A week had passed since the pork pie solution had been dismissed. It was a brilliant solution. One of the finest products of the Vasa mind. That Uncle Edward failed to recognise this was madness. His unilateral pork disarmament proved the final blow to the idea of the decade. Those pork pies were my Newton’s apple. They may well have been my Adam’s apple too, under the right circumstances.
Evidently, geniuses (or is it geniusi, as in hippopotamuses and hippopotami? Latin is such a challenge) are misunderstood in their own lifetime. As my genius went unrecognised, I tended to my day-to-day affairs. My head bandage was successfully removed. The doctor who removed the turban was immune to the efforts that had been made to transform it into culturally sensitive headgear. I resumed my London style sans turban, as it were.
Since Lanky Ella’s conundrum, escalated to kerfuffle after a firm grope, was on the back burner, I tended to the next item on my agenda. I had made a mental note to write an op-ed to The Times. The op-ed would describe my momentous observation in the airplane lavatory above Heathrow, the one that dealt with one of my breasts being bigger than the other. Apparently, my discovery of chesticular asymmetry bears some resemblance to an observation made off Corfu by some Duchess who was in the Parmesan business.
I sat at the desk in the salon of the Park Street flat. I opened Darwin’s Origins of Species to the chapter on Mammillar Similarities of the Human Species. I pulled out a copy of the day’s Times, which Ypres had kindly brought in that morning. The front page was on some triviality to do with Europe and beetroot quotas or something to that effect. I turned to the opinion pages. I needed to see how these things were formatted. Properly inspired, my literary prowess would then flow. All was shipshape until my eyes reached a peculiar article.
The article was entitled: Buttocks Asymmetry in the Modern World. A swift investigation revealed that the author was none other than “Edward Vasa, owner of Vasa Assurances and umbrella insurance pioneer”. How “umbrella insurance pioneer” had made it past the editor was a mystery to me. It evidently devalued the whole newspaper.
I got up in a graceful fury and headed for my red rotary phone. I prefer to use my land line when telling off uncles. Not that I make a habit of telling off uncles. Yet, the act of dialling dispassionately, removing an earring, and placing the receiver on the un-earringed ear, all the while tapping one’s high-heeled foot on the ground, the recipient scrambling to the phone on the other end, makes for a more forceful conversational mood.
The receptionist, of eau de cologne famed, put me through. I could almost smell the fragrance through the phone. Finally, Uncle Edward himself answered.
“Edward Vasa speaking.”
“Hello, Edward,” I dropped like ice into a martini, “been up to anything lately? Writing, perhaps?”
A guffaw came from the other end. Like Queen Victoria faced with ratatouille, I was not amused. “Oh, Vanessa, you’re such a tease! Ever since you solved Ella’s little issue, I have a new spring in my step. I feel better. I’m reading. I’m exercising. I’m writing. I’m…”
“Hold on a second, aged ancestor,” I interrupted, “Ella’s conundrum is solved? You accepted the pork pie solution?”
“Don’t be silly, Vanessa. That was a daft idea. I’m talking about your second idea, the brilliant one. Ypres gave us the solution on your behalf. Of course, she told us modesty and pride forbade you to come to us directly. You did not want to shine too brightly, that would have been un-British. I understand. In any case, Ella and I couldn’t be happier. I must go now. I send my love. Goodbye.”
I hung up the phone. I do not know what was more uncharacteristic. That Uncle Edward, a man for whom emotion is as foreign as the dances of Papua New Guinea, sent his love, or that, somehow, I had solved Ella’s Mayfair conundrum without knowing of it. I stood by the phone for a while. Putting two and two together (or is it three and three?) I figured it out. Ypres had solved the conundrum in my name.
“Ypres!” Rather like when an exorcist speaks the devil’s name and a creature in horns appears, Ypres came in the room. She glided in like a cod on an afternoon swim. All she needed was a swimming cap and a skillful backstroke.
“Ypres, I have just been informed that Ella’s conundrum, the one that was momentarily upgraded to kerfuffle status, has been solved.”
“Yes, it has.”
“I take it you had something to do with it, Ypres?”
“Would you care to elaborate?”
“It would be my pleasure.” Ypres is always happy when she is asked to elaborate something of her own doing. She adopts the controlled glee of a university professor trying to illuminate some obscure subject. The kind of subject few have ever heard of, but that, somehow, manages to be funded because a clinical trial in Switzerland has proven it might be beneficial in the extension of the life of goats. Never mind that some side-effects make the goats green. I digress. Ypres continued.
“Shall we go into the drawing room?” I half-expected Ypres wanted to go into the drawing room to take on the role of the inspector revealing all. That Murder on the Orient Express fan fiction I got her at Hatchards might have given her ideas. I indulged Ypres, all the while saying that I preferred salon to drawing room. I felt it was more appropriate to my Madame de Pompous furniture. Although I do make allowances for living room. Ypres began the lecture.
“The core of Miss. Lanesbury’s problem appeared to be the public display of affection she and Mr. Vasa engaged in. The affection itself did not trouble her. Indeed, she is the one who insisted on the grope. It was the setting that caused concern. What was in the public sphere had to retreat to the private sphere of the home. Once this was established, a solution acceptable to all could be presented.
Instead of kisses with tongue every half an hour, and a grope every hour, no matter the setting, a tally would be made. The time spend shopping on Regent Street would be recorded. Once Miss Lanesbury and Mr. Vasa retreated to the private sphere of the home, the time spent together would be converted to kisses and gropes. These would then be redeem en masse behind closed doors.”
I blinked. I failed to see how mass had anything to do with groping uncles. I gathered it was a physics thing. I weighed in on the situation.
“So you are saying, Ypres, that all Uncle Edward and Lanky Ella have to do is kiss and grope at home rather than on Regent Street?”
“That is correct.”
“The conundrum can’t just be solved, Ypres! That would be climatic!” Ypres said anticlimactic was probably the word I was looking for. “Whatever the climate, Ypres, your solution is too simple. This is a serious issue!”
“In proportion to world hunger, extreme poverty, or war, Miss. Lanesbury’s problem would be a trifle, Vasa.”
“Perhaps, Ypres, but I don’t deal with world hunger do I? I deal with conundrums. Preferably Mayfair conundrums.”
I crossed my arms. I delivered my last conundrum one-liner. “This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gone on about that Said chap and his Orientalism.”
Ypres paused for a moment. “About that, your uncle seems to have taken a liking to all things Eastern, or at least his vision of the Orient. He has shown a keen interest in the study of Sanskrit literature. Particularly, the Kama Sutra. He was keen to stress the last point when I met him and Miss. Lanesbury to discuss the solution to their conundrum.”
Ypres’s new information gave new meaning to Uncle Edward’s enthusiasm over the phone. Never have “I’m reading, I’m exercising,” brought such terror to the Vasa mind. I stared blankly for a few seconds. I took a couple of deep breaths.
“Well, Ypres. I suppose that solves that.”
“I suppose it does, Vasa.”
“I was going to write the first draft of my op-ed for The Times, but Uncle Edward, no doubt newly inspired by field observations, beat me to it.”
“Perhaps you could write something else.”
“Perhaps I could, Ypres. Perhaps I could.”
The Afterword to Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum will be published Monday, 4 April 2016, at 12:00 EST 17:00 GMT. The complete chapters will be published in ebook format on Amazon on 1 April 1016. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is now on Twitter. You can also join over 650 WordPress followers.