Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Doctor Mackaroyd’s Magical Cloud Remedies.

And ‘Un porteur de Nuages.’
A short story by the Darker Side of Bridget Jones, dedicated to that beautiful woman - Maggie Noach, I met you at Westminster, last summer. Thank you for your kind words – I will never forget you.

On a microscopic, windswept and remote Hebridean island with a population of one, lived a Doctor Mackaroyd, a now retired meteorologist. This island was so small in fact that it did not exist on any maps. In fact the ‘British Land Registry’ had quite forgotten about this insignificant blot. However, Doctor Mackaroyd was not entirely isolated here, in the only remaining white washed croft left on the island, he shared this with his loyal albino golden retriever, named Lucy. And, to the rear of the croft was a precariously built, rickety old shed, which housed a multitude of well loved, well travelled and hardworking racing pigeons.

Doctor Mackaroyd’s appearance was a comical sight. He was a short, stout man, with a belly so enormous you could easily rest a plate full of food on top, which, of course, the doctor frequently did. And, vaguely visible to the naked eye were heather coloured stitches, exposed at the seams, of his tight Harris Tweed trousers - evidence of the strain of supporting Doctor Mackaroyd’s generously proportioned figure. Doctor Mackaroyd was particularly proud, although, some might say, a ‘wee bit vain’, about his white locks of hair, as they resembled several hundreds, of thousands, of swirling pallid cloud formations and clouds for the doctor were his only passion, in life.

Today, his bespectacled, cherubic face was deeply thoughtful. He was considering ways of how to best serve the needs of his newest client; a Peckham based architect. Occupying every wall from floor to ceiling were shelves filled with immaculate and lovingly positioned bottles. On each and every one was a meticulously handwritten label, which offered a description of their contents, in Latin. These were no ordinary bottles. What these bottles represented was an accumulation of forty years hard work by the doctor. For forty years Doctor Mackaroyd had battled with all kinds of treacherous weather conditions so that he could catch definitive examples of particular cloud configurations.

He knew not to take risks anymore, 1972 had taught him that. This had been a particularly bad year for the doctor. He had gone out in gale force winds one day and had been swept away, off the island and into the Atlantic Sea. If it wasn’t for the generous help of two seals he would have never have reached dry land, as they both tossed him backwards, and forwards with their noses, until they got him close to land. The bigger of the two, managed to give him one last, big toss, causing him to bounce back, safely onto one of the many white sandy beaches, that surround this tiny world.

Today, the doctor always took precautions. On his door was a checklist of garments he needed to put on before venturing out into the hazardous weather conditions: Life Jacket - check, Barbour wax boots - check, Barbour wax jacket - check, Marks and Sparks cashmere socks - check, grandma MacDougall’s woolly red mittens - check, motorbike crash helmet - check and the list went on - check.

The doctor’s pursuit of clouds, were his life, he was totally absorbed by them. When he was not chasing them across the Highlands in his Land Rover, he was eating them. Yes, that’s right, he was eating them. He simply loved the taste, and, in particular the sensation of those fine drops of dew condensing in his mouth, and then trickling down the back of his throat.

Some Mackaroyd sympathises say that he is a misunderstood man, especially by women. His three failed marriages are testimony to that. Whilst making love to his last wife, Susannah, he yelled out "Cumulus Nimbus!!" At the point of climax. He often compared parts of their anatomy to his favourite cloud formations. At first all of his wives thought this was an endearing sweet quality and frequently laughed about it, but, when they realised the doctor was being serious, they packed their bags and promptly left.

"How dare you!" One roared, as she threw an expensive pair of his binoculars across the room, aiming it at his head. "I am not a cloud. I am a woman, a complex being. Look at me Mackaroyd! Do I honestly resemble a Nimbus to you?" Her hysterical and confrontational outburst made the doctor extremely nervous. Susannah’s physique like her temper, were huge. Mackaroyd knew that she had outgrown him, in so many ways and his tiny croft home could no longer accommodate a woman of this size and magnitude. It simply was not big enough for the two of them. Stumbling fearfully over his words, he said, "No, no, no you don’t my darling. I would have said more like a ….. like a …. a …. Swelling Cumulus". He gulped hard, lips trembling.
It was after he had said goodbye to Susannah that he realised that no human woman, yes, that’s right, no human woman could ever live up to any cloud.

Going back to the dreaded 1972, he was even kept at Her Majesty’s pleasure that year. He tries hard to forget about that particular experience. It had something to do with trespassing on the ‘Balmoral Estate‘, one summers afternoon. I believe the Queen had spotted him halfway up a tree, which, unfortunately for the doctor, directly faced her bedroom. Apparently, she was horrified by the sight, of this rather peculiar short, stout man. He had been cloud watching with binoculars. The very same pair that his last wife had thrown at his head.
Poor Doctor Mackaroyd had an unsympathetic judge, who accused him of being, "The worst type of peeping Tom there is",

The judge made it clear to the dithering Doctor Mackaroyd, that he had to make an example of him. The judge expressed a fear that there could be copycat incidents elsewhere in the Highlands. The judge did not want this on his conscience, as he would be retiring next month. The doctor tried in vain to explain to the judge that he had been following a rather attractive cloud across Scotland. The judge shook his head in disbelief and then delivered a weighty seven-month prison sentence.

Doctor Mackaroyd was nervous today as he had just been sent a commission, for a cloud remedy by a young and upcoming architect from London - a Peckham based architect. He’d never worked for an architect before and he was petrified that he might choose the wrong one.
He read over his frantically scrawled down notes. Objective: to help replenish energy after an exhausting, three-month project. "What was the project?" Mackaroyd enquired. Further down in his notes, he read on; to make a derelict synagogue in Brick Lane more of a multifunctional space, which serves the needs of the diverse communities in and around the surrounding areas.
"This could be a tricky one", he exhaled, looking down at Lucy for some support.
"He obviously needs a cloud that will revitalise his energy levels. The question is: Which would be the most effective one for this young man?"
His fingers and eyes wandered across the assembly of bottles.
"A storm cloud perhaps? With elements of lightning perhaps? No, no that’s too severe! This is the one!"
He seized a bottle. Lucy sat up, to observe the doctor’s next move.
"Well what do you think Lucy?"

He knelt down (with considerable difficulty, due to the restraints of having such a huge belly and not forgetting an extremely tight pair of, bursting at the seams, Harris Tweed trousers on) and presented the bottle to his albino friend. After a good sniff, she yelped. This, the doctor knew was Lucy’s code for ‘you’ve chosen wisely doctor’.

Doctor Mackaroyd was excited now, as he had been given Lucy’s doggy seal of approval and she was always right. Like a giddy teenager, he jumped up, which surprised Lucy (and the author). He didn’t have much time left. He had to work quickly. The architect was expecting this tomorrow morning, in London, in Peckham, in fact, at nine o’clock, to be exact.
Throwing on his life jacket, check, his Barbour wax wellies - check - grandma MacDougall’s woolly red mittens - check, motorbike crash helmet - check and the list went on - check, and grabbing a torchlight check, because it was the dead of night, check. He raced outside, and into the precarious built pigeon shed, he went - check. And, can we please stop saying ‘check’.

He knew immediately which bird to use.
"Jeannette!" He said enthusiastically, and with an exclamation mark.
Jeannette had travelled to London before. All of these birds were exceptional creatures, all specifically bred for one purpose - bottled cloud delivery. Doctor Mackaroyd had carefully implanted microchips into their tiny brains. Using a barcode machine, which was attached to a rather dated IBM computer, he scanned it over the bird’s head. This contained details of the architect’s address in Peckham. Then, he did it again, just on the off chance the bird hadn’t received this vital information. All of the birds wore, specially, a customised harnesses, on their tiny backs, which could easily accommodate Mackaroyd’s bottles. Once clipped into place, he then covered the bottle with a sufficiently sized piece of Barbour wax jacket - check. Now the bird was ready, ready for it’s long journey down to London. Before he could release it, it was Mackaroyd’s custom to whisper into the bird’s beak some old Gaelic proverb.
"Cha dèan cat miotagach sealg", he gently and soothingly whispered into Jeannette’s beak.
Sadly, the doctor’s knowledge of Gaelic was a little rusty, to say the least, frequently he got things mixed up. Jeannette was always too polite to tell him that he had made a mistake. Anyway, she was keen, to start her journey as swiftly as possible. Unbeknown to the silly old doctor, what he had actually said was: "A cat in mittens won’t catch mice".

Now, it was time to release her. Kicking open the door with one of his green Barbour wax boots, and holding her high, above his head he let Jeannette - go.
Jean Paul lived in Hampstead, in a claustrophobic, cube shaped bed-sit. The conditions were grim, as it was dark, damp, cramped, cluttered and the most offensive thing of all - it was a shrine to seventies décor. This was a miserable place for any living creature to inhabit. Within this compact and condensed world it housed various opportunistic fungal communities. These unwanted guests mushroomed abundantly in wild and uncontrollable masses, and
sprouted freely from the grimy, floral wallpaper of Jean Paul’s dubious home.
These conditions had inevitably taken their toll on the health of the tall, miserable, Frenchman. Poor old Jean Paul. He had already suffered immunological damage as result of their poisonous and dangerously toxic fungal spores. Consequently, Jean Paul was a man who was constantly sniffling, or blowing his nose. His respiratory tract had also been badly affected, which caused him to have regular bouts of wheezing, coughing, and even spluttering fits. It is was hardly surprising then, that Jean Paul had decided to lead a solitary life.

His strong Roman features looked as though they had been clumsily chizzled out by an unsympathetic sculptor and the two prominent dark rings circling each of his eyes were evidence of his frequent, long spells of insomnia. He was a sorry soul. And, despite being in the alleged ‘prime of his life‘, Jean Paul had never celebrated life, not even in his youth, instead, he had always, merely, existed.

Surprisingly, there were three things, which kept this isolated characters pulse beating, one was his cello and love of Vivaldi’s concertos, and the other was his insatiable appetite for clouds. In French he would known as ‘un porteur de nuages’, which in English means; Cloud Carrier, and this is exactly what Jean Paul was. He was Doctor Mackaroyd’s Cloud Carrier.
Jean Paul’s south facing wall was unique in that it had not, miciracously, been visited or affected by any fungal communities. This wall had not even a hint of damp on it. As result of this he had dedicated it to his favourite classical composers. When he wasn’t acting as ‘un porteur de nuages’ he was applying, in black ink, scores upon scores, of musical annotation of great classical symphonies to the wall. There were now no spaces left as he had covered it with the music of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart and Brittain.

In Jean Paul’s free time he would indulge in his second most favourite activity, which would be standing for hours on end, running, his tactile finger tips across the bars and the notes of music. And, with his eyes firmly shut tight, this experience would transport him, far away from the miserable confines of his dreary bed sit, and catapult him, to, of all places - The Royal Albert Hall, where these great symphonies would be played out in front of him. Sharing this experience with Jean Paul would be a packed auditorium of society ladies and gents, suitably clad in their evening attire, whilst Jean Paul sat amongst these dignitaries - naked. Well, almost naked - dressed, in nothing more than his t-stained underpants, and a small tartan blanket which Mackaroyd had sent him (a gift from the highlands), covering his bony, pale shoulders. So engrossed was he by the enigmatic music that he was totally unaware of the precariously placed cigarette, dangerously positioned on the edge of his bottom lip. But, sadly, like almost all things in Jean Paul’s life this was an illusion, one that came to an abrupt end when the Frenchman’s uncontrollable coughing and spluttering attacks started.

Jean Paul couldn’t sleep. It was mid June and the humid air made him feel even more uncomfortable than usual. Sitting on the edge of his bed, as he habitually did, by the open bay window, as he often did, when he couldn‘t sleep. He heard the unmistakable flapping sound, of a bird’s wings. "Jeanette". He murmured with his deep, rustic French accent.
He knew it was time to work. In anticipation of her prompt arrival he filled a small tub of water, pouring it from an Evian bottle and then working quickly to put out her favourite KP peanuts. He liked this bird. He had worked with her several times before. She was a reliable and good bird, and he admired that, in a bird.

Jean Paul ensured that the infra-red beam, which stretched across the entire length of his only window, was switched on. This was an extremely valuable device, as it scanned vital information held in the bird’s micro chipped brains. This data would automatically be
sent directly to Jean Paul’s laptop. When a bird flew in, the infra-red beam would collate the data stored in their micro chipped brains and then transmit details of cloud type, or, in some cases cloud types, depending on the severity of the client, or, clients’ condition, directly to Jean Paul’s laptop. Both Jean Paul and Doctor Mackaroyd referred to this all-important information as - ‘the knowledge’. Reading the emailed instructions from Dr Mackaroyd he discovered that he was to go to Peckham, and deliver, as he often did, a cloud.

Jeanette, was inevitably slightly out of breath when she arrived and Jean Paul made every effort to make her comfortable, especially after such an arduous journey across the British isles. Affectionately, he stroked her delicate little frame, before gently removing the cloud bottle from her tired body. He then carefully placed her into an elegant, yet significantly rusty, antique, Victorian Bird Cage for some much needed respite.

Jean Paul would make his journey to Peckham entirely by foot. He wore his trademark, long black trench coat, a diminutive, poorly knitted woolly hat, from his now dead Parisian grandmother. Accompanying him on this journey was his cello. Everywhere the tall, miserable Frenchman went, so did his cello, and, not forgetting his portable stool. Well he needed somewhere to sit, when playing his cello.

Peckham like the Frenchman had many historic and cultural layers. It had been Roman Peckham, Medieval Peckham, Stuart Peckham, Georgian Peckham, Victorian Peckham (and, no that’s not the one married to the footballer) and now the regenerated Peckham, with aspects of cosmopolitan Peckham. This is a diverse place, a place where they speak over forty-six different African languages. A place where enigmatic, black gospel preachers spread the word of the Lord and the Arc Angel Gabriel, whilst their predominately, white, middle class neighbours congregate at the Farmers Market, sipping on their avocado smoothies, as they purchase their aesthetically dirty organic, carrots.

Through these now, partially, rejuvenated streets of Peckham, the lone Frenchman travelled, until, finally, after three and a bit hours on foot he had reached the architect’s flat; a converted Georgian House, now made into several cosmopolitan apartments. Knocking confidently on the door, Jean Paul stepped back and waited for the architect to answer.
In contrast to Jean Paul, the architect was a vibrant and attractive man, with boundless enthusiasm for his subject, and life. He had recently been catapulted onto a stratospheric architectural playing field. Everyone wanted a piece of him, and the work was coming in fast and furious. Sleep, unfortunately, for the architect had become something of a luxury, and often, two hours was all that he would get. This was wholly inadequate, and he needed a natural fix to help sustain his energy levels.

The friendly architect answered the door.
"Hello … have you come about the cloud?" enquired the slightly apprehensive architect
The Frenchman did not speak, he couldn’t converse with another human, as he considered it dangerous instead he stared. Intimidation was something his eyes were naturally very good at. He passed the hand written instructions to the architect. They read:
1) Open all of the windows in your house.
2) Sit on the most comfortable chair, ideally a sofa.
3) Never shake the bottle before use.
4) When consuming the cloud, or, sometimes clouds, depending on the prescription and client’s needs, don’t sip, swallow in one big fat gulp.
5) Enjoy.

The architect had heard about Dr Mackaroyd’s cloud remedies by eves dropping, in a private cellar shaped members club, exclusively for architects, one evening. Attentively his ears listened into a conversation by a group of elderly architects. In-between chomping on their lavish Cuban cigars, they discussed the health benefits of such a fix.
"It helps give you an extra kick", chomped one, extremely frail architect.
"Adds vitality to the soul. Gives you the energy of a man, half your age", another said with a knowing smile and wink of the eye.

It was this conversation that prompted the young architect to take action. This, he felt, was the only way for him to replenish his tired
and overworked body.

"Yes", he thought.
"Cloud consumption is the only way", this idea really put him at his ease. With that thought in mind, the more self-assured architect took the bottle from Jean Paul.
After clearing his nostrils of toxic fungal spores, by that I mean, after blowing his nose - Jean Paul proceeded to lovingly remove his cello from the safety of its case. Placing his hands carefully around her cool frame, he then sat down, on his portable stool, across the road from the architect’s flat. This was all part of the transformation and healing process. The architect, meanwhile, eagerly opened all of the windows. Attention to detail was always at the heart of everything the architect did, scanning the list of instructions, one more time, to ensure that he hadn’t missed anything out, he then threw himself backwards, onto the most comfortable chair he could find.

Jean Paul’s eyes were firmly shut tight which allowed him to enter another world, the world of music, a melodic ‘scape‘. His escape, from the discordant notes being played out in his own life. He smiled as he indulged in the alluring, climatic music being performed in his mind. He smiled, as he knew he was the only and soul beneficiary of such a place. Guided by the power of the music, his wandering hands sensitively followed the curves of his voluptuous cello, until, at last, Jean Paul found her strings and with effortless ease he carefully placed his bow upon them. This is where he would make his music - Vivaldi!

With panicky fingers and high-speed pulsating heart, the architect unscrewed the lid of the bottle, then, tossing his head back, swallowing the entire contents, in one big fat gulp. He consumed the cloud. Immediately, nothing happened, and for an awful moment he thought he had been had, but he was wrong.

As Jean Paul’s music increased in intensity and volume the effects of the cloud remedy took hold of the young, Peckham based architect. With the progression of the music the architect began to experience the most excruciating pins and needles in his feet, which rapidly travelled upwards through every vein and artery in his body, crashing through the walls of each and every one of his vital organs, causing his face to become distorted, and his body to violently convulse. His entire being flexing, and twisting, and turning, and when this terrible pain hit his heart Jean Paul’s concerto reached the eventual surge, the triumphant crescendo, and with this climatic moment came the most magnificent and peaceful sensation, which filled the architect’s entire being. Such euphoria coupled with such relief, he felt. The young architect was convinced he would die, and that sadly he had taken an allergic reaction to the cloud.

Closing his eyes to be more attuned to this wild and untamed feeling. A smile filled the architect’s face, as he had never felt such warmth before. It was like he had entered a new consciousness, a different sensory and spiritual zone. A place most religions aspire to reach. Soon he found himself galloping over the marshlands of the Camargue on one of the ‘horses of the sea’ and enjoying the sight of glittering blue bays, far away in the distance, but clearly visible to the naked eye. This landscape was filled with everything the architect loved. He’d spent a summer in Provence, many years ago, sketching historic Arlésien monasteries. It was the historically rich architecture of Arles that had so inspired him as a youth. It was this passion that had become slightly frayed at the edges in recent years, he desperately wanted to re-ignite it again, but age, like the life experiences we all encounter had damaged that. And, now, at last, he had found it again. It was a miracle, brought on by the power of digesting a solitary cloud - amazing!
"Amazing", Jean Paul muttered, under his breath, as he made his way home, past the black preachers of Peckham, and the white middle classes fluttering around the Farmers Market. The miracle of the clouds was something Jean Paul continued to be fascinated by. He picked up the pace as he remembered there was a bottled storm cloud waiting for him to consume when he got home.

At forty-nine years old the Peckham based architect had found passion again, and he knew he was ready to return back, back to his life journey, one which had already taken him to many varied and beautiful places, he was lucky in that respect. Looking up at the sky and thanking the world of clouds for their assistance in this matter, fifty thousand pink Camargue Flamingos dispersed and ascended upwards towards the sun, making the once blue sky now pink, just like the architect’s passion. And, with this an inspired architecturally relevant thought entered the architect’s head …

"There just aren’t enough pink buildings in the world. This was it!" He thought. "The pretentious and masculine world of architecture simply does not have enough pink buildings. Yes …" he concluded, as the effects of the cloud began to gently leave him and float back, gracefully, back to somewhere near the stratosphere where it originated from. The architect’s thoughts turned to creating pink, ecologically, friendly concrete, accompanying these thoughts was the idea of creating the first Flamingo pink skyscrapers. All of these thoughts resonated comfortably through the young, Peckham based architect’s mind. Is that possible? Pink, ecologically, friendly concrete? Contemplated the mystified author as she shutdown her laptop. I don’t think such a thing exists. Oh well, it doesn’t matter, because this is a piece of fiction anyway.

Okay guys, before you start, I know I am no writer, but I love telling stories.


Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in Luke Howard should visit Tottenham. There is a Georgian house in Bruce Grove which has a blue plaque bearing Luke Howard's name. Sadly, Labour-run Haringey and English heritage are letting it fall to pieces!

Perhaps you'd like to start a campaign for restoration and we'll give you our strong support in Tottenham Conservatives.

The Hitch said...

Why the obsession with meteorologists?
I mean dont get me wrong there a few few weather girls that mr hitchens would mind getting to grips with , but it isnt a fetish.
the evil Hitch is going to post some photos of cheshire on his blog , you have made me homesick.

Darkersideofbridgetjones said...

I like the older man. I mean one that has centuries of experience and expertise. Anyone under eighty is no good to me.

The Hitch said...

well I am 9 years older, and frankly I could do with being married to an MP, I have some policies that I need forcing through parliament
We could be the new Leo and Margaret Beckett.
I can drink alcohol in industrial quantities and strength without falling over and would willingly beat up your enemies.

Darkersideofbridgetjones said...

Now I am worried how do you know I applied to become an MP? Anyway, I've heard nothing back. I need just under 42,000 grand to do it.

Ha ha ha ha ha

The Hitch said...

dont be worried, silly, some people on blogs are not anonymous ive met some of the other bloggers and they have met people who have met you,Im not a stalker or anything we just talk about each other nd people we have met just as people do who meet through other means

Darkersideofbridgetjones said...

I see. I've met Croydonian and Newmania and that's it. Croydonian is a regular on 18 Doughty Street - Vox Politix. Iain Dale Really likes Croydonian's blog. He's a clever chap.