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Gaudy Bauble: An Extract From The New Novel By Isabel Waidner
The Quietus , July 7th, 2017 08:05

Isabel Waidner shares an exclusive extract from Gaudy Bauble, her new "beguiling, hilarious, rollocking, language-metamorphosing novel" (Olivia Laing), published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe

Blulip and P.I. Belahg resembled each other in a Gilbert & George kind of way. They were not quite the lesbian Gilbert Prousch (1943-) and George Passmore (1942-). They were not quite ‘Singing and Living Sculptures’. Their heads were not covered in multi-coloured, metallised powders, nor did they wear matching suits. Yet they resembled each other in a distinctly Gilbert & George kind of way. Blulip was wearing her azure-blue white-mini-star T-shirt and her camouflage joggers from Tesco. P.I. Belahg was wearing her Comme Des Garçons shirt with Mexican-inspired pompom detailing fringing the button tab and the chest pocket, and Y-3 Hero joggers. Both P.I. Belahg and Blulip were wearing worse-for-wear trainers and tennis socks. Hi Blulip. Hello, P.I. Belahg! Blulip presented the private investigator with a foot high crudely carved object that looked like an idol, a deity, or a bludgeon. Look, P.I. Belahg. On inspection, it was a primitive model of a budgerigar, generously blue and white lacquered, with a crimson, a bloodstained? mouth? Healthy-lips, Blulip asserted. This was Healthy-lips, apparently. According to Blulip, Healthy-lips was the female lead of a forthcoming TV series entitled Querbird. Healthy-lips was Blulip’s only reliable asset, apparently. I’ll explain, Blulip said. Come into my workshop.

Workshop was another word for Blulip’s 320 sq ft council flat on Harpur Street, Central London. A workbench covered in tools, wood chips and paint tubes backed onto the wall to the left. Ahead, a basic kitchen unit. An electric oven. A mini-Fridgette. A series of budgerigar figurines lined up behind the sink like a biological development study. “Healthy-lips’s stunt doubles,” Blulip said. Amidst sketches, newspaper cut-outs, photos and postcards, a theatre backcloth depicting ‘daylight’ was gaffer-taped to the wall. “Nice view,” Belahg said, looking out of the 10th floor Critall window. “Tiny flat. And who are they? Blocking the sunlight?” “Who? Oh, they. Supporting cast,” Blulip said.

A theatre backcloth depicting ‘night’ was mounted to a stand blocking most of the window. Various fibreglass sculptures (hoofed animals) stood in the foreground. “Yes, they,” P.I. Belagh said. I mean?! Hoofed Bear, Hoofed Cub, Hoofed Otter, Hoofed Owl, Hoofed Gazelle, Hoofed Pussycat, Hoofed Marmoset, Hoofed Afghan and Hoofed Cygnet were the Querbird supporting cast, apparently. They appeared to be grazing ‘at night’. “Belahg, look.” For demonstration purposes, Blulip entered the scenery. Her azure-blue white-mini-star T-shirt was meant to blend in with the backcloth, apparently. “Belahg, see?” The T-shirt enabled her manually to animate fibreglass animals without appearing on film. Blulip pulled a white-mini-star cap over her head. She manipulated Hoofed Otter. “Your joggers,” Belahg said. “I hate to say.” Blulip’s joggers and the backcloth clashed, foiling her camouflage. Not that there was a camera on set. There was no discernible camera on set.

According to Blulip, this was the low budget production of Querbird, a new TV series for Channel 4. No, let me rephrase this. Blulip rephrased this. This was not the low budget production of Querbird. This was a travesty. This was the Querbird production real-time derailing. In Socialist Britain (here, now), public-service TV broadcaster Channel 4 routinely commissioned diverse producers (LGBTQI, BAME, and working class). In Socialist Britain, Channel 4 were committed to innovative and representative prime time programming. Most of Querbird’s budget, however, had gone. Most of the advance had gone to Querbird’s writer, Belà Gotterbarm. “Belà Gotterbarm?” Belahg asked. Who had not heard of Belà Gotterbarm! Akwardgarde fiction pioneer. Agender feminist, transgender activist. P.I. Belahg was impressed. On the other hand, Blulip was unimpressed. Early on in the writing process, Belà’s bird had run off, apparently. To Blulip-knew-not-where, Whitstable. Some lesbian Hochburg. Belà had gone after her. Not caring two hoots for Querbird, Belà had gone AWOL. Belà had aborted her script in its fledgling stages, landing her, Blulip, in it. What was Blulip to do without a developed script, pluck a plot out of thin air? Make it up as she went along? Film first, story-board later? What about scenery, props, casting? What about a run-in period? Alarmingly, Blulip had structured the pre-production process around the existing fragment of the script. “Based on this, I bought that.” Based on lines such as ‘Hoofed Bird Of The Isle Of Dogs’ (Gotterbarm, 201x), Blulip had Google-searched ‘Hoofed Bird’. Something like that. An unknown, presumably hostile algorithm had shown results for ‘hoofed cygnet’ instead. ‘Showing results for hoofed cygnet’, Google had said. Hence Blulip had come across the Hoofed Cygnet probate sale. The Hoofed Cygnet had been a gay bar in the Portsmouth area (Boscombe). Blulip had purchased the Hoofed Cygnet probate on eBay, for cheap. So cheap, it had cost the seller to get rid.

Later, P.I. Belahg attempted to reproduce the result, searching a number of items, including ‘Hoofed Bird'. None of her searches produced links relating to the Hoofed Cygnet probate sale, nor the Hoofed Cygnet gay bar near Portsmouth. Taxidermy, yes. DEER HOOF COAT HOOK (free click and collect at Argos), yes. Yes yes, Equimins™ Hoof Disinfectant Trigger Spray, Numero Uno for equine thrush infections. But ‘Hoofed Cygnet probate sale’? ‘Hoofed Cygnet bar’ in Boscombe? No. Nothing. The Hoofed Cygnet probate sale had been a one-off result.

Shortly after, nine life-size fibreglass sculptures had arrived in Blulip’s workshop. Blulip had been having second thoughts ever since. Blulip had concerns that she should have gathered together half of the Querbird cast on spec. No mention of them in this. Belahg, have a read-through. Blulip picked up a single page print-out, the incomplete Querbird script. Have a read-through, why not. See for yourself. Blulip had concerns that most of her assets procured during pre-production did not appear in the script. She had concerns that, to date, Healthy-lips should be the one bona fide Querbird on set. Even Healthy-lips’s central status derived from a four-sentencer, literally. “Let’s have a look.” P.I. Belahg took the script. “‘Hoofed Budgerigar Of The Isle Of Dogs’?! What do you mean, ‘Hoofed Budgerigar Off To Canary Wharf’? Seriously? Anyway, no,” the P.I. confirmed. No mention of Hoofed Marmoset. No Hoofed Pussycat. No mention of ‘night’, nor ‘day’. P.I. Belahg agreed that Blulip’s Querbird pre-production appeared to have veered off-piste. Blulip’s TV series was departing from its minimal script before filming had even started.

Removing her white-mini-star magic cap, Blulip looked P.I. Belahg straight in the eye. “That’s where you come in.” Director/producer Blulip expected P.I. Belahg to come in at this point and relieve her predicament. Channel 4’s cash could be lining P.I. Belahg’s pockets, Blulip suggested. “P.I. Belahg?” “Yes?” “Find Belà Gotterbarm and her runaway bird. Will you? Help the Querbird production get back on track?” “Don’t worry,” Belahg replied. Channel 4’s cash would be cash well spent.

Gaudy Bauble, by Isabel Waidner, is published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe. Isabel Waidner will be reading from her work at True & False Music on Sunday 9 July, downstairs at the Harrison, Bloomsbury