THE MOST WONDERFUL PACKAGE turned up the other day. It was a large box, with a variety of stickers on the top: Royal Mail gubbins aside, there was (is) a ‘Security Seal: If Broken Verify Contents‘, a ‘from’ address, ‘ A.P. Glover, Agent for Brightahomes, 7 Hillside Road, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich‘, a generalised advertising sticker, ‘The Practical Householder‘, and a ‘Contents’ sticker –’“SKIDBLADNIR”: the Original Collapsable Boat (Indoor Use Only). Suitable for All Claw-Footed Baths, Model IV/Mark 2 with dampers, optional sails, safety runners‘. Let me make it QUITE CLEAR TO ALL READERS that this was eight o’clock in the morning, an hour at which I am not at my best. I was delighted, but having run an eye over the first two lines of each of the various inscriptions, I read no further, but thought, Aha . Some blog-reader, most probably the Real World Consultant, has sourced an inflatable boat and just sent it; we have a number of generous & wonderful friends, the RWC not the least among them, and it seemed to make sense. So did ‘Skidbladnir’ — I have not stopped to check this and it is a while since the Elder Edda crossed my path, but I remember quite distinctly that Skidbladnir was the name of a boat belonging to either Thor or Odin which had the ingenious property of folding into nothing when not wanted — apposite, and the kind of thing that a hippyish sort of outfit in Norwich might very reasonably think of (if that line of reasoning fails to commend; bear in mind that I have been attempting to source Viking images off the net all term for making powerpoint slides, and have developed an extensive acquaintance, as a result, with the commercial application of Viking lore of all description). Fortunately, the household retains SOME VESTIGES OF MANNERS. The package was addressed to the Northern Professor. So I left it where it was & set about chivvying animals into the garden with threats & blows, boiling kettles and eggs, toast manufacture and so forth — & when the Professor appeared, some time later, I said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful, someone has sent us a boat. I suspect my brother.’ He immediately beetled off into the back kitchen, where the post comes in, and returned saying, ‘Not exactly. It’s your Christmas present; I was told it would be posted heavily disguised’. So it remains unopened; but it has already given immense pleasure.
I was half way through writing this, by the way, when Miss Kit, sitting under my halogen desklamp (nice and warm) on the left of the keyboard, put out a tiny paw in what seemed really a quite calculated fashion, causing the screen to go blank. I am beginning to develop an ominous sense that she is a cat of the computer age, with a distressingly well developed sense of how to screw up one’s work.
PS. The boat Skidbladnir was made by the dwarves for the god Frey. It could accommodate all of the AEsir, but fold away to nothing. But, I might also add, Google informs me that Skidbladnir is also the name of a Norwegian cattery (why?) and a rock band. Thus my muzzy early-morning sense that it was a possible name for an inflatable plastic boat seems not wholly unreasonable.