A literary novel which follows present-day narrator Mathilda’s fixation with the forgotten black Scottish modernist poet, Hermia Drumm, LOTE is an exploration of aesthetics, Beauty, and the ephemeral realm in which they exist. It’s available to order from Jacaranda Books.
“No, loooong – personality-wise.”
“Oh, by the way, I have this book as well.”
“Yes, I adore it: it’s abominable!”
“But did you also know about the cellotape?”
“Another thing, do you know about these rouge landlords?”
“It’s in the English-language papers. ‘Rouge Landlord Jailed for Illegal Conditions.’ There’s a string of them, they are getting really bad, Mathilda.”
“Not rouge, rogue.”
“I’m burning-at-the-stake, darling.”
“Well I’m in an Elizabethan deathbed, wrapped in a funeral blanket.”
Still laughing, Erskine-Lily got up from the couch and his limbs immediately gave way. He collapsed upon the blue swathe of carpet, then righted himself with near unbearable grace.
“But why was I trying to get up? Can you remember?” he fell back onto the couch – a flamingo shot down (there was pink plume on his beret).
“Oh, you got up to see about more to drink.”
Our glasses were empty. We had guzzled both bottles of pink foam in the flat and by this point were so giddy and excitable that I could now hardly recall what we’d just been discussing.
Indeed, I can still only incompletely remember that first hour: a rush of chatter, too quickly drinking down each glass, puffing those botanical cigarettes. What I could always recall perfectly, however, was the flavour, the tenor that was struck up between us from the moment I entered the flat, for it later seemed that in those initial minutes we laid down the foundations for an entire friendship and settled upon the tone on which it would be conducted.
Something else I was sure about that first hour was that we did not discuss Hermia, or the paintings on Erskine-Lily’s wall, but the prospect of it all was there, just levitating above us, lending an excitement, an anticipation to our meeting. It would have felt excessive, crass even, to speak of our mutual interests so quickly when it was clear we had both been waiting all our lives for a co-conspirator.
Erskine-Lily rose again, this time successfully, and went to check just in case there was after all another bottle; there wasn’t. This was a shame because I’d never had a sparkling wine like it. Not even in the days when Malachi and I would regularly steal from an openly racist wine merchant in Primrose Hill.
When it hit the glass, it piled up as a foam to begin with – almost like champagne or prosecco poured too quickly, but denser, and instead of turning to liquid the foam became a sort of fine drinkable froth, more fluid, which fizzed wildly on the tongue and tasted like a light dessert wine, but not remotely cloying.
“Yes, it’s an abomination isn’t it? Did you know it’s thirty-two percent, you wouldn’t know from drinking it because it goes down so lightly.”
“But what exactly is it?”
“Oh, my god,” he said in a way that reminded me just how antiquated the expression was, though he was, I thought, a little younger than me. “You don’t know? It’s a relatively local wine. It comes from just outside Dun. They quadruple-ferment it which makes it so frothy. It’s called orion, or it sounds like that,” he said pointing a beringed stalk-finger to an empty bottle, “always unlabelled, so I’ve never seen the spelling.”
Staring at the bottle, he visibly plummeted into a deep and vigorous daydream for a few minutes and then said, “Do you know if the apology money is through?”
I was rather thrown by this question, but yes, I had informed him of my meeting with Lind and Jonatan and the story of the missing books in the blur of the past hour.
“Then would it be diabolically rude if I asked to borrow say ten to fifteen Euros?”
“Oh… of course,” I said, not unamused by this request. “I withdrew some before I came.” And I pulled out some notes from my coat pocket. I was delighted at being able, for the first time, to be generous with cash. Between this and the buzz of wine I was feeling like a veritable woman of means, a formidable grande dame.
“…Wonderful,” he sighed, and his eyes – the mystical, half-flooded eyes of a seal – swelled. He hugged me. Yes, I was practically a patroness. I felt him thin and tremulous beneath today’s burgundy doublet and plum velvet robes, with a matching train. I wondered how he’d make it down the stairs in those acres of velvet – made, in fact, from a well-preserved old theatrical curtain. But I heard him descend easily enough – and watched with delight from the window as he crossed below, train rippling behind over the cobblestones.
On the reverse of a miniature portrait in violet letters.
(Image on frontside: portrait of Erskine-Lily in the style of an oval miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, sporting what might be a silver pinked doublet or androgynous Elizabethan bodice and hooped skirt (the portrait cuts off at the waist); a high collar with a voluminous, gauzy lace ruff that reaches the limits of the image; matching lace sleeve cuffs; emerald earrings; brimmed black sugarloaf hat with a jewelled band, cheeks glazed orchid. On the flat azurite background, a heraldic device depicting a fruit on a branch like a white-pink raspberry, faintly translucent with an opalescent lustre, leaves half green and half yellow, the branch emerges from a cloud; some gold letters below read ΛOTE. This fruit is simultaneously an allegorical device and heraldic as the figure reaches to pluck the fruit whilst gazing towards the viewer.)
Span: d Redacte
Memorabilia: Obscure aesthete-quaintrelle and amateur painter resident in Dun. Revived LOTE, a minor society of the ‘20s founded there almost a century earlier, said in itself to be a revival of a Renaissance society.
Sensation: Moonlight sighing up and down the tube of the spine, and through hollow bones.
Shola von Reinhold was born and is based in Glasgow. They have had work in Hotel, the Cambridge Literary review, Ambit and elsewhere. LOTE is their first novel. @socialmedea__
Featured image By Ewald Judt – http://austria-forum.org/af/Bilder_und_Videos/Bilder_Wien/1030/8662, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73998751