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Blandford’s Bastards

The "Corn Exchange" (town hall)

It’s funny how rambling on tipsily can get one (or two, or three or more) off on tangents. Such as using the term “bastard brothers”! That can bring to mind the Bastard Brothers. The ones, that is, of the Dorset town of Blandford Forum. Now that’s a place that is certainly worth a visit, being a lovely English town.

Now if there’s something I’ll grudgingly give the English, it’s that they have lovely towns. Blandford Forum, then, is no exception.

There was a famous fire there on 4th June 1731. Interestingly, it happened after another one in 1713. The latter was started by an apprentice boiling fat to

Plan showing the devastation of the fire of 17...

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make soap. Or maybe it was soup. Some folk probably called him a stupid bastard to differentiate between the clumsy apprentice and the two famous local architects.

One of the Bastard Brother’s houses–John’s–still stands in the main street, otherwise known as Market Place. Better still, so do the buildings of their creations, the Red Lion and The Greyhound inns. Whether they still function as drinking dens, I honestly do not have a Scooby. But I will let you know if I ever get there. There is a possiblility as I often visit Hampshire and then go over to Devon on my visits Down South. Dorset, as you may or may not know, is somewhere between those counties.

Another thing I’ll give the English is that their drinking dens are the greatest in the world. That’s not just my opinion. I know plenty of others who agree with me. What is wrong with the BBC, other than the obvious, that they have never done a series on English Inns and Taverns? They’ll be sorry if they all burn down and we have no record of them.

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Drinking with Dostoevsky

"Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsk...

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I just read an interesting article on a site called The Millions. This article was about Dostoevsky, by a gentleman called Kevin Hartnett.

It was an interesting piece as it brought memories of reading Dostoevsky back to mind and endless discussions I had with friends, deceased, diseased and still living—though some are quite healthy. Those friends were (and some still are) a rum lot.

Bear in mind that they’d rather read—and even discuss—old Fyodor in a freezing hovel with decrepit pals than have a night on the town with some young voluptuous and vivacious lass twenty years their junior. (I hasten to add that the youngest of my friends are in their early forties. In case you thought some of them were younger. You know what I mean.) Now, if that’s not rum, it’s certainly not whisky or gin.

So, sitting by a warm fire (I switched the bar off only three minutes ago) and sipping a nice Rioja, it amazes me just what people will put before their comforts to enjoy Dostoevsky. To be honest, and I say so myself as one who has read almost everything Dostoevsky has written (including notes in his school jotters, love poems to the virago who inspired Nastasia Phillipovna, and his begging letters to duns after dosh for his unpaid gambling debts): he is about as funny as a wet weekend in Wigan.

So it makes me respect those old friends who could neither be accused of being epicures nor hedonists. None of them liked epics for one thing and wouldn’t have liked anyone who put the head on anyone else—which is, after all, a common way of fighting in my native Scotland. But (this Rioja’s really nice.) Mr Harnett mentioned that he preferred Tolstoy to Dostoevsky. This is in spite of the fact that Tall Story Tolstoy himself claimed that he wrote too long sentences.

(Sorry, the wife told me not to drink so fast.)

Then why write the blasted things? That’s what I’d ask him if he were to say that to me.

“I mean, are you paid by the word or something, matey?” I’d ask him.

Some of them were, you know. Walter Scott was for one. So maybe Tolstoy was too. Meantosay, can’t these Rooskie writers just stick to the point?

You know what gets me? It’s all those names.

One minute the guy’s Ivan Ivanovitch. Next minute he’s Kushka, or something as ridiculous. Then it’s Parafinavoff or ov or whatever enters the writer’s mind. I wonder if some of them are on this Rioja. It’s really good stuff. Mind you, it’d be vodka they’d be drinking, those Russians…

I tell you, I’ve had Rioja and I’ve had vodka but give me Rioja anytime. S’cuse me while I have another slug… And un otra glug…

Just had to tell the wife to shut up…

Mind you, she’s told me “belt up” too. Says my singing’s minging. And I was singing Montiverdi’s Beatus Vir. Goes back to my schooldays.

Now, where was I? Yes, yes. Doestoevsky! And the book on that site… Oh yes, The Brothers Karamazoff. That do be it! (As they say doyn der in Devon.) Or Karamazov, depending. But it’s always depending when it comes to those Russians.

Anyway! Let me think. Ah, yes. His point… Yes, he preferred Tolstoy to Dostoevsky.

So what the heck’s he writing about Dostoevsky for? Write about Tolstoy then, pal, write about Tostoy if you think he’s so flaming high and mighty…

Sorry. Just nipped off there to get some more of that Rioja. Don’t have any but this Tempranillo’ll do just as well. Hee hee!

Have you ever tried to drink and type? It’s better’n drinking and driving. If your computer crashes, you only need to get another computador. If you’re car crashes and you’re miles away from home, you’re up what’s-it creek without a thingy.

It must be tough drinking and driving ‘cause I can assure you it’s blinking tough trying to type and drive. I mean type and drink and I’d rather drink and drink than type and drink! I would.

Yes, sorry. I didn’t quite mean that though it’s true. But I would though I meant I’d rather drink and type rather’n drink and drive. Unless I was playing golf. But that’s another story.

You see, drinking and typing’s not dangerous but typing and driving is. Unless you’re playing golf.

Let me explain when I say drinking and playing golf. No. Driving, that’s it, driving and playing golf. That’s what I meant. I didn’t mean driving one of those golf buggies I meant driving as with a driver. Get it? A wood golf club!

I don’t mean the club’s made of wood. Though the club house could be. Now I’m meandering…

You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken to write this. I’m making so many blasted mistakes that I’m amazed I’m not getting soberer by the minute with the time it’s taken with these stupid corrections.

All this slapping of my face is having no effect. My wife’s stopped it and gone of to bed. But I mean my own flapping of my space…

Sorry, have just been to the bathroom. And now. Back to my point.

Mr Hardneck said he preferred Tolstoy. Fair enough, says I. Why shouldn’t he? But yes, that’s what I wanted to mention and’d forgotten: The bit about the Grand Inquisitor. Now that was scary. Like something out of a gothic novel.

I must tell you that I’ve actually been on those very steps of Seville Cathedral. But not the Steppes of Russia. So I’ve been—probably—to a place where Dostoevsky’d never been. And he’s probably been where I’ve never been.

The Steppes, that is, ‘cause I’ve never been there. Mind you, maybe he has been to the steps of Seville Cathedral. And I’m not trying to imply he’s a has-been!

Do you know, Dostoevsky had a thing about a famous painting with Christ taken down from the cross? It’s mentioned in The Idiot. Can’t remember the painting though. Francis Shaeffer wrote about it.

It touched him tremendously. Dostoevsky, I mean, not Shaeffer. That’s where the Inquisitor comes in.

Anyway, the Grand Inquisitor summed up all that stuff I got at school from my Marist (tor)mentors. They were like that, those Marist Bastard Brothers! If you don’t believe me read Joyce’s A Portrait and that Father Dolan. Though he wouldn’t’ve been, couldn’t’ve been a Marist as a Father but another bastard just the same.

That story was one of the greatest I’ve ever read. The Grand Inquisitor, I mean, not A Portrait. I’m in tears now. Why doesn’t anyone write stories like that these days?

Or tell them. Could someone have told it so well as Ivan, in spite of Alyosha’s irritating interruptions?

I nearly cried when I first read it and what sane person wouldn’t’ve? Huxley revisited it in his other version. And if Jesus had returned to the earth during the Inquisition or any other time that same thing would’ve happened.

It’s happening now.

And who’s re-crucifying Him but the same bunch as before. The Scarlet and Purple mob claiming to represent Him. Reprehensible religious nuts that come in His Name but are workers of iniquity or outiquity.

Where’d I be without the comfort of this Rioja? Sorry, Tempranillo!

Wait a minute. Same grape or what—who cares? I’d cry without it… Or cry more…

Nobody wants to remember the Inquisition anymore. That’s fine if you’re a Catholic.

But what about all those millions who perished in the awful thing? Burning screaming at the stake No wonder; you’d be too if you tried to warn folk about the Jesuits and nobody listened.

A nation of Cassandras deaf to Churchill’s cries as Adolph armed under the blessings of that same crooked crew, cursing, blaming and demonizing the same victims. His Gestapo based on their secret sacrilegious order.

John Geilgud played the part of the G I in a film. I don’t think even those who saw the film listened. Would prefer Elvis anyway and any day in G I Blues.

You can say what you like about my old pals. You can laugh at them if you like.

But I’ll tell you, they had soul.

Anyone who reads Dostoevsky has soul!

If they understand him, I mean. That’s because Dostoyevsky had soul. Poor soul that he was. Poor and pool souls that my old pals may’ve been but never snookered when it came to the greats. They knew a crude and lewd book from a good one when they read it.

None of your Mickey Spillane or Jeffrey Chaucer for them! Or Geoffrey Archer either. I’ll tell you, I understand Dostoyevsky as a close pal. Yeah, I remember singing Beatus Vir and Tantum, Ergo and all that beautiful music but hideous theology.

That ugly, grotesque theology! Oh, and the morbid pictures and creepy statues to poison mind and heart. Mystery, Jabulon, mother of idle gossip and abominations of the earth!

But people get away off the point. They pick up on the minor things. Oh, they just don’t understand. Okay, we need a laugh. We need a bit of humour. I weep for Dostoevsky. How can anyone read of those brothers and not cry? Isn’t each one Everyman? Aren’t all of Fyodor’s fallen humans?

I’m off to bed. Maybe I’ll wake up laughing in the morning.

Raskolnikov, remember, was redeemed. The Inquisitor wasn’t because he didn’t have the humility. Religious people never do.