Christmas At Pyaridge Hall

It was the kind of December morning Victorian novelists dream about.  Diamond frost sparkling over the trim English pastures, horses with steam breath puffing in the air, a slanted sun line on the stable roof, shiny with melt.  On the hill, past the white plank fences, the winter bare trees were pencilled against the too-blue sky.  And not that far beyond where the old stone Roman road curved behind the fruit groves, there was the village steeple, arrow sharp and tiny in the distance.  Emily could hear the Dilfords, mother, uncle and daughter, opening the paddocks and starting the tractor.  She wouldn’t ride today, or any time soon; it was difficult with the bandages, and anyway there was too much work to do.  Besides, she was tired – tired, bitchy and sore.  Her hand had hurt in the night with a black ache, clock-ticking sleeplessness that almost made her cry.  She could still feel it, the dull pressure of the bandages on her fingers that didn’t have enough courage to be pain but had settled in to irritate her.  And she was cold – just out of bed chilly through flannel pajamas and a thick duvet hugged around her shoulders.  She turned away from the window, looked at the cold stone hearth and shivered.

“Damn the insurance,” she thought, “Tonight, I’m going to have a fire.”  She swept the duvet off her shoulders and back onto the bed.  Then awkwardly, she pulled heavy green trousers over her pajamas and a red checked work shirt.  She struggled with the buttons, gave up after two and went down to breakfast.  Not quite the lady of the manor, but . . . .  She ran her fingers through her hair to smooth out some of the tangled sleep.  It would be warmer downstairs where the wheezing old Pyaridge’s boilers could reach, but there was no way she was going to endure another winter like this.  Something would have to go out of next year’s budget.  Next year’s budget?  She hadn’t paid for this year’s yet!  She ran her hand over the thick oak bannister like you would an old dog and continued down the big step staircase, through the high, wide entrance hall and into the breakfast room.

No matter what time Emily arrived for breakfast, it was there waiting for her.  In winter, porridge, eggs and toast, sometimes bacon, sometimes sausage, coffee and juice.  She knew if the salt and fat didn’t kill her the cholesterol eventually would, but it had been a war to get rid of the beans, tomato, mushrooms, wheat cakes and assorted other fried bits, so . . . .   Mrs. Tisdale ran the Pyaridge kitchen with an iron ladle, fed the entire estate on a budget that would embarrass Gandhi and hadn’t taken no for answer since Emily was 6 — which meant, after winning half the battle, it was an act of valor for Emily to just shut up and eat her breakfast, nice girl.  And she did that, every morning, alone at a huge table, in a room built for twenty.

In London, Dreyfus Sinclair didn’t usually eat breakfast unless he was travelling or Mrs. Flynn was in the mood to cook.  And since Mrs. Flynn only came in 3 days a week and was seldom in the mood, it was mostly just coffee and a newspaper under the tall windows in the loft over the river.  That day, there was a crawling mist on the Thames, so there wasn’t much boat traffic, and the lights on the far shore looked distant and scuffed.  It was a perfect day to sit back and contemplate the woes of the world.  Actually, Dreyfus didn’t much care about that, but he did enjoy the style and variety of Fleet Street journalism, so he had the concierge bring him a different/random newspaper every morning.  It made the read a little more interesting.  (Today was The Guardian, full of opinion.)  He thought about going to work later, but he wanted to write a few letters, and he enjoyed writing letters, so . . . .  Plus, he had that neatly-wrapped plastic package of clothes to deal with, and he wasn’t sure what he should do about that.  They had arrived yesterday back from the cleaners with a note that read.  “Our apologies.  Unfortunately, we were not able to remove the extensive bloodstains from the garments without ruining them, and the style and quality dictate that they would not be easily replaced in that event.  Therefore, we are returning them to you.  Regards …”

Friday – Part II

Just In Time For Christmas

We interrupt this blog to bring you an important breaking story!

In a surprise marketing move, at least 3 gigantic electronics companies have introduced the same new consumer product — just in time for Christmas.  The Incredibly Useless Thing was introduced simultaneously at retail outlets around the world today.  The product sold out within hours.  Immediately dubbed the iThing by every unimaginative journalist in the universe, the device has sent computer geeks everywhere scurrying back to their mothers’ basements to try it out.  According to industry spokesperson, Dakota Nebraska, the iThing comes with twice as many mega-pixels and enough speed and memory to launch the Mars Rover from your kitchen.

“We’re calling the iThing the next generation of useless electronic device,” Nebraska said. “The iThing is totally wireless, you can recharge it with the steam off your pee and battery life, with continuous use, is approximately 12 minutes.”  Nebraska Dakota went on to say, “There are already 8 million Apps available for the iThing– everything from “Which Potato Are You?” to a “Proton Torpedo Simulator,” plus the iThing comes pre-programmed with some awesome coloured lights that go on and off and a variety of unusual sounds.”

The iThing uses the new Inutile Operating System, which is no different from all the other operating systems on the planet except it’s not compatible with any of the electronic crap you already own — including your toaster.  Its Interactive Help Menu connects you with a chat line where you can join other iThing users who don’t know any more than you do.  But for a real techno-frustrating experience, all three gigantic electronic companies are offering 24/7 tech support which is exclusively accessible only from the iThing itself.  In other words, say your prayers, cuz the coyote’s got a better chance of catching the road runner than you have of finding someone to help you figure this thing out!

In a candid, off the record, interview, one techno-drone said, “We’ve changed all the names and placement of every function on the menu — just to screw with ya.  We’ve added a Tool Bar that is completely unnecessary, and if you accidently press “Back Slash, Gallery” Facebook automatically places all your friends on Tinder.  And we’ve done a bunch of other stuff, too, but why should I tell you?  You thought you were so cool in high school — with your cars and your cheerleaders.  Well, who’s laughin’ now, Braaadley?  Who’s laughin’ now?”

Initially, the iThing will be offered in two models: the cheap one you see advertised (which is woefully under-powered) and the outrageously expensive one (which the pirates who made the device know you are going to have to buy eventually, anyway.)  However, some electronic companies are taking a bold, new retail approach.  “We don’t care about the iThing itself,” they say. “It’s free.  We’ll give you the damn thing for nothing, as long as you sign a 5-year contract of penal servitude so we can charge you for every nanosecond it operates — from the minute you turn it on.”

There have already been protests about the predatory pricing of the iThing.  A fake YouTube commercial, showing the iThing exploding, has been viewed 100 million times and #iThing Sucks on Twitter has gone viral – twice!  Retailers have responded to the criticism by saying, “Big deal! A bunch of kids and old people have clicked an “angry face” emoji.  So what?  We’re sold out anyway.”

Dakota Nebraska, spokesperson for the three gigantic electronic companies, also responded by saying, “There has been some criticism, but the retail numbers speak for themselves.  This is not a manufactured shortage.  Our customers are saying they want the iThing.  Look at the unholy prices people are willing to pay!  But we’re all about families here at Big Electronics, and we want parents and grandparents to have something for their loved ones during the Holidays, so we’re offering an opportunity to pre-purchase the next shipment of iThings.  Your purchase comes with a numbered gift card which you can use to track your iThing through the entire manufacturing and distribution process.”  However, Nebraska Dakota also admitted that there was already a new and improved model, the iThing 2.0, in production — with tons more memory, better resolution, and a cheaper price tag — which should be in retail outlets in time for April Fool’s Day 2021.

We now return you to WD’s regular blog

Previous published – gently edited.