“Begone ye heathens and nevermore shalt your form sully my doorstep!” No, this was not the insane and slightly medieval ramblings of a priest circa mid 1500’s attempting to exorcise the ghost of William of Orange from the pulpit, no indeed: this was just my neighbour, Eccentric Old Erudite Edgar, fulfilling the first of his morning ablutions with typical aplomb. He was a strange fellow, often first seen standing at his window bellowing words and sentences with erudition expected of a former thespian, hence his appropriate nickname, before wistfully backing further into his abode. But to whom was the angry, borderline vitriolic sentence directed? A duo of unscrupulous salespersons, attempting to reconcile his recent double-glazing purchase with that of ‘correctly’ sold payment protection insurance? Not this time. A rabble of young, supple ruffians playing forbidden ball games adjacent from his property with only the mere hint of potential damage to the fence marking the border of his purchased land? Not even this. The government attempting to park their tanks upon his lawn? Not recently. Foreigners, for no reason other than he was xenophobic? No, for he was not racist. Foreigner, the musical group because they were reunited and touring and had broken down outside his house and rehearsed with impromptu abandon? No, for he was a fan of the group and would have instead rushed outside to partake in selfies and autographs. That’s correct, none of these potential inconveniences (disclaimer: the mere presence of foreigners is NOT an inconvenience. This author is also not a racist) brought about such musings and wailings. Instead, as previously disclosed, this was Edgar fulfilling point one of his well-known ablutions. This entire recollection of events will shed a detailed and expository yet illuminating light on this most fascinating of characters and his wild ways without a musical intermission. Dear reader, I sense that my spell check program has read your mind, as upon my right-clicking on a flagged-up portion of text, I have been prompted to ‘use more concise language’, and so without further ado and in the words of the great Monty Python, I shall indeed ‘get on with it.’
Eccentric Old Erudite Edgar, as he was known only in this documentation and not amongst his peers, friends or family, was approximately 65, his having been born in the one thousand nine hundred and thirty-fifth year of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Amen God Rest His Soul, was as his nickname suggests, eccentric, old (or at least older than I and my peers and friends and people whose acquaintance I have not met that were born later than Edgar) and erudite. All the people in the community knew what was expected of him and his ways, and no one minded, seeing as he had lived there longer than them all, it was sort of an unwritten contract upon purchasing property in the neighbourhood that his ways were to be embraced and tolerated. However, this would be not much of a story without a point of conflict, and like a prompt parcel delivery, here it comes.
New neighbours were to move into the neighbourhood, directly across the road from Eccentric Old Erudite Elgar in fact, new neighbours who just so happened to be a delightful young couple who were to arrive with no presumptions made about their gender, sexuality, race or dietary requirements as such things are frowned upon in all communities all over the world and rightly so. The day they moved in was greeted with much fanfare by all the people who dwelled within this microcosm and they prepared a feast of mushroom patties wrapped in oak leaves, cardboard and hummus themed crudités, unscented carpet pie, soy milk, coconut water, and dust cakes as these were the only delicacies available to gluten free, sugar free, fat free, fun free, dairy free, gender and race neutral binary personality a-sexual dietary choices. The young couple – a couple whom I have indeed assumed their ages as they are clearly younger than Edgar owing to them having all their original teeth, limbs and hair – ate the food heartily and without complaint, and all was well and friendships were formed that day. Alas, Edgar was not present as this whole circus interfered with his ablutions and his daily checklist, and so he was expectedly sitting in his favourite chair and timing his timepieces to ensure that every room in his house was synchronised.
The lack of appearance and acknowledgement from Edgar angered the new young couple, being as they are a couple who dislike assumptions cast at them, still assumed that Edgar should be interested in such an ‘unusual’ duo residing in an abode across from him. Edgar was not, he was eccentric yes, but he was not interested in any one else’s business but his own. He did not mind that people left him out of their dust-based delicacies by assuming that he would not care for them, he did not mind that people did not try and align him with a partner by them assuming he was unhappy, single or sexually weighted one way or another. He did not mind that people assumed he would be happiest being left alone. He lived his life for him by himself and not that of placing his happiness and wellbeing in the hands of other people. Unfortunately, the new couple assumed that he would be interested in their obvious fabulous and set about intent on introductions. Letters were written to community leaders, pamphlets were plastered across every surface fit to bear adhesive and paper all declaring how unwelcome they have been made to feel because of Edgar and his unassuming ways and means.
The community did sympathise with the young couple and had realised that Edgar had neither presumed nor assumed a single thing about this couple. It was what they wanted remember, but they also wanted fanfare and attention and everything possible be done to gather all the ingredients to accommodate for an alternative lifestyle rather than doing it for themselves and slowly introducing such ablutions into the status quo. No, instead Edgar had to be the one to adapt when he already knew what he liked and of what he was already tolerant, food and people both. And so it was while he was testing the integrity in the weave of his upholstery using the Weights and Measures Act of 1985 as a starting point, there was a knock at his door. Poor Eccentric Old Erudite Edgar had not foreseen this interruption and had to consult his Emergency Coping Mechanism handbook, which advised him to answer the door and readjust his schedule accordingly, as was protocol.
What greeted him was a selection and collection of people of all shapes, sizes, race neutral, a sexual, gender flexible and dietary alternative, all ready to confront and attempt to change the mindset of Edgar and his clearly heathen lifestyle. Presented to him now was a charter, a new list of ablutions to which he should adhere with immediate effect lest he be cast out and shunned by people who he could not call as friends because until now he had no idea that they even existed. Nevertheless, Edgar accepted the treaty and altered his ablutions to include ‘reading the treaty’ somewhere in between counting how many crumbs came from his toast in order to work out the nutrient yield from each branded loaf over a month to decide which brand gave him the most consistent consumption ratio and writing another letter to the BBC admonishing their decision to give Garth Crooks so much exposure.
Edgar did consider the points laid out in the treaty, but came to see that in fact there were no concessions made from these infuriating fusspots other than they were upset and perturbed by his disinterest and indifference towards their lifestyle choices all the while maintaining a vetted interest and opinion regarding his lifestyle choice. Due to this, he wrote a letter of which he made many copies and adhered this rebuttal to all available and appropriate surfaces about the neighbourhood, and this rebuttal read thusly:
Dear Fusspots (of which you are Legion),
I write this letter with deepest sadness prevailing my heart, and with great inconvenience to my circadian rhythm but I am aghast! I must speak! You have made the conscious decision as a collective to both choose a lifestyle that goes against how others choose to live, and choose to visit and live in areas that are not currently designed to or have knowledge of how this new and fashionable lifestyle should be respected. By not assuming your choices, we also need to be respectful of those that prefer to have the obvious assumed: male, female, young, old, gay, straight, omnivore et al, and realise that those standards of human evolution to which we adhere must also be adhered. If you choose to go against the grain, then it should be on yourself to create your own microcosm as I have done for myself. Expecting others to inconvenience themselves solely for your benefit, your ignorance, arrogance and self-entitlement is not the way of a civilised society, and never should we give in the approach of ‘he who shouts loudest will be heard first’. I will be accepting and tolerant of your choices and never shall I ever do anything untoward or disrespectful, and I ask only one small boon in return: leave me to my devices.
The letter was met with much consternation amongst the alternatives and their holistic medicine to which most of them were allergic anyway and therefore made their symptoms worse, and they held meetings and study groups in order to combat what they felt as an egregious sin committed against them. Pop up support groups were held wherever the sorrow and sense of loss and emptiness was most keenly felt, and it was noted by international media outlets that social media posts were experiencing a meme of change: vegan meal photographs were down 93%, gym selfies were down 92%, and instead people stopped trying to force themselves to adapt to a unique selling point perpetrated by shallow and hollow-headed people with a lack of personality and instead started just being; being themselves, doing whatever made them happy, judging their own happiness by their own measure of self-contentment. Social media posts saw a slump overall, and more people started admitting that they enjoyed the music of Electric Six, the pomp and spectacle provided by professional wrestling organisations, junk food, not getting dressed without good reason, drinking sugary beverages, not eating coleslaw, and removing Garth Crooks from a public forum.
Eventually, people got bored of aubergine lasagne, jackfruit in BBQ sauce and carob coated rice crackers, which didn’t take long as these things are sins the likes of which prayers for absolution go unheeded by all deities except perhaps unless you prayed to whichever deity L. Ron Hubbard and chums subscribe. When all is said and done the ultimate realisation is this: if you do outside you are considered strange, but when you do it at home it’s your own damn business.
Oh, and Edgar’s daily checklist item #1 was to feed the birds and shout at them, which really reinforces that last line.
© Kris Blackburn 11/05/2018