Aug 172012


Millbank and Pimlico Gardens, SW1
part of the millbank collection*

A bit of a double-hander, this time, if you will. And, if you won’t – well, you should, it’s fun. Let me explain.

It all started with this fey beribboned fop poncing about in Ponsonby Place (and, if he’s not careful, just about to do himself a terrible mischief on that lamppost). Because, with well-toned pecs thrust out to catch the sun, he seemed a shoo-in for our peacock-feathered podium. “Jeté”, it’s called, in yer actual French, which figures: after a miserable week mooning round the quay, or squatting on a salty groyne gazing out across the briny main, this giddy young ninny has finally spotted his chum’s much-missed mast on the horizon, and is now gaily tossing himself into the air with pleasure as he prances down the pier – or jeté, jetty. A poignant tale, affectingly teased out in bronze. End of. However; when I trolled over to Millbank for a closer look, I discovered that, not for the first time, I’d been seduced by a wrong’un. He is, you see, a ballet dancer. And this page is not open to professionals. Frankly, I’d rather he were mounted on a nearby wheelie-bin than on our precious feathery dais. And, from the way he’s smiling, I don’t think it would be the first time.

Luckily, my deflation was short-lived. For just across the road is this effete fellow. But, you cry, he’s a Roman! Yes, his toga may be worn rather rather too casually off the shoulder, and reveal a quite unnecessary amount of nipple for daytime discourse in the forum, but – that’s Romans for you! That’s what they were like! Ah, indeed they were, my friend, but the thing is, he’s NOT a Roman. He’s William Huskisson MP, 1770-1830, the unfortunate chap who, having already cheated death once – when a horse fell on him during his honeymoon – then found fame as the world’s first railway fatality, after being hit by Stephenson’s Rocket just outside Newton-le-Willows. Yes, Mr H. was a 19th-Century cove. And yet, and yet, he’s been immortalised not in waistcoat, watch-chain and stovepipe hat, but wanly draped in a consumptive’s bedsheet, limply fingering a scroll; or maybe it’s a gift for the endlessly frustrated Mrs H., who gave up on the honourable member shortly after realising there was only so much you could blame on a horse. Either way, this was most assuredly not the noblest Roman of them all; this was simply an outrageous old ham.

Also, before we go home to watch the rhythmic gymnastics, what about that hand (photo, right)? Yup, this pussy had claws. Miaow!

* see No. 14 (The Helmsman) for more on London’s campest embankment. Or, if you will – and I certainly would – encampment.

Matt Haynes
This piece originally appeared in Smoke 10, and Jété was suggested by Sue Lee and Pete Cook.

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