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.

6 Responses to “Humourists”

  1. A Wishful Reader Says:

    Skidbladnir is also the name given to a car used for for travel in Other Realms in Summerland.

  2. The Canadian Professor Says:

    I recommend a search for a mate to a sofa I saw long ago in a flat in Manhattan. It came from a ship of the Cunard White Star line. The owner explained its oddish shape (like a very large upholstered box): in case of maritime disaster, it converted into a lifeboat.

    So what about the Titanic, ship of the CWS? Our friend’s tale, whose telling was never to be revealed to his mother, was that his great grand uncle had been Master of the Lines and on the T when it went down. The captain of the T saw the iceberg and wanted to do something sensible, like turning away from it, but our friend’s G-G-u, as Master, overruled him and said: Full Speed Ahead. No one, I guess, had a chance to convert the sofas.

    Our friend’s complaint: that the Harry Elkins Widener Library at Harvard, named for HEW, who perished in the disaster, ought also to have a plaque commemorating HIS family.

  3. The Man From Maryport Says:

    The man who designed the Titanic was a native of my home town, thus giving Cumbria a pre-eminent place in the annals of Great Engineering Disasters. (The man responsible for the Tay Bridge came from just up the road). And look, I’m probably being obtuse, but who was Harry Elkins & why did he devote his life to collecting wideners? Wideners of what exactly? And he donated them to Harvard??

  4. The Other German Guest Says:

    It seems that Miss Kit is not the first cat to enter the computer age. While I would not install it there is a programm called PawSense which is said to be very intelligent in distinguishing human from feline keyboard input and if you so wish reject the feline input.

  5. Jane Says:

    The Real World consultant sent the following link to another Skidbladnir; as he says, a window on a different world…

  6. The Canadian Professor Says:

    O come on, Man from Maryport. There may BE wideners (for narrow shoes?) but this was Harry Elkins Widener, who had collected 5000 first editions by the age of 21 an went down on the T, minus, thank God, the first editions, which now repose in a memorial room at the top of the stairs at the entrance of Widerner. There used to be a woman who sprang from her desk to give the visitor a harangue about him. One day I went in. She sprang and started. I WANT TO SEE A BOOK. A book? Yes, the first editions of all of Charlotte Bronte’s novels. A friend wanted me to check the last line in each of the 3 vols.

    In the HEW Reading Room, you can have one book at a time. An aged elf was sent up a ladder. I was put at the end of a long table & told to put my bag at the other end. Down came the elf. I made a note. After several scampers, he was allowed to bring down two. I don’t think that HEW would have approved. Perhaps his mother and the springing custodian.

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