Sunday 9 April 2023

The Easter Ishmael: 09/04/2023

Mr Mongoose's Easter Crossword

1, 5   A clue error can't otherwise produce a 10 producer. (7,7)
5      See 1a
9      But does anyone speak it in Switzerland? (9)
10     What Mrs Murrell no longer wields. (5)
11     Deceive until we are still all at sea.(3,2)
12     "Did you score? Bless you, Prime Minister." (9)
13     One can see a lot of these in Soho. (9)
15     At last cobblers itch to resole this. (4)
18     Draw new city. (4)
20     God sends noblemen. (9)
24     Shooting Mr de Menezes a 12th time would have required this.          (9)
26     Recorded music is presumably. (5)
27     This fair lady be largely idle. (5)
28     Bare bones of openers. (9)
29     Book anaesthetics. (7)
30     Julia played golf here. (7)

1, 16  Contagion lures devious extinct tinpot despot north of the                   border. (6,8)
2      Uncharged habit hiding sisters. (7)
3      Cheap european funny about acting.(8)
4      German river when in Germany. (5)
5      Teen erred at the keyboard and fixed it.(2-7)
6      Mountainous Sunbeam. (6)
7      18a without new way for freight. (7)
8      Broke road made new directions. (8)
14     Iris soaps manky skin curse. (9)
16     See 1d
17     See 25d
19     Rapper King to be. (7)
21     I hear irrational gravity-free underwear snakes. (7)
22     19d eats of only the best china here. (6)
23     Mad bad Vlad passed over his objective. (6)
25, 17 Deluded green thug and brat produces deluded green thug and brat.(13)

Crossword is thanks to mr, mongoose, as ever. Suggest you print it off and fill in the grid in the old-fashioned way, with a pencil.


Come to Orkney To Make Better Life in the Tea-room of Passion
(get Award, and everything)

 Have you noticed that no-one is called Margaret any more? At least, no-one under a certain age. There's not been any new Margarets for quite a few decades now (that's multiples of ten years, for BBC reporters, who seem to think it refers to blocks of 3 years - see asteroid re-occurrence, Sunday Ishmael 26/03/23). I think the popularity of Margaret as a name peaked when the late late Queen GinandTonnix named her younger daughter Margaret Rose. You remember her? Grew up to be Princess Slapper of the booze and fags and young male escorts because her big sister, the QEII, wouldn't let her marry lounge lizard lothario war hero divorced Peter Townsend, because her uncle, King TinyDick, had to give up The Throne, abdicate, no less, because the slapper that  had taken his fancy, on account of being tight enough to accommodate his fancy, was American and much divorced. (Enough royal tittletattle. ed.)
So, if you come across a Margaret, then you know she will be a lady of a certain age. When we first came to Orkney to Make Better Life, mr ishmael and I used to drive out of a Saturday afternoon into the countryside (I tell you, you soon get sick of that, what with no trees, just acres of windblasted featureless grass divided up into fields by barbed wire, filled with miserable sheep with dirty bottoms) and one afternoon, we came across a little tea-room/café sort of thing in the middle of nowhere, but with wide sea views and an empty carpark. I'm sick of all this driving, let's get a cup of tea, I suggested. mr ishmael, as you know, was more likely to respond to such an overture with an "Are you ma-a-d? Let someone else make my tea? Wipe their skanky fingers on seat of jeans arse and dip into  cup to pull out teabag? Present on sticky tray with jug of milk freshly coughed over?"
On this occasion, however, obviously overcome by thirst and the exhaustion engendered by many, many miles of driving past field after field of windblasted grass, he agreed, we parked up and went into the Tearoom of Passion, proprietors Christopher and Margaret, who had also come to Orkney to Make Better Life. 

I don't know why it is, mr ishmael would muse after such encounters with ex-pat English migrants, running a second hand bookstore with coffee and cakes on the Black Isle, or a transport caff miles from any road upon which a lorry driver might wrangle his rig, before spotting the woebegone shed  and calling in for sausage, egg and beans with a slice; I don't know why it is, that any Tom, Dick or Ahmed with no clue how to pull together a business plan, manage cash flow nor fry chips to be ready at the precise moment needed to mate with the half-frozen soyburger on a cold plate; imagines they can abandon the semi-detached suburban life, the safe nine to five, the urban infrastructure and monthly salary, the minute that Great-Aunt Helen pops her clogs and leaves them a wholly inadequate sum with which to side swerve the rat race, and migrate to the Islands and Highlands to open an ethical, vegetarian, authentic, ethnic, service outlet. We have visited many such a doomed enterprise run by Good Lifers for a few years, before they return to the city, bankrupt, inheritance gone, disillusioned and bitter. They sell cards made by local "artists" (everyone's got a couple of quid for a card to remember a nice day out), lumpy, artisan pullovers with knitted-in holes and runs, baggy tunics with runes. There might be a little fossil museum, with a few bones and rocks they've dug up. The coffee is shit, but comes in a cafetiere, the tea is stewed and the plates have Jamie-Oliver cracks and crazed glazing.

So the appeal of this particular café was not based on experience. Did I tell you about the time that mr ishmael and I were  on a road trip through Sutherland (you know, only Vikings would consider the place even a little bit South) with our very good friends of whom mr ishmael has spoken fondly throughout these pages - notably Summer with Stanislav - a memoir contd. 19th August 2020
Through the Sutherland wastes we drove, and greeted the sight of a roadside café with pretensions with glee and relief. All Inclusive Cream Teas it announced. Spot on! cried Dick, rubbing his hands in anticipation (he was fond of his grub. I once saw him eat three plates of scrambled eggs in addition to his own because the rest of us couldn't face them. To be fair - he'd cooked the scrambled eggs). In we piled, sorted out the ordering arrangements - never easy; and requested four All Inclusive Cream Teas at a fiver a head. (It was a long time ago, before the CostofLivingCrisis). The jam was not ideal, being Rhubarb (well, it is Scotland, and Sutherland at that - if you are lucky enough to grow a strawberry you are not going to cast it into a vat of boiling sugar to make jam). And sat down to wait. mr ishmael suffered from food-ordering anxiety syndrome, which meant he was unable to tolerate with equanimity any delay between ordering the food and its appearance on the table, so such waiting periods would be enlivened by the eating of crisps and peanuts, the packets torn open and the contents scattered onto the table for everyone to share, before the packets were origami-d into strange little pyramidal boats. No crisps or peanuts were to be had on this occasion, so the tension mounted until the teenage waitress re-appeared, with teapot, cups, milk jug, scones, butter and jam, much to our general relief, for we feared being forced, by mr ishmael, to leave the café without our tea. Pouring and cutting ensued until Dick spotted the entire and total absence of cream. Interrogated on this point, the teenager replied that there was "Nae Cream" 
"But it is a cream tea! Cream is intrinsic, essential...."
"There's Nae Cream", she unflinchingly repeated.
"But we've paid for a Cream Tea".
"That's alright", she said, "it's included."

Anyway, leaving the wind-blasted plains of Sutherland, we return to that long-ago Saturday afternoon in Orkney, and the Tea Room of Passion. I don't know how, nor in what circumstances, Margaret met and married Christopher, nor how it came about that they left England and bought themselves an authentic stone-built little, low, dark house with big garden on the north shores of Orkney at the end of the last century in order to set up an organic café serving food grown in their garden. My acquaintance with them was, mercifully, brief. But you know the type, if you've ever ventured into rural Wales or Scotland.

On entering the café, it was impossible to make out obstacles due to the extreme darkness, gloom and peat smoke. It was compounded by the number of tables and mis-matched chairs and an internal half wall around the peat fire.  After a brief, but painful, episode of stumbling, stubbing and cursing, we located a couple of chairs and fell into them. There was a menu on the table. mr ishmael, always prepared,  passed his key-ring torch to me and requested the menu be read to him. 

It says: 

Passionate about Orkney Food? 
Passionate about good Traditional  Cooking? 
Passionate about locally sourced, organic ingredients? 
Passionate about knowing where your food is grown?

mr ishmael said 
Can I get a cup of tea? 

As there were no other customers, no sign of a waitress, and mr ishmael was getting restive, I went looking. I passed a fly-spotted, yellowing, print-out sellotaped to the wall, in the entrance corridor, declaring that the proprietors, Christopher and Margaret Lichfield, were proud recipients of the 1999 Customer Service Award. I peered into an open doorway. Excuse me! Can we get a cup of tea? Are you open?
Margaret appeared, aproned and belligerent. 
It's table service. Can't you read? 
Sorry, no, it's a bit dark.
Sit down. Someone will be along to take your order.

I passed the Customer Service Award and returned to the table. As predicted, mr ishmael said: 
Can we go now?
No, I hissed, she's seen me. We can't go now. And we're probably the only customers they've had this year. We have to support the local economy. 

After about 20 minutes, Christopher arrived to take our order.
"Sorry about the delay, I couldn't decide whether to put on my shorts? I thought I might put on my shorts. The sun might come out, although it is cloudy now. I didn't put on my shorts this morning because it was cold. But now it is a bit warmer and I could put on my shorts. But then I would have to put on my trousers if it gets colder. And I'm in charge of the money. I won't go and put on my shorts. But perhaps I should put on my shorts? Do you think I should put on my shorts?"

Despite mr ishmael's legendary conversational skills, he struggled to move Christopher past his shorts dilemma to request the cup of tea. Eventually, however, Chris Shorts produced the tea and told mr ishmael how the Garden had never quite flourished on account of the adverse climate. An early greenhouse was blown into the ocean the winter after it was constructed, to be followed by the henhouse complete with residents. But that he had raised a variety of plants and herbs on sale outside, if we would care to take a look on our way out, because the sale price included a donation to Malawi.

Would we like home bakes? There's rhubarb crumble, made from our own rhubarb. With oatmeal topping.
The rhubarb crumble proved to be cut into thick, large squares, cold, grey, dense, hard and sour. With burnt bits of oatmeal topping.
Could I have cream with this? asked mr ishmael. 

There's no cream. 

Outside, we encountered Chris Shorts again, in charge of taking the money, sitting behind a makeshift sales counter on which were arrayed pathetic trays of seedlings. There was other produce: a riddle full of potatoes, drying in the sun, with green patches and slug holes and a row of cabbages, leaves lacey from cabbage-white caterpillars' monstrous appetites.

Just another Orkney heart-break story.

You remember my daughter, the demon cleaner? One of her clients was a single gentleman of impeccable tailoring, a modern house gorgeously furnished with sofas in a big jungle print and a black and gold drinks trolley. His manners were impeccable and inclusive in that English public school way (for our American readers, that means not public at all, but bloody expensive). I'm reminded of him by the Margaret and Christopher story - but he asked to be called Topher, not Chris. He had a rather classy dog, a tall, high-nosed creature in a fetching Fox Red - lots of bone but no brain whatsoever, like a Rugby player.  Topher was as out of water in Orkney as any fish could be. Could he possibly have come to Orkney to Make Better Life? Highly unlikely, as he was clearly accustomed to much Better Life than Orkney had to offer. 
More likely he was on the run. People do that - they get into hot water, look at the map and think - Orkney, that's a long way away, I can lie low until the coast is clear. One chap bought a ramshackle butt and ben on one of the Isles (they are all ramshackle, 
if not actually collapsing into rubble and sand on the Isles)  off the Internet, sight unseen, and turned up in the estate agent's office to pay for it with a suitcase full of money. Never occurred to him that this might make him stand out like a sore thumb. Probably thought it was a bit like going out to Darkest Africa with some shiny beads to buy a country. Anyway, after he was languishing in police cells -in a rich stroke of irony, now converted into an Estate Agent's office, the police having secured better premises,
our man confided that at last he was able to relax - as the suitcase full of money represented his unauthorised cut of a complex mortgage and house purchasing fraud in England, of which he was the administrator. He was more scared of his erstwhile colleagues than he was of the criminal justice process, although desperate to stay out of the prison system, where he would once again become fair game.
Topher did not operate out of a suitcase full of money. He had a professional job and a mortgage. It seemed to me that Topher was a Catch and, if she played her cards carefully, the Ishmaeling, single at the time, might achieve Wedded Bliss, lounging on the jungle-print sofas and sipping chilled, crisp white wine out of those huge glasses that can hold half a bottle, but posh people just put in a splash, making you stick your nose right in, because they want to make a bottle go round three people. You don't get to be rich and posh by filling those glasses up.

"Muth-urr, are you ma-a-a-d? Why would I marry a gay man?"

Well, I suppose there are lots of reasons - amusing company, money, great decor, regular trips to theatre and opera, help with face masks and make up, money, and for ladies who are not sexually inclined, after a bit of fiddling with a turkey baster to secure the heir and a spare, no more dibbling and dabbling, did I mention money? After all, just look at the W.I. ladies queuing up to marry British politicians.
"Say What? Topher's gay?"

"Muth-err ! Really?"

"Maybe he's a bit Metrosexual, but what makes you think he's gay?"

"Leaving the gay porn magazines out for the cleaner to tidy away was a bit of a clue."

And finally, since it is Easter and a little religious observance is in order, here you go -

Should you wish to read more of mr ishmael's exploits, be utterly disgusted by his imagined accounts of the private lives of those who rule o'er us, be entranced and educated by his Zen Marxist Presbyterian philosophy and be prepared to endure ruptures engendered by remorseless, extreme excitation of the laughter  reflex, then there are three volumes of his Collected Works, selected, edited and anthologised by mr verge, the House Filthster.  A fourth volume is out for beta testing and will soon be available.

Honest Not Invent, Vent Stack  and Ishmael’s Blues are all available from Lulu and Amazon. If you buy from Amazon, it would be nice if you could give a review on their website.

Ishmaelites wishing to buy a copy from lulu should follow these steps :
please register an account first, at This is advisable because otherwise paypal seems to think it's ok to charge in dollars, and they then apply their own conversion rate, which might put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links below (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Ishmael’s Blues" into the Lulu Bookstore search box.  Click on the “show explicit content” tab, give the age verification box a date of birth such as 1 January 1960, and proceed.
Link for Hardcover :
Link for Paperback :
At checkout, try WELCOME15 in the coupon box, which (for the moment) takes 15% off the price before postage.  If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for " voucher code" and see what comes up.  
With the 15% voucher, PB (including delivery to a UK address) should be £16.84; HB £27.04.

Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's Door                                                  


mongoose said...

In other news, the Polis have confiscated a luxury campervan from Mr Fish's mammie's house. If these buggers have been dipping their hands on the till to buy campervans I will never sleep again.

mrs ishmael said...

Wow. This gets better and better. Did you hear if they were packing Izal or Andrex?

Mike said...

Black Rod: the way the UK is going this will literally true.

Even in the Filth-o-graph, the comments on the forthcoming coronation (albeit censored) are illuminating. The stirrings of revolution are in the air; I may yet return.

Bravo with the crossword mr mongoose. I will give it my best shot.

mrs ishmael said...

There seems to be some distress about the invitations to the Coronation. I hadn't been keeping up with the concerns about the design, which includes a pagan symbol, but my friend showed me her invitation, and, right enough, top left hand corner, the coat of arms of the United Kingdom, top right hand corner, the coat of arms (complete with blue pig) of the Order of the Garter, and bang splat in the middle of the bottom row, a green man, with luxuriant foliage vomiting from his mouth. The whole surrounded by tasteful flowers, tendrils and Tudor roses. A bit strange, that.

Anonymous said...

Excellent crossword, mr mongoose, just the right balance of tricky and (for the likes of me) do-able. 22 Down should perhaps read "eats off" (or possibly orf) not of, and 25/17 Down is a 5,8 answer, not straight 13. Many thanks.


Bungalow Bill said...

Going fairly with it, so far, Mr M. 21d is an absolute beaut and secures your legacy if you never write another clue.

mongoose said...

It was a bit of a midnight rush but thanks for the edits, mr editor v, and glad you like it, mr bb.

Next time, we 're going to try and go electric.