20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.
Season 2: PC#9
Previously on Peachy Coochy: a Nurse had said that I could have an audience with the King if I could prove that I had conquered shame. I was keen to see the King so I split myself in two, leaving the shameful part in a house in Hertfordshire. I walked through ploughed grey fields and took a train from Harpenden to King’s Cross.
Freed from the repellent side of my nature I felt that I had stepped aside from history. I felt light and open. People could see who I was at last. I realised that my shame had held me back all through my life. Divested of this corrosion I could feel great forces unfolding within me, like sleeping snakes shaken awake.
I soon found that relatively few countries in the world still had monarchs as heads of state. Europe, however, contained a number of small principalities. Luxembourg, for example, is a parliamentary representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, ruled by Grand Duke Henri. It is the world’s only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy.
Henri led me along one of the streets. “Why is the city so shadowy?” I asked him. He seemed surprised. “Is it?” he said, “Perhaps we do not notice it any more.” “It must be hard to find things,” I said. “Non, c’est pas difficile. It’s a small place – we remember where everything is. You will like where I am taking you.” The Grand Duke led me to a bright hall.
The space was full of princes and princesses, archdukes and archduchesses, dukes and duchesses, marquesses and marchionesses, margraves and margravines, counts and countesses, viscounts and viscountesses and barons and baronesses. I knew that I was their equal so I started to throw some shapes. A figure moved towards me through the darkness.
“Do you like the Bee Gees?” he enquired. “Who are you?”I enquired. “I am Count Robert of Bedfordshire. Call me Bob,” he replied. “You know what, Bob?” I asked. “What is that?” he asked. “I love that high pitched melancholic shit. It puts me in touch with myself.”
“I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes / and I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said.” (Unexpectedly accurate rendition of Robin Gibb’s solo vocal part in ‘ I Started a Joke’ (1968) continues until expiry of time frame)
No sooner had I rendered the couplet for Bob than his skull began to distend and reshape itself as if it had succumbed to a hideous tropical bone softening disease. His hair began to seethe and swarm, bristles burst from his jaw and when he spoke it was as if great machines were seizing up in dank subterranean caverns.
Suddenly the lights in the ballroom blazed on. The place was empty. As Bob hurled himself howling towards me I ran along the silent marble corridors through the great rooms where the sound of footsteps is absorbed by carpets so heavy so thick that all sound escapes the ear as if the ear itself were very far from the ground, far from this empty décor,
far from the ceiling with its branches and garlands like classical foliage, as if the ground were still sand and gravel and stone paving which I crossed once again between these walls laden with woodwork with pictures with framed engraving, marble mirrors, pillars, alcoves and rows of doorways, this dismal place laden with a deserted past.
Because I was light, transparent and groundless and Bob was hard, dense and dogged we were curiously matched. It was not long before we reached the east of Luxembourg where it bordered with France. I had an economic running style, relaxed shoulders, good cadence. Bob, who was always about two or three hundred metres behind me, did far too much with his arms but kept up a relentless pace.
I was pleased to leave the perpetual Luxembourg dusk. Soon I was being chased past all that was good about France. Inside the chateau a lady sat by the fireplace with some children at her knee. To one side is a spindle. A cat is there. They looked up as I entered. “Asseyez-vous, monsieur,” said the lady. So I did.
Apparently her son J.T. had been driving his truck at night on the 285 between Encino and Vaughn in New Mexico. He had picked up a young woman hitch-hiker. She wore a full-length, cream-coloured skirt and a tight navy blue top with short, puffed sky-blue sleeves that were slashed and filled with red velvet. Round the back of her neck was a high white, stiffened collar.
J.T. asked her if she worked around those parts. “I clean houses and make them tidy,” she said. Her voice was high and clear like a young girl’s but she seemed to be in her late teens. J.T. was not a major conversationalist so he just said “Uh-huh.” Then she said “I brush the dust up and wash the dishes.” Then she laughed – a short peal of notes that didn’t seem to relate to anything amusing that J.T. could see.
As they drove through the night J.T. noticed her hands. They had no moles or marks, they were unblemished milky white. So pale were they that he thought he could see the blood running through her wrists. As she shifted them in her lap they left a phosphorescent trail, a faint mist of light hovering in the air then falling gently into the fabric of her dress.
The next morning J.T. froze when Cliff and Roy came into the bunkhouse at sunrise. She was sluicing the flagstones and singing. “This here is Mister Clifford Preece: ranch-hand. And Mister Roy Lennox. Ranch-hand.” Cliff and Roy, glaring their suspicions at J.T., nodded and mumbled.
I drew Mary to me and pulled off her blue bodice revealing her marble breasts. She gazed unblinkingly at me as I caressed her. I noticed that when I was with her Bob stopped running. We made our way to Omaha Beach where we were redirected to Dunkirk. We shot some exhausted horses and sang with shattered soldiers in ransacked bars. A man gave us a canoe which we paddled to Ramsgate.
As Mary waded ashore Bob burst from the water snarling. Mary killed him with a fishing knife and his blood ran into the chill grey water. It seemed so long ago that I had sung a short snatch from a Bee Gees song and witnessed the unsettling transformation of Count Robert of Bedfordshire. Mary opened a small gift shop in the town and I flew to Luton.
I knocked on the great door at Count Robert’s place and it swung open. The butler, ashen-faced, was holding the body in such a way that it appeared to gaze at me disdainfully. “I’m afraid he has taken his life, sir,” said the senior servant. “But why..?” I stammered. “He said that the leakage between the phantasmal and the mundane was turning him to vapour.”
I felt my body growing opaque. My desire to see the King melted away. I had to anchor myself. I had to plant my feet on the earth. A few miles away in Hertfordshire my shame languished in a damp, decaying house. It fell upon my neck and gorged on the fat of my new found freedom. As I pulled away it whispered “You’re tho nithe, tho very very nithe.”