10 May, 2016 by katelaity
The next day we headed north. Tansy was still she when we set off, but when we changed trains in Birmingham and had a long delay waiting on our train to Scotland, Tansy emerged once more from the railway hotel after our meal as he in a very sharp Saville Row suit that I had not seen before. ‘Is that the new fashion?’ I asked casting a somewhat critical eye over the length of the cuffs. ‘It’s not French is it?’
‘Italian,’ Tansy said with an air of satisfaction. He prided himself on keeping abreast of the fashions, which I always considered a rather frivolous thing and doubtless due to his colonial upbringing. My father had suits that he had worn with distinction from his university days until retirement without one whit of notice from anyone around him.
‘What a clothes horse you are, Popkin. It hardly suits a solidly respectable gentleman like yourself. You don’t hope to join the demi-monde, do you?’
Tansy laughed. ‘What’s wrong with cutting a good figure? Do we not appreciate beautiful art and beautiful music? Do we not seek to fill our homes with great beauty through its furnishings? Why should we not so adorn ourselves in the same way?’
‘But men have no need of pleasing other men!’
‘And who matters but men to men?’ The way Tansy laughed you would have thought I’d said something incredibly witty. ‘Do they not? Are you not often trying to please other men?’
‘Never! The very idea.’
‘Don’t get so put out, my friend. I am merely trying to uncover an often-observed behaviour. What happens when there is a dispute in the club?’
‘We generally avoid disputes through the judicious use of rules.’ It was true. The joy of having a club is that it is always a haven where such disagreements are not generally to be found because the rules are so plain, unlike the rest of society.
‘What about the Great Monocle Dispute?’
I muttered a curse under my breath. The legendary contretemps had discomfited everyone in the club for the better part of week until things were finally put right. The Viscount and the Earl had nearly come to blows over this seemingly most trivial disagreement, the latter threatening pistols at dawn on one particularly tense day, but all came to suitable closure once neutral figures had intervened to settle the matter. ‘It was resolved with logic and the application of general principles.’ And to this day, no one brought it up within the walls of the club, not even in jest.
‘But why was such a profound—and nigh on violent—disagreement brought to such a neat conclusion in so short a time?’ Tansy insisted on challenging me.
‘Because it was mutually beneficial to restore the club to order. Without order there is no club—or might as well not be one. What’s the use of having a club if it is not a place for you to escape the pressures of life?’ I shook my head. The question was a ridiculous one.
‘What pressures are these?’
I stared at Tansy. ‘What do you mean? The pressures we all face. The world of work, the responsibilities of family, the politics of the nation.’
‘You hate politics. You don’t have your own family and your parents live in quite happy seclusion in Kent. Further you have often said that your job was so easy a well-trained monkey might be able to carry out most of the tasks in your absence.’
I cursed again. It was just like Tansy to remember idle conversations we’d had so many times. ‘Nonetheless, I like to get away from it all at my club and share an evening or a meal with my friends and compatriots.’
‘And if someone has had a bad day, how do you talk to him?’
I considered the matter. ‘We usually do our best to jolly him out of it. Make a few jests, play some flechettes, have a few festive beverages. Chances are he will crawl out of the slough of despond by the end of the evening.’
‘So you do your best to please him with cajoling attentions?’
‘Yes, I suppose—wait!’ Tansy, however, was already grinning like a toad. ‘It’s not the same thing at all.’
‘Same as what?’
‘Well, the way you might seek to please a woman, for example.’
Tansy’s left eyebrow shot up with alarming speed. ‘You try to please women? This is news to me.’
I sniffed. ‘I am merely offering a hypothetical contrast.’
Our track was called just then and I had an unaccustomed sense of relief from being spared further argument about the ways that men did or did not please one another. It was not fair because Tansy could approach the question from either side and it left me feeling a distinct disadvantage in the matter.