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.
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!
Mrs Beaten has no belief whatsoever in spoonwalkers. Which is unfortunate, really, because the spoonwalkers most assuredly do believe in her, and in the contents of her cutlery drawer.
It has come to my attention that Mr Frampton Jones, of the Hopeless Vendetta, has immaculate shirts. I feel uncomfortably over-familiar in using his first name thusly (we are hardly on intimate terms!) but with so many islanders being properly ‘Mr Jones’ it becomes exceeding difficult to clarify to whom one is referring. While trying to find food for purchase last week, I was involved in a most confusing conversation in which at least three farmers called Mr Jones were involved, and as a consequence I entirely failed to find any meat for the table.
While I do not like to speak ill of others, I cannot help but feel that my neighbour, Miss Tenacity Jones was making mock of me. I have previously been compelled to discourage her familiar way of talking about people, and now she refers to all of her relations as Mr or Mrs Jones, with scant regard to their apparent gender, and it is most unhelpful of her.
Mr Frampton Jones, of The Hopeless Vendetta has beautiful shirts. His shoes are invariably shined, his bowler hat neatly brushed. It lifts my spirits to think that I may not be alone in seeking civilization on this vile island.
I do not think it is the proper business of women to criticise important men who are doing important things, importantly. Many times in the past I have had no choice but to silence foolish women who have thought it appropriate to air opinions of this nature. It is a woman’s place to applaud, to hold pens, to commiserate if appropriate, and not, I feel strongly, to make comment on the actions of the superior sex.
And yet, when the pillars of the community act badly, what is a woman to do? Should I remain silent, complicit in allowing dreadfulness to continue? What is the proper response to finding that the important men are not doing the important things? This is truly a conundrum.
The great men of the island have such appallingly low standards. Reverend Davies may often be seen in public wearing a shirt with no actual collar. Doctor Willoughby’s collars are limp and yellowing, and there are visible stains upon the front part. Durosimi O’Stoat, I am told, is the last male heir of one of the most important local families. I briefly made his acquaintance yesterday. We were not properly introduced, he smelled of common dirt, and the whole encounter has left me shocked.
What am I to do? It is unspeakably difficult for me.
Domestic advice from Mrs Beaten.
(Art the peculiar responsibility of Nimue Brown.)
I, Mrs Emmaline Elizabeth Beatrice Beaten found myself shipwrecked upon the shores of Hopeless Maine some six months ago. It is a cold and wretched place, sorely in want of even the most basic things in life. The island has not a single manufacturer of doilies or tablecloths. The natives are coarse and vulgar, with no sense of etiquette or good manners. Even those who claim to form the social hierarchy show a distinct lack of breeding.
Now that I am recovered from the shock of my arrival in this place, I see that I have a moral duty to perform. I must raise these people up from their sordid condition. I must instil in them a sense of right and wrong, and a clear understanding of how this applies to matters of personal toilet and the correct way to send out invitations. Although I am by nature a humble, and modest woman, it is clear to me that I have been called and must cast aside my reserve in order to lead these hapless islanders into the light.
(Every Sunday, Mrs Beaten will be sharing her annoyance, while awkwardly betraying her own poor manners and lack of common sense, sometimes through the medium of little sketches.)