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Made of Ruin - Chapter the Second:The Ruin Ripens

Having introduced us to his bright, particular star yesterday, Malcolm Duncan (Sydney based barrister, satirist, author, and independent politician) continues the tale of Jenny of Lorraine. After all, when you are on a role ...



Made of Ruin – Chapter the Second: The Ruin Ripens

“Home in 5 days - don’t wash” Napoleon was reputed to have sent by messenger to Josephine some 300 or so years later.  How did the messenger get there before Napoleon?  I’ve always wondered about that.  Did the messenger leave early?  Was he shorter than Napoleon (no mean feat) or was his horse just bigger?  If the last, you’d have to hand it to the horse.  For that matter, how did he know it was going to take exactly 5 days?  GPS?  And after all, five days without washing – the woman must have been the odiferous equivalent of the first sewer in Paris.

Our Jen though, she must have been of different mettle.  In fact, it’s a bit difficult to decide where she got her metal from.  Duck down will keep out the cold but it’s not much use against swords and arrows.

Perhaps that’s where the true mystery lies.  Was Jenny just an inspirational general or did she lead from the front as it were?  Was she once more unto the breach (of logical necessity requiring that the breach had already been made) or did she command from a distance – a sort of 15th Century metre Maid?  Was she in the thick of battle or just thick?

It’s about time we met her.  We are in a field, a cloth of gold, sun-drenched ripened wheat stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.  The field is in a small depression which limits visibility to about 5 metres.  Jenny is listening.  As far as we can tell, she isn’t listening to anything audible.  While they haven’t become popular yet, it is clear from her articulated utterances that she is talking about windmills to some bloke called Cervantes.  Of course, she doesn’t pronounce it Cervantes, she speaks in patois, having grown up with ducks she speaks fluent patios de grasse.  From time to time she mentions a bloke called Sancho who seems to be in a Panzer Division somewhere under Franco.

This bird is clearly not well.  She is also illiterate and obviously familiar with the works of Keats and Patrick White.

Yet, upwind, she is truly beautiful in that boyish way that attracted so many of the Bloomsbury Group or could get you all the free drinks you ever wanted in Newtown any weekend.  I’ve never seen anyone ride like she could and, although he didn’t realise it at this stage, young Warwick’s greatest fear would always be that she could ride a cock horse.  His parents had a nice house in Banbury Cross.  With the war, property values were tumbling (well, so was the house but that didn’t matter – it was rented out).

She was short, she was slim, she was flat-chested and she was barely sixteen but she could manage a duck, any duck and, after all, with a sixteen-year-old, a duck’s a duck.  She loved the flower of France and the voices told her that her knees would fall off if she didn’t go to the snivelling coward who held the true crown (as opposed to the legitimate claims of the drooling Henry) and tell him she was there to up the ante.

Being as thick as five short planks joined end to end, Jenny didn’t know what an ante was but she decided to set off and see the King anyway.  By some miracle, she was shown up a flight of stairs into a small room which a page described as an ante-room.  Even Jenny realised that this must mean that she was up the ante.

Suddenly, the door opened and an elegantly coiffed woman about 20 years her senior entered.  “Child,” she said, “I am the King’s father’s sister.  His Majesty has asked me what business you, a maid of low breeding, have with the likes of us.”

Like a shot, Jenny was up the Auntie.

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A fine line...

...between schizophrenia and sainthood, not for the first or last time.

Wonderful scholarship, Malcolm

Malcolm, I have not encountered any historical work of such scholarship and erudition since the day I first heard A.L. Anon's brilliant narrative poem The Bastard King of England, as set to music by O.R. Else, and performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal George Hotel, Sussex St, Sydney.

From memory, it begins:

There lived a king, an English king, a thousand years ago,
He ruled the land with an iron hand, though his mind was weak and low...

It goes on to deal with the complex diplomatic and intriguing relationship between the English king, his queen, the Queen of Spain and the King of France, which more or less (give or take 500 years or so) brings us to the period you have researched so thoroughly and over what can only  have been a very long time.

Though it is doubtless a song of great antiquity (scholars in the saloon bar maintained that it pre-dated Sumer Is Icumen In and Greensleeves) it is unlikely that the lovely Maid of Orleans ever heard it, or understood it if she did. Which is probably just as well, as the rest of the words would have turned her (facial) cheeks the colour of Beaujolais (nouveau, of course).

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