Murgatroyd Trabant, nail polisher to the cognoscenti.
James Witterinton QC sat in the manicurist’s chair a little uneasily. There was just something about the place that he couldn’t quite put his elegantly groomed fingernail upon. He looked around. The floor length brown velvet draped curtains seemed perfectly normal, though the five foot wide cream silk bows tying them back seemed a little exuberant, perhaps. In front of each window sat a perfectly cultivated Aspidistra on a turned walnut Whatnot with wide wooden wheels, not unusual if a trifle extravagant. Above each grooming station hung a three hundred crystal chandelier with a four foot drop, two foot six wide, nice but possibly a little too nice for a nail parlour. The solid gold till rang as another happy customer tendered a sovereign in perfectly groomed fingers and left in a brougham in a rush.
Without withdrawing his hand James turned slightly to his neighbour, a gentleman known to him from several of his clubs, ‘Might one interest one in a walk in the park?’ he enquired.
‘One might,’ vouchsafed the Honourable Farquarhson Smythe-Dunmore-Browne, ‘when one has had one’s toenails trimmed.’ He regarded the top of the head of the aproned trimmer carefully removing each cut toenail and placing it in a silver bowl on the floor. ‘They’re jolly neat round here, what?’
The nail cutter finished and replaced the Honourable’s socks, suspenders, gaiters and boots. He replaced the button hook in the button hook pocket on his apron, picked up the bowl of trimmings, bowed until his head nearly bonked on the foot banquette and backed off carrying the bowl.
James watched as the nail trimmer fell into step behind the trimmer carrying the bowl containing his own fingernail clippings. As the customers made their way to the till, the trimming bowl bearers began the descent of the wrought iron spiral staircase that led down into the bowels of the building from which emanated metallic clangings, sizzling sounds and the unmistakeable whiff of hot fat. James and his companion paid and walked out into the pale spring sunshine, still threaded with whisps of winter fog.
‘I say,’ said Farquarhson Smythe-Dunmore-Browne, ‘I’m a bit peckish. Have you tried these yet?’ He indicated the shop next door to the nail salon. Above the door, illuminated lettering indicated the presence of a: Pork scratching shop Prop. M. Trabant, purveyor of niblets to the public. In the window a sign declared: New this week! Sugar coated crescent moons, chew sweeties for good children, encourages the formation of jaw muscles. Ideal for cutting teeth.
‘Indeed not,’ remarked James, ‘and as one is quite keen to take the walk and then repair to one’s club for a spot of tiffin and the queue in the shop is quite substantial, perhaps at some other juncture. Perhaps one could walk in this direction toward the park?’ He led the way past Murgatroyd T. Hairdresser to the gentry, cutting a speciality and past MT wigs and hairpieces, heading in the direction of Mgtryd. Tbnt. Massage and skin peeling, exfoliation salon and after that the famous Murga Traba Meat Pie and Savoury Crispy Crackling Emporium.
A four horse landau pulled up beside them. On the side in big red letters was painted the legend: Murgatroyd Trabant – your body is our business. As the carriage drew to a halt a flunkey flung himself off the top, unfolded the steps and opened the door. A fine fellow in full morning dress with whiskers easily two feet wide and curled at the ends alighted with elan. He smiled at the two on the pavement, ‘Gentlemen!’ he cried, ‘customers! How fortunate you are to be here at this moment, please take these leaflets and reduction vouchers for my new all-in family cremation and burial service and, absolutely coincidentally, tickets to attend the opening of my new pork pie and pasty factory on Thursday. Her Majesty the Queen, Empress of India, four foot six of solid filling, will be cutting the ribbon herself and has already signed up for the funeral service after which we are hoping, in the fullness of time for Pasties by Appointment.’
He handed each of the astonished gentlemen a sheaf of pamphlets and vanished with a flourish into the Crispy Crackling Emporium.
‘Oh I say,’ said James, ‘how impressive. I do admire a man of business. He seems to be quite the coming fellow.’
‘Yes indeed, they do say in Manchester, whence he hails, he set up five factories, a chain of grooming parlours, an entire street of assorted grocery shops and solved the local overpopulation of orphans crisis within five years.’
‘Quite remarkable. It is this type of business acumen which makes the Empire great, how fortunate we are that he has chosen to set up shop in our little town. I wonder if we should consider introducing him in some of our clubs?’
‘Capital idea! There are some stout fellows there he could quite profitably meet, of that there is no doubt!’
So saying they strolled off in the weak sunshine, while three shops behind them a serving girl popped their fingernails, freshly enrobed in batter, deep fried and coated with a light dusting of sea salt, into a brown paper bag, stuck a brightly coloured label on it and tucked the bag into line on the counter display where it sat for fully five minutes before being purchased.
JaneLaverick.com – chewing my fingernails, or, possibly, yours.
I really must apologise for the entire tone of this extract; I have now tidied up and published the better material, what remains, I greatly fear, is little more than the skid marks from publisher’s skid row and pretty much downhill all the way from now on. Sorry about that.
If you have been physically sick on your computer, especially if you’ve done it in the keyboard, I really do apologise. A lot. Sorry.
If it’s very bad, you can actually prise the keys off and wash them.
By hand. Not the dishwasher (that was a bad idea, don’t do it.)
(Also they’re really hard to get back on again. Superglue just drips into the motherboard and you get that hissing and the little wisps of smoke. Not good.)