Madelie Carew, a brief description

Straight into the mirror, eye to eye, unflinching.  She looked into the black cores of her pupils.  Relaxing slightly her view widened as did her pupils and took in the amber of the iris and the whiteness of her sclerata.
Her focus expanded, flickered over her curled eyelashes and pink lids and followed the arch of her eyebrows, dark and plucked into a point where they highlighted the space between and the bridge of her nose.  A good, straight ridge that ended in a small, acceptable snub which had an annoying off-centre crease over the dainty bulge to lean over and fade into the slightly flared nostrils.  If she raised her head she felt they gaped but holding straight, face to face, she could imagine the nostrils as small, gently curved shells that sat delicately above the skeins of fine hair that added depth to her upper lip and the tweak, the uprising, of the still-red lip, full-curved out and down to balance with the the lower lip and it’s slightly fuller pad.  She twitched her right check and her lips responded.  She twitched the other and her image reacted.  Still absorbed, she snarled silently and bared her teeth.  Neat, white, large.  She inspected the array and rested her lips.

She shook her head violently and water sprayed around from her chopped black hair.  Spikes pushed away from her ears while other hair clung shortly on her forehead and a bead of water slicked down via tear duct.  Down the beck between cheek and shell, sliding to the corner of her now pressed lips, slipping the curve of the dimple-less chin to hang in wonder, reflecting light as a minute snow-globe.

Madelie raised her left arm and with flat hand washed down the condensation on the mirror from top to bottom, waved away the image.


from  ‘It Happened in Burnthorpe’

J Johnson Smith,  Wordparc copyright  2019


The Twinkle Twins, a brief description

Eve and Agnes Doublegate, with their father Albert were quite famous in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century.  Their father helped guide, frequently guard, his two daughters whilst acting as their manager, musical arranger and accompanist.  In fact he is seen as the force behind the developing of their variety and music-hall act alongside frequent appearances in G&S operas. The twins were especially visible when playing together as two of the ‘three little maids’ in ‘Mikado’.

3 little maids pic

image from old poster but not Twinkle Twins & V.

Christened Eve and Agnes, their billed name was ‘the Twinkle Twins (and Albert)’ and their stage names were Verity and Vanity.  I am not sure which was which, in fact they deliberately switched names and roles, often mid-act, much to the confusion of Albert.  The question is, was it part of a well rehearsed act?

Well, Agnes, in her reminiscences at the age of 90 insisted they had only done it to “exasperate” Albert mid-show if he had been over-protective the previous night.  She said they would only swap names once in a show and sometimes take on the other’s routine and deliberately mis-cue, for their father’s irritation. They were a singing, dancing and topical music act but liked to throw in plenty of pointed comment and satire on events and people of the day.  Agnes claimed she was Verity and Eve was Vanity, names chosen because they flowed well and fitted the opposites of their actual characters.

Eve, born 1898, Agnes in 1899 ( not twins then!) their mother died when they were six/seven and the twins spent even more time with their father in his peripatetic life as pianist and arranger for music-hall and shows. Full performers by the age of 14/15 they found themselves invited into the house-party circuit as well as music-hall and G&S.  They were introduced to the party weekends after entertaining at a small gathering at Saffron House just before the start of WW1 and continued their saloon-cum-vaudeville-cum-cabaret act through to the late thirties, when their father died. Their appearances on the stage petered out rapidly afterwards as they had matured and times had changed but they continued with occasional stately-home parties, basically entertaining old friends. They frequently entertained the troops in WW2, especially the hospitalised and recuperating, an activity started in the Home Counties in WW1.  From the start of the Great War, initially through military contacts around Windsor they were invited to perform at temporary local military hospitals in the likes of Cliveden and Chequers and even the hastily erected hospital huts in Windsor Great Park.

Beautiful in their youth and prime, consistently cheerful and bubbly, with voices that could fill any song with meaning.  From cheeky vaudeville to romantics of the day and many a war-time favourite, their songs garnered popular appeal. They could vary their acts for the audience and always raise the dullest of crowds. Their effervescence endeared them to any audience and their ability to be outspoken and critical was leavened by their sense of fun and downright quality of voice.  They leave no recordings.

Agnes, in her recollections, would often mention their early years, just before and throughout the First War when they were invited to many big houses and met political and military figures of the day, balanced by their visiting injured soldiers.
“We were so fond of Ernst (Herrenberg), he and Charlie (!) helped get us known.  It was nice when Veronique could join us but she had other fish to fry”. She also recalled meeting the war-artists Francis Dodd and Paul Nash and another, an Alfred Smollson (unknown).

Note: Veronique (Beauchene) was frequently the third little maid in G&S before WW1 and occasionally performed in their country house ‘cabaret’. A great and lifelong friend of the Twinkle Twins but her stage career dwindled as the war proceeded.  Considered a rare beauty in her day, of French and German parentage but actually born in England and very English despite her slight French accent.  Most of her early life lived in England with summers in France, until the Great War.


Wordparc Copyright 2014

Busie Warboys, a brief description

Busie Warboys,  a brief description
at The Jolly Puritan

“Welcome, welcome! Sorry, we are a bit quiet tonight but I’m here if you need a chat and a beer.  Or I can keep everso still and you won’t know I am here. Goodness, did that rhyme?  It’s a habit I really must lose but I have been trying for what seems forever and it doesn’t get a tiny bit better!”

Alfred Nellsohn stood at the bar and blinked as the rotund man had appeared as if bouncing off the wall rather than through the gap from the lounge bar. Luckily the barman, the ‘licensed victualler’ as it stated in somewhat vague lettering on the grimed brass strip across the lintel of the outer door, was well used to people being surprised at seeing him.  He corrected his position to the middle of the space behind the old bar and looked up at the stranger, Alfred, as he would get to know.  His back was gently touching the lip of the shelving behind him and his belt buckle was just scratching on the old brass drip trays under the service bar, ready to catch the frothy overflows from the beer taps.

Busie, for that was his name and it matched his attitude despite his stature, looked up at his latest customer.  His view framed by the truncheon-like handles of the pumps.  The brass collars on these were bright and spotless, higher than but matching the colour of Busie’s wire framed spectacles.  His eyes were glinting, his head shiny with the beads of sweat sitting between the short, sparse but still corn-gold hair.  Alfred noted that the barman’s head was small, exaggerated because of the thick shoulders and barrel chest pushing down to the mighty girth of a very short man.
Feeling the surprise had passed the barman spoke again,

“I’m Busie, can I get you a drink, on-tap beer or a gin and pink?”

Alfred took the ten shilling note out of his back pocket and laid it on the wooden surface.  “Walnut?” he said to himself looking at the patterning of the surface but just loud enough for the barman to hear, “If you’re busy I can wait for a bit,” he said casually.
“No, I really am Busie, ‘ave been all me life.”
“Okay. Stout?”
“Always been that too, and short, “bit like a teapot eh?”.  He grinned up at Alfred.

Alfred always had a haphazard regard of his surroundings, sometimes slow to appreciate and at that moment he was just lost.
“Bitter, half-pint. Thanks.”

Busie looked at Alfred, continued the eye contact as he gripped the side of the bar and pulled himself up onto his toes, pushing his belly harder into the tray. As his head rose slightly he pushed it towards Alfred and spoke in a hoarse stage whisper,

“Not anymore; and I do the short jokes!” then proceeded to pull the beer.


from  ‘It Happened in Burnthorpe’

Wordparc copyright 2019         J Johnson Smith

Alfred Nellsohn, a brief description

Alfred Nellsohn developed his style of concrete poetry during an early collision with Dadaism before moving into Surrealism and finally fixating on Vorticism, none of which were able to stifle his ability to failure.

His disappointment in himself was perhaps overlaid by a sense of justice in that his chosen areas of exploitation had been on the edge of artistic expressions that were ahead of their time.  He anticipated that on his death the true worth of his service to art would be recognised.  In the belief that minimalism was inherent in true value he spent the last year of his life taking photographs of his total output, all of which he had stored in his garage.

Finally the last roll of film, he only used monochrome, was wound to the endless flutter of the loosened wheel.  With pride he assembled the pyre of his works in the garden.

With the words,  ” By this will I be remembered”, he carefully lit the cartridge paper and the canvas frames and stood back.  With a soft smile of remembrance he watched his passions blossom and rise.  Scorched echoes rose through the smoke.  One flaming poster was caught in the breeze and in the evening light twirled like a loosened Catherine Wheel and settled in the pile of dry leaves rusting inside the door of the garage.

He was charmed as the blisters of yellow and orange highlighted the red jerrycans beside them.  The juxtaposition of nature and man’s profligacy hit his senses as he watched the leaves crinkle and burn round the cans.  The sparkling burst, like a ray of golden sunshine, thrust upwards, shearing the darkness of the garage.

He remembered the rolls of film, safely stored in their air and waterproof, duck-tape-sealed tin and stepped over the threshold to retrieve them.

“Oh, shit!” he managed to say as the lids popped off the cans and the petrel-blue flume consumed him.

Wordparc copyright 2014        from:  ‘It Happened in Burnthorpe’