Primus Inter Pares

One thing I have noticed, here in Jasper Cove, among many other things, is that I no longer remember, nor care, what day of the week it is. Lacking a regular work routine and any fixed markers like church on Sundays, I find it harder and harder to keep track of whether it is Monday or Sunday. Even in this, my journal, I don’t always remember to date entries. Extrapolating from dated entries, and allowing for days without entries, by my calculation it is the 24th of November. Assuming there is any continuity in the time since I first fetched up on the shores of that Isle of Legacies, it should be 1892, which would make today a Thursday, but who knows what year it is here.

Somehow, it feels like a Sunday. It is a quiet, pleasant morning, as I sit here writing in the garden, with an atmosphere of relaxation, of being a day off. Even more so, since it lacks the fuss and bother of getting dressed up, getting mother ready and escorting her down to St Mary’s Church, Chatham. That much, at least, I miss. I would happily endure the emptiness of what had, by then, become no more than a social obligation for an hour with my mother. I would even endure the tedious content of a sermon predicated on it being the fifth Sunday after Pentecost and therefore we must talk about chastity, or whatever scheme the Book of Common Prayer dictates. No wonder the Rev Hilaire Elverson was so frustrated. The man had an expansive intellect, as evinced in the many lively discussions he and I had enjoyed over a bottle of port after dinner, which he often attended at our house, yet he was constrained to speak about the incredibly dull by the strictures of his church’s teachings. I wonder if he ever did get round to writing the books we so often talked about, which were his plan for his retirement. I don’t doubt they would have provoked much discussion and dissent, as was his intent.

Churches and various religions became the subject of discussion last night in the tavern, with me, Gwyn, Cristof and Aoibheann. I had been practising the operation of the microwave oven machine, since it seemed a slightly safer option for warming milk than the infernal espresso (I looked on the label to see how it was spelled) machine, after my accident in the morning. I heard her come in, so went down to talk about Aiobheann. We were both worried that we had upset her with the teasing about Damion. She came in shortly after that, after, I suspect, lurking outside for a bit. I was fairly sure I caught a glimpse of her hair through the window. That and the way she sidled in, as if hoping we wouldn’t notice. I rather hoped she had been lurking, as I had just been praising her progress to Gwyn. We had been talking about the English language and its illogical spelling, and I had said how much better Aoibheann’s had gotten since I first knew her.

She came in and apologised for her behaviour the night before, claiming tiredness and irritability. She seemed a little uncomfortable, possibly because we had gotten onto the subject of my mother’s death and I had just been telling Gwyn how I held my mother’s hand as she passed away. Gwyn and I were quick to tell her that it was we who should be apologising and did so. She sat down at the bar, so I poured her a gin, telling her she was off-duty, so she could have a drink. She asked us to give Damion a chance, and that he was much nicer when you got to know him. I gently suggested that it might be easier if he actually spoke to us. She also said that he was a druid, which is how we got onto the subject of churches and religions. Now, I have read some books on the druids, so I know a little on the subject. I also know something about other beliefs that would be considered pagan. This was a word that Aoibheann was not sure about and she asked the meaning. I told her what it meant from my point of view and Gwyn added more from her perspective.

From the discussion, it seems that Cristof, Gwyn and I have a similarly jaundiced view of the established church. I rather surprised myself with the strength of my feelings on the subject, perhaps having not had the chance to express them of late. I seem to be becoming more and more agnostic, if not atheistic, and, I suspect, somewhat of a socialist. Mother would no doubt approve. Aoibheann seemed a little tired and left after a while, seeking sleep. I do hope that Damion hasn’t been keeping her out too late. Gwyn, Cristof and I agreed to keep an eye on things and we were all agreed that if he does harm a hair on her head, he would be introduced to a rotisserie grill. And, if we were feeling nice; we would insert the spit after we killed him.

That was the end of the evening really. Gwyn went off to bed, Cristof to wherever he goes when he is not in the tavern and I retired to the kitchen to make another attempt to clean off my jacket. Earlier in the day, Lalla came by for breakfast and wanted scrambled eggs and mushrooms with coffee. Despite my misgivings, I managed all of these, but I swear the espresso machine had it in for me. The bit that heats up the milk decided to be a bit more enthusiastic than I had expected and I ended up with foaming milk all over my jacket and face. At least Lalla ate most of it, despite my lack of skills in the kitchen. I really ought to learn some of the basics, as I often seem to be around for breakfast. Gwyn did offer to teach me, which may be of use for the infernal machines, but I am minded to ask Aoibheann to teach me some of the more conventional cookery. It might boost her ego somewhat.

I poured myself a glass of rum and retired to my seat in the gardens. There was still enough light to see by and I had been thinking of a few ideas for chapter 9. It occurred to me that I could have Edmund encounter some members of the meeting or council on the way back, perhaps inspecting some road or bridge damage that needed a decision. It will be a good chance for Edmund to see Mildred in a different light, as current leader of the council. I am minded to give her the title of PIP, for Primus Inter Pares, first among equals. I very much think that this is in keeping with the nature of the island.

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