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.
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.