(Chapter 8 was yesterday’s post. The final chapter, Chapter 10, appears tomorrow. To read the novel from the start you need to go to the January and February 2018 archives, see below right)
Wilfred And The Dublin Psychoanalyst
My uncle’s bog green visage confronted me with a confident if rather dubious look, then suddenly surprised me with an optimistic and heartening summary of my romantic future, meaning my ultimate sentimental trajectory. He told me the names of three exceptional Englishwomen I would forge beautiful if brief relationships with over the next three years, then the tantalising name of a fourth who would prove be an impossibly enticing amatory trophy, a romantic reward beyond compare. Suffice to say, he added, that she and I had both been through the existential and biographical mill, or better feckin biographical mangle, in dramatic sometimes frightening terms, and had thereby won each other as complementary graduates of the Intermediate School of Ontological Purgatory. As I wonderingly digested all his prophecies, I realised he was being inordinately brisk and matter of fact about these four women, as if they were all in clairvoyant terms a kind of foregone conclusion, which of course by his supernatural coordinates they were obliged to be. Finally, and with bluff impatience, he informed me that he was growing a bit sick of talking exclusively about me his great-nephew, whose future as he saw it was ultimately set to be a positive one.
“What I mean is you need to hear a bit about me and the women in my own feckin life, Joe, or perhaps a single and instructive pair of contrasting examples might do. First of all, take note, that as an affluent Protestant in remotest Kerry in austere pre-war Eire, I could do more or less what I liked, provided it was done within the strict confines of my Ballyferriter mansion. No one but you will believe me, but I really didn’t seduce my handsome young housekeeper Mairi O’Kelly, she with the haunting cheekbones of some graceful Renaissance lady, for she looked remarkably like the incomparable Ginevra da Benci as painted by Leonardo da Vinci. It was no seduction at all, for it was emphatically mutual, as she had a healthy, instinctively visceral appetite for the carnal life, and was touchingly impressed in 1930 when I was fifty-three and she was twenty-seven, that I had access to ample supplies of condom Johnnies, which of course were then illegal in Catholic Eire. She liked doing it on the floor and liked being tickled on the breasts and belly button with a feather duster, and she liked to tickle me on His Worshipful Lord Mayor with the same duster and sometimes on my legs and backside too. All that was bloody great of course, arguably even better than my taxing small hours lucubrations upon Gottfried Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza, but Mairi who was one of twelve daughters born in a verminous Dunquin shebeen, could barely read or write, and aside from our uproarious shenanigans and the dire always monsooning state of the weather, and the price of best potatoes and belly of pork in Dingle, we did not have a colossal amount to talk about in the quiet times. If I wanted to catch a play or a concert or the like there was a limited supply in Tralee, so I regularly took the train up to Dublin. And there it was in the June of 1931 that I made the acquaintance of a beautiful psychoanalyst, of all things, called Samara Fox who happened to be at the Abbey premier of a play by Brinsley Macnamara. That was the pen name of a chap called John Weldon whose father was driven out of a hick provincial town in Westmeath, simply for being the dad of the unspeakable vandal who wrote the damnably shocking The Valley of the Squinting Windows, a merciless study of invidious and infinitely heartless small town Irish hypocrisy. Have you heard of that feller Macnamara…?”
I nodded but before I could elaborate, he raised his hand.
“The play which is called The Glorious Uncertainty, is not germane to my tale, and I have forgotten every detail of the plot, the costumes, and the identity of all the eminent literary figures in the audience, though I vaguely think the ever disputatious Liam O’Flaherty was there. But it indicated that Samara Fox who was single, childless, English and forty-five years old, and who practised as a Freudian analyst in her exquisite Dublin villa, that she liked the idea of reckless rebels and insolent iconoclasts. I recall that she said in those days there were precisely three psychoanalysts in the whole of Ireland, meaning that she constituted thirty-three per cent. We caught each other’s eye in the bar at the interval, where Samara was sipping Jamieson’s and I was gargling Ulster Bushmills. It was actually she slid over to me for a fictitious light for her de Reszke, for later she brought out an engraved silver lighter and instantly and impishly admitted the ploy. She had raven black hair and was dressed in a tight fitting black dress and had eyes that were almost black, and also clutched a jet-black leather handbag of expensive and exclusive Bond Street provenance. We got on like a house on fire, for she knew an extraordinary amount about classical music including Minor Baroque, Portuguese Polyphony, Early English Choral, the feckin lot, and she was an avid indeed a rabid concert goer. She was also very widely read and astonishingly from London had for a small fortune smuggled in the Parisian magazine edition of Ulysses, and years later, for we kept in touch, Samuel Beckett’s More Pricks Than Kicks, a book which had been automatically banned in prudish Ireland as probable obscenity even though the title is a quote from the Old Testament. You are no doubt thinking we went back to her home that night, and I would I assure you have leapt at the offer, but instead she invited me to stay with her a whole weekend some two weeks later…”
He paused to exhale his hallucinatory Sweet Afton, and I was so gripped by his love story that I lost all interest in the eerily supernatural fag ash that disobeyed both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.
“She did not practise any therapy at the weekends, and she had this splendidly handsome Georgian villa very close to the National Gallery, which meant that we could walk a short way to enjoy the tender and beautiful paintings of Jack B Yeats, brother of the eminent poet who at one point as you know was regrettably a blueshirt Fascist. Jack B painted and drew everything from the Aran Islands to the travelling Yankee cowboy shows, not to speak of itinerant fiddlers, swimming contests in the Liffey, the remotest Connemara villages, circuses with performing horses and the like. Jack B also wrote a handful of monumentally obscure novels which made my usually fearless head spin, Joe Soap, and however many times I read any paragraph, I had no bloody inkling of what the feck he was talking about. I didn’t know whether he was, to parrot the language of Samara, and given his limitless genius as a painter, borderline schizoid or he was making me borderline feckin schizoid, as I tried to read what made my brain feel like a plate of scrambled eggs. Do you know those books? Seemingly Beckett praised one of them and they were two best mates apparently. Yes? Could you understand a single word? No? Good. At last the uncle and the nephew agree on something without demur.
“On the Friday night of our romantic weekend I took her to one of the finest restaurants in Dublin which happened to be French, and we ate expensive and exquisite fish, turbot cooked in a turbotiere in her case, and halibut but not in a halibutiere, in mine. We played flirtatious footwork under the table, or at least I did, and she winked and seemed to find my artless fooling about entertaining, and from time to time she would unleash a hectic giggle. For a Freudian psychiatrist she was far from po-faced, and was a remarkably sane and sound and cheerful woman. She took care of others folks’ cares I suppose, so that cathartically it made her humorous and carefree herself. Over the coffee I asked her what it was like being a psychoanalyst, and how had it come about in the first place? She told me she had trained under a colleague of Freud in Vienna when she was only twenty-five, five years before World War One broke out. About the time that I migrated to Kerry, she had obtained a degree of some sort in a London college affiliated to a university and designated specially for women, and there had met HG Wells who was one of its patrons. He had flirted with her as he flirted with every attractive woman, and she told me he had something coming off him, a kind of invisible aura that was doubtless his unquenchable libido. He didn’t manage to seduce her but he did steer the conversation round to Sir Richard Burton, the controversial chap who in 1885 (aptly enough when DH Lawrence was born) organised the subscribers only Kama Shastra Library which disseminated hush-hush oriental erotica, the Kamasutra and The Perfumed Garden and the like. She was vastly impressed to hear that the ancient Indians had sensibly treated the business of lovemaking as a branch of knowledge like any other, and that they had systematically produced sundry primer recipe books for making oneself as skilled and knowledgeable about sex, as one might about gourmet cookery. She somehow managed in a back street near Russell Square, London, to get hold of a bit of naughty-naughty in the form of an English translation of the Ratirahasya, The Secrets of Love by Kokkoka, a hoary old Hindu writer with a most apposite handle if ever there was. Better still, it was illustrated with charming not to say mindboggling line drawings, and showed umpteen impressive sex postures analogous to the sundry yogic asanas she subsequently decided to take a stab at, for she also purchased a translation of the Yogasutras of Patanjali. Later in Dublin she discovered and soon fled from various deadly dull theosophy groups as satirised by O’ Casey in Juno and the Paycock, where there is jesting reference to the prawna, meaning the prana or yogic breath.
“From the prana and the erotica, she moved onto her Freudian practice, and said that right enough Freud had shrewdly discovered that sex was damn near always at the bottom of every psychological problem. The only pity, she added, was that his reductive findings were skewed by his patients all being rich and secular Viennese Jews, and he hadn’t bothered to study the new and revolutionary science of Sociology, for Emile Durkheim and Max Weber hadn’t really encroached on his imaginative vision. Many of the problems that Samara’s female patients had, were she believed, down to bullying and insensitive husbands in the present tense, not their early traumas, however grotesque. They often wanted to poke around some hideous memory of a humiliating beating or an act of abandonment by their Anglo-Irish Daddy in 1892, when really they would be better in 1930 telling their gross and buffoonish husbands, as a rule younger versions of their stiff-necked Dad, to go and feck themselves as soon as they liked. And yes, before you ask it, Joe, Samara Fox did actually say, go and feck themselves, and that wasn’t my saloon bar gloss…
“That night she put her Kokkoka wisdom into practice in a genial and helpful way, given that I was a kind of novice beginner in this esoteric and extremely unIrish field. First of all, she sprawled herself naked on top of a big mahogany table, with a cushion placed under her bottom to raise it up. After I had stripped, she expertly placed her legs on either shoulder, and ordered me as with my deliberations over Leibniz and Spinoza, to dig very deep indeed and not to vacillate. I dug deep all right and the Kokkoka posture and the cushion certainly did the trick, as I went so feckin deep I could damn near hear Melbourne and Alice Springs accents down below on the Dublin street. In fact, I rummaged so abysmally deep that all of a sudden I felt a very strange sensation, Joe, as if I had made egregious contact with something not altogether agreeable in terms of what one usually expects when having erotic congress with a beautiful lady…”
I sat up sharply. “You sprained your back? Or she sprained hers?”
He snorted. “Like hell she did. It was just as I reached the molten core of Planet Earth with my excavations, I suddenly felt at the end of my Worshipful Mayor, that something or other was feckin well nibbling away at him…”
I gulped. “You mean that…”
“Some curious creature was feckin well up there, Joe Soap! A little whiskery mouse perhaps, that had somehow got up there inside of her, was helping himself to a tasty morsel in the form of the extremely sensitive end of my loyal appurtenance, my Signor Enrico Caruso.”
I guffawed not unriotously. “You seriously believed that there was a little mouse up her…?”
“Precisely what I roared at Samara in my consternation! I said, it seems you’ve got a feckin harvest mouse hibernating up there in your Mary Ann, my good missus!”
“Crikey,” I gawped. “And what did she say?”
“She stared at me in disbelief, then echoed with rhetorical amusement that unwonted accusation. A mouse, she chortled! A mouse you are saying is up there in my queynt, as it says in my dated and decorous Kokkoka translation? You are hazarding that for the most esoteric bohemian reasons, I decide to keep a little mouse up my capacious fanny, instead of in the customary cage?”
I said judicially. “She had a point, Uncle Wilf. I don’t know any women who keep small mammals up their…”
“To shite with this, I apostrophised her aghast, as the mouse kept nibbling away with relish at my Valentino. As sharp as you like, I threw back at Samara Fox, I don’t doubt it could feasibly be one of your psychoanalyst’s quaint experiments? Maybe it’s a bizarre if original method of calibrating my libido by seeing how much dick I’m prepared to yield to your esurient rodent! Feck knows what it is, I snapped at her in my outrage, but I’ve had more than enough of it.
“At that Samara was seized with a fit of volcanic hilarity and cried, you really are the funniest of men, Wilfred Lawless! So wondrously poker-faced as you offer your little tale of a laboratory mouse clandestinely secreted up my innocent fanny. Surrealism isn’t in it, apropos the lunatic experimental design intended to measure your libido. Then, she added with a roar, I think that I am actually going to expire of laughter, and what better way could there be, Mr Lawless, of departing this both blessed and cursed earth…?
“At this point there was a truly dramatic demonstration of the Laws of Mechanics. The bare arse Freudian alienist was chortling to such a manic extent, she succeeded in propelling me not only away from the nibbling mouse, but away from the cavernous depths of her Mary Ann, indeed away from herself entirely. Her spread-eagled limbs then plummeted down with a hell of a clatter, and aptly enough she bawled fuck me stiff! at the sudden shock…”
I said with some considerable respect, “Bloody hell, Uncle Wilf. All this in 1931 and in Catholic Dublin at that.”
The phantasm glared at me and sighed, “You buggers born post-1945 really think that you invented sex, and that we of the previous century spent all our time playing canasta and doing crocheting and tatting and sketching hedgerow flowers. Like hell we did. In any event my violent propulsion from that mouse’s nest caused me to tittup back a little, and then by staggered acceleration, a hell of a feckin way. Like Charlie Chaplin in his birthday suit, I catapulted backwards in mincing fashion, then tripped and landed on another of her antique tables. It was a low one made of varnished walnut, kept specially for her numerous papers and magazines. In the final analysis, Joe, I really wouldn’t have minded the same thing with a glossy and diverting magazine, but next to them there happened to be a treacherous and most appalling phenomenon, which is to say a gigantic bowl of fruit…”
Before I could ask, my uncle added: “I went walloping arse down on the fruit, with a fine big bunch of grapes careering round the sides of my thighs. Would you credit that a few of them, thanks to gravitational expulsion, started whirling up and snuggling next to my innocent bollicks? They seemed to be trying to be competitors or rather testicular bedfellows, for I looked and beheld with terror that I had about a dozen dancing knackers rather than the customary two. Worst of all because the grapes were green, ten of the same ersatz cods were as grotesquely viridian as a Kerry meadow…”
I offered no more than a pensive murmur.
“But if that had been all, Joe Soap! If only that had been all!”
I blinked at his extreme woefulness. “What else happened? Did she shout at you for ruining her grapes? Or perhaps scream to behold all those dancing testicles?”
“That psychoanalyst was never known to scream at anything in all her sagacious Freudian puff. Still sprawled on the table, she was pissing herself and occasionally helplessly farting at the sight, for many a healthy woman in my experience if they laugh too hard often guff like a milkman’s carthorse that has eaten too much dewy grass. Even more did this black-haired beauty roar when I turned round and displayed the Theatre of the Absurd in the shape of an extravagantly accoutred masculine backside. Would you believe that a single whopping banana had been sited in the sea of grapes, and as Samara later revealed, for a deplorably waggish reason. Miss Fox who had once chaffed and teased the incorrigible stallion known as HG Wells, by way of creative fruit arranging had deliberately made it point upwards in provocative phallus mode. When I clattered down into her bloody fruit bowl, that bastard of a feckin banana went right up my tradesman’s entrance, Joe! Of course I bellowed my affront, and shot up like lightning, because I rightly sensed that something more than weird was poking like a windlass out of my offended crack…”
Wonderingly I asked him how he had extricated the dangling embarrassment, assuming that it might have been quite a delicate operation.
“I yanked the yellow bastard out of course! What do you think I did? Got it to maybe ventriloquise a ditty or two, for the appreciative alienist’s entertainment?”
I am famed for having an over-literal and excessively interrogatory side, and I couldn’t hold it back. “Once you’d removed it, Uncle Wilf, what exactly did you decide to do with it? Given that it had been rammed right up your…”
He emitted an incontinent derision at such a ludicrous what happened then? mentality.
“What do you think? I placed it carefully to one side of course, then later I gave it to the poor. No, I didn’t, I whapped off the skin and with every sign of enjoyment I ate the excellent fruit within. No, I didn’t, Joe, don’t look so horribly green, or you’ll end up looking like me. And you are not even a feckin ghost as yet.”
I persisted, “But what did you do with it? I really have to know, Uncle Wilfred.”
Wearily he shrugged his shoulders. “She had a roaring fire going and I threw it on that. Then I went and washed my hands and other parts and when I came back she the psychoanalyst, still naked, was bent double in a yogic asana with her beautiful and graceful behind in the air. She smiled with tenderness and invited me to enter her odorous rose garden and not her tradesman’s entrance, I was relieved to hear. Much later, after we were sweetly sated, or at least I was balled brainless, she appeared not only with a smirk but with one of the finest vintage bottles of Bordeaux, from which she poured two glasses.”
I said with provocation, “Half full or half empty, Uncle Wilf? Was she an optimist or a pessimist, this remarkable psychoanalyst?”
He shot back, “Not applicable in either case. Her own glass wasn’t even for drinking, or at any rate not in the customary sense. Instead, she commenced some playful tickling of my Worshipful Mayor until that ever respectful dignitary shot up and raised his ceremonial hat. She then had the bold inspiration to dip his head inside her glass of Bordeaux, and she said that was to compensate for the ghost of a mouse up her Mary Ann. And then once again she started to piss herself ecstatically at my murine fantasy which as far as she could recall was nowhere to be found in Kokkoka nor even in the encyclopaedic Vatsyayana. Whereafter, Samara played the assiduous wine taster, and she took a hell of a lot of time over her considered appreciation of the Worshipful Mayor and his both full and empty glass of wine…”