Friday, August 10, 2012

Stonewells, Part 4

November 26, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

I struggle to restrain myself from tearing up this paper and overturning the ink-bottle at each word I write, as the moment draws nearer, nearer, and ever more near when I must finally succumb to my separate though similar duties as a master historian and as a careful friend. I must in all conscience, though in no comfort, entrust to your eyes, and to yours alone for the moment at any rate, the continuing and chilling details that comprise the experiences of my kinsman Mr. Montgomery at Stonewells and in its grounds, outhouses, and neighbouring villages. Alas that the general course of things has put so romantic and desirable a stamp on the country life of the British Isles! Those who know better alone understand just how wrong such a stamp has proved and on how many occasions! The land of England is covered with mists and fogs and vapours for a reason that will be only too clear once I have finished my narrative. Let me merely say that -- I know not how to put it any more subtly -- things are better, I think I may say far better, this way.

I last wrote to you on October 19 of Mr. E. J. Montgomery's entrance into the Blue Room of his library at Stonewells, and of the seats that extended throughout the periphery of that heaven-hued chamber. I must continue at the point where Everlasting Jubilee -- oh, if only that name may hold true in the life to come, for it surely did not in this! -- was about to take his seat on one of the many cushioned sections of the more or less continuous bench. I wish to lessen the shock you will experience in reading this letter by saying that he felt a sense of foreboding in his heart. But as a truthful man, I cannot do so, for he never told of any such presentiment, either then or at any other time. As a recovering practical man, Mr. Montgomery took things at face-value, and was about to do so very literally within just a few moments of his entering the library -- how incongruously commonplace it seems to me that I must call it so! But enter he did, and prepare to seat himself he likewise -- dare I write the word in full? -- did.

As he took his seat the wooden top of the bench, along with the blue cushion that covered it, tipped up, and Mr. Montgomery found himself deposited by his own weight and the force of the seat's upward swing onto the softly carpeted floor. He knew that he had made a discovery of some kind, as he had expected he might do, his house having at one time been a Cisercian abbey, etc., but he had not anticipated the event's coming so soon upon his arrival and while he was -- that terrifying word to a man of some temperaments, though not, unfortunately for him, as the sequel would prove, his own -- alone. Such a word, I hope you will understand, deserves its own sentence, or rather fragment. Alone. In accordance with his practical habits, Mr. Montgomery did not choose at this moment to shout, cry, or scream for help. He merely made up his mind to investigate what, if anything, was contained in the compartment his simply action of sitting down had revealed in so nearly-eldritch a manner. He knew from his reading of books of a certain type that it was more than likely that at this point in his 'story' -- he has told me specifically that he thought of the word at that moment in inverted commas -- nothing would be present in the newly-uncovered space, except perhaps a few moth-balls, or a newspaper from a decade or two prior.

What he did find -- I tremble to say it -- is unfortunately constrained to be the subject of my next letter, if I can gather my wits, my courage, and my writing equipment together for yet another time. The events of this narration shook me up quite badly at the time I heard them, and that terraemotus continues to have its effect on my nerves, and indeed on every portion of my person. Please take pity on me if I do not write you as soon as I might be expected to out of courtesy. Courtesy has its places, but I fear me that the telling of detailed horror-stories, every word of which is true, is not one of those places. I regret this, but so it must remain if I myself am to be and to remain

Yours sincerely,

R. O. Fox

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Well, friends, the Olympics have been going on in London for some time now, and all those magnificent athletes -- also known as heroes -- have either become swifter, higher, stronger, or collapsed in tears and been carried away by their psychologists and coaches, unwilling to remain longer in the presence of some hateful person (often a Russian) who has stripped them of True Glory, i.e. the gold medal. Their silver or bronze medal, of course, is not actually a symbol of anything noble or athletic, but a depiction of their shame. Silver, unlike gold, tarnishes, you know.

Strangely, only the winners see things this way. We lesser mortals really dig it when our country's representatives win at all. And even when they don't. Miss Gabrielle Douglas came last on the uneven bars, and yet we (the USA) still love her. I have a sneaking suspicion that we would do so even if she hadn't won two gold medals, but she might not know that. This is an unfortunate situation, but then again there always seem to be a few of those at the Olympics. They're the best when they involve Bela Karolyi, however. He in himself a bit of a silver lining. Or, I suppose, a gold lining, since the other term might remind some poor Olympian of an inglorious prize I did not intend to reference.


The greatest Olympian of all time (since 1896, anyway), the nonchalant, noncommittal, non-much of anything besides swift, high, and strong (presumably in the comparative degree), the naturally swimmer-shaped Baltimorean known as Michael Phelps, has reached the medal count of a well-performing small country. He would be 14th in the table of these Games. Yorkshire, however, not being from Baltimore, but rather the Texas of the UK, (despite being in the North), would be 11th if counted separately from Team GB. I thought that various people might like to know these things for various reasons. Now I have done my duty on that score.


Royalty of both the US and the UK are involved in equestrian at the Games of the XXX Olympiad. Zara Philips, daughter of the Princess Royal, and thus 14th in succession to numerous Crowns, got a silver medal (oh, the dishonor!) in the team eventing. If she were not already married to Mr. Michael Tindall, she might want to consider teaming up with that other Mr. Michael who is also 14th in something, namely Phelps. But then again, he got -- I am loth even to name it -- a bronze medal, so he is probably out of contention for most Olympians' hands, whether we refer to marriage, applause, or even shaking.

Ann Romney's horse is also in the Olympics, and that is what I meant by American royalty being involved. Of course, since the horse's owner's husband is running for President of the United States, a big deal must be made. I am sure I will have more to say on these matters before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.


Wouldn't it be insane if the Marathon were not 26.2 miles, but rather a race from Marathon to wherever the Olympics were held? It would be like an extreme version of the triathlon. Bikes would, naturally, be allowed for a portion of the race, and it would generally involve a lot of swimming: for example, when the Games are in Rio de Janeiro, the competitors will have to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps there can be a sailing component to it as well. Someone must alert Jacques Rogge to this idea. Now that "rugby sevens" (whatever that is) is being introduced to the Games, I'm pretty sure no idea is indefensible.


Occasionally the subject of doping comes up in the context of the Games of various Olympiads. Hey guys, I'm pretty sure that's not what the IOC means by "higher." Never mind.


I leave you with a brief note on Russians at the Games, particularly in gymnastics, and their habit of kissing people more than Americans typically do. That's it. See you in Sochi.