Where my Cullesdon Mythos happened… and Tokkmaster Clerke
Tokkmaster Clerke by D.F. Lewis
Published in the legendary Dave W. Hughes’ WORKS magazine in 1988
I once told you how I first came up that long, long hill out of Cullesdon and visited the local pub dubbed ‘Pail of Water’.
The rundown parade of shops, the golf-course on one side, the tracks leading to woodfalls and derelict smallholdings, and the strange mixture of council flats and semi detached owner-occupiers made that indefinable place, at one overnourished and prevalent, but at two disturbingly barren and bare-gnawn. Through the Southern Mysteries beyond Balham, it was soon that one met the Surrey Badlands, at the edge of South London, and that area to me by crap and root the core of such Badlands.
The golfers and pub locals stared imbecilically at any newcomers; the butcher’s shop kept so called satan-meat behind grinny windows; the girls begawed and bedecked themselves with flirting ribbons and enticing cockadilloes; the callow youths hung an arse round by the patron’s car park of the ‘Pail of Water’, sometimes helping the contraband lorries unload the cock-ale – delighted in by the local taste-buds; and the churn-owls swooped and whooped with the early dying of the afternoon light, betokening the preparation of other entities and elementals to squeeze themselves from between the sticky thighs of the night.
That day I arrived, after initiation from the shapes in the sky, they doctored me to their ways. The clan leader, Tokkmaster Clerke, who also acted as local general practitioner, served me the medicine and the mending and kept vigil by my several nights of bed-evil that ensued. He continued to move the bed on its ill-suited legs, muttering that the devil did rock my cradle, did cully my fever and did keep the bloody-flux at bay; but his hush-a-byes sure did beflum and bamboozle my thoughts for a while.
After, I stayed with the Sawdust family; they knew my history and why I had been called there, I was to be chief taster for those Societies that met at the Community Hall, standing across the road from the shops, a bit like an army barracks, with the letters of its name above the entrance mostly fallen completely or dislodged into a word I could not pronounce. The cabals and brotherships that there stretched their limbs from bodies politic within the big and small halls and lesser meeting-rooms feared sabotage from outsiders.
I had gained reputation in the ‘Square Mile’ further North as sniffer-out of poisons at the credence-tables of nobility and middle-class alike. I had cocked a tongue to many dire tidbit and toxic tiffin, and winked across to those sitting above the salt: telling a tale of treachery with my mere glance.
The Sawdust’s tried me out with every particle of local fare: the sometime bad toddies served at nearby Woodman-Sterne, the even more ill-reputed carrier worms dug from beneath nearby deadfall trees (considered a delicacy in parts of the Badlands ) and, finally, the scuds and curds that intermittently plummeted from the sky in crazy fibrous shapes that monsters said to be above the clouds sculptured from their own droppings.
And I passed mustard with every test.
Tokkmaster explained how the word above the Hall’s entrance, Cthulhu, was pronounced and what it implied; inside he showed me several huge black volumes with gold clasps with arcane titles, hidden with the drama props under the stage, whispered in my ears about the coming of even narrower fellowships and masonries to the area. And I was to be Chief Taster and Factotum to any such.
One day a banquet was held …. Of course, Tokkmaster Clerke was at the head of the huge oak trestle, being host and breaker of bread. The wine, deeply red, flowed down swift gullets. The food — great gristles of flesh, yellow fat and hairy skin lining the rare sides of boeuf and lion; even greater cow-udders, baked and prepared with the greasy tubes intact, the undersides green-fleshed and pocked with broken bubbles of melded fat; windfall fruit, knotted and almost branched with unwholesome sprouts of stale seasons; plates of flopping fish, still alive but unbelievably putrid, their fins pickled in vats of udder-grease as scaly extras; further dishes of octopus with inflamed, ridgy pores, squid with mutant tentacles, horny lapfish, swordfish bent and skewed, splattered blowfish, gasfish, rancid roe – the food was enjoyed at every hand.
All had passed across my credence-table for pre-tasting and, suddenly, a great boar’s head, overbaked and brainless, spoke the last word from the trestle: “Burp!” And spew poured from its sticky mouth.
They all looked up at me…. and stared icily, realization dawning. Dr Tokkmaster pressed his stethoscope to his own chest … to hear the devil in there. He grimaced and made as if to attack me…
I left that night, my job done, down the long, long hill. I was searching for some far-off pub to quaff a pint of their very best bitter and to partake of a packet of pork scratchings. Clean flakes of snow settled over me as I entered Cullesdon.
Two more Cullesdon stories in first comment below…
Brighton Pavilion, not Clacton
Other Brighton photos: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2021/09/15/brighton-today/
Today Clacton, but…
The Lewis Clan in Callanish and Carnac…
….in 1970s and 1980s :-
Later by Berietree:
Later by Killystar:
A new DFL short short fiction written today:
LE MIROIR by Robert Aickman
“Genius, however, comes normally in inverse measure to the capacity to impart. The two things are strongly opposed.”
Unless one can balance them — as in Niemandswasser’s bi-polarity backdropped by time’s slowth — the latter being the ever-durability summoned by Aickman’s own lasting genius, here in Celia become paramount. Lasting beyond death with the rats eating you now transcended by a self-harming, an obsession as aided or abetted by insidious mirrors with many of which she had been brought up — and eventually by her own choice of knives and their durable threat of the final cut of all. The gangrene of time cut out or cut off from the body literally and from the ageing mind metaphorically to hopefully help create the truth of youth again — while somehow swaddled by the celebratory figures of various Arts, both geniuses and mediocrities, as named here.
A version of Dorian Gray? So, what of that sense of immortality’s nullity? With Time itself to become the “divine benediction” of Celia’s “soft stole.” Or a sharp flaying and flensing? This a culmination of what I have found so far in Aickman’s work? Or is there never such a culmination when genius is involved?
Beautifully and complexly couched portrait of a well-bred young lady artist sent to the ateliers of Paris, a new life away from her very very old father, a new era for her as disarmingly launched by the meal she once had with the family solicitor’s chief clerk. A meal that is later seen as having been as a ‘romantic’ one by such an inferred male mediocrity…?
“Time flies when we watch it, but has no need to fly when we ignore it.”
…which perhaps evokes again that different version of Dorian Gray?
“…that last payment she was able to make and had made more prematurely than ever, came to be overlooked altogether.”
My other ongoing Aickmeanderings: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/
A fearless faith in fiction — The autonomous passion of the reading moment — Empirical critiques since 2008 as based on purchased books, and without any easy assumptions as to authorial intentions — A review site with an instinctive, yet hopefully knowledgeable spirit but one that also risks a non-academic pretentiousness! Yes, NON-academic. Not only pretentious, but preternatural?!