Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Great Mysteries of the World Solved: Part IX

I wasn't quite sure at what point I lost my sunglasses, but we all had our eyes on Cilla Black. She was the only one who didn't look up from the backgammon game when I mentioned they had gone missing, and the fact no-one had been allowed in her room since the blender had disappeared merely cemented it.

Brian Blessed was distraught at this as he couldn’t make his trademark cocktails for us all, and went and sulked in the surrounding woods for a whole day. We let him go: he’s not easy to lose. But then someone found an ancient Mr Frosty in the camp’s shop, and that placated him somewhat – though it did take him three hours to make just one Caipirinha, bless.

Fortunately, the loss of my sunglasses was not vital: the dusk Australian sunlight was more than bearable at this time of the evening, dappling our shaded picnic table with a pleasant umber hue. The heat was receding with the light, and even the more susceptible to the temperature of our band were finally emerging from their darkened bedrooms. From the kitchen came the telling ‘chink!’ of a vodka bottle, and I settled further into my garden chair for what may become a long night ahead.

Cilla slipped into the chair next to mine, carrying two glasses and wearing a pair of shoes that I knew weren’t hers. “Do you know what I worry about, chuck?”

A whole host of things flashed into my mind. Being caught must be pretty high on that list. Though, weirdly, she’d repeatedly mentioned the Kays Catalogue with some sort of fear and awe on the journey down here.

“I’ve just read you’re meant to swallow four spiders in your lifetime, while you’re sleeping. What if you do it down here in Oz?”

“POISONOUS!” yelled Brian, scattering the wildlife. Poor Brian. We’d tried to let him sleep in the same cabin as us, we really had. But Brian doesn’t just talk in his sleep – he shouts, sings and performs cabaret, so we had to hire a second cabin down the road and fished out his ear trumpet from the boot of the car. He didn’t seem to mind - on the surface that is. But we made him a cake and stuck his favorite plastic alligator on it. He was almost moved to tears under that beard of his, bless him.

The crickets had started up their nightly chorus in between our two cabins, the woods suddenly becoming more vocal as the sun set. Judith Hann, doyenne of technology, pulled a blanket around her legs and filled her glass further. I once again couldn’t fail to notice the gaudy watch she was sporting: it was an ancient Casio with a calculator on it, now encrusted with blinking LEDs and soldering. Apparently she could use it to contact Maggie Philbin anywhere in the world. I personally doubted that it would even tell the time correctly.

“It’s a good point,” said Judith in her soothing and informative voice. “I mean, there are some in this country that could kill you in under ten minutes…”

I nodded, and rolled the thought around for a moment. “Well, the Huntsman spider is the size of your hand, I’m sure you’re aware. I doubt there’s much danger of swallowing that.”

“Brian could,” muttered Cilla into her handbag, stabbing for her Smints. She tried to keep her dislike a secret, but we all knew really.

“WHAT?” called Brian. That ear trumpet of his was remarkably good.

“Nothing, Brian,” said Judith, over her shoulder.

Apparently it had been Brian’s idea to bring everyone down to visit in Australia, and had corralled and cajoled everyone to coming with him. I was touched – not to say a little shocked - when he phoned to say that he would be landing in Perth in about five hours time, and that he’d bought some friends. Even down the phone line, I could hear him shrugging off my excitement, saying that he’d always wanted to visit Down Under. That much was true: the big lug seemed to really want to get back to nature. The problem being that nature really didn't want to get back to him.

So I'd met most of them in the Arrivals Lounge, with the notable exceptions of Cher - who was flying cargo, and Angela Lansbury - who'd been sneaking champagne out of the First Class cabin and got so drunk she'd been performing show tunes in the galley. Several stewardesses had tried to hold her down, but Dame Aggie's got a kick like a mule, and before she knew it, she was being arrested for air rage.

I spent an afternoon waiting for her in the beigest room imaginable, the air conditioner whining above my head doing little to dispel the closeness. They finally released her after I’d offered them a great deal of my holiday money, and she burst into the room on the chorus of Me And My Gal.

When I finally sat her down, she was typically more worried about her luggage. I refused to let her drive.

The dusk had just rolled over into night as Cher stepped out onto the veranda, and we all shuffled around so she could sit. You wouldn’t think she’d be happy out in an Australian park in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature. But she looked so at ease with it all as she gracefully sat down that she didn’t look a jot out of place. Though I suppose the enormous feathered headdress did make her look like a poreless cockatiel.

“What we talking about?” she asked. There was a squeak as she crossed her legs which I am almost sure came from the chair.

“Spiders,” said I.

“Ah,” she said, as if this explained everything.

“POISONOUS!” reiterated Brian.

Cher brought out a table lamp from that curious bag she takes everywhere with her and the veranda was once again lit up. It was a full hour until we discovered where the power cord was going to. In the interim, we discussed the various flora and fauna of the Australian continent, and as to why most of it could fell an elephant with one bite. Cher, whereas, was watching her lamp, and the creatures that flapped towards it’s light.

“I’ve often wondered what moths do during the day,” she said.

We mulled this over for a moment; Cilla sucked on her teeth - a considerable feat, I’m sure you’ll agree – and ventured forth: “You mean like, do they watch Tricia and do the ironing?”

We all looked at her.

“I mean, moths are fond of light,” pressed Cher.

I gestured for her to go on – I still couldn’t get her point.

“So, do moths come out, look at the sun and go ‘Big fucking light bulb! Charge!’”

I raised an eyebrow, not because of her notion, but this was the first time ever I’d heard her swear. She’d obviously been hanging around with Angela Lansbury too much. In reflection, I kinda missed the old broad – while she was a handful at times, she did know how to party.

Sadly, no-one had seen Dame Aggie since Perth. There had been a 'Grab a Granny' dance in the next hotel's ballroom - unkindly nicknamed the 'Crisco Disco' - and she hadn't been back to her hotel room since Tuesday. Cilla had been bunking with her, and was agog when the Dame had dragged her 'pulling shawl' out of her suitcase and announced her intentions.

"So, chuck, are you sexually active?" asked the wide-eyed Liverpudlian songstress.

"Oh, I just tend to lie there," she cackled, and was off into the night.

That was five nights ago. We’d left a forwarding address with reception, and I quietly kept an eye on the news, but nothing.

“Perhaps it’s the same place that flies go to during winter,” said Judith, forcing me to pay attention. “Like a safe house.”

“’Ere, I’m more concerned what moths flew around before light bulbs,” said Cilla.

I accidentally shot a look at Cher, inviting her to answer, but she thankfully didn’t see me. I covered my fumble by ducking under the table and reaching into Cilla’s handbag to retrieve the other bottle of vodka she’d just slyly lifted off the table.

“The first electric light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison in 1879,” said Judith in perfect presenting tones. “He used a carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb.”

An odd thought crossed my mind: I love you, Judith Hann. I decided it was time to get some air.

The front of the cabin looked up at a steep hill, the high trees obscuring most of the sky. It was times like this I wished I smoked; coming out her had left me nothing to do but pace idly with my hands in my pockets. I pondered on whether a visit to Brian’s house would be in order - I could hear his version of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ being belted out over the otherwise still forest. The sound of which completely obscured the revving car engine; I only realized there was a vehicle heading towards me when it crashed through the trees and embedded itself in the garage wall.

I looked up from the bushes in which I had landed. I could hear ‘Xanadu’ coming from the car stereo, the slow ‘ping’ of a cooling engine and some rather out-of-place giggling.

Dame Angela Lansbury.

I had my theories that she was drunk when the car was returned. For one, there was a dent on the passenger side and a moose antler lodged in the roof-rack. Secondly, there was the smell of Big Macs on the inside, but whether she'd managed to eat it was another matter: lettuce simply coated the driver's seat. It was like she'd let a deranged rabbit drive. And I could barely see the road through the mayonnaise smeared across the windshield.

I grabbed her hand to pull her up, wincing as her numerous rings bit into my fingers. The thing with Dame Aggie is that she never appears drunk, just slightly less invincible to everyone but her.

“I’m not late, am I?” she asked.

I really didn’t know what to say, instead helped her through to the veranda at the back. It merely took the chorus of surprised ‘hello’s from the others for her to have found a clean glass from somewhere and to have pinched my seat.

“So, where did we get to, dears?” she asked.

“Spiders,” said Cilla.

“Moths,” corrected Cher.

“NOT POISONOUS!” yelled Brian, trying to be helpful. Three bats were so confused by the noise, they thumped into a tree.

Dame Aggie squinted one eye and tried to fix my gaze through her tumbler, as if it were a pair of opera glasses. “You do know where they go during the day, don’t you?” she asked.

We all leant forward.

“Oh, it’s very simple, dear,” she said. “They’re all having a party!”

We leant back again.

“No, it’s true,” she pursued. “Gallant parties, dressed to the nines, waltzing away in the tree bark,” she said.

“Are you sure?” asked Judith. Tonight was a night of firsts – I don’t think Judith, doyenne of technology, had ever asked a question before.

“Quite. They’re called moth balls.”

Later that evening, we suddenly discovered that there was no room in our cabin for Dame Aggie, and that her room had suddenly become both a) locked, and b) a broom cupboard. She was forced to spend the night in Brian’s cabin – something I wouldn’t wish on anyone really. And most certainly not with a hangover, no.

Ah. Happy days.

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