From Viscountess Boudica’s Album
A tender scene from the childhood of Viscountess Boudica
For the past seven months, Viscountess Boudica of Bethnal Green has been writing an autobiography – absurd, bawdy and magical by turns – in daily installments. Entitled There’s More to Life than Heaven & Earth, it is like nothing else upon the internet. Last week, the Viscountess and I met for a chat to take stock of her brave endeavour and select a few key excerpts.
“The blog is like justice in a way,” she confided to me. Ascribing her storytelling instincts to her Celtic roots, Viscountess Boudica is a latter-day Mother Goose, intertwining poignant tales of lost love with unexplained visionary encounters and broad comic stories to weave a mythological universe that is entirely her creation.
With an unerring instinct for the ironies of existence, Boudica reconciles herself to the painful contradictions of life by taking fearless narrative delight in personal humiliations others might choose to forget. Viscountess Boudica understands she can advance herself in actuality through becoming the author of her own story.
My clothes designing started down on the farm at five years old, when I was taking care of the pigs, Paul & Keith. When the cats were expecting, I used to hide them in the barn so my uncle wouldn’t drown them. They were all feral and interbred. I used to make clothes for the kittens and they lay in a pram which I used to wheel around the village. I tried to dress the pigs too, but it didn’t quite work out because they ripped them off and rolled in the mud.
Paul O’R, when I first met him, I asked if he was an Aries. So the second time I met him I took him a chocolate biscuit and – you know what – he said, “You look lovely,” and he bowed his head and I stroked his hair.
The Monks of Moreton. The engine of my car stopped and I saw all these monks crossing the road to the abbey. Apparently, it’s a well-known local sight.
Whatever happened to the old English sayings? They just don’t say, “What ho!” anymore, except in period films.
Paul B. said, do I fancy going to a barbecue and off we went to the wilds of Colchester. He was barbecuing sausages and there were four on the grill at one pound each. The one in the middle looked under-done and I am sure it winked at me. So I grabbed it to put some mustard on it and as I pulled it Paul’s eyes were watering.
Paul S., a white South-African, I met him in 1995 at Tesco in Tollerton. He’d had a row with his boyfriend and said, “Could you put me up for a couple of days?” As a present, he got me some flours as a joke when I expected flowers. Eventually, his boyfriend came to pick him up but they didn’t think it was so funny when I poured the flours over them.
I went into Des & Lorraine’s Shop in Bacon St and it was full of people. Then as I looked where Des was standing, I thought I’d seen this bloke somewhere before. It was quarter past three and my watch stopped and everything stopped and the man said to me, “Do you remember who I am? Do you remember that day in 1965 when you got banned from the farm?” It was Farmer Paul and recalled I used to sit on his lap as a child and I could feel something hard, and he used to put his hand on my chest and say, “It’s getting bigger.” He said to me, “Something’s going to happen, you’ll find out.” I ran out through the shop and my watch dropped on the pavement. He followed me and said, “I will come for you when you die.” So then I went home and rang Chris from Southend, and when he said his mother died at 3:15pm, I realised I had experienced some kind of vision.
One time, I went to Braintree Freeport to sell some photos and this sexy bearded train driver walked past the carriage.
There was this brickie called Eric in Braintree and he told me about this cottage on the A12, and I imagined a cottage with a thatched roof and roses round the door. But when I asked if I could come, he said, “It’s strictly for boys and we have prayer meetings.” So when I passed my driving test, I went to find this mystery building, but it wasn’t until years later that I discovered it was a public toilet.
My friend Ted in Braintree worked for the BBC and had a love of Islington, so he moved back to Finsbury Park and then Bounders Green. Four years later, after I moved to London on Halloween 1994, he was dead. Then, five years ago, I got on a train at Cambridge Heath and this guy got on at Seven Sisters and sat opposite me and smiled. He pulled out an old square mobile phone with an aerial and he kept looking at me. At Bruce Grove, he was gone, so I ran down the stairs and he was there. He said, “You remember who I was? There’s more to LIfe than Heaven & Earth.”
For thirteen years, I visited Keith at Lordship Cookers and held his hand outside the shop. That went on for years and I bought all these dodgy makes that never worked.
Now I’ve let go of the past, I’ve destroyed my diaries and got rid of my cookers but I’ll always have my memories. Since I changed my kitchen I got one of those ranges, because I’ve accepted that the Tricity 643 will never come.
The last time I saw Paul O’R from Sclater St was in 2009 on 21st December, and I went home and put his present under the tree but he never came to get it. Maybe this year?
Viscountess Boudica with the Christmas present she has kept awaiting its recipient for the past three years. Like the spirit of Christmas Present, Boudica travels with a fully decorated tree at this season.
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