What Pegman Saw : The long rest

 

The ground took Mother a year ago, swallowed the desiccated morsel of her body in one gritty gulp. On the day of the funeral, I stood in woody silence, veil shielding my dry cheek. I thought how strange it was she would no longer turn those fish eyes onto my needlework, the crabbed pages of my journal, my private, never-private space.

Then this morning I found Father, quite still over the morning paper, his face a silver grey, the colour of my half-mourning gown.

He will not be my first subject and I regret so many sweet creatures had to die for me to refine my art, but they shall accompany his long rest – the leverets on his knee through the week, the clutch of drowned kittens brushed and beribboned for Sunday.

But first there is much work to be done. I shall fetch my knife.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Streetview as its jumping off point. This week we visit the Douro Valley, Portugal. See here to join in, share, read and comment.

N.B

The Victorians imposed quite a complex system on women to denote the stages of mourning after a close relative had died, starting at black through lilac to white. See here to learn more.

And to see the kind of work my character might have produced, see this gallery of the work of Walter Potter, the famous English taxidermist here.

 

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77 thoughts on “What Pegman Saw : The long rest

  1. How wonderfully, creepily dark of you, Lynn! And how appropriate for the beginning of October, when we turn our fancies toward the grisly and grotesque. I’m not sure I would have understood the story on the first read without the photo, but I love how they fit together.

    And it’s a good thing the narrator had practice. One should not start on a human with a task like that, especially not one’s own father, heaven forbid! πŸ˜‰

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    1. Haha! Yes, though it worries me that she had the forethought to practice on small mammals for some times before her dad dropped dead – she must have been considering preserving him for some time! Thank you very mush Joy

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder whether the humour was intended – I hope so. This story is both shocking and hilarious.

    It’s nice to have your family around you. Such a shame she lost her mother.

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    1. Yes, creepily humorous I hoped. I saw the photo and thought of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham whose body is still on display at UCL, though granted he’s not been the subject of taxidermy. All those people who stuff favourite pets too. Creepy and a bit sad.
      Always been weirdly fascinated/repelled by taxidermy
      Thank you Jane

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember the first time I saw those mass-produced ‘sleeping cats’ for sale at a trade show. I don’t know whether they were real stuffed cats, or if they were carefully stitched together with animal fur, but they were horrendous. A few retailers displayed them in their shop windows and cafes, presumably to give the place a homely look.. Bad idea.

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      2. Yes, nothing says home like a dead cat in the corner, does it? πŸ™‚ Very odd idea. The Victorians loved taxidermy, surrounding themselves with dead creatures as ornaments. But then they also made jewellery out of dead folks’ hair and took photographs of corpses of loved ones staged so they looked alive, so they had different views on the subject than most of us do today πŸ™‚

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      3. I think they were in denial. Surely that was the first era that truly embraced spiritualism – all those seances and people talking to shadows. If I was a historian, I’d research what lay behind the Victorians’ determination to communicate with the dead. Maybe it began with a failed actor who came up with a great business plan., or an undertaker who saw a gap in the market πŸ™‚

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      4. I think you have a point there, Jane – there was an awful look of financial exploitation through all that table tipping. Ouija boards, were originally a family game sold by Waddington’s, weren’t they? Why the Victorian era is a great question though. Will have to look into that.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. My brother, likes to research stuff. He’s with me and he tells me it was the Parker Brothers who first came up with the Ouija board. Now he’s going into far too much detail.

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      6. He comes to see me at least once a week, and I have to be very careful not to say “I wonder who…” or “I wonder why…” He Googles EVERYTHING, and when he finds the answer he carries on reading all sorts of related – boring – facts. I love him, but sometimes… πŸ™‚

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      7. Ha! A modern disease, Googleitis and one I confess I have a mild case of. It’s just everything is out there, every fact to be found. Though, of course I retain very little … Maybe we should set up a support group, try to wean ourselves off.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. NO!!! Googling is great – just try to keep the information to yourself unless you can find a way to make it interesting to others πŸ™‚

        BTW, From 1977 to 2011, the national flag of Libya was green. like, just green,
        and
        The word dude is used 161 times in the movie β€˜The Big Lebowski’.

        Fascinating!

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      9. Haha! I love your facts! I wonder if the Big Lebowski holds the record for the number of dudes in a film? I do love to Google, though it does make me worried people don’t feel they actually need to have skill, from basic cooking to languages to DIY. What’s the motivation of going to evening classes or actually paying attention to anything when you can just google it?

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      10. Social life is suffering through the use of computers. I hope Googling isn’t replacing evening classes – a lot of people went to them largely to meet others.

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  3. Exactly the kind of story I could have done without this morning! Can’t concentrate on anything but comforting the houndβ€”they’re hunting round our way this morning and it’s horrible.

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      1. Ah, you get hares round where you live? That’s wonderful. Something much more exciting about hares than rabbits – no offence to rabbits. I think it must be all that folklore surrounding hares – magical creatures. Very glad it’s safe πŸ™‚

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      2. They are magical. I was astonished at how big they are, and not nearly as timid as I’d have thought. The neighbours say there has always been a hare lives here. The old couple who lived here before us didn’t allow hunting and they were here since the 1950s. Maybe the hare doesn’t feel it risks much from the humans in this house.

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      3. Now that’s special. Knowing that a very wild animal like a hare would feel safe by you – just wonderful. I have a minor fixation with them, in imagery and stories. Something special about them and wolves and some other creatures that are purely ‘themselves’

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      4. The deer amble through as well. I think the place must feel safe. We’re at a place where woodland and farmland converge. The hunters help themselves to the farmland and they don’t like being kept out. I’d do it just for the hare.

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      5. They know they’re not welcome here, but to go from that to keeping them out altogether is a big step. They are a law unto themselves the sanguinary buggers.

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      6. My Other Half took my son to a rifle range a few weeks ago. He used to love archery but a muscle problem has stopped him from taking part and I think he was searching for an alternative. The coach there was very good, helping them sight their paper targets … and then began to proudly tell them how he shot a fox dead from x metres away with his gun. The OH nodded politely and changed the subject. I understand country folk see foxes as vermin, but still. It’s a different mindset.

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      7. The list of ‘pests’ here is as long as your arm, but virtually none of them do any damage to anything. Like weasels, mapies, I ask you! Even the foxes, when you ask why they are shooting them, they say because if they don’t there’ll be too many. Not because they steal chickens. It isn’t as though there are any chicken famers round here, and everybody says they risk more from stray dogs than foxes. It’s just they have this idea of regulation. If you see an animal is must be because there are thousands of them and we’ll be over run if the good hunters don’t do something about it.

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      8. As you say, I’m pretty sure no nation is in danger of being overrun by foxes, magpies or weasels and farmers are generally pretty good at protecting their stock from predators these days. Old habits die hard though and the kind of thinking that led farmers to nail crows to their fence posts will take along time to vanish

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      9. There’s superstition and there’s survival tactic and there’s pure pleasure in suffering. There’s also a disregard for the suffering of animals if it interferes with human entertainment but it comes down to the same thing. We don’t do it to survive any more and nobody really believes in superstitions, so that leaves entertainment…

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      10. Human blood lust, then, disguised as necessity. What else explains fox hunting? They can tell us it’s to curb fox numbers but there are much more efficient ways to do that. It’s exciting and hunters should just be more honest about it.

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      11. I read the other day that foxes had to be imported to UK in the nineteenth century because the idle rich had killed all the indigenous ones. The hunters pat themselves on the back for saving the species…

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      12. We get it here too. Twenty years ago there were less than 400 wild boar shot in the whole of France. Last year there were over 4300 shot. The hunters say, look at the increase in numbers, we need permission to hunt the critters at night with lights, all year round. The anti-chasse point out the the numbers have increased because the hunters feed them, protect them when they have young ones so they can have the fun of hunting them. Our local association told a neighbouring farmer who wouldn’t allow them to hunt on his land told him that if he refused them access, his insurance wouldn’t pay out for any damage the pigs did. Lies of course. The hunting associations are having to pay out huge damages because they have been encouraging the wild boar’s proliferation.

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      13. Wow, I had no idea. Hunting boar? They think they’re Asterix and Obelix? That’s very medieval, though I’m sure the way they’re killed is far from it

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      14. They shot one just down the lane from here on Friday and when we lived in Bordeaux they had to get the gendarmes to shoot one just outside our place in the centre of town. They swim the Garonne from the woody bits opposite. There are more than ever and they’re not safe in residential areas like 130 kilos worth of unsafe, but the hunters encourage them.

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      15. I think it’s wonderful they’re around, but as you say, their numbers need to be controlled and things will only get worse as their numbers swell and conurbations spread

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      16. They could start by forbidding the hunters to feed them and stopping the massacre of foxes, the only real predator of the piglets. Can’t see either happening. They love killing pigs too much.

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      17. I made ours watch the one where they capture a German U-boat crew and the captain makes his ‘little list’. Son actually found it funny. The others were a bit bemused. I of course was rolling about on the floor.

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      18. We’ve tried to make our watch, but he just looks bemused too. Too small, too quaint, too slow for modern kids I think. Though he will watch some Morcambe and Wise at Christmas

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      19. The cultural references aren’t there any more. When I was at primary school I remember boys’ comics still had stories about ‘Jerries’ and I can’t remember what the English were called. Comics were probably years behind everything else, like girls’ comics were still full of kids at single sex boarding schools. The war and the British obsession with winning it singlehanded with laughs has just died. My husband doesn’t find any of the 70s humour funny at all. I don’t understand it. He had a weird upbringing.

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      20. Very true! My dad used to sing the Flanagan and Allen song, Underneath the Arches around the house, my nan would sing Lazybones – a Paul Robeson song from the 30s. My nan’s kitchen hadn’t been updated since the war – same stove, same mangle, water heater, same bread knife I suspect! I was given a girl’s annual with stories of plucky gels defeating Jerries and the story of the French nurse Edith Cavell. It felt quite close still, didn’t it? Ancient history to our kids’ generation.

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      21. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but the war was viewed in a slightly different way in my family. Being Irish meant ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. Without having any sympathy with the Germans, they never joined in with the flag-waving aren’t we wonderful, Dunkerque spirit stuff. We loved Dad’s Army because of its gentle mockery of all that. It was close, but I was brought up in the kind of household where the old folk still argued about what would have happened if Michael Collins hadn’t been assassinated. Long memories πŸ™‚

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      22. It’s interesting, gearing that other side of a such a big event. I can’t blame nations for feeling angry with the English – we did oppress/destroy so many cultures over the years. If only we could elect a government that could convince people we’re not all like that anymore! πŸ™‚

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      23. Since I moved to France straight after university, I only seem to be back to the UK for funerals. When I went back for my dad’s funeral in 1992 I was astonished at how much the local attitude towards the Catholics had changed. They gave directions with reference to the ‘Roman Catholic church’ for example, whereas not so many years before they would have pretended it didn’t exist. Times have changed, people have mellowed.

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      24. It almost certainly will unless you get rid of the Tories, so the DUP can disappear up their own arses and maintain the same invisible border. Alternatively let the six counties have their own referendum. That should be fun.

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      25. I do keep trying to get rid of the Tories – every single blessed election! What do you think would happen if there was a referendum? Would it tear the country apart even more, do you think?

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      26. I don’t know. I did hear somewhere that the result would be very similar to the first one, that not very many people have changed their minds. David Cameron should be forced to account for his arrogant imbecility. I sometimes I wonder if they won’t finally have a referendum on the status of Northern Ireland and just cut it adrift. It’s been nothing but trouble since 1922.

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      27. I can hardly believe people haven’t changed their minds – in light of how badly things have gone. But sadly, you’re probably right. And yes, Cameron should be held accountable, but the UK don’t seem to be brilliant at that – how many bankers were prosecuted in light of the 2008 crash? And the system remains largely unchanged. I wonder how these statesmen sleep at night – Cameron, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher -the leaders who brought down suffering on their people through their own (often avoidable) actions. But then, you have to have a certain personality to yearn for that kind of power in the first place. Sociopaths.

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      28. I’m afraid so. They don’t have the same consciences as normal people. They never think they’ve done anything wrong, never see any hypocrisy in the way they live and the life they impose on others. The voters who persist in thinking their best interests are in following these self-serving glory hunters need their brains servicing.

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  4. Another macabre image to add to my Word Shambles gallery, thanks! There’s an artist who often exhibits locally who creates what she calls fauxidermy—hares and otters and deer modelled with patchwork material overlaid—which I think is a less creepy, more acceptable way to display animals (and we’ve often been tempted to purchase) but rather less fun! πŸ™‚

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      1. My favourite example was by Gomez de Molina; most disturbing? Respectively, E V Day’s and Kate Clarke’s pieces. But all … unusual.

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      2. Yes, I liked his work too – all those fantastical animals, mythical creatures he made real, a mixture of Richard Dadd and Hieronymus Bosch! Though I read he was accused (and pleaded guilty to) smuggling endangered animals – not great to say the least. And Kate Clark’s human faces on animal bodies – so creepy!

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    1. Ha! A perfect combination as far as I’m concerned! I’m imagining her finding the drowned kittens in a sack, not necessarily drowning them herself. Although, she is a bit odd … Thanks so much for reading Lish

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    1. I think her mother was controlling but she loved her parents and wants to keep her father with her even if he is now dead. Taxidermy seems a strange way to do this, but people are strange. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading Abhijit

      Like

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