Saturday, 12 September 2009

A Visit to Mr Hornbill

Notes: Apologies for the garbled recollections. The transcription below is all I could discern from a page or three of writing in the diary of Esme Montebank Bliss. Sections had suffered greatly from water damage, I have marked these areas in a way I feel appropriate. Keen admirers may already know of the treasure trove of writing I discovered in my loft some time ago while looking for the camping equipment. Those lacking humour please note that this is a complete work of fiction. Miss Bliss' work can also be found in "My Kitten Cora," "Marigolds," Miss Bliss and the Navvies" and "To Somerville."

Mr Hornbill has had me talking to the dead again
Tuesday mornings do seem to last forever
When he closes the curtains and removes his shiny
watch I am mesmerised...but, after all he is a mesmerist!

I get ahead of myself first, his pi~~~~nez ; one can't help feeling it stays on his nose by sheer force of will as he really has no nose to speak of, more like one of those rubber buttons that go through the mangle so much better than the brittle sort! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~has a bald pate~~~~~~~~~~~~~by three strands of highly oiled hair. The middle strand, ~~~~~~~~~~ determined to curl back toward his left ear. Incidentally, his ears have a profusion of hair, all wiry and with sufficient natural wax to make any manner of personal grooming ~~~~~~~~~~~quite ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Down to business, I shall write as candidly as I can, knowing none but myself shall ever read this. Mr Hornbill is~~~~~~~~~~~~of the most intimate~~~~~~~~~~intent . How do I know this? Well, being the consummate actress that I am, and with a streak of incorrigible belligerance I believe I inherited from mother, I have never truly been under his spell. Rather, I regard our Tuesday mornings as~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ an~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~into the human psyche, in particular that of the male. Mr Hornbill was his most daring yet and I must admit to feeling such excitement, thrilling at my control over him, all the while, he~~~~~~~~~~me in his thrall.
It was almost eleven when I arrived and esconced myself upon his~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(he calls it his "couche d'investigation" - strange considering his grandfather was a cartman from Hackney). The~~~~~~began ordinarily enough, Mr Hornbill regaling me with his latest success; he believes he can now talk to the dead and that his~~~~~~~~~~~~~~is an instrument of divine teaching. More of this some other time, I have more~~~~tial mattters to recount. As the clock in the hall struck the quarter hour Mr Hornbill took out his~~~~~dutifully I gazed upon its shiny~~~~~~~~~~~as he sought to subjugate me, I being of the~~~~~~~~~~~sex, of course.
Fortunately, as a cat owner, I have often~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~level of awareness~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~he proceeded to question me about things of an increasingly personal nature which no lady would ever divulge under normal circumstances.~~~~~~~~~~~wonderfully liberating revealing to a man~~~~~~~~~~ that~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~while in a state of undress. I did notice at this point of revelation that the material at the front of his~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~pinstripe was sent somewhat awry. I have known times when gentlemen have suffered such public discomfort and crossed legs~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~of an inordinate value, but it appears that owing to my being completely in his power, Mr Hornbill was emboldened and sought merely to rearrange his particulars to offer a greater ease.
I tried to concentrate upon my "analyst's"~~~~~~~~~when he actually tried to draw my attention to his flies. "Remember, Dear Esme" he entreated, "how you would count, using your fingers to help you. I have some buttons here that you may count." In my best monotone I would count "One," I pushed my finger at the upper button and heard a strange gasp from the mesmerist "two," I prodded more firmly,~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~to calculate more quickly. At "seven" I pushed hard with my index finger at the lowest button feeling a softness beneath.
"AaaaaIIII think we shall stop there!" he squeaked. "Eight," I jabbed at the same button ferociously. "Nine, ten," a double helping, just for good measure. Mr Hornbill~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~crouching somewhat. I felt sure he was about to bring me back to the surface of consciousness. I was therefore surprised when he bent over my head and attempted to kiss my lips.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~with my right foot and succeeded in toppling the vessels with a loud crash. Instantly feigning my waking and pretending to be shocked at Mr Hornbill's face in such close proximity I struck~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Session over, Mr Hornbill called in Millie, his maid, before scrabbling about the~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~pince-nez. I now am wondering if I shall continue with such treatment or whether I have learned enough. For now!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Miss Bliss and the Navvies

I'm fortunate that Miss Bliss jotted down experiences in her journal also. Of Mr Bliss the mesmerist we shall hear more on another occasion.

Tuesday 17th November 1891

Today, I must remark on the most singular encounter. Every Tuesday at eight o'clock precisely I leave Brambles* for my weekly interview with Mr Hornbill, the mesmerist*. This week I was thirty minutes later than on other Tuesdays due to pressing wild flowers for Mrs Valentine whose fingers are no longer up to it. Poor Mrs Valentine, Dr. Sloane says her heart is weak and she may not see out this winter. Still, the flowers give her great comfort and as the Lord is my witness I shall not desert my duties.

To the matter at hand: Workmen are digging up the paving outside my front gate and they are most ungodly in their ways. Espying through the net curtains at the window, appreciating their use in not revealing the viewer to those outside I noted the following.

Two roughly attired men began to erect a tent at approximately ten past seven. It was a small tent, in which they placed a brazier*, a chair and a couple of rough canvas bags. These "navvies", I think this is the current expression, had been pushing a wooden barrow containing heavy objects, large shafted items, such as spades and picks.

The taller and younger of the two chaps was shortly thereafter levering the large granite slabs outside my residence with much gusto. Ere long they were both digging the earth beneath, for why, I knew not.

As the hour of eight approached my concern grew. The problem that exercised my conscience was that the ever-expanding hole now prevented me from leaving the garden via the front gate.

As is my nature when faced with adversity, I was not to be defeated, tying fast my bonnet and securing my muff* I confronted the two "roughs" my back straight, head high. "Miss Bliss," I said to myself, "you will have your way, or else the King be a beggar."

As I approached the gate, my resolve began to falter.

"Fork me!" said the dark young man, his accent was thick and Irish. "Oirish," my dear father used to say. Oh, how I would laugh as he would talk like this and walk bandy-legged, doffing his cap, at the ladies who attended Mama's Bridge Club of a Friday evening. I was unaware that they had a fork, but disregarded his strange request for fear of breaching etiquette.

"Are you aware," I enquired "that you are blocking the entrance to my property?" The men had ceased from their labour and were presently smoking cigarettes. The Irishman held up a yellow packet saying, "Care for one yourself, Miss?" He raised one eyebrow in a casual manner that, upon sight of this, took me back to fevered memories of the caddish Arthur Gable in the summerhouse, before he migrated to the New World.

"I had rather not," I replied "it is not becoming of a lady." They were both standing in the hole and gazing up at me. It was obvious that they had not come across one of my mettle before. "Could you form a path with planking, that I may cross?" I persisted.

"Upyer arris!" The shorter of the two gentlemen retorted. It was obvious from his dialect that he was probably from the over-crowded tenements of East London. Here in High Barmstead, fourteen miles from the capital he was foreign, a cockney!

"Being short of planking, you may have a problem there, your highness!" Dark and muscular, the younger of the two men teased.

"There is no need to be facetious!"

"I be merely remarking at your current station..."

"Or sarcastic!"

"...With regard to the hole."

"Oh, I see." Despite stubbornly resisting his humour I could not prevent my lips from turning up slightly at the corners. "What, sir, would you suggest I do. I have an appointment not one hundred yards from here barely three minutes from now."

"This cavity here, 'tis only four feet deep, I am a strong man and would gladly take thee over this short gap here." The suggestion was most improper and I told him as much.

"Not if I live to be a hundred!" "Oirish" turned his back and re-commenced digging the black earth. It was no good, what could I do? Mr Hornbill expected me any minute; we were to discuss my wallflower tendencies. "Very well," I relented but you must be quick about it!" The short one, I feel sure, muttered something about dogs and rabbits, as I was grasped firmly about my lower waist. I must note, however, that my mode of transportation was thoughtful enough to wipe his hands on his waistcoat immediately prior to this.

During my conveyance I determined to maintain a straight back and not lie across his shoulder. This appeared to amuse the rascal as he accompanied the cockney chap in singing an old music-hall song* about saving money or half-pence, some such coinage anyway.

It can have only taken a mere few seconds to get across the gap, but frequently I imagined his calloused hands intruding upon my liberty. That this was not the case is no doubt due to good fortune and the number of concerned bystanders that had gathered.

So, journal, there we have it, a passing encounter of a singular nature.

"Brambles" is the name of Miss Bliss' residence.
"mesmerist" - a mesmerist was similar to a hypnotist and was an early pre-cursor to the psychologist.
"Brazier" - A brazier is a container for fire, generally taking the form of an upright standing or hanging metal bowl or box. Used for holding burning coal as well as fires, a brazier allows for a source of light, heat, or cooking. (Wikipedia)
"Navvies" - Navvy is a shorter form of navigational engineer (USA) or navigator (UK) and is particularly applied to describe the manual labourers working on major civil engineering projects. The term was coined in the late 18th century in Britain when numerous canals were being built, which were also sometimes known as "navigations". Canal navvies typically worked with shovels, pickaxes and barrows. (Wikipedia)
"muff" - Wikipedia states that this word may refer to:- Muff (handwarmer), a fashion accessory, usually of fur, for keeping the hands warm Earmuffs, a device for protecting the ears Big Muff, a famous distortion box Melbourne Underground Film Festival Muff, County Donegal, Ireland Muff (genitals), the external genital organs of the female Muff (hair), hair in the frontal genital area Muff (chicken), a mutation found in chickens Muff (American football), the dropping or mishandling of a loose ball
"song" - Although I was not present, I would hazard a guess that the song was "Keep yer 'and on yer Ha'penny", a popular music hall song that euphemistically has more sexual connotations regarding females and chastity.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

My kitten Cora

found this under a pile of old papers in the loft at the very start of this month. All I have been so far able to ascertain are her dates of birth and death. I've tried to google for the lady but without success although her idol and paragon Somerville Gibney has been a cemetery in East Cheam, London.

My Kitten Cora
My kitten Cora tells no lies,
Plays with the light behind her eyes.
Hisses sparks at my iv'ries pressed,
Music bores her, no interest.

Remember my kitten? Pray tell,
How she purred with delight to smell
"Old Gibney", "Tweed Turtle".
Release My Cora. Her agonies, cease.

Come sweet tonight! Waken Cora.
I'll not stir, freely adore her!
If you hear my voice, do not mind.
I pleasure in sharing your find.

Friday, 4 September 2009


I found this undated poem among Esme's collection. The writing is less well formed and may date from an early age, perhaps written as young as 12. On the surface, a simple poem, but one indicative of a philosophy to which she would adhere to throughout her life. The ending hints at both her quaint humour and interest in science. My apologies for the poem format, seems this editor does not like poetry. It should be two stanzas, one of six lines then one of five.


Taking care of marigolds

Was no ordinary fate.
They needed watching
One by one
As they acquired
Individual taste.

Oft I'd see them

In the morning

Amidst a grassy hill.
More of lily than buttercup
In their lake of Chlorophyll.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Introducing....Miss Bliss

I'm so excited to be able to present to you the escapades and romantic desires of the wonderful Miss Bliss. The following blogs will all contain excerpts from the journals and poetry of the over-looked Victorian poet Esme Montebank-Bliss. I have been fortunate to have stumbled upon these papers and hope that you may share my fortune. May I first take pleasure in bringing you the following lines of palpable devotion bestowed toward the lady's beloved, writer Somerville Gibney.

To Somerville (1887) by E. M. Bliss

I emote within your diction Mr Gibney.
Caring to recline, pressing light on each line
Until, statuesque in pose ye shall come.
I must restrain this heart for reverie it is only so.

These curtains are heavy, I am stultified!
Release me with your light essence.
Carry me to my unburden, my Heathcliffe
And let the sands stop when at last embraced I.

By Miss Esme Montebank-Bliss (1870-1932)