Full previous context of this review here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/09/06/the-elbow-stories-of-walter-de-la-mare/#comment-25449
“Like all Saturday dinners in his household, this had been a hugger-mugger dinner – one of vehement relays.”
This next story I chose is the perfect onward progression of the ‘solipsism / slopdish’ theme-and-variations that I proposed earlier above, together with a man’s whole family, en masse, being tantamount to this book’s erstwhile ‘Visitor from Porlock’! —
Ostensibly, and as an early Corrie fan, I deem this an early working-class soap-opera (“…slid the soap out of the basin where Charlie had abandoned it, and hung up the draggled towels again in the tiny bathroom.”) It has gender rôle issues of the day, that we should forgive for what they are. “…half-sexed nagger” and, like most women, his wife “always went off at a tangent.”
The scene is that of Mr Thripp (“He was breathing heavily, for he inclined nowadays, as he would sometimes confess, to the ongbongpong.”) He cherishes his solitude especially when his beautiful man-hunting young daughter Millie goes out and his two sons, smoking James and footballing, Charlie, go out, too, the latter with the noise of “fifteen Charlies”. And particularly when his wife Mrs T is about to go to what we all called ‘the pictures’ in those days, she going with a flighty, flirty, highly made-up Mrs Brown (“Mr Thripp indeed was no lover of the ultrafeminine.”), Mrs Brown who says of picturehouses: “But I enjoy the dark, Mr Thripp … It rests the eyes.’”
Mr T has two clocks, one with a Zeno-like “pendulum – imperturbably chopping up eternity into fragments of time.” He is jug just as much as a jug is a jug, and insists ironically on doing the housework so that he can be sooner alone with his precious pot of tea for one and the ‘nirvana of a nap’ as I’m not sure what? — not exactly a dream, but a nap as a solipsism wherein his family anxieties play out and are hopefully transcended as the real truth of this fiction. For example, he witnesses Millie with a new boy friend whose “elbows were on the marble-top table, and he was looking at Millie very much as a young but experienced pig looks at his wash-trough.” Soap-basin, wash-trough, and, now, yes, I infer, slopdish! Aptly, then, it is Millie who is transcended this time, by dint of the nap as she returns home somehow to share Mr T’s tiny pot of T! But… “…it might be multitudinous shades of the unborn that were thronging about the glass of his window. Mr Thripp rose from his chair, his face transfigured with rage and desire for revenge.” — and thus the previously read story’s Anti-Natalism above is also played out by Mr Tea within our own solipsistic eyes, I guess.
“Within, the two clocks on the chimney-piece quarrelled furiously over the fleeting moments, attaining unanimity only in one of many ticks.”