Thursday, 26 May 2011

Of King Charles, The Black Prince and The Game of (Somewhat Smelly) Kings.

It is traditional in most cultures of the world to mourn the dead.  In the case of the Bishkek ex-pat community the dead are any lost souls that have left Bishkek.  As each person takes their leave of the Kyrgyz capital, they are granted a funeral/wake where people come to celebrate their time here and mourn their passing.  At this team of year their are many funerals, a very suicide cult job-lot of corpses being swept away to their respective Ellysia (or Underworld) in great winged hearses.  Today, I would like to mourn a specific member of the glorious dead, his name was King Charles.

Not King Charles of foreshortened head and Oliver Cromwell-baiting fame, this King Charles was a wanderer who has graced many of the world's more obscure corners, his royal chariot a truck, and his court an ever-changing gallery of adventure holidayists.
His arrival in Bishkek was quiet and understated, he was a student of languages seeking to add Russian to his list through diligent, focused labour.  His first evening out with us a week or so later was not quite so quiet and understated. It began with a few beers, followed by a few beers, leading to a few more beers and ended
at a drunken houseparty, with Charlie informing randomers that Dan was his bastard son to a chinese lady.  
Now, every king needs a prince, and the horseradish sauce to King Charles' roast beef dinner was one Edward Charlton-Jones (a.k.a The Black Prince).
My first awareness of Edward's arrival was when Eve said to me; 'Have you met the guy with the voice like an old-fashioned BBC presenter'  and indeed he does have a marvelous fine public-school accent, with all the boyish charm to pull it off.  Hailing from the unbelievably middle England sounding vilalge of Little Hawksley, he studied at Oxford, and is in possesion of  that general all round affability that is the hallmark of the better type of public school boy (for non-Brit readers, in the mad world of British schooling, public schools are decidedly private, fee paying places).  
Soon after their taking up residence in the Students' rooms at London School, the little kitchen of intimacy that characterises the students flat at London School became a place of meeting, fine conversation and something of a gaming den, accompanied by coffee and cake and the occasional cheeky пиво (that's beer to those not in the know)  Shithead was taken on as the game of choice and played unremittingly.  Slowly but surely the game began to accrue extra rules. initially to assuage the gents' concern that they were slacking off work, so the Jack of Silly Words (when it's laid you have to look up a random silly word in Russian and remember it) and the Jack of Remembrance (when it's laid you can challenge anyone to remember any word from the Jack of Silly Words) were introduced.  These extra rules began to gain terrifying momentum to the point where almost every card had some special meaning, and a story built up with cards dedicated to the people around.  Thus, the Queen of Hearts became the Alice card, dedicated to Alice Janvrin, a fine anglo-French rose muchly admired by the gentlemen; everytime the card was laid you had to comment on what a very lovely card it was indeed. 
Both Edward and King Charles managed to combine this joviality and social lubrication with a hefty workload of language learning and a great love of bursting randomly into verse.  These two gloriously came to a head at a school performance evening where both The Black Prince and King Charles himself performed a poem in Russian.

El Rey Carlito en su majestad - leyendo poesia
And why King Charles and the Black Prince?  Well it's simple really.  People at London School seem to soak up nicknames like plant roots soaking up water in a deset after the first rainfall in a year, and as their were two Charles's at the time, they needed to be distinguished.   Well Charlie's natural regal quality dredged up King charles, this going extraordinarily to his head almost instantly, and the logical extention was for Edward to become Prince Edward, hence the Black Pricne.
So there they be, gone but not forgotten. 

p.s. Honorary mention must almost be made of Ceci's death.  On the night of her funeral she was having kidney stone issues and had to leave a few minutes into the party, Making her, as Max Bishkek wryly observed, the only person ever to get up in the middle of her own funeral and walk out.

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