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

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