Tuesday, 18 March 2008

O ~ is for Ouija

Oberammergau  ~  Daisy Quantock and Georgie Pillson were discussing the problems they were encountering in preparing the Riseholme Elizabethan pageant - prior to eventually asking Lucia to "rescue" the production.   Daisy remarked, "I begin to think we ought to have had a producer. But it was so much finer to do it all ourselves, like - like Oberammergau."

Legend has it, that the inhabitants if the village of Oberammergau in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria in Germany vowed that if God spared them from bubonic plague, they would perform a passion play every ten years.  The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634 and is now presented by residents of the village in years ending with a zero (as well as on the 300th and 350th anniversary - and with a cancellation in 1940) . It is not recorded that an outbreak of bubonic plague any other pestilence in the neighbourhood in leafy Worcestershire played any part in the presentation of Riseholme's own production.

October  ~ Georgie Pillson was pondering when Olga Bracely, the prima donna, would arrive in Riseholme. Olga's advent might be expected before October, that season of tea-parties that ushered in the multifarious gaieties of the winter.

Odontoglossum  ~  on the evening of Susan Poppit's bridge party Elizabeth Mapp and Diva Plaistow were fascinated when Algernon Wyse and his hostess left the room a deux. Isabel Poppit explained that she thought Mr Wyse "has only gone with Mamma into the conservatory to advise her about her orchids."

Now the conservatory was what Miss Mapp considered a potting shed with a glass roof, and the orchids were one anaemic odontoglossum, and there would scarcely be room besides that for Mrs Poppit and Mr Wyse."  

Amongst the most varied and colourful of the orchid family, the intricate veining and spotting of the spectacular and flamboyant flowers of the odontoglossum ( Greek odon (tooth) and glossa (tongue)), has led to it being called the "Butterfly orchid."    
It is a genus of about 100 orchids, first named by Karl Sigismund Kunth in 1816.  Considering that this genus of cool to cold growing orchids is to be found in clearings in the humid cloud forest at altitude in central and south west America, Guyana and especially the northern Andes, the specimen upon which Susan Poppit was consulting Algenon Wyse may have done well to have survived at all at sea level on the cool and salty coast of Sussex.

"O, for the wings of a Dove"  ~  Lucia's return to active life in Riseholme, following the death of her husband, saw her again entertain friends to dinner, play the piano, organ and Contract Bridge, sketch, have lessons in book-binding at "Ye Sign of Ye Daffodille, read Pope's "Iliad" and sing a solo "O, for the wings of a dove" in church, when the leading chorister got chicken pox.

"O, for the wings of a dove" is a passage from "Hear My Prayer" an anthem for soprano solo and orchestra composed  by Felix Mendelsosohn in 1844.  It is particularly well-known in Britain through the best-selling recording made by boy soprano, Ernest Lough. The text is derived from Psalm 55:

"O for the wings, for the wings of a dove!
Far away, far away would I rove!
In the wilderness build me a nest,
and remain there forever at rest. "       
Old Mappy ~ nick-name disrespectfully applied to Miss Elizabeth Mapp by Major Flint and Captain Puffin when sharing alternate evenings together in each other's homes and drinking considerable quantities of whisky whilst under the pretext of working upon diaries or studying Roman roads alone. These bibulous sessions were made all the more exciting since they were necessarily carried out without the knowledge and even less the approval of the lady who later on in the evening was usually daringly referred to as Old Mappy. Aware of their surveillance by their concerned neighbour, Messrs Flint and Puffin would when mellowed by drink make jokes and Old Mappy's expense and toast their Guardian Angel. See Guardian Angel and Ancient Lights.

Old Place ~ house on the Green in Riseholme purchased by prima donna , Olga Bracely from the landlord of the Ambermere Arms. The acquisition was completed secretly and much of the preparatory work upon fitting and furnishing the house was discreetly carried out by the devoted Georgie Pillson. When later surprised with the purchase, Olga's husband Mr Shuttleworth was delighted with the property and presented it to his wife, a really magnificent gift.

Olga Bracely kindly made Old Place available to Georgie and Lucia Pillson for their "honey- moon".

Olga Bracely~ see Bracely, Olga  

Om ~ an ejaculation favoured in yoga usually accompanying deep breathing and some very curious physical exercises. It was generally understood that you might strain yourself unless such exercises were done properly. 
Om is a mystical Sanskrit sound of Hindu origin employed in various Dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is used in many Hindu texts as an incantation to be intoned at the beginning and end of a readingof the Vedas and prior to any prayer or mantra. That summer in Riseholme, whilst Guruism was in vogue, "Om" was indeed on everyone's lips.   
Omens  ~  omens are generally a prognosticating sign of some future event, either good or evil. Tilling was overwrought with anxiety over who should have the honour of being Lucia's Mayoress. In the period before Lucia announced the appointmnet of Elizabeth Mapp-Flint,  "a series of curious things happened., and to the overwrought imagination of Tilling they appeared to be of the nature of omens. The church clock struck thirteen one noon, and then stopped with a jarring sound. That augured ill for the chances of the Padre's wife.  A spring broke out in the cliff  above the Mapp-Flint's house, and,  flowing through the garden, washed the asparagus bed away. That loooked like Elizabeth's hopes being washed away too. Susan Wyse's Royce collided with  a van in the High Street and sustained damage to a mudguard; that looked bad for Susan. Then Elizabeth distraught with anxiety, suddenly felt convinced that Diva had been chosen. What made this the more probable was that Diva had so emphatically denied to Evie that she would ever be induced to accept the post...."     
Onslow Gardens ~ London home of Philip and Emmeline Lucas (or, in the Italian fashion, Lucia) before their retirement to Riseholme. Lucia held up a small but unwavering lamp of culture there - as she was later to do in Riseholme and Tilling. 
Ophelia ~ Shakespeare's garden in "The Hurst", the home of Philip and Emmeline Lucas in Riseholme, was pathologically Elizabethan. Here as was only right and proper, there was not a flower to be found save as were mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. The bed that ran below the windows of the dining room was Ophelia's border for it consisted solely of those flowers which that distraught maiden distributed to her friends when she should have been in a lunatic asylum. Mrs Lucas often reflected how lucky it was that such institutions were unknown in Elizabeth's day. For the avoidance of doubt, it is clear she was referring to Glorianna, Elizabeth I and not Elizabeth Mapp who at that time still reigned absolute in Tilling many miles away, pending usurpation following the arrival of Mrs Lucas some time later in "Mapp and Lucia."

Daughter of Polonious and sister of Laertes, Ophelia is a character in "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare. After being spurned by the overwrought Hamlet, who later kills her father, Ophelia became insane. In her distressing final appearance, she sings songs and hands out the flowers, later to appear in her border at "The Hurst", citing their symbolic meanings. Subsequently, she is reported by Queen Gertrude in her monologue (There is a willow grows aslant a brook) to have fallen out of her tree into a brook and drowned. See "The Hurst", Perdita.

"Othello"  ~ all the bedrooms in the achingly Elizabethan home of Lucia and Philip Lucas in Riseholme, "The Hurst" were named after plays by William Shakespeare, such as Lucia's bedroom "Midsummer Nights Dream", and guest rooms  "Othello"  and "Hamlet," about which Lucia in particular was terribly  keen.  See "The Hurst."

Otter hunting ~  favourite October pastime of Hemione (Hermy) Pillson, sister of Georgie.  This activity induced in her the best of tempers.  
Ouija ~ otherwise weedj. Another form of contacting those that have passed over using a glass touched by those participating moving between letters on the Ouija Board to make up words of messages from beyond. Weedj was all the rage for a period - so popular that it also became a verb.

"Out, damned spot!"  ~  Lucia gave the inaugural lecture of a series of improving talks at the Literary Institute in Tilling. She spoke upon the Technique of the Shakesperean Stage with Georgie in the chair. Georgie declined to act out a scene with Lucia without dresses or scenery to illustrate the simplicity of the Elizabethan stage. Complimentary tickets in the front row were sent to Town Councillors for the inaugural lecture, with the request that they should be returned if the recipient found himself unable to attend. Apart form these, sales were very sluggish and Mr John Gielgud could not be present. Luckily the Hampshire Argus had already announced that he had received an invitation.

Lucia dicsussed with Georgie how to give her rendition of the sleepwalking scene from Macbeth with Elizabethan realism. Georgie's awestruck suggestion of pyjamas was dismissed as a gross anachronism and Lucia determined to create Night by switching all the lights off and to illuminate herself with an electric torch: "I shall turn it on to my face . I shall advance slowly, only my face visible suspended in the air, to the edge of the platform. Eyes open I think: I believe sleepwalkers often have their eyes open. Very wide, something like this and unseeing.  Filled with an expression of internal soul-horror. Have you half an hour to spare? Put the lights out dear: I have my electric torch. Now"   

Introduced by a  very nervous Georgie in his ruby-coloured dinner suit as their beloved Mayor of Tilling,  the woman whom he had the honour to call wife, Lucia first gave a brief and lucid definition of Drama and illustrated her theme of simplicity with the wall separating the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe in Midsummer Night's Dream. Lucia went on without dress or scenery of any sort to give an illustration of the technique of the Shakespearean Stage: Lady Macbeth in the sleepwalking scene. When the lights went out everyone thought that  fuse had gone . After a false start, Lucia lit her electric torch. A difficult moment came when she made the pantomimic washing of hands for the beam went wobbling about all over the place and once fell full on Georgie's face, which much embarrassed him. He deftly took the torch and controlled its direction.  

Owing to he absence of distinguished strangers Lucia did not give a supper-party afterwards, at which her subject could be further discussed and illuminated, but she was in a state of high elation when she and Georgie partook of a plain supper alone.  Lucia remarked  "And in the speech, I think I got, didn't I, that veiled timbre in my voice suggestive of the unconscious  physical mechanism, sinking to a strangled whisper at "Out damned spot!' That, I expect was not quite original for I now remember when I was quite a child being taken to see Ellen Terry in the part and she veiled her voice like that. A subconscious impression coming to the surface"  
Here Lucia quotes the famous speech from the sleepwalking scene in "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare. Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and as her lady-in-waiting and doctor listen, she mutters fragments of an imaginary conversation that recalls the night that she and her husband conspired to murder King Duncan. 
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?      
See Ellen Terry  
Outside porter ~ the outside porter at Tilling railway station was also a member of the Padre's confirmation class.

Oxford trousers ~ dark fawn trousers, distinctly of Oxford cut, ordered by Georgie in a moment of reckless sartorial courage. Georgie decided they were not supposed to turn up at the bottom and was pleased how small their voluminous folds made his feet look. He felt they were beautifully cut and fell in charming lines.

On seeing the trousers for the first time, the sarcastically inclined Robert Quantock looked at them as if he was Cortez and they some new planet. Then, without a word, he folded his arms and danced a few steps of what was clearly meant to be a sailor's hornpipe and tossed in a few nautical expressions.

Jarringly, the trousers prompted an initial squeal of laughter from Piggy Antrobus and the cry "Oh, Mr Georgie, I see you've gone into long frocks".

Apart from this, Georgie was generally pleased with his trousers' reception; the sensation they created was quite a respectful one.

Unfortunately his pleasure evaporated entirely when he saw Oxford trousers worn by Stephen Merriall, otherwise society columnist Hermione, whom Georgie considered foppish. He immediately arranged for them to be cut down from their monstrous proportions so that they fitted quite nicely though there had been sad waste of stuff.

Robert Quantock, who had waggishly danced a hornpipe when he first saw the trousers in their original voluminousness, posted their epitaph on seeing the abbreviated garments when he said, a propos of nothing in particular: "Home is the sailor, home from the sea".  See "Home is the sailor, home from the sea"

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