Our next-door neighbour, Harold, is a children’s magician.
Harold is a man of indeterminate age, who wanders around the garden in a tracksuit and slippers, chatting to his puppet, Clive. Clive is a monkey who occasionally talks back, in a shrill, high-pitched voice that sounds as if Harold has squeezed him somewhere he shouldn’t.
To see Harold in a heated argument with a monkey on his arm is a curious experience. He says it helps him in his act if he can think of Clive as a ‘real person’. What worries me most, living next door to Harold, is that he does.
Harold also has a rabbit called Sidney who stars in his show. Sidney pops out of a box on Harold’s table and then disappears again. Often in a puff of smoke, and to the delight – Harold tells us – of boys and girls below the age of seven.
Smoke plays a big part in Harold’s life. He puffs like a chimney and, if the wind is in the wrong direction, we know he’s on his way, well before he does.
Sidney is his fourth rabbit in as many years. When Harold first moved in, his co-star was called Johnny. Johnny was about 125 in rabbit years and tragically, though not surprisingly, hopped off to meet his Maker, while being chased around the garden by a hen.
The hen in question, Ophelia, belonged to the current Mrs C, and had somehow managed to tunnel her way under the fence between our two houses. Johnny took fright, following what he possibly regarded as unnatural advances, and dropped dead on the spot.
It wasn’t, perhaps, the best start to a neighbourly relationship. That said, Harold took it in his stride and has only brought the subject up on 17 occasions since. (Mrs C has kept a note. In case he ever goes mad and instigates legal proceedings. I’m not sure what use the record will be in such an event, but Mrs C says it’s best to be prepared.)
To honour Johnny’s passing, Harold baked him in a pie, which he ate at a single sitting, washed down with a bottle of red wine, and a mushroom sauce. He said it was how Johnny would have wanted to go.
To show there were no hard feelings, he offered us a couple of slices. But I told him Mrs C was unwell, couldn’t eat a thing and it wouldn’t be fair of me to scoff the lot while her tummy was heaving like a steam train struggling up a mountain.
The reason I tell you all this is because nothing much has happened today, so it seems as good a time as any to give you a flavour of the local neighbourhood.
Harold will almost certainly play a part in future events. As he’s a magician, they may be events that are difficult to explain and possibly make no sense at all.
A monkey may or may not be involved. We shall have to wait and see.
Thought for the Day
‘Oh, to be 70 again.’
George Clemenceau (1841-1929)
(At age 80, on noticing a pretty girl on the Champs Élysées)