Saturday, 14 November 2009

Chapter 17 - So much cash, so little brain

Cleverly Dangled was not Cleverly Dangled's real name, you'll no doubt be surprised to hear. Oh no, he started life from a far more preposterous standing than that. His parents, who were great fans of Charlie Chaplin, actually had him christened 'Charles Chaplin Little Dictator Bunface' or Chazza for short. But when young Chazza was eleven years old, he began to get other ideas about his future identity. One would like to say that it was because the boy was developing a sense of self-confident identity, that he had a clear vision for his future which did not include the words 'Chaplin', or 'Bunface' for that matter, but no. It was because he'd just started at the local secondary modern and the other kids had taken to throwing their packed lunches at him and holding him down in art so they paint little moustaches on his face, just because of his name.

So Chazza decided to reinvent himself and the start of that process would be to change his name. (The second part would be to try and persuade his mother to stop hand-knitting all his clothes for him, especially his underpants which sagged awfully at the slightest hint of moisture.)

'I need to change my name,' he said one day, to his best friend, Nigel. Unfortunately, Nigel was a stuffed badger, one of Cleverly's father's taxidermy experiments gone slightly wrong, so, as you may imagine, wasn't a great help in the name choosing process. But he was a sounding board at least and Chazza was safe in teh knowlegde Nigel would always agree with him and NEVER argue.
'I quite like the name Charles,' said Chazza. 'It's a sort of solid, regal kind of name.' He took out his knitted handerchief and blew his nose, noticing as he did so the initials 'C B' embroidered carefully in the corner, in blue string.
'And if I keep the name 'Charles' then I wouldn't have to unpick all the intials that Mummy has sewn into my clothes,' he said. But somehow he couldn't quite stick with the name, because people would never call him Charles when they had always called him Chazza for short.

In deference to his mother's embroidered initials, though, he decided to stick to a first name beginning with the letter 'C'. He wrote the options on a sheet of paper. 'Colin, Callum, Chelsea, Corduroy...' he began. Then, 'Caractacus, Clive, Clostridium, Chevvy.'
'What I need is something that reflects my current personality and aspirations,' said Chazza. He chewed the end of his pencil and gave thought to his day at school. He'd avoided the daily Hitler-moustache ritual by use of a very sharp and strategically placed pencil, and had managed to scrape a pass in his Maths assessement with a fairly respectable 7 out of 10. Even his Maths teacher had been impressed enough to comment, 'That was a cleverly managed piece of work, Charles. I hope you maintain your standards, and don't allow them to slide back to the pit of mathematical despair.'

'That's it!!' said Chazza, with a dawning realisation. 'Clearly my brain has started to flourish towards its true potential.I am going to be a genius. And therefore, my first name shall be Cleverly!'

(That wasn't too contrived, was it? Also, the more alert readers amongst you may have noticed that young Chazza, now Cleverly, has very good pronunciation skills at this point in his life, whereas when we first met him as an adult a couple of chapters ago, you may have perceived him to be a graduate of the 'rough diamond' school of elocution technique, only without the diamond part. Well, bear with me, I've just noticed it too, and need to work my way around to thinking of a perfectly plausible explanation for this change. I'm not sure just yet, but it may involve an accident with a wild boar whilst Cleverly was on holiday in the Haute Pyrenees. In France.)

'So,' said Cleverly, who had been waiting patiently, and having a very fulfulling conversation with Nigel the Badger, 'that's my first name sorted. I'll scrap Chaplin and Little and Dictator, of course, but I need to come up with something original for my surname. Bunface is not the name of a genius.'

Cleverly had already researched the origins of his surname in the 'Oxford Enormous Book of Every Surname in the World' and discovered that 'Bunface' was a derivative of 'Boniface' which was better by far, and would fit in nicely with his plan to avoid unpicking all the initials sewn into his clothes by his mother. But Boniface still sounded too much like Bunface and he could see all sorts of telephonic mishearings in the years to come...

'I've called to place an order for some cheese,' he might say. (Well one might. I have.) 'My name? Boniface.'
'Thank you Mr Bunface. What items would you like to order from our extensive cheese catalogue?'
'It's Boniface. Mr Boniface.'
'That's correct, Mr Bunface; now if we could get back to the cheese order...'
'My name isn't Bun - face. It's Boni - face...'
'Oh, we don't sell buns, I'm afraid, sir, although I can see why you would want to purchase buns, in celebration of you unusual, if slightly ridiculous surname...'
'I don't wish to purchase buns...'
'That's excellent news,sir, because we don't sell buns. Only cheese. And little cheesy biscuits.'
'I don't WANT any cheesy biscuits...'
'Then I think, Mr Bunface, you have called the wrong number...GOOD-BYE!'

You see the confusion it could cause??

After a little experimentation with various options beginning with the letter 'B' Cleverly was becoming somewhat frustrated. So frustrated in fact, that all through his deliberations he'd been picking at the wool of his handkerchief and inadvertently plucked out the centre part of the letter 'B' so it now looked like a 'D'.
'Oh good grief,' he said. 'Now I've got to start all over again.'

And then, dear reader, a miracle happened. (And Lord knows the author needs one at this stage in the proceedings, given that a large and sticky corner has been looming for the last half an hour and she's found herself being inextricably drawn towards it, like a moth to a flame.) Cleverly looked up at the ceiling of his room, distracted by a sudden movement. And there, from the bookshelf, dangled a spider. A big spider. The kind of spider with which a lesser boy would have scared all the girls at school.

Cleverly stood up and approached the spider. It dangled there, busy doing nothing, with its eight furry legs spread out like the veins of an umbrella. Cleverly traced the spider's thread back up to the shelf. Today, in school, they had learnt that in some parts of Africa it was considered lucky to hang a spider's web on something you valued, to protect it from harm. And now he was closer, Cleverly could see that the spider had attached its web to the 'My Little Banker' set Cleverly had bought for himself with his birthday money last year. And if there was one thing Cleverly cared more about in the world than anything else, including his Raleigh Chopper, it was money, because he didn't have any and he intended to have as much as possible when he was an adult.

'That's it,' he whispered. (Well, there was no point in wasting effort on volume because Nigel had clearly given up listening to him ages ago.) 'My name, henceforth, shall be Mr Cleverly Spider Dangled. And I shall be rich and famous. And that is my destiny.'

* * * * * * *

As Cleverly sat in his office, watching a spider crawl across his miniature model of his new housing estate, he remembered this story of his roots and how, from that very day, his fortunes had begun to change. No more did the boys in art try to paint moustaches on his face, no more did anyone call him Chazza and make him sound like a common Cockney barrow-boy cum third rate drummer in a pub band. Oh no, from that day, when Charles Chaplin Little Dictator Bunface had become Cleverly Spider Dangled, things were different. Very different. Cleverly sighed. If only he hadn't lost his ability for perfect received pronunciation in that freak accident with a wild boar in the Haute Pyrenees in the Summer of '76. Still, one couldn't have everything, including the invading spider. Cleverly gave it one last, fond look, then sqaushed it flat - and dead- with one hefty swipe of his desk planner.

He pressed the button on the intercom system which linked him to his secretary.
'Miss Pringle...send up me model maker. I've just flattened numbers 112 to 162 Cleverly Drive. They need rebuildin'. And tell 'im to bring 'is spider scraper wiv 'im.'
'Yes sir,' said Miss Pringle, making the most of Cleverly being unable to see her by flicking v's.
'I know wot you're doing, Miss Pringle,' said Cleverly. 'And 'as my appointment arrived yet?'
'No sir, sorry sir,' said Miss Pringle. 'Shall I see if I can get her on her mobile?'
'Yes,' said Cleverly. 'Because I 'ave discovered a blot on me housing estate landscape and I want to know what she, or more specifically, Miss Honeybun Slingsby, is going to do about it.'

Cleverly leant over his miniature housing estate. Six hundred house could so easily become nine hundred. If only that damned Much Malarkey Manor wasn't in the way.

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