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MEMOIRS OF A VIS

 

Personal Reminiscences of a Superior Mammal

 

Chapter I

 

I Introduce Myself

 

I have decided that the time has come for me to write my memoirs.

 

At sixteen, many of you would think I am too young to indulge in such an egotistical venture, but I have to point out at this stage that I am a Seal, and in seal terms, one of our years is roughly equivalent to four years of human life, so I am actually sixty-four. This gives me quite a span to look back over my interesting life, which has covered the globe from China to Milford-on-Sea, from the Acropolis in Athens to Waterloo Station. . . . .

 

My memoirs will not yet include my love life, which was unusual, to say the least, and still gives me occasional heartache. Suffice to say for the moment that I am living a contented old age in the company of three very good friends, one of whom, who shall only be known as SB*, has volunteered to be my secretary. While I trust her to be fair and truthful, there will be occasional inserts in italics from yours truly whenever I find I wish to make comments of a personal nature relating to whatever is being typed on my behalf.

 

Let me introduce my self: I am Sir Sealy Bell. I shall reveal the reason for my ennoblement at a future time - it is not appropriate just now. I am moderately long, extremely handsome, though nowadays a bit cuddled-looking. For this reason, any pictures in this oeuvre will be based on me as a supremely good-looking young fellow, and I should be grateful if you did not allow your imaginations to wander over what I actually look like now.

 

Enough of the flim-flam. Let me get down to the memoirs.

 

I was born in Arlesford, which makes me a true Hampshire Seal, of which there are very few. Nowadays an occasional one can be seen swimming in the Keyhaven River but mark my word, Hampshire Seals belong to an endangered species. Contributions gratefully accepted.

 

I emerged into the real world through the mouth of a brown paper bag. This came about as I was to be presented to SB by a Son who had failed to gift-wrap me in something splendid.

 

The first SB knew of me was an explanation at the local Keyhaven Yacht Club that Son's present had been left in the house, and he was sorry he hadn't gift-wrapped it. She was interested, so her birthday hadn't been forgotten after all.

 

"What is it?" she asked, devoured with curiosity.

 

"It's a seal." he replied.

 

"A seal? Oh, not a real one!"

 

"No, it's acrilan."

 

"What? A stuffed toy? What are you giving me a stuffed toy for? I'm forty-eight!"

 

"Mother," he soothed her, "It's my Seal of Approval."

 

So there I was, and that was almost the last I saw of Milford-on-Sea for many months. I was taken, in what I discovered later was called a car, up to North Hampshire where I had a few days getting used to living quietly on a soft pink duvet with the occasional eight-legged person encroaching on my territory. I'd no sooner come to terms with my new and rather boring life than everything was thrown into chaos.

 

Cases and boxes were pulled out from cupboards and under the bed, voices were raised and there was much running up and down the stairs. Son, who appeared, spotted me on the duvet and popped me underneath. His idea of a joke, I suppose, since SB was showing signs of rather liking me.

 

The sounds of a strange car driving into the gravel were greeted with even more frantic shouts of "Where is it?" "Have we got this?" "What about that?" "Just check everything's packed!"

 

Finally, I heard the front door being locked and everything went silent.

 

I was stuck in the dark, and to be quite frank with you, I was beginning to get scared. I could still hear the ticking of a clock which made the rest of the house seem even quieter. Then, suddenly, a car's engine roared over the gravelled approach to the house and the front door was unlocked, flung open and heavy footsteps pounded up the stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

                        This is a picture of something similar to me but I am much better looking.  Below is a picture of the aforementioned SB which she provided.  She had the sense to produce a photograph taken at the time of Noah's adventures in the Ark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and coincidentally, this is the face (now much older) which for many years lived behind the Milford-on-Sea web.

 

 

 

Chapter II

 

SNIFF. . . . SNIFF. . . .

 

"Check you've turned off the immersion heater!"

 

Suddenly there was light. I lay exposed to the horrified gaze of SB.

 

"What are you doing there? Oh, you poor little thing!"

 

I was clutched to SB's ample bosom, overcome with the scent of something powerful, probably by Estée Lauder, while my head was covered with kisses. Life was definitely looking up!

 

I found myself in the car, eyes blinking in the bright autumn sunshine, getting used to yet another set of surroundings and I found I rather liked the way things were going. We were on the way to the airport.

 

Whatever that might be, I thought at the time.

 

I was to become familiar with many airports before I saw my own dear Hampshire again but there, I'm running ahead of myself.

 

The first port of call was Dubai, a hot, hot country where fur coats are de trop. Even acrilan ones. Fortunately everything was air-conditioned, so while one had to get accustomed to a continuous rumbling noise in the background of one's life, one did survive. Just.

 

I spent the day on a bed and the night on a chair which even to me seemed an odd way of going about things. At that point I had learnt that beds were for night occupation, and chairs for daytime, and I rather fancied bed because I got rather lonely sitting perched on an overstuffed satin chair while SB and DB seemed to be having so much more fun on the bed. This was not to last. Oh, I'm not talking about SB and DB.  I'm talking, as is my wont, about ME!

 

The next port of call was Singapore. I had been ingloriously stuffed into a dark bag for the journey, but at least I counted as hand baggage and had the pleasure of hearing the eating, drinking and general conversation of the first-class cabin. This pleasure was somewhat alloyed by later sounds of snoring and, well.....how shall I put it? Suffice to say it's very fortunate that we seals can close our nostrils at will!

 

We flew through a night and a day and arrived at our destination quite late in the evening. SB and DB had arrived in the world of expatriates, a comfortable world with people to wait on them!

 

We were welcomed by Ah Lam in an apartment I remember only as blue and sadly lacking in cushions. The smells were something I still dream of, and I kept my nostrils open to their fullest extent while I accustomed myself to the exotic and mouth-watering aromas of the Oriental kitchen

 

"Lamb stew?" asked Ah Lam of SB & D.

 

I could see their faces fall. Had they come all this distance to the gastronomic capital of the world for lamb stew?

 

It was funny to see their expressions change as they settled down to eat out of politeness and found they were tasting something little short of ambrosia of the gods! Mind, I still find it odd to think Ah Lam saw nothing strange in serving lamb stew

 

Tiredness enveloped us and we retired to the bedroom. SB was horrified.

 

"Good grief!" she cried, "Twin beds! I haven't slept on my own for hundreds of years!" SB was and still is addicted to exaggeration.

 

The pair of them stood in horror surveying this calamity in the form of two isolated single beds.

 

SB's eye fell on yours truly.

 

"I shall take Cholmondeley to bed," she announced solemnly. "I cannot sleep on my own!"

 

I must explain here that Cholmondeley was the name she had arbitrarily bestowed on me, but which was not my name, nor ever had been. I think SB chose it because it seemed a suitably aristocratic name to suit my elegant appearance. I do know it should be pronounced 'Chumley' but I am pleased you knew my real name from the published version of my memoirs.Sir Sealy Bell, PGK, OPF, Ph.D.,

 

I think here we shall pause. It seems to me that there is time here for me to explain the title of my book. The decorations will be dealt with later on.

 

Probably many of you will have come to the conclusion that a VIS is something like a VIP, and up to a point, you are right. However, whereas a VIP is a Very Important Person, a VIS is a Very Intelligent Seal. As seals go I am exceptional, and could be considered as out of the very top drawer of seal society, but I am modest as well, so I shall not bang on about my plus points. I shall mention absolutely nothing about my minus points because, to be honest, I don't think I have any.

 

So finished the first night in Singapore: more air-conditioning, also ceiling fans, and a satisfactory night clasped again to the bosom of the said SB. She was wearing a different perfume that night, result of an overspend in the duty free, I imagine. It was an interesting sniff, not as heavy as the one I first encountered in those far-off days in Hampshire, but I do remember the combination of scent and cuddles did make breathing a little difficult. Nevertheless, the whole experience became a memory to be enjoyed at leisure in later years.

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

Settling In

 

For several weeks, apart from the nightly cuddle sessions, my time was my own. I drifted round several hard sofas, pretending to be a cushion since there were no others, and began to find life rather boring.

 

SB buried her nose either in books or shops, and on the latter occasions I was left to amuse myself alone in the flat, except for Ah Lam, and I think she didn't quite know how to deal with me. She always looked as though she expected someone small to appear, but I remained apparently unattached except to grownups, and she began to ignore me, moving me occasionally to whisk a feather duster under my nether flippers as she kept all trace of dust from the slippery blue brocade seats of the sofas.

 

I alternatively sighed and snoozed. Life had become very boring.

 

Then one day, there was the sort of hustle and bustle I recalled from my last days in Hampshire. We were on the move!

 

Boxes with fascinating squarish writing, made up of separate lines and squiggles, rose into three dimensions from flat packs, and fast-working men filled them up and took them away. SB's untidy piles of books disappeared, as did her writing materials, endless stacks of paper and other fruits of her shopping expeditions. DB's possessions, neat at all times, were carefully packed into suitcases. Ah Lam, who stayed with the flat, waved us good-bye and we were off.

 

The new flat was very green. It was not too high up in a monster but not unattractive block of dittos, though it is unlikely they could all have been so green. We had a balcony, and the view was, well, very green.

 

It turned out to be a temporary and very noisy green. The woodcutters arrived at the same time as we did, and for weeks and weeks my poor almost invisible ears were assailed during the hours of daylight by the grinding scream of the saws. This noise was overtaken by the sound of pile-driving . . . . . .Hampshire seemed very far away. Ah, but I run too far ahead.

 

Our new home lacked curtains. Well, it lacked curtains of substance. There were exotic Scandinavian style open-weave things, but really they were 'nets', no matter how fashionably disguised. While this caused no problems at all in the day areas, since we were gifted with an unobstructed view of trees and privacy except from woodcutters with binoculars, in the bedrooms this was not so. An even huger block of flats lay to our right, and above our eye-view, on the goodness-knows-what-number floor, lived a man who was obsessed with the fear of being burgled. A total nickophobe, he had installed brilliant neon lighting in the roof of his balcony, which at night shone like the noonday sun into our bedroom, most particularly on the part of the bed upon which SB rested her weary head.

 

SB has never liked light at night. In fact, to counterbalance the phobia going on in the neon-lit apartment above and to our left outside, SB is a complete photophobe.

 

That first night reduced me and DB to stifled hysterics, so stifled we nearly suffocated.

 

It was very hot, and both the humans were lucky enough to be able to divest themselves of all but their thin skins, where I was left covered with my usual faux fur. DB fell asleep almost immediately, but clasping me to her, SB tossed and turned and cursed the light and the heat. To start with, the cursing was muttered, but eventually it grew into a crescendo, during which DB started to make his way upwards through the deep layers of sleep which enveloped him.

 

Suddenly, casting me aside, SB leapt out of bed and ran down the corridor. I heard the sound of her pounding feet diminish, then get louder as she returned, clutching a pile of something.

 

In her birthday suit, she leapt up at the window, and I realised the pile she carried was of envelopes. She licked the sticky bits and stuck them all over the window so that the light should no longer fall on her face.

 

By this time, DB was awake and somewhat bewildered, until I explained what was happening. We started to giggle but this was greeted by such a storm of angry noises from the window that we hid our faces in the pillows to muffle the sound of our laughter.

 

We all finally fell into a fitful sleep, lulled by the swishing of envelopes in the wind of the ceiling fans and a determination that the joint problems of the curtains and the nude raging woman would be solved on the morrow.

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

Modesty Prevails

 

And so the problem was solved.  

 

Heavier curtains were fitted forthwith by the landlord of the property, and we all slept beautifully.

 

However, for me, life was beginning to develop a tedium I was finding hard to overcome.  

 

I went into a decline, which was not halted even when Foo gave me a kiss and a cuddle in between hoovering the carpets and changing the sheets.

 

People began to worry about my increasingly  wan complexion, including me.

 

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

Enter Mr. Portly

 

Mr. Portly was a contributing factor in turning my life around.

 

SB met him at one of the lunches she was for ever eating in Singapore. While I spent my time lolling around on an enormous bed, with occasional hugs from Madam Foo, who looked after the apartment where we lived, SB's social life had taken a turn for the better.

 

This resulted in her learning a salutary lesson as far as I was concerned: she discovered it was cool to drool over cushions with eyes.

 

In public. Of course she had done so earlier in the privacy of our bedroom, but this was altogether something different. Thanks to the influence of Mr. Portly I was about to come out ..

 

Mr. Portly was a very old teddy bear, and as such suffered from the wear and tear of years, much as people do as they get older. Some of his stuffing was beginning to creep through worn fur and one arm in particular had become rather thin and dangly. A gash had opened up on one of his legs, possibly caused by the enthusiastic munching of a woolly bug. His plight touched the heart of one Connie K, who was a dab hand with the needle. He was returned, at the said lunch, to his owner, Cindy A., swathed in bandages and carrying a red rose. Cindy A. had no inhibitions, SB said, about welcoming him with great public hugs and kisses, plying him with questions about his current state of health, telling him how she'd missed him and loved him etc. etc.  Real soppy stuff.

 

This gave SB the courage to bring me out of the closet, well, the bedroom, and introduce me to her friends. The aforementioned Cindy A greeted me effusively, and folding me in the crook of her arm she took me out on the balcony, from where we surveyed no end of pile-drivers and building sites. She chatted to me, kissing me from time to time and I felt my confidence in coping with life rising like one of those wonderful silver balloons you buy at fun fairs and carnivals and so on....

 

But I must tell you more about Mr. Portly whom I got to know over the next few weeks. He was, indeed, a very experienced cushion with eyes and some of his wear and tear was undoubtedly caused by the wide and wonderful experiences he had had in his life with R and CA.

 

His travelling tales made my eyes almost pop out of my head. Among other things, for him there was no hiding in plastic bags with zips as he zoomed around the world. No way. He sat on his own seat in First Class!

 

This had led to an embarrassing moment on one journey where the Steward had offered him a choice of newspaper. Clever as Mr. Portly was, he had no desire to try to cope with all those ghastly paper pages which fall all over the place as the reader tries to handle anything but reading the headlines on page one. "So undignified!" he explained to me.

 

RA had spotted Mr. Portly's loss of sangfroid and explained to the Steward that "..my friend can't read!" Mr. Portly was furious: while relieved he didn't have to cope with the voluminous pages of The Times, the idea being spread around that he couldn't read was humiliating. He certainly could read. A bit. Well, his own name, anyway.Still, it was a loss of face, and in the Orient that is not a Good Thing.

 

No, after meeting Mr. Portly, life for me would never been the same again. Firstly I was determined to get myself educated, and I was going to learn to do more than read my own name.

 

I would begin tomorrow!

 

Chapter VI

 

The World becomes my Oyster

 

Yum! yum!

 

After meeting Mr. Portly, who had so many admirers that SB was constantly finding his name mentioned in public, SB noticed his glory reflected mightily on his owner/Mummy. SB rather liked this kind of fame - in fact - she's pretty keen on any kind of fame - one of her less attractive traits I have always thought. The question of the hunt for fame in my particular case is altogether something different: in the case of a modest little Seal hunting for it, even a Very Important Seal, it has a certain charm which is missing in the human pursuit of ditto.

 

As time went by, I began to notice that when SB had visitors, they would enquire after me, my health, and comment on the fact that I was beginning to look rather 'cuddled'. This wasn't helped by the fact the visitors also indulged in cuddling me.

 

They were impressed with my reading ability, which was coming along apace, but many of them began to worry that apart from SB I had very few friends. I had no friends of my own kind at all, and this caused a certain amount of consternation among the more matchmakingly inclined of the visitors. But more of that anon, before all that, there are other adventures to recount which may interest the reader.

 

I suppose things hotted up the first Christmas I spent with SB and DB in Singapore.

 

Two of their numerous offspring were due to arrive, impressively under their own steam. Well, financed under their own steam.

 

Those of you who know that Singapore is situated in the Tropics may well imagine palm trees and balmy skies, whereas, particularly around the winter months, there is a thing called the Rainy Season. Then Singapore is full of very heavy rain indeed, and one may well imagine that young people who have saved and scrimped to pay to travel the 8,000 miles (and even more kilometres) to the far-flung corner of our ex-Empire by air could feel very resentful to discover all those precious pennies had been spent to peer through pounding rain at the scenery, much of which was invisible in the torrents pouring down from big black clouds.

 

The resentment was compounded by the fact that in spite of the rain, it was incredibly hot and tempers began fray.

 

By Christmas Eve you could cut the air with a very blunt knife and fork, but SB trotted round the apartment giggling and looking smugly secretive. She announced that everyone was to cheer up, because Father Christmas was coming. The young people, who were no longer children, could hardly believe their mother thought they were still young enough to get a visit from Father Christmas, but DB cheered up, under the impression that SB must have got hold of a Bunny Girl type Father Christmas, complete with long black fish-net covered legs.

 

I knew better.

 

SB had made me a red velvet hooded cloak with white swansdown edging which tickled my nose frightfully. I was sneaked out of the back door, perched outside the front door, sitting on a large Christmas-wrapped package. SB rang the doorbell, scooted back into the apartment and re-appeared from the kitchen, suggesting that someone should open the door."It's probably Father Christmas!"

 

MB, he who had given me as his Seal of Approval in the first place, was the reluctant volunteer, and of course as he opened the door he did expect to be eye-ball to eye-ball with Father C. I must say, as his eyes dropped to me, he did have the grace to laugh, and I can honestly say that I saved the day, indeed Christmas itself, for SB and her family.

 

I did note, however, that on Christmas Day itself, in my own house, I did not receive a single Christmas present. Not one! I am not usually given to self-pity, but I do enjoy the occasional indulgence!

 

But later in the day, that was to be remedied in a way I would not have thought possible.

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

Shot by Cupid's Arrow

 

Later that evening we set out for dinner, all dressed up to the nines, including me, whose DJ consisted more of a BT (black tie to the uninitiated), made of double satin ribbon, and elegantly tied in a bow under my chin. Obviously -- where else would one tie a tie?

 

The rain poured down as we drove through miles of fairy lights to our destination and my destiny.

 

Presents in glittering paper adorned a large Christmas tree, and under the tree itself lay some larger ones. We were greeted with lots of the moi-moi sort of kisses on either cheek, and I had a special all-embracing encounter with C, Mr. Portly's lady. She whispered in my invisible ear: "I've got something very special for you, darling!" I thrilled with excitement and expectation and SB told me later my cheeks went quite red.

 

There was a rustle of paper and cries of "Ooh! How lovely!" and "How clever! Just what I wanted! And so on, until I noticed there were only a couple of packets left - one, vaguely banana-shaped on the tree, and one larger, on the floor under the tree. I managed to pick out my name - my reading was coming along brilliantly - on both packages.

 

Attention turned to yours truly.

 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to open the packages, owing to the knots in the ribbon. Flippers are not made to deal with such things. Not that that mattered - there were bunches of fingers twitching to come to my rescue.

 

The bigger parcel was dealt with first. Layers of sparkling star-covered paper gave way to layers of pristine white tissue. That in turn was carefully peeled away to reveal the most beautiful white fluffy lady seal I had ever visualised in my wildest dreams. We were introduced.

 

"This is Celia, your bride!"

 

Surrounded by laughing and smiling faces, a marriage was hastily organised. There being no minister or sea captain to officiate, a Bank Manager who was also a Justice of the Peace, stepped into the breach and without further ado, Celia and I were wed.

 

Then something happened which I found even more puzzling. From what I knew of Life, there was usually a decent interval between a wedding and a birth, but no sooner were Celia and I joined in wedlock, but the unwrapping ceremony of the smaller tree-hung package revealed a small and quite enchanting white seal pup, who was introduced to me as my daughter, Cecilia.

 

The whole business took my breath away for some considerable time, and I was laid quietly away from the festivities with my new appendages - well, family I suppose - on a beautiful quilt-covered bed.

 

I remember no more about the whole thing than what I have related above until well into the next day, when the rain had stopped, the sun was shining through the window and I realised I was back in my own dear home.

 

I was just thinking the whole thing must have been a dream, when my eyes alighted on Celia and Cecilia, who were nestling up to me on a chair in S and DB's bedroom. Life was going to be a bit different from here on, I thought, gazing at the two delightful beings which had entered my life so unexpectedly. Cupid's arrow had struck home and I was in love. With the bigger one, anyway.

 

I put out a flipper to stroke my dear wife's furry cheek.

 

I screamed a little scream, "Ouch!" and withdrew my flipper which was bleeding. Very slightly, but it was definitely bleeding.

 

A furious small pup cried in a small voice, "She's my Mummy - leave her alone!"

 

"Now, now Cecilia, you must be nice to your daddy! You don't go biting the flipper that feeds you! Say you're sorry now and give him a kiss!"

 

This was all too much for me. I was now at a complete loss to make head or tail of anything, so I rolled off the chair and crawled behind it in an attempt to find some peace and quiet to think my way through the confusing situation in which I then found myself.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

Adjusting to the Situation

 

I needed to have had no worries! Our lives together as a little family, nagged only by the tiniest doubt as to the parentage of our small daughter Cecilia, settled into a pattern of delight.

 

Bedtimes caused a few problems. SB insisted on taking me to bed as usual but my dear Celia found it somewhat overcrowded. She also began quite quickly to worry about the condition of her beautiful white coat, and quite often elected to spend the night with Cecilia surrounded by silken cushions on a chair under the window.

 

Compromise was the order of the day. In the privacy of our day time bedroom we learnt how to set about increasing the seal population of Singapore.

 

It took some time to get organised. I read books and tried all sorts of postures. The main difficulty, as you can imagine if you visualise us with our flippers about each other, lips together, was to get what the French so delicately call a 'rapprochement' of the other ends. We finally discovered the missionary position which was so appropriate to our life in this far-flung corner of our great ex-Empire.

 

In the meantime, I continued to spend the hours of darkness clasped to the aforementioned ample bosom of SB. The downside to this arrangement was the deleterious effect all this cuddling had on my coat. More of this anon. Other exciting things were happening - oh, and yes, Cecilia grew to be very fond of her Daddy, and drew no more blood from his flippers.

 

Way back in my memoirs, I mentioned that I would reveal the story of my ennoblement and I think it is now appropriate to tell the tale.

 

SB was a very heavy smoker. Indeed, in their early youth her own children confused her with a dragon, but the day of reckoning was approaching. A LUMP! Terror, operation and, luckily for all, a reprieve, but not before the great decision.

 

"I shall never smoke again!" SB announced. Go tell that to the Marines, I can say now, although she does keep trying to give it up from time to time..

 

All this happened way back in time before the invention of patches, so SB devised a new system which she was convinced would work a treat.

 

Every time the urge for a puff appeared, she would indulge in a mixture of grapes and Cheddar cheese.

 

True, it helped on the anti-cigarette front, but what it did to the back was little short of seismic! She might as well have chosen an exclusive diet of Jerusalem artichokes or Heinz Baked Beans.

 

As a chivalrous chappie, every time the air was rent with a malodorous and ear-shattering explosion, I cried "It was me! It was me!"

 

Time went by, and SB was weaned not only from the habit of puffing but also from indulging in the cheese and grape diet, and my noble efforts in taking the blame were rewarded by a knighthood. I was given a P.F.G. (Parfait Gentil Knight), and an O.P.F. (I completely forget what those initials are supposed to indicate - it will come to mind at some point I feel sure) and a Ph.D. The latter had nothing to do with my intellectual performance, stunning as that has always been, but was a French award, Phoque Delicieux. In English, of course, that mean Delicious Seal - I add this to avoid any misunderstanding.

 

Celia, naturally, was delighted, and simply adored being Lady Celia.

 

Cecilia became The Hon which fired her ambitions in the marriage market, early as it was to think of such things. I must admit that I too, rather liked being known as Sir Sealy Bell, P.G.K., O.P.F., Ph.D. Oh, oh, oh!I've got it! O.P.F. is the Order of the Pathetic Fallacy  how frightfully clever. I was just reminded by hearing a question about it in a quiz programme on television the other day!

 

Chapter IX

 

The Would-be Transformation

 

As the horse said: "My King for a farrier!" - or something similar so the time came when I would have given my all (well, most of it) for a furrier.

 

It came about like this. My relations with the beloved Lady Celia were at a low ebb. You will remember that she declined to share SB's bed on the grounds that she was worried about the deleterious result this would have on her magnificent coat. I, originally at least, did not share these worries, but I noticed that comments like "He does look rather cuddled" were not in fact a compliment on my lovability. Truth be told, when I looked in the mirror I realised one morning that I was definitely looking rather shabby.

 

Lady Celia's comment when I sought her advice was that it was quite true I was no longer the handsome seal she had married, as it transpired, on her escape from China. The truth about the Hon Cecilia also came out. She was not really my daughter! So much for being a green seal when we exchanged vows so hastily at the beginning of our married life. I was, though, still in love with my dear Celia, and I racked my brains to find a solution.

 

SB came up with the perfect solution. Or so she thought.

 

At this point in my narrative I realised I was so overcome with emotion that the best solution here was to raid SB's files and quote verbatim a letter she wrote at my dictation to the furriers she suggested. Various parts of the letter will already be familiar to followers of my life story, so please forgive any repetition. Look on it as an aide-memoire.

 

'The Managing Director,

Alresford Crafts Ltd,

The Town Mill,

Alresford, Hampshire, England.

 

'Dear Sir/Madam,

 

'I am writing to you in desperation.

 

'As you will see from the signature on this letter, I am Sir Sealy Bell (assorted decorations) and recently it was my fortune to become betrothed to the most delightful little Asian seal it had ever been my pleasure to see. Actually, we are more than betrothed although the wedding ceremony was rather sketchy.

 

'I materialised into plain Sealy Bell in August of 1983, having been presented by a twenty-one year old son to his mother as his 'Seal of Approval'. At the beginning of September I found myself transported to Singapore where the said mother found to her horror that there were only single beds in the transit flat where she was to stay with her husband. After years of cuddling she felt so lonely that I was whisked into her bed. When one of her daughters visited us at Christmas in 1983, the daughter's comment was 'Oh, he looks very cuddled.' And therein lies the secret of my distress, for I went on being cuddled and graduated to sleeping three in a bed when the double-bedded flat appeared on the scene.

 

'Lady Celia - my bride - is not only white, but graced with long elegant fur, where I, still only nineteen months old, am, to put it baldly.well, there we have it. I have almost admitted it. The thing is my coat is not was it was, and for weeks now I have been marching up and down the bed on my flippers in the small hours of the morning nerving myself to write to you. Don't you think I type beautifully considering I dont have fingers on my flippers?' This is an amusing piece of mendacity I could not resist.to get back to the letter:

 

'Let me stop deviating. Can you possibly spare enough fur for a body lift? I am past a mere face life, and the recipient of the Seal of Approval is deft with her flippers and promises to sew me into it, providing my original eyes appear at the front end. It is not purely a question of vanity. It's just that if I had a longer coat I would not appear to have married a lady taller and wider than me. It's male pride. If you are a man, you will understand, and if you are a woman, I feel sure you will be sympathetic.

 

'One further request: since I did not just get one of those modern life peerages, I should very much like to have a son to carry on the title, and if a little extra fur could appear I am sure we could arrange it.

 

'I shall be living in hope now and inspecting the postmarks of any likely-looking parcels the postman brings up to our flat.

 

'I have the honour to be, Sir/Madam,

 

'Your obedient (if slightly bare-faced) creation,

 

'Sealy Bell PGK, OPF, Ph.D

 

'PS I measure 15" from nose to end of rear flippers as the crow flies.

 

'PPS Any expenses incurred as a result of raw materials for my spot of plastic/acrilan surgery should be sent to the address on the top of this letter.'

 

I hope that I shall be feeling more composed as I recount the result of this apparently harmless letter when I resume my memoirs. At the moment memories of times past have rendered me incapable of continuing my great oeuvre.  

 

CHAPTER X

 

Cataclysm and Aftermath

 

The letter quoted in the previous chapter was written in March of 1985 - how long ago that seems now we are living in the 21st Century!

 

Lady Celia and I spent a few months travelling through Eastern lands, the first port of call being Bangkok. We didn't do a lot of going about there, Lady Celia and I, but we spent a lot of time perched against the window of our hotel room admiring the barges plying up and down the Chao Phraya river. We were a bit too far up to enjoy the sight of the local young ladies dancing on the lawns below the window, but we caught sight of them occasionally between the fronds of the palm trees. Lovely colours!

 

We also visited China where we did get a chance to accompany D & SB as they toured the tourists sites. Indeed, there is a photograph of us sitting on DB's lap in front of the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Gouangdong. For the most part though, we viewed the sights from our hotel windows, and enjoyed a stengah as we watched the sun go down in the evenings. We also returned for a short spell to dear England, where all the pouring rain could not eliminate the well-loved scents of childhood. Happiness seemed within our grasp again.

 

The Hon. Miss had stayed in Singapore to enjoy the social whirl as she presented a picture of sweet innocence concealing a rabid hunting female seeking a suitable (and preferably aristocratic) mate. I am sorry if that sounds a little sour, but the young lady did not turn out to be the loving and dutiful daughter for which I might have hoped.

 

After all our travels with their optimistic result we arrived home.

 

Here I will quote my next letter to Alresford. It is less painful than remembering the happenings of September of that year.

 

'Dear Sir,

 

'What have you done? What HAVE you done!

 

'If you refer to my letter of 21st March 1985, for which I might add, I have been waiting an unconscionable length of time for a reply, you will see that my original request was merely for some material to make me a new and handsome skin, and enough material over to make me a little brown son. I also requested that any expense incurred be referred to SB (qv).

 

'And what do you do? I am still shaking like a leaf! You send me - only days after I had returned from a nostalgic if very wet trip to my homeland and Alresford - you send me, no expense spared, by airmail post, on 3rd September, (oh day of ominous memory!), an individual described on the green customs' form as a 'cuddly toy', and on your compliment slip as 'one baby seal'.

 

'Baby seal, my flipper! He's bigger than me (and he is of course a male, in view of the location where your label is attached). He is charming and gifted, with the most exquisite coat with beautiful markings, and he is more nearly the size of my dearly loved (at that time) but slightly Junoesque wife, Lady Celia. Of course, the minute she clapped her magnificent orbs on this paragon, she flipped her lid and her flippers and spent last night in a quiet corner of the bedroom with him. ( I will admit to being somewhat envious of my dear wife's eyes, since one of mine has dimmed with age and SB still hasn't bought any clear nail varnish to repair me.)

 

'To return to the matter in hand - or flipper: I am shattered. As you can imagine, the arrival on the scene of what I can only view as a serious and successful rival for my dear wife's affections has had a most deleterious effect on my health, my heart and my libido.

 

'I advise you that I have seriously considered legal action against you for alienation of my dear wife's affection, the only things stopping me being a sense of loyalty to my creator, the fear of my honourable family name being dragged across the pages of 'The Sun' and 'The News of the World', the protection of my ambitious daughter's marriage prospects, combined with the unhappy possession of an extremely thin purse. However, I should appreciate your comments on the matter.

 

Yours etc. etc.'

 

The reply to this letter attempted to be helpful, and for you interest I shall quote that too:

 

'Dear Sealy Bell, (Touch of lse-majest there, I think)

 

'What I did, I did out of guilt. We have learnt on expert opinion that the only way your case for alienation would succeed is if all male seals worldwide were brought into the action.

 

As for failing libido, there have been several papers published in Washingtown that suggest that each six months the body should be bathed by total immersion in lukewarm water to which has been added a softener. These go under names such as Lenor, Comfort or Bounce. I personally cannot comment on the accuracy of these reports but in the circumstances I think it would be worth a try, although why a softener should improve libido is beyond me. There is no charge for this advice, neither is there any charge for your companion with whom I hope you will shortly come to terms.

 

'Kind regards,*

 

'Yours sincerely, etc. etc.

 

'John Jones.'

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Time, of course, is the healer of pretty well anything, and I am now, at 64*, a relaxed individual at peace with the world. I will fill you in on what happened after these earth-shattering events for me.

 

Lady Celia's affair with the new arrival lasted but a short time, since she decided his looks did not compensate for the loss of her title. She progressed up the social ladder till she met a rather wide - well, to be brutally honest, a very fat - Marquis. The idea of being a Marchioness overpowered her common sense, but the new selection was to end in tragedy, of a kind. One dark and stormy night, while they clasped each other in terror before they fell asleep, he turned over and suffocated her. A most unfortunate accident which the jury finally agreed was merely that and subsequently returned a verdict of misadventure.

 

The Hon Miss Cecelia finally caught a modest baronet and lived happily ever after. How she managed to do that with her temperament I shall never know, but maybe, in some cases, love does triumph.

 

The poor little chap who'd been sent from England in all innocence was left abandoned on a shelf in a cupboard, before DB, he with the heart of gold, took pity on him, especially when he realised that this new cushion with eyes would help support his growing corporation in bed and add to his comfort.

 

We all grew to know and love this seal, who was christened Bertie. We now sleep happily, four in a bed, and Bertie and I have become the closest of friends. While his intellect is vastly inferior to mine, I have to confess that his kindness and his loving nature have added in no small measure to our lives, and I expect we shall continue to grow older in the comfort of a wonderful friendship.

 

I have enjoyed recounting some of my memoirs to you, and who knows, one day I may get round to others.

 

 

 

THE END

 

* This was written a long time ago:  I am, alas, no longer 64:  I have to confess to being 124 years old, seal-style but only 31 human-style.  I have written this in little letters because, quite frankly, dear friends, I don't like it.  I am looking so dreadfully shabby but I can cheer myself up in the knowledge that regardless of my appearance, I am loved. SB's husband DB died some 12 years ago and she takes Bertie and me to bed with her on alternate nights. Occasionally we get a whizz-a-round in the washing machine.  We don't need any help these days with our libido via Viagara and we still use something to soften what is left of our fur (viz above).   My goodness though, as those born within the sound of Bow Bells might say: "She

don' 'arf give us a biterva squash when she lies on us of a nigh'!"

 

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