Mr Von Beach At Play :

An Olympic Effort

From the personal journal of Mr Otto Von Beach :

Baron de Coubertin and I never saw entirely eye to eye—even in his cuban heels he stood a good six inches shorter than me—and his high-handed dismissal of Shove Ha’penny from the roster of Olympic events just moments after I had bested old Uriah Turk with a jammy sergeant in the rear bed remains one of the great sporting injustices of the modern era.

Neither can I easily forgive his deplorable efforts to impose metrification on the 4 x 400 Yard of Ale relay and the consequent disqualification of the entire British drinking team including, of course, my beloved Cissy on the anchor leg.

Still, I am not one to bear grudges—especially against those who now reside a decidedly imperial six feet under—and so it was with a modest, yet palpable, sense of anticipation that I left my studio for a few moments last Tuesday to witness the arrival of the Olympic torch on its passage to London.

I say “London”. It became quickly apparent that no one in the Olympic caravan had the least idea in which direction our capital lay, choosing instead to weave this way and that across the county in a manner more redolent of a champion yard-of-aler than a man intent on reaching his destination. De Coubertin was a stickler for geography and I have no doubt that such wanton circumambulation has him spinning in his grave faster than the chicken rotisserie at his favourite bordello in the rue St Denis.

Disagreements over the direction of travel notwithstanding I was determined to secure a better vantage point than I had managed for the arrival of Her Majesty. Calculating that its elevated position would afford me an excellent panorama, I made my way swiftly to All Saints churchyard and scaled a small tree.

This proved to be a costly mistake. Certainly, my lofty roost provided me with a grandstand view (see figure 1).

The Olympic Caravan Approaches

Fig. 1. The View from my Yew

However, it also placed me within a stone’s throw of the various omnibuses that preceded the torch, each of which were filled with a rough-looking assortment of pedlars and travelling salesmen of the most desperate kind. I was just debating the wiseness, or otherwise, of dispensing commercial samples from the top deck of a fast-moving vehicle, when one such misguided missile—a small, but perfectly formed bottle of Coca-Cola—chose to terminate its parabola in my yew and dislodged me from my perch.

I cannot be sure exactly how long I was out for. Perhaps a few minutes. Perhaps only a few seconds.

That all was not lost is thanks in large part to the swift intervention of man’s best friend. A passing terrier took pity on my plight and licked my face repeatedly until I regained my consciousness—if not my dignity—and I rose to my feet just in time to see the torch pass from view.

A Dog's Life

Fig. 2. Wilson watches the torch

Take heed, de Coubertin. If you and your hawkers plan to fell Von Beach with drink, it will require something a good deal stronger than an over-sugared syrup-based mixer.

—Being Thursday the 12th of July, 2012

An Unexpected Caller

Mr Von Beach writes : As you may know, my studio sits on a quiet pedestrian thoroughfare in the market town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. Ours is a narrow lane and, save for the odd itinerant author, there are few passers-by to disturb the peace.

So it was with some surprise that I perceived the sounds of a large crowd gathering beneath my window at luncheon yesterday. Fearing the worst—an unruly mob of Dutch tourists drunk on peppermint tea or, God forbid, an organised visit by students from the local art school—I immediately put aside my breaded eels and dashed down the staircase to make good my escape.

However, once outside I was greeted by the most extraordinary sight.

Where I had expected to see marauding orangemen and lackadaisical watercolourists, my eyes instead beheld a large and convivial crowd of onlookers awaiting the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen :

Fig. 1. Not an Edam in sight

It seemed that Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith &c. &c. was to pass within yards of my humble garret ! I decided at once that such an event must not be allowed to pass unrecorded and dashed headlong back to the studio to seize my travelling portraiture kit : easel, canvas, chalk, horsehair brushes, oils, pen & paper for preparatory sketches, cleaning rags, stool to sit on, stool for the sitter to sit on, stool for the sitter’s lady-in-waiting to sit on, stool for the po

It was to be in vain. I had barely even had time to erect my portable dais before Her Majesty swept past. The crowd surged forward with a sudden fervour and it was only by standing on several small schoolchildren that I was able to secure any kind of view at all :

Fig. 2. Elizabeth II. Probably

I scribbled a few reference notes on the back of a constable’s handkerchief (‘white gloves, bit of waving, big hat – blue ?’) but the opportunity for a formal portrait had passed. I helped the schoolchildren to their feet and made my way back to the studio, disappointed not to have made a better fist of things—artistically speaking—but elated to have seen our gracious monarch drive by at some speed.

As I reflected on the day’s events over a glass of verveine later that evening, I was reminded of several more fruitful brushes with royalty a little earlier in my career. I may not, as yet, have managed to capture the present Her Majesty for posterity, but I did bag her great-great-grandmother on more than one occasion.

Fig. 3. Her Other Majesty
—The day after the 13th June, 2012
Other Jottings : Work, Rest, Play, & Blowing His Own Trumpet.