Melbury Bubb and Ryme Intrinseca
Once upon a time there was a woman. An oldish woman. An oldish, rather-more-wrinkly-than-she-would-have-liked woman. An oldish, rather-more-wrinkly-than-she-would-have-liked woman whose husband had just been carried away by Algerian pirates. In a wheelbarrow. She was glad, really, that he’d been taken because her husband was a mean and bitter man who would make her read the Daily Mail to him every morning and watch The Voice with him every night and cook for him and call him ‘sir’ and look after him even when he didn’t really need looking after.
The oldish woman – who we’ll call Skyler because I’m a bit tired and can’t remember her actual name – reckoned she had about two weeks before the pirates had had enough of her husband and brought him back. So she decided to leap into action. Like a superhero. Like that Angelina Jolly in that film. Or Michael Gove. She ran upstairs, took her favourite piece of paper out of the drawer of her bedside cabinet and read it, for the 4,987th time. The piece of paper had on it the words ‘Bucket List’ in purple crayon at the top and, underneath it, the following:
1) Meet Jake Gyllenhaal
2) Kiss Jake Gyllenhaal
3) S……JakG…. (this bit was a little hard to read)
4) Sing One Direction songs with dolphins
5) Learn to spell Maccchu Piccccchu
6) Climb Mount Everest on a rhino
7) Drive a Ferrari
8) Crash a Ferrari
9) Bring peace to Palestine
10) Bring cupcakes and tea to Palestine
11) Visit every town with a silly name in England.
She thought for a moment and ‘hmmmm”d. She put the piece of paper down on her bed. She’d done them all. Every one. Number 3 she’d done fourteen times. In one night. Yes, she’d done everything on her Bucket List. Except number 11. In case you don’t know – and I really have to wonder what on earth you’ve been doing with your life if you don’t – a Bucket List is a list of things that people who read The Guardian say they really, really must do before they die. (She couldn’t help but think that her husband- who we’ll call Walt because, like I said, I’m a bit tired – hadn’t quite got the idea. One afternoon when she’d been looking for his cigarettes and his heroin, she’d found a piece of paper. In Walt’s handwriting at the top of the paper were the words ‘Bucket List’. Underneath he’d written…
1) A blue bucket
2) A very old bucket
3) A bucket made entirely from Lego
4) A tentative bucket
5) An unashamedly racist bucket
…. and so on)
Nidiot. Her husband was a nidiot. Which was why Skyler decided she had to do number 11. Now. Before Walt came back. She had to grab her expensive video equipment, jump in her E-Type Jaguar and drive round to all the places in England with silly names. Quickly. And then sell her story to Hello magazine. She had to. Yep. She’d always wanted to do it and here was her chance!
So she did. Half an hour later, Skyler was sitting in her car in a car-park in Blubberhouses. She couldn’t believe it was a real name for a real place, but it was (and if you think I’m making it up, look on Google. Or ask a friend who’s a weird English place-name expert. I mean an expert in weird English place-names, not… oh, you know what I mean). The odd thing was, all the houses in this village were…blubbery. They sort of wobbled in a pink, greasy, fatty, didgeridooy way. They looked like Walt’s stomach when he went swimming. Only bigger. And with windows in. Frankly, they were horrible. Skyler took one more look, shuddered, turned the key in the ignition and headed off down the A354176354 in the direction of Dancing Dicks…
There were, apparently, four men called Richard in the village. When she arrived, all of them were dancing round a maypole on the village green. According to the postman (who lived, he said, in Booby Dingle), they’d been dancing there since 1632. Skyler looked at her watch. It was quarter to five now. They’d been dancing for thirteen minutes. Badly. She was starting to feel a bit fed up: so far, this tour wasn’t anything like as good as kissing Jake. Or even having her cupcakes confiscated by Israeli conscripts. Which wasn’t, as she’d pointed out to her sister Marie, a euphonium or whatever she kept incinerating it was.
Skyler sighed. She opened her copy of ‘The Observer Guide To Bloody Weird, Quaint And Stereotypically English Place-names’. Where next? Dead Cow Point? Nope. Great Snoring? Nope. Grimness? Pity Me? Double nope. Wet Rain? No – she certainly wasn’t going to waste petrol driving an E-Type to a tautology (that’s a bit of a clever joke I’ve thrown in there, just in case any adults are reading this. I’m sorry if you’re a child reading this and don’t know what a tautology is but… well… tough: I have to think of my brand and the key demographic that consumes my product. Just look it up, for God’s sake, it’s not 1982!)… ahem…. Devil’s Lapful? Nope. Lickham Bottom? Definitely not…
And then she knew. Off she went again, throwing the Jag along country lanes, up dales and down hills, quickly leaving Hertfordshire behind, followed by Rutland, Surrey, East Yorkshire, Mordor, Wessex and Trumptonshire. She passed through Blue Vein, Beer, Thwing, Indian Queens (three of them, poor things didn’t stand a chance), Nasty, Lost and Woking. In an hour she was on the edge of Heart’s Delight. She parked the car and climbed out.
Heart’s Delight looks like whatever you want it to look like. That’s what’s so strange about the place, according to ‘The Observer Guide To…etc’. And according to me. So to Skyler it looked like the rose-covered garden she’d imagined when she was a child, locked in her bedroom and listening to her parents screaming at each other. It looked like the park where she’d played with her friends and watched the old men sail their toy boats. It looked like that magical planet in the third episode of Star Trek. It looked like Venice and Ben Nevis and the Taj Mahal. It looked like the hotel room on the sunny morning after her wedding…
Skyler turned round. She saw two Algerian pirates dressed rather like Algerian pirates in an amateur production of a Gilbert and Sullivan play put on by the Much Hadham Players in 1948. Between them stood Walt, looking oddly like that man in that thing that everyone said was the best thing ever ever ever on telly but no-one actually watched. ‘If I promise never to make you read the Daily Mail again, can I come back to you?’ he said.
Skyler left a long silence that she could tell hurt him like nothing had ever hurt him. And then, finally, she spoke: ‘No, sorry,’ she said, a little hesitantly and a little sadly, before jumping back in her car, taking one quick glance in the rear-view mirror and roaring off towards Hope. Via Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.