Thursday, July 31, 2008

Clog post 13 with Igors Are Discworld's Best Friends



First Clog: "No aversion to verse..."

So, here I am in A-M still. Of sights I've not yet had my fill; the world beyond my windowsill is beckoning, and seeming to call me with its siren air, from Beggars' Gate to Sator Square with flash and dash and odours rare (the river's high and steaming). Though it's not quite a 'beauty spot', it's wither-proof and ages not - and nowhere else on Disc has got attractions so redeeming as the charm of ancient Ankh and Morpork, teeming...

Whew, that's enough of that. It's contagious, it is, speaking all in verse...even for a Bard, and I do it for a living! But this is somewhat different: you see, lately I've been hanging out with the Lost Tribe of Unreal.

Let me explain. The Lost Tribe of Unreal wear fancy frock coats. They're curious, odd and speak only in rhyme; descended from rats, cats, mice, dogs, pigs and goats, plus vermine and ferrets and one or two stoats, they've risen from rankness to manners sublime in Morpork Below, living outside of Ti-, argh, I'm doing it again. Um, let me rephrase that. The Lost Tribe of Unreal are very unusual people -- yes, definitely people -- who evolved from small animals that once foraged in the UU middens. We all know about high levels of millithaums around the University's Unreal Estate and what that can do to herrydeterryness (remember those stories about the talking dog that used to work for The Times?), and the ancestors of the Lost Tribe must have got a strong dose of something left over from the Mage Wars because it's hard to tell them apart from ordinary humans and werewolves. I first met them at the Floating Party when I overheard people speaking in verse. That sort of thing catches a Bard's ear. We got to talking, well, reciting, and drinking, and in the end I became one of the few humans who's ever been taken to visit their lair -- though when I say lair, I promise you that I've seen stately homes decorated with far less taste and artistry. It seems the Tribe got its humanising education from lurking around and under formal balls at the Patrician's Palace; for whatever reason, music and verse formed their language and fancy dress their tribal costume. Apparently they were living in peace (more civilised than we are!) for untold generations until very recently, when some excavations caused harmonics that breached the whatever-it-is between Morpork Below and A-M. These days, if you happen to be walking down Broad Way and see someone unusual-looking and dressed in pre-Century of the Fruitbat clothing, it could well be a Lost Tribe tourist "up above" for a bit of sightseeing.

Then again, it could be Nobby Nobbs on his way to folk-dancing practice.

Anyway, I've been having a great time with the Tribe, but that's not the only news in the life of Alice. As I mentioned in my last Clog, I now have a resident gig at the Seamstresses' Guild -- and in case you were wondering, no, it's not that sort of gig -- and it's going well. Listeria and I have been rehearsing, as we promised each other so long ago before the pirates and the flying carpets and the wilds of Klatch and the wilds of Tsort and the wilds of Agatea and the alternate universe (has it really been that long?), and we have some good harmonies worked out now. Cert moved into rooms at UU because we were keeping him up all hours with our practice...we haven't broken up as such, but life seems to be taking us down different paths now. Mine has a lot more beer in it...and I've been giving Anaglypta lute lessons and she's coming along well, so our once idle talk of putting a band together is less idle now. I even had the two of them join me for a guest spot the other night! We sang Brindisian Rhapsody and quite brought the house down. I introduced them as the Sisters of Invention and the name looks like it might stick. Now if I can only convince Mr Dibbler (yes, finally met him) that no, we don't want a manager. Very persistent, that man.

* * *

Last night I went to a new cocktail lounge called Wahoonie, I'm Home. It's one of those themed places that, in this case, features "genuine Ankh-Morpork historical decor", which means an enterprising entrepreneur went around collecting bits of architecture unearthed in the Undertaking and piled them together in a realistic imitation of a rubbish tip. Surprisingly, it works. There's something oddly charming about tables made of old statuary and pieces of roofing, a bar made of upside-down ancient horse troughs, benches welded from what were once the shining iron gates of some lord's grand estate...and yes, the loos are old night-soil buckets. Scrubbed, of course, although I imagine that after a few months you won't be able to tell the difference between old poo and new. It was Listeria's house-help Lucrezia, of all people, who found it; that girl has hidden depths. Wahoonie, I'm Home features specialist cocktails, themed as well: they range from the Sword of Tacticus, which features 250-year-old brandy and Quirmian champagne and costs a bloody fortune, to the Rule You Wholesale, which features week-old Bearhugger's brandy dregs and broccoli juice and can knock anyone but an experienced Lancrastian drinker for six. My favourite is the Barbarian at the Gate because it has genuine scumble in it. I noticed that Lucrezia was spiking her cocktails with something green and smoking out of a little phial she brought in her handbag. You won't be surprised to hear I took my own drink with me whenever I had to go to the Ladies...

I've changed my mind about A-M -- I like it here. A lot. I think I'll stay.

Here endeth this post.

* * *

Second Clog: "I've got a little secret..."

A-M calls itself the city that never sleeps, and it's certainly all go here. It's also said that A-M has something for everyone even if that something is, for many citizens and visitors alike, a short sharp knock on the head in a dark alley. One thing it has plenty of is society -- high society, low society, and secret society -- and since coming here I've sampled them all. Secret societies are all the rage these days, even though many of them are what you might call badly kept secrets. They come in all varieties and cater to all tastes, from the aforementioned folk-dancing clubs (in many ways the most secret of all, since being a member of a folk-dance club is the sort of dark secret one wouldn't want the neighbours to know about) to the like of Chains of Love (Tuesdays and Saturdays upstairs at the Pink Pussy Cat Club), the Brotherhood of Wishful Thinkers (alternate Octedays in a hut in the woods near the Tump; would-be barbarian ravagers, most of them henpecked accountants, who hatch plans for Disc-wide reigns of terror), and yes, the sorts of secret societies that tend to cowled black robes and complicated handshakes involving rolled-up trousers and the occasional burnt offering. A Bard can get into places most people can't, and this is how I came to join the Illuminated and Ancient Brethren of Ee -- not to be confused with the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, who eventually got past their chequered past and re-formed as a reformed society of doers of good works (or the Justified and Ancient Brethren of Ee Bah Gum, whose chapter-house is near my old family home back in Lancre and who practise the ancient and terrible Ramtops martial are of Tor Fu).

Actually, all they wanted was for me to write them a secret drinking song, but I had to join in order to deliver it to them because they practise ancient and terrible dark forbidden magic (funny, isn't it, how many secret societies claim to practise ancient and terrible things, most of which were invented by their founder on a not-ancient rainy Wednesday). So I went through their ancient and terrible initiation rites -- which I can't talk about because they're secret -- and sat through one of their meetings, which was certainly full of ancient figgins and terrible tea, and taught them their song -- which I can't write about here because it's secret. I also got my very own cowled robe (also ancient; I think it used to be a collection of grain sacks), and that was where it got terrible for me, because on the way home the cowl fell down over my eyes and I tripped over my own hem and ended up in the Lady Sybil Free Hospital with multiple fractures.

Hurrah for the Hospital! And hurrah for Igors! I shudder to think what it must have been like in the olde dayes, when something as simple as a fractured arm or leg could likely be a death sentence (especially if you were ministered to by ordinary human doctors). Before Doctor Lawn opened the LSFH the only Igors here were servants of mad scientists and madder scions of the nobility, but now most people can afford to be repaired by expatriate Igors in clean and pleasant surroundings. Doctor Lawn is technically still Chief of Surgery, but he's obviously a man of great sensibleness and vision, so he leaves the complicated work to his Uberwaldean staff. I was in and out faster than, shall we say, half of Mrs Palm's regular customers, and happy to pay for the service because I'm a Woman of Means these days. My fretting hand is now better, faster and stronger than it ever was before. And so I sing the praises of Igors, in the old traditional way:

    Brindisians will die for love
    They delight in fighting duels
    But I prefer a man of 'parts'
    And clean surgical tools...

    A bolt through the neck may be deemed 'kinda mental'
    But Igors are a loon's best friend
    They stick close to hand, loyal, lumpish and gentle
    In your humble schloss
    To help you when your serfs are cross
    Bodies fail; when old and frail
    We could all use a hand, leg or...end?
    But scarred, cut or grue-faced
    This clan's never two-faced
    Igors are Discworld's best friends

    There may come a time when one's liege needs a liver
    Then Igors are a lord's best friend
    Their limps and their humps make the hard-hearted shiver;
    Sure, they don't look nice
    But guts on ice are worth the price
    Please drop by when storms are nigh
    But beware if you're too quick to mend
    It's then that the mass'll
    Set fire to your castle...
    Still - Igors are Discworld's best friends!

* * *

The only thing is...the Igor who patched me up was a young, recent arrival, still homesick for the Old Country and delighted to see another Ramtopper. After I came to, we got to talking. And talking. And talking. He even dropped the lisp when none of the nurses were around. And the thing is...Llamedese Bards may be able to reduce even strangers to tears when they sing mournful songs about their rainy beloved country, but they have nothing on a homesick Igor waxing lyrical for the thunderstorms of his ancestral mountains and traditional cruel crazed Barons and undead Mathterth. It's had a huge effect on me. It's been over a week now, and all is well, but...but...

Lost Wages calls to me. I think I'll go home.

-- Alice

Note for Roundworlders: the original lyrics for Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend can be found at

July 2008

by Fernando Magnifico

Hallo and buongiorno to all my friends! The Lady Asterisk is indisposed this month, for she has been sent home with mice. But do not worry, for I am Fernando Magnifico, and I shall be satisfying all your astrological needs today.

When Fernando first came to the wonderful city of Ankh-Morpork, although Fernando is very well travelled, he was ignorant of the ways of the polite society in this city. (Do not scoff, my readers, for Ankh-Morpork does have polite society. And also less-polite society, and rude society, and the Shades. But we shall not go there.) Fernando remembers very well the time when he met a signoretta who was enormemente con el nino, as we say back in Brindisi. Fernando innocentally asked the signoretta when the bambino was due, and she replied "I'm not pregnant". Fernando was so embarrassed! He did not know where to stick his head, as they say.

How very fortunate for you that, with Fernando's help, you need not fear to be making these embarrassing social faux pas, if you pardon my Quirmian. For this month, the stars will warn you what embarrassing social mistakes you most need to avoid. Also, there is a very unusual alignment of the stars this month, so as well as the usual horoscopes, the stars are in surprising agreement, with a special warning for all peoples of Ankh-Morpork, whether troll or dwarf or human, visitor or citizen. Read on to see what this warning is. Ciao bella!

The Adamant Hedgehog 21 Mar - 20 Apr

Etiquette can be found in the strangest places. When taking part in one of the famous Mended Drum tavern brawls, the stars warn that if you expect to be invited back (and not taken out back and dumped in the Ankh in little pieces), you must remember the etiquette of tavern brawls. Do not reach for an edged weapon too quickly, but start off with chairs and tables. Use of poison arrows is discouraged, unless the poison has amusing effects like Bloat. Hitting the tavern owner or the Igor on hand is an unacceptable liberty. Remember these few simple social rules, and you can be sure that the Igor won't sew your leg back on backwards.

The stars this month also warn Hoggers not to laugh at the Patrician's jokes, as he doesn't make any.

The Half-Eaten Sandwich 21 Apr - 21 May

Munchers must be aware, like Hoggers, that Etiquette occurs in many unexpected places, like the childrens who play the traditional Ankh-Morpork game of dead rat conkers. There are many unwritten rules: it is cheating to stuff the dead rat with lead, overhead swings are considered rude, and many more. And like the bambinos, grande uomos should avoid the faux pas of bad sportsmanship. Cheating at cards, for instance, is considered terribly rude, not to mention foolish. So is kicking sand in your opponent's face on the sports pitch, especially in games of footsball as the accursed Quirmians do. Without good sportsmanship we are nothing - or Quirmian, which is even worse.

Another faux pas you should beware of this month is cutting in front of Assassins in waiting lines. With other people you need fear only looks that could kill. With the Assassins, deadly looks are only the least of your worries. Fernando says it is best to avoid cutting in front of any persons dressed all in black clothing; they could be witches, Dark Clerks, or even the Patrician himself, and none of these are any better than Assassins for your health and life expectancys.

Herne the Hunted 22 May - 21 Jun

This month, Hernians should be especially beware of eating bananas in a way likely to start a riot. This especially holds for signorettas, although Fernando knows very well that sometimes the young men and their bananas can cause mucho excitement.

Another faux pas Hernians should be aware of avoiding is the inappropriate use of nicknames. These are also known in Ankh-Morpork as pet names, and also by the uppity persons as sobriquets, but Fernando despises that word because it is Quirmian and it is bad enough that faux pas is also a Quirmian expression, so enough with the Quirmian, yes? Calling someone by an inappropriate nickname is very bad manners. For example, calling a famous opera singer like Enrico Basilica "Big Bazza" to his face, or addressing the Archchancellor of Unseen University as "Riddy-baby". And never, ever refer to Lady Ramkin as "your Posh Bintness". This is only appropriate coming from her husband the Duke.

The Wizard's Staff and Knob 22 Jun - 22 Jul

Many frogs and newts have got their start in life as a wiseguy asking a wizard to show him a good card trick. This month, the stars warn Staffies that they should be particularly careful not to give in to the temptations and commit this grande faux pas.

Fernando does not believe in being rude to people for their race or species, except for the accursed Quirmians, but many people are less cosmopolitan than Fernando. If you are one of these people, the stars this month warn that some faux pas have the more serious consequences than others. Beware of using the words "lawn ornament" or "duck's bottom" to dwarfs, or the stars say that something very sharp will separate you from your legs.

Bilious, God of Hangovers 23 Jul - 23 Aug

At this time of the year, many people's contract at the Thieves' Guild comes up for renewal. Fortunately for Bilians, this month the stars tell all about the etiquette for dealing with licenced thieves. For a street mugging, it is appropriate to tip 10% of the amount stolen, 15% if with assault and battery. Cut-purses and pick-pockets will expect 5%, and you can pay in stamps. For burglars, correct etiquette is to leave a convenient sack or box by your silverware. Fernando prefers to always leave out a small glass or two of Amaretto or Marsala, for that taste of Brindisi. Failure to remember these little things will lead to the thieves not only taking offence, but everything else as well.

Even if you have a magnificent tenor voice like Fernando, singing along at the opera is a faux pas. This especially is so if, as Bilians are known to do, you have partaken a little too much of the vino and begin singing a song about the coconuts instead.

The Celestial Parsnip 24 Aug - 23 Sept

The stars warn Snippies this month against the Brindisian national hobby, second only to the footsball, namely the pinching of the signorettas on the sedere, how do you say it? The bottom. This warning goes double if the lady in question is a duchess, as Fernando's cousin Tomas found out last week.

The stars also say that Snippies should be careful of being too familiar with any dogs you might find at the Watch. Fernando does not understand this warning, as he often meets with Captain Carrot (a man almost as magnificent as Fernando himself) to discuss the Brindisi Cup, and he sometimes brings a truly magnificent golden-haired signorina wolfhound with him. Fernando has never had any problems from rubbing the lady dog's belly, although Nobby Nobbs falls over laughing and the Sergeant Colon goes as red as Fernando's Uncle Alfonso's red vino.

The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars 24 Sept - 23 Oct

Boring'uns have a talent for memorising the details of long complicated lists, which is good, for this month the stars warn that your faux pas to beware of is from the rules of court. Does a marquis outrank an earl? Who should give way on a narrow bridge, a duke or a cavaleiro? The answers may surprise those not familiar with the intricate rules invented by nobles with no wars to go to. Even the stars are no guide, except to say beware! But do not fear my friends, for Fernando has spent many hours with Ankh-Morpork heralds, and has the answers:

  • A marquis outranks an earl, unless the earl is from Chimeria, in which case the ranks are reversed;

  • On a narrow bridge, the duke should give way, but in a doorway, it is the cavaleiro who must;

  • At dinner, the first slice of beef goes to the Patrician, who by tradition is supposed to fling it at his Fool's head (but alas, our current Patrician has let this fine tradition slip);

  • Any noble of rank viscount or higher is permitted to slip a small stone or pebble into the left shoe of the second son of a count on Wednesdays and Fridays;

  • and many others.

While Boring'uns are learning their courtly manners, the stars warn that they should not forget their table manners. Fernando remembers as a young boy being clipped across the ear by his Aunt Maria for making the gas at the dinner table. Boring'uns should learn this lesson well, and remember too that you should always ask others to pass the salt, and not use your wooden leg to hook it like Fernando's Uncle Salvatore.

Androgyna Majestis 24 Oct - 22 Nov

For Andies, the stars this month warn about an exceptional faux pas, perhaps the most serious of all: mutiny or rebellion. Fernando knows that there is never any excuse or rebellion against your liege lord -- unless you win.

In these cosmopolitan times, Andies may find themselfs hosting a dinner party where some of the guests are dwarfs. While dwarfs can happily eat human food, it is especially good manners to serve traditional dwarf fare like rat or dwarf-bread. The dwarf bread will come in very useful if the meal ends with the traditional after-dinner brawl. But remember that if you do choose to serve rat, it is the serious faux pas not to supply ketchup.

The Spoons, a.k.a. the Greater and Lesser Spoons, 23 Nov - 21 Dec

For the Spooners, this is a month to be particularly careful of the faux pas related to beverages. Klatchian coffee should only be drunk from a tiny thimble-sized cup, unless you are tired of sanity; espresso should be drunk strong, hot, and sweet, like Fernando himself; and tea should be drunk from a cup, never from a saucer, although a tin mug is acceptable for Watchmen and on-duty soldiers. Hot cocoa is a drink for the bambinos, unless flavoured with a dash of rum.

This is also the month for Spooners to be particularly careful when dealing with witches. It is good manners to offer witches any old clothes you might still have, if they are well cleaned and mended. Black or the darker purples are best, although some of the younger witches who have read too many books may prefer green. Fernando knows that the witches are very touchy about their honorifics, so if you are unsure whether she is a Granny or Nanny or Mother, it is better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and be turned into a frog.

Hoki the Jokester 22 Dec - 20 Jan

Hokians should especially be careful about telling jokes to professional joke-tellers, such as the members of the famous Fool's Guild. Many clowns are molto sensitive of the fact that despite the years of training and privation, they are not as funny as untrained civilians, so unless you find crying clowns funny, you should avoid trying to make them laugh. Beware also that some of the more senior Fools have no, how do you say, sense of humour. Some of them are so sensitive that simply starting a sentence with "I say..." or "Did you hear..." is enough to land you a pie in the face -- perhaps with a fist in it.

Supporting Quirm in the Brindisi Cup is a major faux pas for all peoples. Fernando has seen that this is so! This month, the stars say it is an especially serious mistake to make for Hokians. Fernando does not like to frighten his readers, but the stars themselves have cursed the Quirmian footsballers, and they warn that if you support Quirm, your legs are sure to be eaten by pineapples.

[Editor's note: Hokians should perhaps consider getting a second opinion on this particular prediction.]

The Rather Large Gazunda 21 Jan - 18 Feb

Gazundians should be careful not to make a faux pas when shaking hands. It is not done to shake hands with royalty or witches, because it is disrespectful, or Nobby Nobbs, because you might catch something. Ladies should offer their hand to be kissed, and a gentleman's handshake should not be limp like a dead fish. In some of the tougher streets, it is considered bad manners to whimper or cry when your hand is crushed.

The stars also warn against using the wrong cutlery at mealtimes. In Brindisi, it is considered good manners to use the same knife and fork through the entire meal, but Ankh-Morporkians prefer to use different cutlery for each course. But no matter what the rules for cutlery are, eating peas by stabbing them with a stiletto is only good manners if you can throw the knife across the room and hit a fly in the eye.

Lesser Umbrage 19 Feb - 20 Mar

Umbragians are known for their love of technomancy, especially machines that go Bingley Bingley Beep. This month, the stars warn that you should beware of talking too loudly to your Dis-organiser in public. Other people do not want to hear about your doctor's appointment to check out the funny little rash, or need to know that you're buying a dozen oysters from the fishmonger. Trust Fernando on this.

Another faux pas that Umbragians should beware of is the failure to buy a round when it is your turn. This is especially bad in Fourecksian pubs, where feigning sudden deafness when it is your turn to shout can often lead to sudden deathness.

All signs 21 Mar - 20 Mar

This month, the stars have something to say for all people in Ankh-Morpork, regardless of their sign or their social standing, whether knight or beggar, priest or assassin. The stars warn that there is one social faux pas you should beware of, one with the most serious consequences:

Do not use the M word to describe the Unseen University Librarian. The stars have spoken.