69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess

Free 69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess by Stewart Home

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Authors: Stewart Home
point orders a Glenfiddich because he thinks it makes him sound as if he knows his stuff. Alan would have taken an Islay any day of the week. I think it was there and then in the car, as Alan ranted about Ken Bruen, that I decided I’d devote my middle years to a militant campaign aimed at the liberation of prostitutes.
    Alan didn’t bother asking the farmer’s permission, we just motored straight back to the Granite City. We weren’t travelling far, seven or so miles, and as he drove Alan told me about a book he’d read by a guy called Peter Mason called The Brown Dog Affair. It was a true and historical account of a monument to a vivisected dog put up in London in 1906. The statue was considered provocative by reactionaries and its erection led to riots on the part of medical students the following year. I couldn’t really fathom Alan’s enthusiasm for the book and I still can’t although I have this self-published curiosity in front of me as I write. From the heights of Portlethen the Granite City was spread beneath us like silver on white linen. The view reminded Alan of a book he’d once read called A Grain of Truth: A Scottish Journalist Remembers by Jack Webster. Alan chuckled about this old hack going completely over the top as he described returning from Glasgow to his native Aberdeenshire.
    That evening we ate at Pacific Winds, which advertised itself as the most elegant and spacious restaurant in Aberdeen. Chinese and Thai cuisine, telephone 01224 572362, 25 Crown Terrace, open seven days, lunch 12–2pm, evening 5.30–11pm. All major credit cards accepted. We both ate cashew-nut stir-fry under an enchanted moon. Even more than the food, I savoured the welcome of courteous service. Alan showed me a used copy of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets between the starter and the main course. I remember reading the hand-written inscription on the blank pages at the back of the book for the first time in Pacific Winds, I’ve read it many times since: ‘18th July 1961. This evening we sat on a semi-circular red sand bin at Aldgate bus station waiting for a Green Line coach. We read, Love . . . ceases . . .’ I spilt coffee on the book several years ago and most of the quoted lines of poetry became unreadable due to smudging.
    As we relished the pleasure of exceptional dishes and a soothing atmosphere of soft music, I still retained sufficient use of my critical faculties to realise that there was nothing startlingly original about Alan’s claim that T. S. Eliot was a reactionary. Likewise, it wasn’t difficult to see why Alan felt he’d been raped when bourgeois culture had been forced upon him during the course of lessons at the London secondary school he’d attended. Alan felt it was wrong to repress memories of abuse, he wanted to understand what had happened to him, why he’d been the only boy in his class to make it all the way to university. Alan had been raped by those who’d forced him to constitute himself as a bourgeois subject but his tormentors had been similarly abused.
    That night, or one night before or after it, I refused to let Alan into my bedsit. I was embarrassed. I wanted to hide the evidence of abuse. Alan didn’t know I’d been buying up his unwanted books as he flogged them to the Old Aberdeen Bookshop. I got into the habit of taking the books to the shop for him. Actually, I’d just take his fraying carrier bags straight to my place. Cut out the middle man. I was a gender bender. Adopting a bourgeois sensibility not only made me a centred subject, I was simultaneously coded white and male. As a teenage girl I’d had a fetish for snakes but Alan gave me a fetish for books. I liked the smell of them, old and musty, I liked to cup them in my hands as I took a shit. I no longer let Alan come around to my place. The shelves in his pad were emptying. He was beginning to tear out the wood and metal brackets supporting them. I took the shelving when I could. Reerected it in my bedsit. Books

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