Thursday 1 June 2023

A fairytale that has nothing to do with Scotland. Part 12

 Part 11

Once upon a time there was a woman called Nancy. We don’t know what the Dickens her last name was because he didn’t tell us, but some say it was Spungen while others say it was Stungen. She had a lover called Sikes who might have been called Bill, but he might equally have been called Peter Paul and Mary he had so many aliases. Some called him Sydney because he had been transported there in his youth and he was rumoured to have a vicious temper if anyone even questioned his authority in the gang of pickpockets that he ran he would set his dog on them which always scored a bullseye on whoever’s seat of their pants was closest at hand. He was Nancy’s lover and perhaps also he was her unpleasant word beginning with P depending on what the Dickens meant by another unpleasant word beginning with P. But whatever he meant by either and in whatever sense they were lovers there had been no issue.

Nancy and Peter Paul or Mary had been brought up by Fagin. We likewise don’t know what the Dickens his first name was, but it might have been Alan, it might too have been Alexander, and some say that he was named after someone called Ecky Solomon because of his great wisdom with regard to dividing babies.

Now Fagin had a dream that Southwark would separate from all of the rest of London, England, Great Britain and the world. Why should the results of his children’s pickpocketing be shared with English people let alone Scots. Instead, when he was King of Southwark everything, he could dig up from under the river would belong to Southwark and the Southwarkians or rather it would belong to Fagin.

Nancy and Peter Paul or Mary supported Fagin in his bid for the separation of Southwark from Sutton. The name of their band was never clear. Some called it the Southwarkian Narks Party, others the Southwarkian Nonces Party, but I never really learned the latest criminal argot and perhaps that too is why the residents of Southwark rejected separation and Fagin as their new King.

Nancy and Peter Paul or Mary decided to set up their own family business while Fagin found himself in trouble not so much because of his pickpocketing business nor for his fencing business that would have been extremely profitable if only he had achieved the separation of Southwark, but because I am groping for the right words his wandering hands business which wandered not merely into the holes in peoples pockets but other holes too and protrusions soft and cuddly as those protrusions might be.

Some said that it was Nancy that was behind the discovery of Fagin’s wandering hands, but whoever it was, Fagin and Nancy became sworn enemies. It was Nancy now that would separate Southwark from the rest of the universe.

But Nancy needed children to carry on the new family business and she also needed a fence otherwise the whole business empire would be up the Thames without a paddle. It was all very well for the Thames to deliver goods to Nancy’s and Peter Paul or Mary’s lair under the Thames. But the pickings had to fenced otherwise than with bits of wood. But even if they arrived a day later with remarkable efficiency how to turn pocket handkerchiefs let alone a coach and four at the mother in law’s into farthings, tanners and frankly bangers and mash rather than useless objects of household furniture such as a luxury fridge when there was no such thing yet as electricity?

Nancy thought long and hard and decided that it was easier to foster than cockfoster, less messy, less disagreeable, quicker and easier too if Peter Paul or Mary chose to be Mary and set about adopting a whole new generation of pickpockets from the disappointed Southwarkian separatists.

Nancy trained them. Oliver Useless who whichever way he might twist could not steal a handkerchief from a shop window dummy. The Artful Nathalie dodged, but she was not as dodgy as Nancy and was caught and the still less artful Gary son of Gary could not score, but the other recruits kept bringing back the handkerchiefs and were told never to ask about the finances of the Southwarkian Nonces or was it Narks.

Peter Paul or Mary ran the fencing business and was very handy with the creosote. The Southwarkians kept donating in the hope of separation from Sutton, but Nancy and Peter Paul or Mary knew that it was not about building fences, nor was it about playing with swords with masks on, it was about turning handkerchiefs into bangers and mash no matter how unappetising the recipe.

Nancy was at the peak of her power. She had adopted about half of the Southwarkians into her family business. They donated the bangers, they donated the potatoes that were mashed, they kept believing that separation was imminent, all of the adopted children did their bidding and indeed improved at their pickpocketing so much that no one even knew that their pockets were being picked.

But the business of fostering let alone cockfostering was more complex than Nancy realised. Had she really given it enough though?. One day the Bow Street Runners arrived. Was it Fagin who had sent them? He had recovered from being accused of having wandering hands. After all who didn’t have wandering hands in Southwark where no one’s pocket was safe from the Southwarkian Nonces or Narks. Maybe Fagin was the Nark, just as Nancy had narked about Fagin to the folks from Bow Street.

The Runners discovered the coach and four at the mother in law’s. They discovered the burner carrier pigeons. They discovered the Thames account that was being used not so much for Southwarkian separation but for turning handkerchiefs, luxury quills, jewellery and assorted household goods into sausages with a side dish of squashed potatoes.

It may be that either Peter Paul or Mary was questioned at Bow Street. It may be that the keeper of the Southwarkian treasure was also questioned, but he was in fact keeper of nothing at all, because this was a family business, and he was merely fostered. No one was charged for going to Bow Street. Where they send you is free too.

But Nancy sensed what was coming. Not yet perhaps, but soon. She sat like Fagin once had done in another story not in a cell awaiting death biting his nails with his teeth chattering, but still the cell of her own making. Perhaps a nice human-interest story about having to think hard about fostering might distract however briefly. But Oliver Useless was proving peculiarly useless even if he was officially head of the Southwarkian Nonces or Narks Party.

His one job. The job for which he was appointed was to stop what had happened after Nancy had chosen to spend more time with her family. Not that she had any family apart from Peter Paul or Mary and she shared little with him or let alone a coach and four with beds and a privy at the back. Oliver Useless was chosen to keep Nancy from Bow Street and he wasn’t doing his job. Such ingratitude when she has been like a mother to him.

Nancy would have liked to sponge on, she would have liked to have stirred on, but her cup had been stirred enough and the bill had to be paid. Sikes whether Peter Paul or Mary could not save her. If he faced transportation to Sydney with its vicious climate again, he would make sure she went with him. Theirs was a partnership, a family business, a racket, a criminal organisation. Useless would be useless at stopping any of this. He could no more pick a pocket of a dummy than run a party. Nancy wondered why she had appointed him successor.

Part 13