Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bal Ham! Gateway to the South!

We enter Bal Ham through the verdant grasslands of Battersea Park, and at once we are aware that here is a land of happy, contented people who go about their daily tasks in truly democratic spirit.

This is busy High Street, focal point of the town's activities. Note the quaint old stores, whose frontages are covered with hand-painted inscriptions, every one a rare example of native Bal Ham art. Let us read some of them as our camera travels past.

"Cooking apples! Choice eaters!"
"A song to remember at the Tantamount Cinema!"
"A suit to remember at Montague Moss!"
"Cremations conducted with decorum and taste."
"Fight tonight. Bring your own paper."
"Rally Thursday, Berkeley Square. Viscountess Lewisham and Mrs Vera Legge. Up the ruling classes!"

This shows the manifold activities of Bal Ham's thriving community - but in quiet corners, we still find examples of the exquisite workmanship that Bal Ham craftsmen have made world-famous: tooth brush holesmanship.

"On my porch, I carve the little holes in the top of toothbrushes. It is exciting work and my forefathers have been engaged upon it since 1957. [Coughs] The little holes in the top are put in manually, or, in other words, once a year. I recently had the honour of demonstrating my craft before the Holy of Highs. He stopped by one day for a couple of words. I did not understand either of them."

So much for Bal Ham's industries. Now let us see a little more of the town. Here is the great park, covering nearly half an acre. This is where the children traditionally meet by the limpid waters of the old drinking fountain, a drinking fountain that has for countless years, across the vast aeons of time, give untold pleasure to man, woman and child. Beside this fountain, donated by Able Councillor Quills as long ago as 1928, the little ones sit around a trim nursemaid and listen spellbound and enchanted as she reads them a story.

"With one bound, he was by her side. Nora felt his hot breath on her cheek as he ripped the thin silk from--"

We are now entering Old Bal Ham. Time has passed by this remote corner; so shall we.

But Bal Ham is not neglecting the cultural side. This is Eugene Quills, whose weekly recitals are attended by a vast concord of people. He has never had a lesson in his life. Such is the enthusiasm of Bal Ham's music lovers that they are subscribing to a fund to send Eugene to Italy. Or Vienna. Or anywhere...

Night falls on Bal Ham.

From Quill's Folly, Bal Ham's famous beauty spot, which stands nearly ten feet above sea level, the town is spread below us in a fairyland of glittering lights, changing all the time: green... amber... red... red and amber... and back to green. The night life is awakening!

The Al Morocco Tea Rooms...
"Hey, miss?"
"Yes? What d'you want?"
"Pilchards."
"They're off, dear."
"Oh. Baked beans?"
"Off."
"Oh. Meat --- meat loaf salad?"
"That's off, too."
"Pot of tea?"
"No tea, dear."
"Well, just milk then."
"Milk's off."
"Roll and butter, then?"
"No butter, dear."
"Well, just a roll!"
"Only bread, love."
"I might have just as well have stayed at home!"
"Oh, I dunno, does you good to have a fling occasionally!"

And so the long night draws on. The last stragglers make their way home and the lights go out one by one as dawn approaches and the bell of Saint Quills' Parish Church tolls ten o'clock. Bal Ham sleeps. And so we say farewell to this historic borough, with many pleasant memories -- and the words of C. Quills Smith, Bal Ham's own bard, burning in our ears...

Broad-bosomed, bold, becalmed, benign
Lies Bal Ham, four-square on the Northern Line.
Matched by no marvel save in Eastern scene
A rose-red city, half as Golders Green
By country churchyard, ferny fen and mere
What Quills mute inglorious lies buried here?
Oh stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
"Honey's off, dear."
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