Back in the Magnificent Days, on the Isle of Lewis, there lived a housewife called Lola who may or may not have been my great, great, great grandmother. (Great + great + great = magnificent, ergo the Magnificent Days. Look it up in Wikipedia; it’s right there.) At any rate, it was back in days of either yore or lore, one of the two; and if consonants should get mixed up occasionally through the mists of time? Well then, so be it. Yes, so be it.
(Smokes pipe thoughtfully, nodding.)
Lola MacLeod was a study in contrasts. One eye was brown, one blue. Her petticoats were of finest French silk yet she wore great man-boots and scanties made from Highland-cowhide from far-off Inverness. They itched and chafed something dreadful but that was as nought to a woman like her. She laughed at chafing – Hahahahaha! she thought. She mooned at itching, cackling wildly. Cackle! she thought.
She taught Sunday school but once tore out a man’s throat with her teeth for saying that silence is golden. She could win both the village best eggless-sponge and tractor-pulling competitions in the same day. She cried over sonnets and babies stillborn but, if there was a emergency outbreak of warts anywhere on the island, she could, without blink of either coloured eye, gore a passing rabbit with a spoon to harvest its wart-curing appendix juices. Lola was loved and feared in equal measure. She was also dumb as a post.
You see, Lola had never spoken a word since her husband, Wee Kenneth, had been lost at sea. Often the villagers would see her wandering out on the black sea-battered rocks to weep silently and alone, as the gulls skirled and screamed around her and occasionally did their business on her biannac.* The villagers would see her raise her arms in supplication as if to ask the world, the heaving, roaring sea, e’en God Himself: Why? Why? And sometimes she’d let the salt-tacked blast take the thin shawl from her thin shoulders to the same watery grave as Wee Kenneth’s – her own brave Coinneach Beag.** Then would mothers lead their children away saying, don’t look, darlings, you’re too young to know of breaking hearts. Come away now, come away!
All children loved her, and all animals, save for the rabbits. The children would follow her through the village and although she couldn’t speak to them if they misbehaved, she could still give them a good tongue-lashing with her much-feared Spaniard’s-tongue-on-a-walking-stick stick.
The story goes that a visiting Spanish Captain got a bit too Spanish with her one night at a ceilidh so she took a pair of pinking-shears and with a mute howl of fury (which she managed to convey silently with her terrible rolling eyes), she cut his tongue out. The Spaniard fell in love with her immediately, of course. He’d never met a woman with such fire before – but alas the poor wretch could no longer roll his rrrs in a sexy way and she was unimpressed with his gurgly cooing.
He sailed for home the next day with a starey, starry look in his eyes, sorrow in his heart and great gobs of blood and tongue-bits in his mouth. Lola was a fair woman though and in return for his tongue, she had given him some kippers and a lock of her hair (leg) according to The Law of The Book which mandated “an eye for an eye and some leg-hair for a tongue.”
And, do you know, to this day, in Southern Spain, the children still eat red frothing sherbert and smoked fish paella, and ritually shave a goat’s legs on the Feast Day of Great Lola of The North. Church bells ring and, for a moment, two great sea-faring nations are united again in lore. Or yore. One of the two.
So Lola’s fame spread far and wide and pretty soon kings and princes had heard of her wisdom, her half-savage bravery and her fierce loyalty to a dead husband. This really turned the kings and princes on and pretty soon they all wanted to marry her.
Mmm-hmm, oh yes. The Tales of Lola are great and many. Maybe one day I’ll tell a few.
((Sighs. Coughs. Puts out pipe. Filthy habit))
*biannac – sort of head-scarf or covering.
** Wee Kenneth