The Unsought Memorial To Sir Simon Gutteridge

My uncle, Sir Simon Gutterage lived his whole life seeking that phrase or comment which might  guarantee his immortality. Despite a title, gained by an ancestor for turning a blind eye to the rampant affairs of a long dead and unlamented Viceroy of India, he lived free of the means such an title would suggest, and thus sought entrance to the salons of the notable through turning an unforgettable phrase. Rebuffed, he turned to railway stations, then bus queues, and finally odd gatherings in the park before acknowledging, at last, that the planet would still turn, and people live and die on it,  without his name being uttered in any context whatsoever, at any time, anywhere.

That was his sombre reflection as the last of his youthful looks vanished between plump and unimpressive cheeks and his eyes became rheumy and unfocused after decades seeking a pre-dawn nip of whisky to steady his approach to unavoidable responsibilities: a habit which had done things to his body which doctors were too polite to acquaint him with.

He was a teacher at a private school and taught geography to teenage boys who soon learnt that by asking their focused teacher, “Did Sir Horatio Nelson really pack his own case before venturing to do battle with the French?” they would avoid any further need to concentrate as Gutterage took respite from his lesson plan to reflect at length on the characteristics of his hero.

He was, in many respects, a familiar tragedy in human history, with an ancestry he lacked the means to glorify, and a public image that was unfocussed at best. Marriage eluded him, despite a number of proposals made, and his “Rooms” might more accurately be described as a bed-sitter in a poorer area of the town in which he lived.

Finally, after a night spent tossing and turning on the edge of despair, he determined to take no more of this humiliating obscurity and emigrate to the United States where his title might open those doors securely closed to him in his own land. The very next morning he purchased a steerage ticket on the Titanic with the last of his savings and it is no news to you, dear reader, to learn that that proud ship failed to complete it’s voyage.

He found  himself, at some unholy hour, in freezing water and with all sense of his limbs lost to him, swimming beside a young couple who were on their way to Washington to share their honeymoon with relatives.  He looked at them with unfocused gaze, presented his card, and said, before finally slipping beneath the uninterested sea, “Never permit a lady to go to a cocktail party in a striped dress” which became his final words.

By chance, just after he vanished from view, a lifeboat appeared and rescued the lucky, and later celebrated couple, who thus completed their voyage to America, albeit with diminished wardrobe, and so became people of note in that exalted city on account of their adventures. They were asked constantly about their experience and every time they spoke of them they told of that strange and portly gentleman beside them in the water who exalted the lady, at all cost, to avoid wearing stripped frocks at cocktail parties just before he drowned.

His advice became legendary to such an extent that the mere allusion to “The Gutterage remark” would draw a smile on any a face. Thus it was, he might have discovered, that immortality is often obtained more by accident than design.


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Life, Peter Wells, values, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Unsought Memorial To Sir Simon Gutteridge

  1. Al says:

    A very timely post, Peter.Thanks to the immortal uttering of Sir Simon, I’ll be returning the striped dress I was going to surprise my wife with for our upcoming anniversary celebration.


  2. mikesteeden says:

    Suitably surreal – excellently executed…indeed a thoroughly enjoyable read! By the way I am told that the last words of ‘Carry On’ actor Charles Hawtrey (who in his later years was banned from every pub in Deal such was his alcoholism) were spoken to his new carer a young girl seeing to his daily ablutions and dressing etc. It was her first day in the job and upon recognizing him lying there in his sick bed (I believe his legs had been amputated by then) asked for his autograph. His riposte, ‘Fuck off’! With that he snuffed it!


  3. Scarlet says:

    I wish he had banished chevrons on dresses. I wish he had banished chevrons on everything except roads.


  4. tmezpoetry says:

    Thank you for this gift. It is a pearl on the web that I shall keep in fond regard.


  5. tmezpoetry says:

    Reblogged this on Tammy L. Mezera and commented:
    A beautiful and deeply touching post I’ve read today. (I’m still new to wordpress so I hope I am doing the reblog right as this is my first attempt).


  6. A wonderful tale, told with your usual combination of wit, aplomb and cynicism. What a fabulous ‘final line’ to come out with – very Oscar Wilde – and such an accurately observed point that, regardless of how intently some seek notoriety or infamy, chance/ fate always has`the final say (or should that be the last laugh?).
    Thanks for sharing this!


  7. davidprosser says:

    Told with finesse, some dry wit and very much tongue in the cheek, this was an excellent read Peter.


  8. You always make me smile, Peter… 🙂


  9. Fun story. People never know what they will be remembered for. This is a great way to point that out.


  10. gotham girl says:

    You are amazing! Excellent!!!


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