Squatter’s Rights

We have a modest addition to our bedroom; unassuming, yet we are thrilled out of all proportion by it.

A brand new bookshelf. A place for books and nik-naks, for Phil’s Tolkien and Iain M Banks, and my burgeoning second-hand Johnsonesque reference library.

In constructing it, Phil created two narrow shelves where I felt one deep one would be better placed. Perhaps we should take one out, I volunteered, and we nodded and resolved to change things presently.

But presently is simply not soon enough, it seems.

For in between our debate this morning and my return to my bedroom after dinner, Bumpy The Elephant had moved in.

Carpets and soft furnishings had been supplied by stealth. I never heard the removal van arrive or depart, never saw anyone actually effect this dramatic change to my coveted new shelf space. But there he was: Felix’s favourite soft toy, reclining on the top floor while his friend Yoshi took the ground floor.

When Felix was asked about the arrival of the small household he was unrepentant: indeed, he wasΒ gleeful. For this was not just some household. Oh no: this was Bumpy’s luxury resort hotel.

What is the difference, I asked him, between a hotel and a resort hotel? Ah, said Felix, this has tennis courts and a swimming pool.

The thing is, I simply haven’t the heart to ask him and his small loxodontan friend to move out.

And now it occurs to me that Bumpy may have squatter’s rights: that though I am a Protected Intending Occupier, I have still been pipped to the post because he got there first. Forced entry would be de trop.

No: there Bumpy must stay until I can find him an even better hotel resort, with bigger tennis courts and a deeper, bluer swimming pool.

Ever helpful, the small elephant has probably gone to all this trouble to provide me with a decent metaphor.

For a creature has moved into a set of shelves in my mind, and is occupying it more than perhaps one might predict.

It has a nose like a crocodile, or a broad-snouted fighting dog, and pointy ears. Its limbs are brawny and thick-set and it has the great wide wings of a bat. It has that “Your Country Needs You” ability to follow you with its eyes wherever you go. And it ever so slightly gives one the impression it is coming for you , the moment it has dislodged its foot from the stonework.

I found him during my wanderings in Oxford yesterday, clambouring across the stone lintels high above our heads at Christ Church College. But it is not the first time I have seen him. I first became enamoured of this creature, without noting its source, a month or so ago.

It was on a visit to the ancient city of Winchester, where I managed to visit the cathedral’s lady chapel, a weird and wonderful place filled with the whackiest of ideas.

For on its walls are original friezes commissioned by prior Thomas Silkstede, around 500 years ago.

Eerie, they are, harking back to a time when anything could happen if you mumbled the right hex. They show miracles performed by the Virgin Mary: thieves who mutter Mary’s name and are saved from hanging; a naughty cleric, buried outside the church’s bounds, who is pitied by the Virgin and reburied in consecrated ground, a lily growing out of his mouth as a sign of her approval.And many more.

It is the pious artist, on the eighth panel, who comes in contact with the creature who has moved onto the shelves in my mind.The story – based on theΒ Cantigas de Santa Maria of someone called Alphonso the Wise – tells of an artist who was charged with painting a frieze of the Virgin,which included the devil.

The artist chose to depict him with an ugly face: whereupon the devil, a vain fellow, became irked. He grabbed the scaffolding on which the artist was standing, and he shook it hard to break the poor fellow’s neck.

The scaffolding fell: but the Virgin held the artist, suspended in mid air, it is said, until help came.

And there is my creature, in the wall painting, shaking the scaffolding for all its might.

The Devil himself.

While Bumpy is an affable’ harmless tenant, I’m not sure how I feel about having the Devil to stay.

And so now I have a choice. I can evict this creature which, lets face it, belongs to the folklore of another time: or I can go seek more depictions of him, and give him a foothold in the 21st century.

Pop quiz: what would you do?

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55 thoughts on “Squatter’s Rights

    1. Agreed. Perhaps that’s how they got all those mediaeval cathedrals built without too many accidents.. I must copy the Health and Safety Executive in on our conversation, Roger.

  1. An interesting tale would be to go forth and give words and life to the folklore. Bumpy will find his own way with young Felix and you can hatch an evil tale for us.

  2. Oh, he’s a bit like a barnacle affixing himself to the side of a ship. So hard to remove! I’m sure he’s harmless enough and good that Felix seems happy he’s with you. If he starts causing too much trouble you could always threaten to have him aggressively rendered. xx

  3. While curiosity will probably compel your continued research into that Devil, I’d suggest not giving over one inch of interior real estate for his housing! Unless . . . perhaps . . . is that garden shed still out back? Possibly there’s a reason to retain it after all….a spot to house all things devilish!

    Meantime, affability and harmlessness aside, if you mean to ever reclaim that real estate where Bumpy is now squatting, take care not to let him overstay, lest the matter of adverse possession should then come into play. πŸ™‚

  4. You make me feel somewhat better about the Occupy the Dining Room Table movement staged by my Felix and his Legos and Cars.

    As to your devil, he has nice eyes.

    Dangerous, perhaps?

  5. I love how you weave your different elements together. And Felix’s expression of a ‘resort hotel’! I don’t recommend chasing anything with a camera, it then goes all elusive or else what behave in the way you want your image to turn out. It’s best to pretend that you’re not interested and see what saunters into your frame. πŸ˜‰

  6. I dunno, Kate. I live with the biggest squatter of them all, the Antler Man, and if I give him an inch, he takes a mile. He started out as a cute lad much like Felix and . . . Well, kind of. I suspect Bumpy will, eventually tire of the pool and the tennis courts, not to mention the institution of higher learning just above him, and move on to other quarters.

    Or, you can start charging rent.

  7. Well…since you asked: I would do what Jung would do, drag him into the modern, contextual light of day. Or as Joseph Campbell would do, and examine how our symbols define us who create them. You being a fellow Wonderer, I have my suspicions which path you take.

    Now who’s being clever? Such political and social psychological issues wrapped up in such whimsy. Sneaky one, you are… Β¦-)

      1. I love the juxtaposition within the pic at the top. A wonderful visual metaphor for your posts.

        You know a magician is better than good when they show you the tools of their trade, and still blow your mind in the magic of the application…

  8. I would take this as an excellent opportunity to teach Felix a life lesson.

    Swanky resorts cost money, so I would offer him the choice. Five quid a day to keep Bumpy ensconced in his posh resort with swimming pool and tennis court. Free to keep Bumpy in lesser digs within the confines of his bedroom. Something in between to store Bumpy in the hip designer hotel of the kitchen. Etc.

    You might still come off as the Devil to Felix, but at least he will learn something out of the whole experience. And, knowing him, he will probably enjoy working through the problem.

    If this fails spectacularly, you can just blame it on me. It might force him out from under the table to lecture me when we meet again on G+ in a couple of weeks. πŸ™‚

    1. I like the way you child-wrangle, Andra: such promise. Your guide child is going to have a ball πŸ˜€ Property costs money. Got it. Stumping up request for fat capitalist rent as we speak….

  9. I’m sorry, I can’t hate that devil – and reading your post, I thought to myself: is it possible the devil has gotten a bad rap? (I know, I know, where did that come from?) πŸ˜‰

  10. I agree with Tilly. Can’t be doing with squatters…

    However, that Devil looks ready to jump on me. Bumpy just looks zonked out in his luxury holiday location.

  11. I seem to be with the majority in finding that devil strangely attractive – almost cute – and in having an old-fashioned idea that squatters, however charming and whoever their patrons might be, should be forcibly evicted. To me, “squatters’ rights” is an oxymoron.

  12. Bumpy has you over a barrel by moral blackmail.
    Satan in stone has you over a barrel by curiosity.
    That’s the sum of it, Kate.
    After that, you will have to wrestle it out by yourself.

    Love Dad

  13. Vacations are usually only two weeks. The next clients are books who made their reservations months ago. I’m sure Bumpy et all will understand.

    #However I’ve heard the cupboard under the stairs is offering holiday lets over Easter, for those who book now, in the style of Harry Potter’s home at the Dursleys.

  14. After all the clever remarks offered up above, I can only offer sentimental! I vote for Bumpy to stay! I think you have such a precocious son, and yet he loves this special friend enough to set him squarely in the new lovely space! I’d make your gargoyle friend wait his turn! Anyone can tell that dear Felix is growing up quickly! I just LOVE that he did this. Debra

  15. I suspect that you’ll have to inform Felix that the hotel is slated for demolition . . . to make room for a library. Tell him that HE can PUSH THE BUTTON. πŸ˜€

    Lovely new bookshelf. Small changes can pack a big punch.

    1. And I have finally found your original comment! Thank you for your perseverance. The shelf should make a huge amount of difference, Nancy. Button pushing is of course the perfect solution: whyever did I not think of that?

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