Beard

Anno Domini 1645
 
Hob died at Naseby aged 16, his breast pierced by a Roundhead pike. As he fell he cried three times “Beard, Beard, Beard”, but such was the din of battle that no one heard him. His father, beside whom Hob had so proudly set off for the south to fight for the king, survived the defeat and made his way back to the farm, tattered and lame, wondering how to break the news that Hob would not be coming back. In their grief, no one at the farm remembered to tell him how Beard had pined for Hob, waiting at the farmyard gate every evening, then one day he’d disappeared and had not been seen since. When thoughts of Beard came all uncalled to mind, Hob’s father ached with the flood of memories: the boy and the dog out rabbiting on the hillsides in that sunnier, happier time, or coming home to pose solemnly for his wife’s uncle, a painter becoming known for his portraits – Hob’s father wished now that they had this painting at the farm, but Bess’s uncle had taken it with him. He remembered the boy smuggling the dog into his room under the eaves and, when caught, explaining seriously “But Beard cannot abide being left by himself”. Or the last day, when Hob had locked Beard in the stable so that he wouldn’t follow them as they rode off, caressing his ears and saying “Wait for me, Beard, I shall return when I can.” Or the very first day, when Hob was ten… The little brindled mongrel had appeared in the yard and the cowman had kicked it in the ribs and thrown stones at it until a small and furious boy had hurled himself forward yelling “In God’s name stop, he is my dog, he is mine, do you hear me, mine”. They hadn’t really wanted another dog and indeed had just drowned the sheepdog’s latest litter – but Hob had a talent for getting his way and the little mongrel with the grey tuft on his chin had stayed. “His name is Greybeard,” said Hob, but before long he became simply Beard.
 

***

Anno Domini 1745
 
History has a curious way of repeating itself sometimes. Rob was also just 16 when he fell on Culloden field, fighting in a vain attempt to restore Charles Stuart’s meretricious great-nephew and namesake to the throne. However, Rob’s father and his two brothers fell too, so there was no one to return to the farm. And no one to tell how Rob’s dog, the mongrel terrier that he called Beard or Beardie, had fought beside him, or how he had stayed beside Rob’s body until the moon rose and then was gone into the night. Indeed, with no son left to inherit it the farm soon fell into disrepair and was finally abandoned.
 

***

Anno Domini 1845
 
Robert’s father’s medical practice was prosperous, and by judiciously selling some land to the new railway company he found that his circumstances justified building a country house. The hills around the site of the old farmstead were rich enough in game for him to be able to invite one or two of his friends for a little rough shooting. His wife liked the idea of having a place in the country. Moreover the children were looking a trifle peaky and Nanny was convinced that a little good fresh country air would set them up. Thus it was that a rather grand stone house arose on the site of the old farm, and Robert and his sisters came with their parents to spend the Christmas holidays there. It has to be said that Robert was not a very nice little boy. Nanny had more than once reprimanded him for pulling the wings off flies and had told him that he only got what he deserved when the kitchen cat scratched him severely. Thus when she caught him throwing stones at the funny little brindled dog that had appeared from nowhere her remonstrations were routine: “Master Robert, that is not the way for little gentlemen to behave, stop tormenting that poor dumb creature at once or I’ll have to speak to your Mama.” However the incident was forgotten in the next day’s tragedy. Robert drowned when he fell through the ice on the frozen pond. Only his youngest sister Flora knew that he had been attempting to push the little brindled dog with the grey tuft through the hole in the ice…
 

***

Anno Domini 1945
 
Bob’s mother was so thankful to have her husband safe home from the war that perhaps she hadn’t been paying as much attention to Bob as she should have done after they moved out of the city to live in the chilly Victorian house in the hills. Bob had always been a rather solitary child, which is why she felt a twinge of guilt when she caught him secreting some of his dinner and, on being questioned, he mumbled that it was for his dog.
 
“What dog is that, Bob?” she asked.
 
“He’s mine, he’s my friend.”
 
“He’s a pretend friend isn’t he, Bob,” she said quite kindly, believing that a child’s imagination should be encouraged but that, all the same, the distinction between reality and fantasy shouldn’t be blurred.
 
“He hates being left alone, he likes being with me.”
 
Later that evening Bob’s mother talked to his father about it. “I’m worried about him, don’t you think that ten is a bit old for a child to have imaginary friends or an imaginary animal?”
 
“I shouldn’t fret if I were you. He’s just lonely, that’s all. Tell you what, why don’t we let him have a real dog now that we’re living in the country? Mr Sim’s bitch has just had a litter and I’ve heard he’s looking for homes for them. Why don’t we take Bob and let him choose one?”
 
In spite of his parents’ attempts to persuade Bob to choose the biggest and strongest puppy, Bob insisted that he wanted the runt of the litter, a little brindled male with grey hairs on his chin.
 
“His name is Beard, Mum. I know he wants to be my dog. He’s been waiting for me, you see, he wants to be with me for always.”
 
Indeed, Beard lived out a long and happy life with Bob. In the fullness of time he died and was buried under the old crab apple tree which grew on the spot where so long ago Hob had stood when he first claimed his dog.
 
Bob’s mother was not particularly interested in paintings but went into the National Gallery one day to shelter from a sudden downpour. At least it was warm and dry in there. While she waited for the rain to stop she wandered through a room containing 17th-century portraits. Suddenly she shivered. In front of her was a picture entitled ‘Boy with a Dog’. Both boy and dog gazed straight at her with a calm solemnity. The dog was Beard and the boy – apart from his shoulder-length curls and his 17th-century clothes – was Bob aged ten or eleven.
 

Candlemas 1995

 
 
© Petrie Harbouri 1995

Anno Domini 1645
 
Hob died at Naseby aged 16, his breast pierced by a Roundhead pike. As he fell he cried three times “Beard, Beard, Beard”, but such was the din of battle that no one heard him. His father, beside whom Hob had so proudly set off for the south to fight for the king, survived the defeat and made his way back to the farm, tattered and lame, wondering how to break the news that Hob would not be coming back. In their grief, no one at the farm remembered to tell him how Beard had pined for Hob, waiting at the farmyard gate every evening, then one day he’d disappeared and had not been seen since. When thoughts of Beard came all uncalled to mind, Hob’s father ached with the flood of memories: the boy and the dog out rabbiting on the hillsides in that sunnier, happier time, or coming home to pose solemnly for his wife’s uncle, a painter becoming known for his portraits – Hob’s father wished now that they had this painting at the farm, but Bess’s uncle had taken it with him. He remembered the boy smuggling the dog into his room under the eaves and, when caught, explaining seriously “But Beard cannot abide being left by himself”. Or the last day, when Hob had locked Beard in the stable so that he wouldn’t follow them as they rode off, caressing his ears and saying “Wait for me, Beard, I shall return when I can.” Or the very first day, when Hob was ten… The little brindled mongrel had appeared in the yard and the cowman had kicked it in the ribs and thrown stones at it until a small and furious boy had hurled himself forward yelling “In God’s name stop, he is my dog, he is mine, do you hear me, mine”. They hadn’t really wanted another dog and indeed had just drowned the sheepdog’s latest litter – but Hob had a talent for getting his way and the little mongrel with the grey tuft on his chin had stayed. “His name is Greybeard,” said Hob, but before long he became simply Beard.
 

***

Anno Domini 1745
 
History has a curious way of repeating itself sometimes. Rob was also just 16 when he fell on Culloden field, fighting in a vain attempt to restore Charles Stuart’s meretricious great-nephew and namesake to the throne. However, Rob’s father and his two brothers fell too, so there was no one to return to the farm. And no one to tell how Rob’s dog, the mongrel terrier that he called Beard or Beardie, had fought beside him, or how he had stayed beside Rob’s body until the moon rose and then was gone into the night. Indeed, with no son left to inherit it the farm soon fell into disrepair and was finally abandoned.
 

***

Anno Domini 1845
 
Robert’s father’s medical practice was prosperous, and by judiciously selling some land to the new railway company he found that his circumstances justified building a country house. The hills around the site of the old farmstead were rich enough in game for him to be able to invite one or two of his friends for a little rough shooting. His wife liked the idea of having a place in the country. Moreover the children were looking a trifle peaky and Nanny was convinced that a little good fresh country air would set them up. Thus it was that a rather grand stone house arose on the site of the old farm, and Robert and his sisters came with their parents to spend the Christmas holidays there. It has to be said that Robert was not a very nice little boy. Nanny had more than once reprimanded him for pulling the wings off flies and had told him that he only got what he deserved when the kitchen cat scratched him severely. Thus when she caught him throwing stones at the funny little brindled dog that had appeared from nowhere her remonstrations were routine: “Master Robert, that is not the way for little gentlemen to behave, stop tormenting that poor dumb creature at once or I’ll have to speak to your Mama.” However the incident was forgotten in the next day’s tragedy. Robert drowned when he fell through the ice on the frozen pond. Only his youngest sister Flora knew that he had been attempting to push the little brindled dog with the grey tuft through the hole in the ice…
 

***

Anno Domini 1945
 
Bob’s mother was so thankful to have her husband safe home from the war that perhaps she hadn’t been paying as much attention to Bob as she should have done after they moved out of the city to live in the chilly Victorian house in the hills. Bob had always been a rather solitary child, which is why she felt a twinge of guilt when she caught him secreting some of his dinner and, on being questioned, he mumbled that it was for his dog.
 
“What dog is that, Bob?” she asked.
 
“He’s mine, he’s my friend.”
 
“He’s a pretend friend isn’t he, Bob,” she said quite kindly, believing that a child’s imagination should be encouraged but that, all the same, the distinction between reality and fantasy shouldn’t be blurred.
 
“He hates being left alone, he likes being with me.”
 
Later that evening Bob’s mother talked to his father about it. “I’m worried about him, don’t you think that ten is a bit old for a child to have imaginary friends or an imaginary animal?”
 
“I shouldn’t fret if I were you. He’s just lonely, that’s all. Tell you what, why don’t we let him have a real dog now that we’re living in the country? Mr Sim’s bitch has just had a litter and I’ve heard he’s looking for homes for them. Why don’t we take Bob and let him choose one?”
 
In spite of his parents’ attempts to persuade Bob to choose the biggest and strongest puppy, Bob insisted that he wanted the runt of the litter, a little brindled male with grey hairs on his chin.
 
“His name is Beard, Mum. I know he wants to be my dog. He’s been waiting for me, you see, he wants to be with me for always.”
 
Indeed, Beard lived out a long and happy life with Bob. In the fullness of time he died and was buried under the old crab apple tree which grew on the spot where so long ago Hob had stood when he first claimed his dog.
 
Bob’s mother was not particularly interested in paintings but went into the National Gallery one day to shelter from a sudden downpour. At least it was warm and dry in there. While she waited for the rain to stop she wandered through a room containing 17th-century portraits. Suddenly she shivered. In front of her was a picture entitled ‘Boy with a Dog’. Both boy and dog gazed straight at her with a calm solemnity. The dog was Beard and the boy – apart from his shoulder-length curls and his 17th-century clothes – was Bob aged ten or eleven.
 
Candlemas 1995
 
 

© Petrie Harbouri 1995

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: Sometimes Tom and I like to keep the virtual tape rolling as we chat over coffee about the stories we feature. Here’s a little part of a long conversation in progress…
 
coffee shop ambience
 
TN: This story is structured on a theme of reincarnation. Not in any spiritual sense but purely as an internal logic of the story.
 
BR: How do you know that?
 
TN: There’s that cloudy distinction between knowledge and suspicion. Resolution can be satisfying in a story, but its deliberate withholding can be delicious.
 
BR: Definitely.
 
TN: I think that’s what she’s doing here. It’s more a tangled web of connections than anything literal.
 
BR: Yes, I agree. But about this theme of reincarnations – you know,  cycles of battles and deaths and loss…. Some people might say that it makes them feel like everything is the same. There is no difference. A place where hope is irrelevant. A kind of claustrophobia perhaps.
 
TN: Well, true. But it's a matter of scale though, isn’t it? If you view the Earth from a great distance away in space, you see a dot of light. You have no idea what's going on down there.
 
BR: Yeah, and then you zoom in, and it’s a fractal, ever more detailed, the same yet different.
 
TN: Yep. There are differences when you can see them. But if there is such a thing as a universal truth, I think it's at work here.
 
BR: How so?
 
TN: The dog is reincarnated through different historical epochs because he is looking for love, and for a companion who doesn't leave him.
 
BR: And why is it not the other way around?
 
TN: I'm not sure. Could be both. There’s an ancient relationship between dogs and humans, mutually beneficial and very successful in an evolutionary sense. That little shit in the story, you know, the one who drowns. He's not a good person for a dog to be with. So the dog keeps going.
 
BR: So the dog’s very nature, it’s will, it’s love, propels it through successive incarnations… hmm...
 
TN: Well, in a universal sense, yes.
 
BR: Also, I like the way the story moves through different eras and she tailors the language specifically for each one. You see how it changes as the story progresses. It's very clever and subtle.
 
TN: Yeah. The story starts at Naseby and the boy is called Hob - a 17th century equivalent of our modern day Bob.
 
BR: I've never heard of Naseby before.
 
TN: It was a battle in the English Civil War. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, fought the parliamentarians, known as the Roundheads, and lost. Why they were called the Roundheads, I'm not sure. Maybe it had something to do with their haircuts, you know - the pudding-bowl variety. Anyway the Roundheads ultimately won the war, and killed the king. Oliver Cromwell ruled the Country as Lord Protector until his death in 1658 and the monarchy was restored in 1660. Under Cromwell, Christmas was banned as a pagan festival, and theatres were closed. Basically a fundamentalist regime.
 
BR: Yeah. But getting back to the story - it moves through history in hundred year intervals.
 
TN: Yeah. It makes me wonder if one hundred year intervals have some special significance, another layer of meaning running through the story.
 
BR: For me, it’s like that idea of reincarnation, which I don’t really believe in, but who knows? I don’t disbelieve it either. Anything is possible. For me this story is about... not exactly how history repeats, but rather how it rhymes.
 
TN: Hmm, that’s an interesting idea. Quite poetic. Does it have to do with connections?
 
BR: Yeah, yeah.
 
TN: I noticed that Robert’s sister in the 1845 section is called Flora - the same name as the woman who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape after his defeat at Culloden by disguising him as her maid - Flora MacDonald.
 
BR: Cool. My ancestor Colin Campbell was in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army.
 
TN: Hmm. Well ironically, it was a Campbell who defeated him…Actually no I'm wrong. It was Cumberland. I suppose I'm just too eager to make connections.
 
BR: Ha. Better get a grip on that. But thank Bob it wasn't a Campbell.
 
TN: Hmm. Well, in the story all the boys have a variant of the name Robert - Hob, Rob, Robert and Bob. Are these things what you mean by history rhyming?
 
BR: Yes, in a way. It has to do with patterns, and how meaning seems to arise from similarities between two things - much more subtle than strict repetition. Like words sounding similar due to patterns of letters. One after another, the similarities accrue, and a new scale of pattern emerges…
 
TN: Like the hundred-year cycle.
 
BR: Exactly. In fiction, of course, the author controls this. But even in so-called “real life,” strange synchronicities occur often. Paul Auster - I think it was in his memoir the Invention of Solitude - called them “rhyming events.” And Mark Twain is quoted as saying “History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes”... but oddly enough, there seems to be no proof he actually said that. But anyway, in my view this story is pointing toward those ideas… toward how such weirdness is actually true. The mystery of history. Did the author intend that? I don’t know. It would be nice to talk to her in person, so she could elaborate on those points.
 
TN: Yeah, but would you travel 4,921 miles to talk to a couple of schmucks on a podcast for six or seven minutes?
 
BR: Well no, but there's always the phone.
 
TN: Ah yeah, of course. The phone. The device that enables you to talk to people that aren't there. I should have thought of that. I'm too busy texting these days. I completely forgot about it.
 
BR: Okay what about the next section? Tell me about Culloden.
 
TN: Well, it was a battle in 1745 which ended the Jacobite rebellions. Maybe that's why you're over here.
 
BR: Maybe...
 
TN: James Francis Edward Stuart, son of deposed King James II, and known as The Old Pretender, wanted to wrest the throne from the Hanoverian King George II.
 
BR: Why?
 
TN: I don't know. I suppose it could be the nature of that kind of chair - you know - the seat of power. Lust for power is perhaps an expression of fear. But the system was set up for it. Someone had to be King. Anyway, Queen Anne was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. I think she had twenty children, but none of them survived her.
 
BR: Wow. Brutal.
 
TN: So when she died, the throne was vacant and it passed to George I from Hanover through some connection with a maternal grandmother, after various Catholics had been excluded. That’s my version of history anyway.
 
BR: This is all very intriguing, but.....
 
TN: It is. I think somehow the events around Culloden, on an historical timescale, were in a way pivotal.
 
BR: What do you mean?
 
TN: There are a lot of "Lasts" involved. After the succession of the Hanoverians there have been no more Catholic monarchs. George II was the last British monarch to personally lead troops in battle, though not at Culloden. It was the last pitched battle fought on British soil. It was the culmination of the last Jacobite rebellion. It was over within an hour....
 
BR: Wait, I think we really ought to......
 
TN: It was also a religious war in a way. The Hanoverians were Protestants and the Jacobites were mostly Catholics with a smattering of Scottish Episcopalians thrown in. They were led by J.F.E. Stuart's son, The Young Pretender, Charles Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie.
 
BR: Tom....
 
TN: He escaped to France.......
 
BR: Hold up a minute. We're going to run out of time and we need .......
 
TN: We all run out of time.
 
BR: Yes. But we need to stop digressing and get back to our purpose, which is......
 
TN: Escape from purpose is something that screams out to me constantly.
 
BR: Hmm, you know, damn it, you’re right! Yes, forget purpose. So… at least the next hundred year leap in the story doesn't land us in another war.
 
TN: No. It's The Industrial Revolution. New money. Sadness.
 
BR: I can see that. The money buys a big house. It’s tarnished with the desire for status and does not provide happiness. The big house and the mean little boy - who is mean because he’s unhappy. That misery leads him to torment the dog, which is a perversion of that ancient relationship you mentioned before, and for which he dies. Punished… but by whom?
 
TN: It seems to me that in this part of the story the Industrial Revolution is equated with a kind of personal unhappiness. It's not surprising with our contemporary perspective on that rather narrow Victorian idea of progress.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: The last section of the story, a hundred years further on, brings us to the end of the Second World War, also a grim time, especially in Europe. But in this section the sadness of the previous one, and its effect upon the boy and dog, is turned around.
 
BR: Yes. The loneliness of a socially isolated boy, whose father has been away in the war, is assuaged by his mutually loving relationship with a dog.
 
TN: And the mother recognizing her son and his dog in an old painting affirms that. It's a subtle resolution. It's as if the relationship between man and dog has been set right. It provides a glimmer of hope.
 
BR: It does. For me, this is the key moment in the story - the endless rhyming spiral comes around again. And, pardon my compulsive clock-watching, but now we’re really out of time.
 
TN: By the way, I emailed the author. She said that although she does not believe in actual reincarnation she wanted to explore the idea of continuity over time. She described it as “a Candlemas story”. When I was puzzled she explained that Candlemas - February 2nd
 
BR: Groundhog Day! The movie… everything repeats. Or rhymes.
 
TN: Well, it’s her birthday and also the birthday of a friend. For many years they had dinner together on this day, and she, her husband and her friend would all write short stories to be read aloud after dinner. Each year they would start with the same title to produce three utterly different stories. Let’s see... she writes,“I found the chosen title ‘Beard’ difficult to get to grips with, until I suddenly realised that it must be a dog’s name – and then everything fell into place.” Hmm. What fun those dinners must have been.
 
BR: Yes, very cool. Maybe we should do that - invite some friends for a similar project. Let’s talk about that for a while, clock be damned. We could sit around a campfire….
 
TN: And maybe we should put out the other two Beard stories on The Strange Recital.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: It’s a very literary pastime, reminiscent of Byron and Shelley. Who knows, one of us might write Frankenstein…..or would you rather be Keats?
 
BR: I'd rather be Mary Shelley as a matter of fact...

BR: Sometimes Tom and I like to keep the virtual tape rolling as we chat over coffee about the stories we feature. Here’s a little part of a long conversation in progress…
 
coffee shop ambience
 
TN: This story is structured on a theme of reincarnation. Not in any spiritual sense but purely as an internal logic of the story.
 
BR: How do you know that?
 
TN: There’s that cloudy distinction between knowledge and suspicion. Resolution can be satisfying in a story, but its deliberate withholding can be delicious.
 
BR: Definitely.
 
TN: I think that’s what she’s doing here. It’s more a tangled web of connections than anything literal.
 
BR: Yes, I agree. But about this theme of reincarnations – you know,  cycles of battles and deaths and loss…. Some people might say that it makes them feel like everything is the same. There is no difference. A place where hope is irrelevant. A kind of claustrophobia perhaps.
 
TN: Well, true. But it's a matter of scale though, isn’t it? If you view the Earth from a great distance away in space, you see a dot of light. You have no idea what's going on down there.
 
BR: Yeah, and then you zoom in, and it’s a fractal, ever more detailed, the same yet different.
 
TN: Yep. There are differences when you can see them. But if there is such a thing as a universal truth, I think it's at work here.
 
BR: How so?
 
TN: The dog is reincarnated through different historical epochs because he is looking for love, and for a companion who doesn't leave him.
 
BR: And why is it not the other way around?
 
TN: I'm not sure. Could be both. There’s an ancient relationship between dogs and humans, mutually beneficial and very successful in an evolutionary sense. That little shit in the story, you know, the one who drowns. He's not a good person for a dog to be with. So the dog keeps going.
 
BR: So the dog’s very nature, it’s will, it’s love, propels it through successive incarnations… hmm...
 
TN: Well, in a universal sense, yes.
 
BR: Also, I like the way the story moves through different eras and she tailors the language specifically for each one. You see how it changes as the story progresses. It's very clever and subtle.
 
TN: Yeah. The story starts at Naseby and the boy is called Hob - a 17th century equivalent of our modern day Bob.
 
BR: I've never heard of Naseby before.
 
TN: It was a battle in the English Civil War. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, fought the parliamentarians, known as the Roundheads, and lost. Why they were called the Roundheads, I'm not sure. Maybe it had something to do with their haircuts, you know - the pudding-bowl variety. Anyway the Roundheads ultimately won the war, and killed the king. Oliver Cromwell ruled the Country as Lord Protector until his death in 1658 and the monarchy was restored in 1660. Under Cromwell, Christmas was banned as a pagan festival, and theatres were closed. Basically a fundamentalist regime.
 
BR: Yeah. But getting back to the story - it moves through history in hundred year intervals.
 
TN: Yeah. It makes me wonder if one hundred year intervals have some special significance, another layer of meaning running through the story.
 
BR: For me, it’s like that idea of reincarnation, which I don’t really believe in, but who knows? I don’t disbelieve it either. Anything is possible. For me this story is about... not exactly how history repeats, but rather how it rhymes.
 
TN: Hmm, that’s an interesting idea. Quite poetic. Does it have to do with connections?
 
BR: Yeah, yeah.
 
TN: I noticed that Robert’s sister in the 1845 section is called Flora - the same name as the woman who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape after his defeat at Culloden by disguising him as her maid - Flora MacDonald.
 
BR: Cool. My ancestor Colin Campbell was in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army.
 
TN: Hmm. Well ironically, it was a Campbell who defeated him…Actually no I'm wrong. It was Cumberland. I suppose I'm just too eager to make connections.
 
BR: Ha. Better get a grip on that. But thank Bob it wasn't a Campbell.
 
TN: Hmm. Well, in the story all the boys have a variant of the name Robert - Hob, Rob, Robert and Bob. Are these things what you mean by history rhyming?
 
BR: Yes, in a way. It has to do with patterns, and how meaning seems to arise from similarities between two things - much more subtle than strict repetition. Like words sounding similar due to patterns of letters. One after another, the similarities accrue, and a new scale of pattern emerges…
 
TN: Like the hundred-year cycle.
 
BR: Exactly. In fiction, of course, the author controls this. But even in so-called “real life,” strange synchronicities occur often. Paul Auster - I think it was in his memoir the Invention of Solitude - called them “rhyming events.” And Mark Twain is quoted as saying “History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes”... but oddly enough, there seems to be no proof he actually said that. But anyway, in my view this story is pointing toward those ideas… toward how such weirdness is actually true. The mystery of history. Did the author intend that? I don’t know. It would be nice to talk to her in person, so she could elaborate on those points.
 
TN: Yeah, but would you travel 4,921 miles to talk to a couple of schmucks on a podcast for six or seven minutes?
 
BR: Well no, but there's always the phone.
 
TN: Ah yeah, of course. The phone. The device that enables you to talk to people that aren't there. I should have thought of that. I'm too busy texting these days. I completely forgot about it.
 
BR: Okay what about the next section? Tell me about Culloden.
 
TN: Well, it was a battle in 1745 which ended the Jacobite rebellions. Maybe that's why you're over here.
 
BR: Maybe...
 
TN: James Francis Edward Stuart, son of deposed King James II, and known as The Old Pretender, wanted to wrest the throne from the Hanoverian King George II.
 
BR: Why?
 
TN: I don't know. I suppose it could be the nature of that kind of chair - you know - the seat of power. Lust for power is perhaps an expression of fear. But the system was set up for it. Someone had to be King. Anyway, Queen Anne was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. I think she had twenty children, but none of them survived her.
 
BR: Wow. Brutal.
 
TN: So when she died, the throne was vacant and it passed to George I from Hanover through some connection with a maternal grandmother, after various Catholics had been excluded. That’s my version of history anyway.
 
BR: This is all very intriguing, but.....
 
TN: It is. I think somehow the events around Culloden, on an historical timescale, were in a way pivotal.
 
BR: What do you mean?
 
TN: There are a lot of "Lasts" involved. After the succession of the Hanoverians there have been no more Catholic monarchs. George II was the last British monarch to personally lead troops in battle, though not at Culloden. It was the last pitched battle fought on British soil. It was the culmination of the last Jacobite rebellion. It was over within an hour....
 
BR: Wait, I think we really ought to......
 
TN: It was also a religious war in a way. The Hanoverians were Protestants and the Jacobites were mostly Catholics with a smattering of Scottish Episcopalians thrown in. They were led by J.F.E. Stuart's son, The Young Pretender, Charles Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie.
 
BR: Tom....
 
TN: He escaped to France.......
 
BR: Hold up a minute. We're going to run out of time and we need .......
 
TN: We all run out of time.
 
BR: Yes. But we need to stop digressing and get back to our purpose, which is......
 
TN: Escape from purpose is something that screams out to me constantly.
 
BR: Hmm, you know, damn it, you’re right! Yes, forget purpose. So… at least the next hundred year leap in the story doesn't land us in another war.
 
TN: No. It's The Industrial Revolution. New money. Sadness.
 
BR: I can see that. The money buys a big house. It’s tarnished with the desire for status and does not provide happiness. The big house and the mean little boy - who is mean because he’s unhappy. That misery leads him to torment the dog, which is a perversion of that ancient relationship you mentioned before, and for which he dies. Punished… but by whom?
 
TN: It seems to me that in this part of the story the Industrial Revolution is equated with a kind of personal unhappiness. It's not surprising with our contemporary perspective on that rather narrow Victorian idea of progress.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: The last section of the story, a hundred years further on, brings us to the end of the Second World War, also a grim time, especially in Europe. But in this section the sadness of the previous one, and its effect upon the boy and dog, is turned around.
 
BR: Yes. The loneliness of a socially isolated boy, whose father has been away in the war, is assuaged by his mutually loving relationship with a dog.
 
TN: And the mother recognizing her son and his dog in an old painting affirms that. It's a subtle resolution. It's as if the relationship between man and dog has been set right. It provides a glimmer of hope.
 
BR: It does. For me, this is the key moment in the story - the endless rhyming spiral comes around again. And, pardon my compulsive clock-watching, but now we’re really out of time.
 
TN: By the way, I emailed the author. She said that although she does not believe in actual reincarnation she wanted to explore the idea of continuity over time. She described it as “a Candlemas story”. When I was puzzled she explained that Candlemas - February 2nd
 
BR: Groundhog Day! The movie… everything repeats. Or rhymes.
 
TN: Well, it’s her birthday and also the birthday of a friend. For many years they had dinner together on this day, and she, her husband and her friend would all write short stories to be read aloud after dinner. Each year they would start with the same title to produce three utterly different stories. Let’s see... she writes,“I found the chosen title ‘Beard’ difficult to get to grips with, until I suddenly realised that it must be a dog’s name – and then everything fell into place.” Hmm. What fun those dinners must have been.
 
BR: Yes, very cool. Maybe we should do that - invite some friends for a similar project. Let’s talk about that for a while, clock be damned. We could sit around a campfire….
 
TN: And maybe we should put out the other two Beard stories on The Strange Recital.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: It’s a very literary pastime, reminiscent of Byron and Shelley. Who knows, one of us might write Frankenstein…..or would you rather be Keats?
 
BR: I'd rather be Mary Shelley as a matter of fact...

Music on this episode:

'Lullaby', sung by Suo Gan from the album: Christmas Carols And Songs by IKOS David Clifton.

 Licensed under Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported

'Lullaby', sung by Suo Gan from the album: Christmas Carols And Songs by IKOS David Clifton.

Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND  3.0

Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported

'The Skye Boat Song'  from a 78 rpm record, played by an unidentified pianist.                                

Licensed under Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

'The Skye Boat Song'  from a 78 rpm record, played by an unidentified pianist.                                

Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17032

BLACK BULL Logo