So, for those of you who are keeping score, I rewrote/revised/edited /redid whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it-Chapter-One of the new Scotty last night and you know what? I found Scotty’s voice again. I don’t know, but when I opened the word document for this next attempt to write this book, I knew what the first sentence was going to be, and when I typed it: I love Christmas…somehow Scotty was there again; I could hear his voice, get into his head, everything I need to do in order to write a Scotty book. My God, I might actually get this thing finished.
I also made it to the gym yesterday morning before work; without complaining, without once trying to think of a reason or rationale to not go. I just got up, had a couple of cups of coffee, did my morning toilette, and when it was time, I put on my sweats and went out the front door. It’s amazing how much better I feel; how much more energy I have, I’ve not been sleeping as great as I would like this week–not sure what that’s all about–but maybe I just don’t need as much sleep as I used to? A possibility, no doubt. I’m seeing my doctor again next month; perhaps I can discuss it with her then. I know she’ll be pleased I’m working out more regularly.
I also did some things I’ve been procrastinating about–made an eye appointment, called AT&T because I am paying for cellular service on my iPad and not getting it, called my doctor for a prescription refill, cancelled a digital newspaper subscription–and so I am feeling rather proud of myself. Yay, me!
I also read some Agatha Christie short stories, from her collection The Golden Ball and Other Stories. I originally read, and enjoyed, these stories when I was a teenager; and they were originally published in the 1920’s. To be honest, while I still enjoyed them, on some levels they bothered me. I’ve actually read criticism of Agatha Christie for being, among other things, classist in her writings; this can be problematic in a present-day reading (I didn’t notice when I originally read her). I also had some other issues with these stories that I didn’t originally; Christie, not only in her short stories but her novels, enjoyed romantic happy endings, which happens in a couple of these stories even though they aren’t a real pay-off and kind of clumsily tacked on.
Listen at me, criticizing Agatha Christie! Some nerve, huh?
The first story in the collection is “The Listerdale Mystery”:
Mrs. St. Vincent was adding up figures. Once or twice she sighed, and her hand stole to her aching forehead. She had always disliked arithmetic. It was unfortunate that nowadays her life seemed to be composed entirely of one particular kind of sum, the ceaseless adding together of small necessary items of expenditure making a total that never failed to surprise and alarm her.
Who hasn’t been there? The St. Vincents are what Christie calls “poor gentlefolk,” essentially, people who used to have money or are technically part of the upper classes but no longer have the funds to live the way they are used to, and are pretty much living hand-to-mouth. Her daughter has prospects–a young man with money–but they are living in shabby place they can’t even afford anymore which won’t “show her off properly.” Mrs. St. Vincent stumbles on a rental advertisement in the paper that seems too good to be true–servants the tenants won’t have to pay; a lovely home with rent so cheap there has to be a catch–but it’s only for the ‘right sort of tenant.’ The St. Vincents qualify; they move in, and everything is wonderful. The daughter, having a proper home that shows her off in the right way, gets engaged to her young man with money. But the son, Rupert, is certain something is wrong about the place and wrong with the deal. The owner, Lord Listerdale, has not been seen nor heard from in quite a while, and Rupert starts looking into things. The ending isn’t quite as sinister as one might think if this were a Stephen King short story, but it’s a pleasant little story. But you see what I mean about the classism; “the right sort of people”…and “poor gentlefolk who suffer in silence” as opposed to the working poor who aren’t the right sort of people and apparently suffer loudly?
“The Girl in the Train” is also quite fun; but again–our main character is a young man whose wealthy uncle has become irritated with him, fired him from his employ, and cut him off financially (shades of Wodehouse!). Our young hero takes this all in stride, and isn’t sure what to do with himself, so he gets on a train to a town that bears the family name: Rowland’s Castle. But before the train pulls out of the station a beautiful young woman leaps into his compartment, begs for help, and dives under the other seat. Thus begins a kind of fun adventure which inadvertently gets him involved not only with the possible kidnapping of an heiress, but with a Scotland Yard investigation into a gang of spies! It’s a fun tale, and all works out in the end….and it very much reminded me of Wodehouse, whom I love.
“The Manhood of Edward Robinson” is also quite fun–if dated. Edward has a good job, good prospects, and everything he could wish for–even if he is a little henpecked by his fiancee who wants to wait several years to get married, which is more sensible. He has won a contest with a prize of 500 pounds–and in a bit of rebelliousness against his fiancee, buys a sportscar, and then lies to her and goes driving out of London one night. He winds up on quite an adventure involving a stolen diamond necklace and a car switch (he winds up with someone else’s car–wouldn’t happen today, but could back then). He comes out of the whole adventure with a whole new outlook on life, and again, the end is quite satisfying.
The fourth, “Jane is Search of a Job,” is perhaps my favorite of the bunch. Jane is poor, needs a job, and finds an interesting advertisement, which she answers and soon finds herself body doubling for eastern European royalty. But all is not what it seems with Jane’s new high paying job, and soon she is off on an adventure all of her own. What makes this story work–along with other Christie novels of the time, like The Man in the Brown Suit–is the female character, who is quite realistic, doesn’t ever get hysterical or lose her head, and greets each new twist in the tale with determination, grit, and a very practical, level-headed “okay, how do I get out of this” attitude. A very fun read, even if at the end she winds up riding off into the sunset with a man she’s just met and who has fallen madly in love with her. Farfetched as that may seem, though, it is a charming end to the story of Jane’s financial woes–although the message “have a wealthy man fall in love with you” isn’t the most practical of advice.
And now, back to the spice mines.