Do they not see the social and moral benefits of decent laundry? They do not.
Instead, they are always focused on some drama or another. A shipwreck. The fear of vampires. A barn on fire, a mysterious death… Do they not understand that the only way to deal with a crisis is to pretend it is of no great significance? It is the height of bad manners to press the details of one’s immediate suffering onto another human being who many then feel under some pressure to respond to it. Why can they not suffer quietly and make more effort to keep up good appearances? Where is the dignity that hides hunger and misery behind a neatly laundered curtain and puts a nice floral arrangement on the table when there is no food to put there?
I cannot decide whether this is a form of madness, or a form of laziness.
It’s Tuesday, and regular blog followers may have noticed the absence of a Squid and Teapot post. For more than a year now, we’ve had Tuesday contributions from Martin Pearson, exploring the history of the island. Hopeless has been much enriched by his contributions, and intermittently terrified of his puns.
Martin is currently taking a break. There is only so much time a person can spend on the island before this becomes necessary. Unlike actual islanders, people who visit from this reality can leave, but don’t always manage to, so breaks are good and necessary.
But this isn’t one of those. No. Rather than take the opportunity to flee for safety, Martin is pondering an even more elaborate tangle with the island’s tentacles. A top secret tango that we’ll probably cave in and start telling you about sometime fairly soon.
In the meantime, Tuesdays may get used for other things. There’s a great deal going on in Hopeless Maine right now, both in the imagined life of the island, and the rest of world stuff where the island gets made. Or drops its fruiting bodies into people’s brains, as may be closer to the truth.
Huge thanks to Martin for his Squid and Teapot contributions. We wait with curiosity to see what he does next…
Other people’s bodies are questionable. Are they pleasing to the eye? Are they acceptable to the nose? Has proper effort been made in attiring the body and hiding the flaws? Is the body sufficiently modest in its presentation? To fail in any of these regards is shameful.
I feel it is my duty to point out to ugly people that they are ugly, and to tell fat people that they are fat. Does a person know they have awful pox scarring on their face if no one mentions it? Does a person understand the impact of having had all of their teeth removed from their mouth via punching if no one takes it upon themselves to explain? Of course not. They might start imagining that other people can tolerate such appearances and that who they are is more important than how they look, and frankly, that will never do.
However, I consider it the height of bad manners when someone feels entitled to make comment on my own appearance. I am so obviously a model of visual propriety and acceptable symmetry. A person who finds reason to criticise how I look can only be wrong, and it is ill mannered in the extreme to make incorrect criticisms in this way.
Try harder, for pity’s sake.
Mrs Beaten hasn’t been out in the daylight for some time now. She’s living on dried things that do not taste very good. Not that fresh things would taste much better. At night, she makes a dash to the well.
Mrs Beaten is afraid.
Someone posted a poster through her door. It’s just the kind of poster she likes to make. She’s proud of having mastered paper-making, and proud of her opinions. At least, she was.
How many people have seen this?
She does not know.
How many people have seen her laundry, hanging discreetly in the little back garden?
Certainly, her neighbours. She suspects the Jones girl is behind it, the one who only last week said ‘My uncle, Mrs Tidy Jones told me…’
The Jones girl who has clearly been mocking her all along.
But there’s truth in it, for her knickers do not express the best of her standards, and she feels the shame of it keenly.
Mrs Beaten is strangely quiet. She hasn’t put up a single judgmental poster in more than a week. Has she fallen ill? Was she kidnapped? Or does it have something to do with the giant oceanic gnii?
Has she been silenced in favour of more exciting news? Would you be perfectly happy if that were true?
Back when Hopeless, Maine had an economy, and seaweed was not the primary content of everyone’s diets, the wealth of the island was due to giant oceanic gnii. Hopeless was on the migratory route of these amazing creatures. As a consequence traps were laid and a refinery built, and the oil and the money rolled in.
The giant oceanic gnii stopped coming after a while. Some thought they had become extinct, others that the clever beasties had simply learned to avoid the nets. Either way, no one has seen a giant gnii in a long time.
And yet this image is clear evidence that one has been by – there’s no other way of getting that sort of a view, and the tentacles and lamps are highly suggestive.
If you’ve seen the giant oceanic gnii and want to send in a report, please do!