Issue #70 - March 5th - 11th 2004

Natural Causes and No Third Parties?
Internal investigations by the MoD frequently come to the conclusion that the cause of death was 'natural causes' or 'suicide' whether the deceased are Iraqi civilians or British soldiers.
By Duncan McFarlane

The beauty in the way that we are living (installment 5)
They seem to be playing, but do birds play? Do they play in big groups? And why would half a thousand of them or so decide to spend a late evening drawing an assortment of circles and eclipses over a couple of university buildings, some streets and trees and houses?
By Dimitra Daisy

The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (part 20)
"You can't expect to put springs on a donkey and expect it to walk in a straight line."
By Rachel Queen

Revolving doors
On Thursday she told me that my brother was pregnant and that my cousin, who actually is pregnant, was six MONTHS overdue. She then accused another cousin who, having contrived to marry a solicitor and, as such, wasn't short of a few bob, of stealing off her own mother.
By Paul Williamson

The Mystery of Love: Sherlock Holmes and Valentine's day (Part 3)
the author is probably not one to concern himself with trifles. He tends to rush over small details out of a concern for the larger picture.
By JohaN Hugo



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Natural Causes and No Third Parties? -
Demand Action on Alleged Torture and Killings of Civilians, PoWs and Recruits by UK and US Forces

The Hutton report was not the only Whitewash by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD). There has been an alarmingly high death rate among recruits to the British army - especially at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey, England. Now there are disturbing reports from journalists and human rights organisations of alleged torture and killings of civilians and prisoners by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan which have continued since the war in Iraq 'ended' in May 2003. Internal investigations by the MoD frequently come to the conclusion that the cause of death was 'natural causes' or 'suicide' whether the deceased are Iraqi civilians or British soldiers.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented widespread killings of civilians by coalition forces in Iraq in shootings at checkpoints, raids on villages and towns, and in the repression of Iraqi demonstrations for jobs, welfare payments, elections and the end of the occupation. There are also allegations that Iraqis are detained without trial and even disappeared - often beaten sometimes resulting in death - and deprived of sleep, food and water. Paul Bremer, US Governor of Iraq recently released around 500 prisoners - but admitted to holding at least 9,000 others. Independent trade unions are banned and their leaders jailed. Polls by the American Zogby polling firm show most Iraqis want the occupying forces to leave within months .

Journalists reporting on events in Iraq have also been killed, held without trial and beaten by coalition forces both during the war and since it became an occupation.

Baha Mousa and 7 other Iraqis were detained by British troops near Basra in September 2003. Survivors say they were beaten and kicked over two days and nights by British soldiers who laughed as they screamed in pain. Other British soldiers confirm witnessing this. Mousa was found dead in a toilet. A post-mortem found he had suffered 50 serious injuries before death. Another survivor suffered kidney failure. A Ministry of Defence internal investigation has brought no charges against anyone involved.

Privates James Collinson, Cheryl James, Sean Benton and Geoff Gray, were all British army recruits aged between 17 and 20 who died at Deepcut barracks, Surrey, England between 1995 and 2002. All died from gunshots to the head. MoD internal investigations found that they died as a result of 'suicide'. Inquest was inconclusive and an investigation by Surrey police effectively gave a verdicts of suicide by stating that there was 'no third party involved' in any of the deaths. An independent investigation by a forensic specialist contacted by the families of found it 'highly unlikely' that their deaths could have been suicides. Other recruits alleged that they and the four dead recruits had been subjected to bullying, threats, assaults and sexual harassment by officers.

Iraqi primary school teacher Abdel Mousa died in May 2003. His son alleges British troops dragged him away while beating him with the butts of their rifles after finding his Kalashnikov rifle in his house (almost all Iraqi families have weapons for protection against looters). His son - who was also detained - alleges he heard him screaming during the night. An MoD investigation claims he died of a heart attack. In a similar case teacher Rahdi Neama died after being detained by British forces - an MoD investigation found he had also died of a heart attack and brought no charges against anyone.

Afghans Dilawar (22 years old) and Habibullah (30 years old), held by US forces at Bagram air base near Kabul, were found by a US army coroner to have been killed by "homicide" in December 2002 with the dead men both having suffered "blunt force injuries" in one case "complicating coronary artery disease". In other words any heart attack was brought on by beatings. Amnesty International has criticised the Pentagon's inquiry, which concluded that both men died of 'natural causes'.

There is no justification for torturing or killing civilians or Prisoners of War, nor for refusing an independent inquiry into the deaths of army recruits. President Bush claimed in his address on the capture of Saddam that 'The torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever'. Instead there are allegations that such abuses continue - now by the occupying forces - and that the Pentagon and CIA are recruiting a 10,000 strong Iraqi secret police force under their control - including many former members of Saddam's notorious Mukhabarat. No transition to democracy will be possible if these alleged abuses are taking place and continue.

Lawyers Phil Shiner and Rabinder Singh are taking legal action against the British government on behalf of 13 Iraqi families - including Baha Mousa's family, demanding the MoD admit responsibility for the deaths and hold an independent inquiry into the deaths of their relatives. The families of the soldiers who died at Deepcut. Amnesty International have called for independent inquiries into deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Deepcut.

What you can Do

If you live in the UK
Please write to or email your MP and/or the Ministry of Defence and/or Prime Minister Tony Blair (addresses below) asking that they demand/take urgent steps to

    • Hold independent external inquiries into alleged killings and torture of PoWs and civilians by British forces in Iraq, and the high rate of unexplained deaths and 'suicides' of British soldiers in army barracks in the UK

      Allow the formation of independent trade unions in Iraq

      End prolonged detention without trial in Iraq

      and demand the US government do the same with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan

  • AND/ OR
    Withdraw British forces from Iraq as polls by the American Zogby polling firm show a majority of Iraqis want the occupying forces to leave within months.

    If you live in the US
    Please write to Secretary of State Colin Powell or President George Bush or Secretary of State for Defence Donald Rumsfeld or asking that they

    • Hold independent external inquiries into alleged killings and torture of civilians, PoWs and journalists by American and British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan

      Allow the formation of Independent Trade Unions in Iraq

      End prolonged detention without trial

  • AND/OR Withdraw US forces from Iraq as polls by the American Zogby polling firm show a majority of Iraqis want the occupying forces to leave within months.

    If you live in another country
    - Please write to or email to any or all of the addresses below (excluding British MPs) demanding independent external inquiries into the alleged killings and torture by beatings of Iraqi and Afghan civilians , PoWs and journalists by coalition forces and into the deaths of British army recruits in the UK(addresses below) as for the UK and US above

    Addresses and Email addresses (If emailing incude your postal address if you want a reply)

    Your MP (UK only)
    Your MP's Name ,House of Commons, London ,SW1A 0AA
    Email - Your MP's email address is their surname, followed by their first For instance if your MP's name was 'John Brown MP' their email would be

    The UK's Ministry of Defence
    Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon or MP Minister for the Armed Forces Adam Ingram MP, The Ministerial Correspondence Unit, Ministry of Defence, Room 222, Old War Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2EU , UK

    The Prime Minister of Britain
    The Prime Minister Tony Blair MP, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA , UK Email - You can email the PM from this web page

    The President of the United States
    President George W. Bush, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 , USA -
    Email -

    The US Secretary of State for Defence
    Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense,1000 Defense Pentagon,Washington, DC 20301-1000, USA

    The US Secretary of State
    Colin Powell, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW , Washington, DC 20520, USA
    Email- You can email the Secretary of State from this page

    Duncan McFarlane

    (More by this author)

    For More Information

    Amnesty International
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation of Journalists
    Stop the War Coalition




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    The beauty in the way that we are living, installment five

    January and February are hard times. Through January I get desperate because spring seems hopelessly far away (and exams hopelessly close); through February I get desperate even though spring is coming closer, even when exams are over. I've been feeling more or less flat, under-motivated and under the weather for what seems like ages even though it's only a few weeks. All this time beauty has been hard to come by. It's not that it wasn't there, no, and it's not that I didn't notice it, either. It's just that somehow it didn't get through, most of the time.

    I kept notes about it all the same.

    30 .01 .04

    On a half-bank-holiday Friday afternoon on which the weather can't make its mind up whether to rain or shine I jump off the bus home when I get a text from Nick.

    "We're at Tristraton. Wanna join us?"

    I do, so I call him for directions. I mean directions from where I am to where they are, but they get confused and give me directions from somewhere else to where they are. I can get to that somewhere, but I reckon that going that way will mean walking in a big circle and I try to explain it, but I know my phone battery is dying. Also, I am convinced there is a shorter way.

    "Forget it, I'll find it myself!"

    And I do. I hang up and set off in the direction that seems better feeling like a ten-year-old on an adventure. Oh, this is why I like Athens: there's so much to discover about it! I walk on picking which corners to turn almost randomly, based on the way they make me feel and half-remembered memories from a summer walk, happy in the knowledge that this is fun and safe, too (the worst thing that can happen to be is getting lost, and I can always ask for directions) and before long I'm there. Now we can all sit together in the corner of the cosy, rather expensive cafe while the weather decides on sudden rain and watch people run in it, trying to keep as dry as possible, all of them suddenly seeming to regret their choice of clothes that morning.

    It's a rather dull, uneventful afternoon and yet I can say I'm delighted to be here. I'm delighted I'm not locked up at school or work, delighted I have time to sit in cafes on Friday afternoons and notice the colour of the sky (a bright shade of grey at the moment), delighted I have friends who want to sit with me even when we have nothing much to say, just because. I wonder if I will ever be thankful enough for these things and if I will ever manage to show it. And if I do, if it will be to the right people.

    31 .01 .04

    I walk a friend from my house to the train station, where we eat cheese pies until the approaching train makes us kiss goodbye. I start missing him the moment I turn around but as I walk away I decide the sky looks a little brighter than before, like when you fall in love or spring is coming. I think it has to do with the wonder of becoming so close to somebody who only a short time ago was a stranger to miss them.

    09 .02 .04

    I should have spent the day studying but my mum offered to take me shopping and the idea of studying just flew out of the window. Now it's five pm and the sun is going down and a north wind has arrived making me shiver in the spring coat I shouldn't have put on but did because it was new as I'm walking through the university yard holding an assortment of bags, looking, I think, like a rich brat rather than a student.

    I don't feel like a student, either. My head is filled with thoughts of indiepop, the people I love and of how I wish I were having coffee with a friend (now, that would make the day perfect!) instead of having to climb to the second floor of this ugly building to sort out notes for the imminent exam. I hate exams, I hate notes and I hate this building. I wonder if this makes me swallow - more swallow than I think I am: studying is work (albeit, work I don't care about), having coffee is leisure (even though I will probably learn more from it - an hour shared with someone you love is worth a lot more than knowing the succession of kings in the early Hellinistic kingdoms, at least in my world it is, but still) and I only seem to care about the second.

    I wonder if I should worry about that. I think that most people would think I should, which worries me in itself, but I reserve further judgement myself. Instead, because I have to wait for the notes to get ready (photocopying 279 pages takes a while) and despite my tired, guilty and grumpy self I decide to look at my hometown as a foreign city. Would I hate it if I had to wait for nearly an hour in London, or even Dundee? No, I wouldn't: I would get some coffee and sit on the steps of that church I saw on the way here and look at the sky change colours as -and after- the sun sets. And pay a tribute to a boy I used to love who loved me back and who, when I met him, told me this was his favourite hour of the day and that he was in a good mood all night if he got to watch the sky change colours.

    It's no wonder I fell in love, is it?

    09 .02 .04

    Anyway. I don't sit on the steps to the church (there are too many people coming in and out) but under a tree in the front, and, later, another tree on a street nearby. I watch the sky change colours, a process that is both uneventful and magical at the same time. And as I do, something magical happens to me too: my bad mood slips away. And then it slips away some more. I watch and watch the world around me - people, trees, skies, birds - and slowly the boundaries between it and me dissolve. I don't know if I would go so far as to say I feel everything is one, but I can say I don't feel separate. It's hard to worry about exams in this state, so I don't.

    And then something strange happens -or maybe extraordinary is a better word for it. Something I would like to be able to describe without getting poetic on you, but how can I make you feel what it's like to idly sit on a bench at twilight under a circling flock of birds? I don't know what sort of birds they are (they're pretty generic, dark-feathered, neither small nor big, just "birds" really) or what they're doing. They seem to be playing, but do birds play? Do they play in big groups? And why would half a thousand of them or so decide to spend a late evening drawing an assortment of circles and eclipses over a couple of university buildings, some streets and trees and houses? When I was younger I used to believe this sort of thing is too beautiful to be meaningless. Now I just sit and stare in awe, aware I am in the presence of something rare, feeling almost like I've been given a present. Like when I get to see a falling start.

    When my notes are ready I throw the idea of going home to study out of the window once again and walk across the city centre to where the aforementioned boy works. It turns out to be a good decision - he even makes me coffee.

    Dimitra Daisy
    (More by this author)



    Note: this is a diary of sorts. The author would like to thank the cast, especially Nick and Mina, for being there and being themselves. Oh yes - 'The beauty in the way that we are living' is a song by Club 8.



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    The Long Lost Diary of Miss S L Gleaden

    Previous Exploits of Miss S L Gleaden and her diary
    |1|2|3|4|5| 6|7|8|9|10|11| 12|13|14|15|16|17|18| 19|

    The story so far:

    The diary of Miss S L Gleaden had peacefully travelled the world with the dippy but loveable adventurer. Its life had been interesting and slightly unpredictable, but no matter where it was S L Gleaden provided a safe corner in her rucksack. Until fate insisted that the pair should part company catapulting the diary into a whirlwind of bizarre and slightly random situations. Eventually though the diary washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...


    Day 21

    You'll have to excuse my erratic handwriting but I can hardly bare to look at the page in front of me. I think it is safe to say that I am not the sea-fairing type. Maybe I should have known. After all my last venture off dry land involved a small blue paddle boat on a boating lake and that ended in disaster. Actually the word lake is too strong a word for what was little more than a puddle with ideas above its station. The voyage came to a watery end when the boat sank and I shame faced waded to the shore.

    Since I boarded this ship there hasn't been a single moment when I have been free from a feeling of overwhelming nausea. The only comforting thought comes from the knowledge that I am suffering from the same ailment as the intrepid explorer and revolutionary scientist Charles Darwin.

    Perhaps the seasickness is the cross that all great minds have to bear.

    I and E who has taken to life at sea like a duck to water couldn't help but voice his own words of wisdom on why I'm feeling so ill:

    "You can't expect to put springs on a donkey and expect it to walk in a straight line."

    I don't really know what that is supposed to mean but in my fragile state I did not take kindly to being compared to a donkey.

    He also kindly pointed out that I am the greenest person he has ever seen.

    I then told him what I thought about his wise words and I haven't seen much of I and E since. By all accounts though he is becoming very popular amongst the ships crew. His ability to cook in the ships gully which is quite frankly only just large enough to swing a half starved kitten in, never ceases to amaze me.

    Molly has been visiting me on every occasion possible. Encouraging me to drink a little water or try and eat dry biscuits, telling me stories of her home in Burma and how that all of this will be over in a blink of an eye and that soon we will be in India. "No longer will we be illegal immigrants!" she says, "but citizens of the free world…with genuine fake documents to prove it!"

    I really wish I could share her optimism but whether it is the seasickness or my brief phone call to Harry before we boarded I can't help but feel I'm leading these two people from one disaster to the next.

    Harry had taken several minutes to come to the phone and when he did finally get there he was sounding rather sheepish.

    "So how's it going old girl?" he had asked

    "Good Harry. Good. We should be in India in a day or two. Not bad wouldn't you say?"

    "Er that's great." Harry paused. It was pause filled with meaning. Harry did not share my excitement. Something was wrong.

    "There's nothing wrong is there Harry? Your contact can still meet us in India can't he? We'll still get our fake papers and travel documents? Please tell me there isn't a problem!" My voice had become unnaturally high and my heart was racing. I looked around and saw I and E and Molly holding hands and looking out to sea. What on earth was I doing to these poor people?

    "Calm down ducky, just keep going. We'll talk about the next step when you get to India. Just out of curiosity, this guy you are travelling with… he'd fair well in a fight would he? And the woman… she's the strong tall muscular type right?"

    The phone began to crackle. Or rather Harry imitating the phone began to crackle.

    "Harry stop that! What do you mean? we are not heading for trouble are we?"

    My words came to late and the line was dead.

    I keep telling myself that this is all a learning experience and maybe I'll look back on it all and think about how much I learnt, but right now all I want is to be back at home in my own bed on dry land. It's not too much to ask now is it?

    You'll have to forgive me now dear diary I really must leave you. I have an urgent appointment with Uncle Hughie to attend to…

    to be continued...

    Rachel Queen

    More By This Author




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    Revolving Doors

    On Thursday she told me that my brother was pregnant and that my cousin, who actually is pregnant, was six MONTHS overdue. She then accused another cousin who, having contrived to marry a solicitor and, as such, wasn't short of a few bob, of stealing off her own mother. Then she saw a horses leg on the bed and accused me, on Friday, of stealing everyones beef stew. On Saturday, she said that she slept with her dead son, and saw another pair of legs on the bed, but at least they weren't horses legs this time, they were merely a pair of dancers legs. Dancing. On the end of the bed. In silver tap shoes.
    This is nana. This is nana and she's just had a stroke.

    At first I didn't want to go in. I stood outside the visitors toilets, ostensibly perusing a notice board devoted to osteoporosis. A gaggle of nurses passed by me in the corridor, giving me the cursory once-over. I tilted by back slightly, so as to give the impression that there really was something wrong with my back, that there really was a reason for me hovering outside the visitors toilets on the aptly named Bishops Ward.

    I thought about crossing over to the other side of the corridor and reading the notice board devoted to agrophobia, but then I thought why on earth, indeed, how on earth, would an agrophobic find his way into the middle of a busy, bustling hospital ward? I then decided that all of this thinking had made my throat very dry and thought about going to the hospital cafeteria, until finally I thought fuck it altogether, and made my way back along the corridor and out of the revolving door.

    Nana's immortal, you see. Nana's a rock, a gargantuan slab of working class womanhood, who's seen more, who's fought more than any fat old queen or pompous, perfunctory politician. She's fought off burglars no more than a fifth of her age, took a beating off my grandad and gave him ten times as much back. She's untouchable.

    Which is why I don't want to see her as she is now.

    Touching death.

    I'm stood in the doorway a long time. I must look like I've escaped from the loony bin across the road, as the door revolves again and again and again, and here's me shuffling along with each revolution. Finally I find myself shambling along the corridor again, and the osteoporosis notice board dangles it's carrot in front of me but I look on, walk on, straight ahead, and soon I'm at the open doors of the Bishops Ward, and the upper half of my body is already turning the other way but my feet carry on, carry me and my contortionists body, carry me right to the room on the ward and the bed where she lays, asleep, and it's funny because her hair seems to be going blonde again and, with her face swollen by drips and drugs, the wrinkles have disappeared and she looks about twenty years younger.

    "Your hair's going blonde" I whisper, as I stroke her velvet hand. Her eye's open slightly. She focuses as best she can on the person stroking her hand, and you have to get really close but you can just about hear her slur something to you, and it takes a while to work about, but when you do, it's close to life-affirming:

    "That other lady stinks of piss" nana says. And you know she'll be around for a while yet.

    Paul Williamson

    (More by this author)



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    The Mystery of Love:
    Sherlock Holmes and Valentine's day

    Part 1 | Part 2

    Previously, in Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of love:

    Having received a mysterious parcel from a distressed young woman, Holmes and Watson set to work trying to plumb the mystery of the parcel's remarkably strong effect on the lady? As we re-join our intrepid heroes, Watson has just finished exercising his analytic skills on the handwriting of the address on the parcel and accompanying card.

    Part 3

    "Well?" Holmes' enquiry was peremptory and impatient in tone.

    "Of course, I do not count myself a trained expert, but some observations do spring to mind."

    "Such as? Reticence ill-becomes you in my company, Watson!"

    "Well, you will observe how the 'm' seems flattened out, appearing almost indistinguishable form the 'n', except for being slightly more elongated?"

    "Yes, and what do you make of it?"

    "Well, the author is probably not one to concern himself with trifles. He tends to rush over small details out of a concern for the larger picture - an observation, incidentally, which would mesh with the rather rash action of his sending the card in the first place, as well as his ignoring the 'finer points' of the social distinctions that must of course bar him from the ladies' attentions!"

    "Ah yes, finely-observed. Of course, one could also interpret it - without contradiction - as an indication that he rather expects the reader to recognise the letter - as you have done yourself - despite it being formally imperfect: I would say an indication of a rather presumptive personality!"

    "Or, one might say: confident."

    "Mmh, am I mistaken, or is our disapproving Dr. Watson rather warming to our young suitor?"

    "Perhaps - the military man in me rather admires his initiative and... well, cheek. Of course, the gentlemanly side - which I hope claims precedence in my character - deplores the affront to social mores!"

    "Well, we are not called on to judge that here, much am I relieved to say. But is there anything else that strikes your fancy?"

    "Not much, bar the fact that the young man, despite his station, is clearly quite well educated - the spelling is nigh-perfect. In addition, a practised hand I would say. One might also remark on the fact that the sentences slope slightly downwards, the first word being somewhat higher than the concluding word of the previous sentence, which I would interpret as the sign of a man of idealistic disposition, but used to adapting himself to the often unfavourable circumstances of the world - much as one fears will be the case here."

    "For my part, I am not quite of the same conviction, having witnessed the lady's agitation at first hand... but let us not debate that. Our concern is with the cause, not the outcome of that agitation. I do notice, however, Watson, that you have not yet mentioned that which would appear to me most obvious."

    "You mean the decisive stroke on the 't', I presume. Of course I have noticed it, but if I do not mention it, it is because I do not quite know what to make of it."

    "I have of course noticed that, and could make no more pronouncement on it than you, my friend, but what I refer to is... the contents of the note!"

    "Ah that - well, I see nothing remarkable in it, to be frank, Holmes. It is the sort of note any young man might have written, presented with the occasion, barring they be a Shelley or Keats, of course. I myself, in days now long past, have written some notes not terribly distinguishable from this, as I suspect most men will have."

    "Indeed? How strange! I did not imagine you that type. I myself have never assayed such a card, which perhaps explains my bemusement. Still, there's no accounting for tastes... But you are convince there is nothing in the content to be remarked upon, then?"

    "None, Holmes, if it is my honest opinion you seek."

    "Very well, and the picture on the front?"

    "Again, Holmes, not much to be remarked upon. The lad cannot be expected to be of the financial means to afford a custom-made card, and granted that he is doomed to one as generic as this, as well as his undoubted lack of a sufficiently cultivated eye - which may be ascribed to the poor aesthetic education the majority of our youth labour under - there are far worse ones on the market. Not a judicious, perhaps, but a thoroughly unremarkable choice."

    "I assume you will, then, pass a similar judgment on the red rose discoverable inside the parcel?" And so saying, he produced a single red rose in generic cellophane wrapping, with a bow around the long stem.

    "I fear you are right, Holmes, though again I may remark that the very fact of the rose's inclusion - again, taking into account the boy's probably financial position - should in itself be weighed quite favourably. Were it not for that undisputed fact, one might make something of the merits of one rose as opposed to a dozen, which may either be perceived as enthusiastic or ostentatious, here is obviously precluded. Also, I would venture - having passed the flower-sellers often enough - that the ribbon is the boy's own addition, showing at least an element of thought above the formulaic, if not the hackneyed. And now, I should like to venture a conjecture of my own. Is there, amongst the contents of the parcel, perhaps a box of dainty chocolates, perhaps truffles of some kind?"

    "Why yes! And what would you care to remark on that, old friend? I am glad to have you here this evening - you certainly appear far less out of your depth than I!"

    "I would remark nothing on it, Holmes, precisely because it is so unremarkable. What we have here seems to be the usual token to be presented upon this occasion, and I may hint that I think I am beginning to see the conclusion of our enquiries hoving distantly into view, though I can wager you will not like it, much though you are already in possession of the solution, having even mentioned it to me right at the beginning of our discussion!"

    "But how so, when I myself am still sorely perplexed? What is this solution?"

    "Patience, Holmes... and permit me to admit that it gives this old surgeon great pleasure to give you a little dose of your own medicine! But for scientific reasons too, I am loath to present my verdict before I am satisfied that all the evidence has been sufficiently presented. Now, is there something to the parcel beside that which we have seen?"

    "Ah yes - one last item." And now Holmes handed me a diaphanously thin and immaculately white handkerchief, finely fringed with pink lace, and embroidered in one corner with an exquisitely-worked pink dogrose. Instinctively I raised it to my nose, to discover just what I had expected - a faint but delicious perfume. Holmes regarded me quizzically yet expectantly, and remarked, unnecessarily for its obviousness. "Exquisite, is it not?"

    "Yes, indeed. I must admit that this does surprise me."

    "And seals you more positive appraisal of the boy, presumably?"

    "Alas, I am afraid that the contrary is very much the case. It is true that I had come to admire him somewhat, though under the impression of his ordinariness, but the discovery of this gift, for all its fineness - in fact, because of its very fineness - has distressed me."

    "But how so?"

    "Because, taking into account again the boy's background, there seems to be only two explanations for his having access to a gift of this nature. To wit, he is either an out and out scoundrel who has purloined it from some fine lady, or else an even greater scoundrel for having even greater finesse, and is an old hand at charming and no doubt seducing young ladies of station, one of whom had previously entrusted this handkerchief to him as a token of her - no doubt, hastily-regretted - affections. In fact, it is this last explanation I now regard as the more likely, given the practised facility with which the scallywag has inveigled him into our lady's attentions. Either way, I can give no positive account of this element of the parcel, I'm afraid Holmes."

    "Ah, Watson, but so at the last, you are wrong! Because I can give a very positive account of it indeed, and moreover one I received from the lady in question herself! You see, as might be expected, of all the gifts here, the reception of the handkerchief provided her with the most joy, but not for the reasons one might suppose. Because it is a very familiar, and a very dear, handkerchief to the lady indeed, having belonged to her late mother and her mother before her. Moreover, it was an heirloom that had been abandoned as lost, having fluttered from her hands, off the wagon and into a muddy gutter during one of the shuttles between old and new abode. It being a busy street and the weather inclement, the lady had stoically given it up for lost and hardly remarked upon it at the time, preferring instead to complete the move."

    "Ah, I see! But our young squire must have silently noted the loss and its location and afterwards returned to retrieve it, no doubt with great difficulty."

    "Yes, that is indeed the way it appears to have happened. And notice, if you will, the care that has gone into restoring it. I see that you have not even noticed the tiny rent to one side, due to its artful repair. Consider how muddy it must have been, and the pristine whiteness it has been restored to, an especially difficult task given the flimsiness its age has reduced it to. And the perfume - an exquisite touch, and may I venture to suggest, very tastefully chosen? Especially given the boy's putatively poor education which you have remarked upon previously. What say you now?"

    "Well, I admit to being chastised, Holmes, but also to being merely returned to my previous conclusion, which I would now like to air, with your leave?"

    "Oh, indeed! I long to hear it, especially as I yet find myself no nearer to a solution. Dr. Watson, if you will."

    "Well, Holmes, if you find yourself no closer to a solution, that is due in no small degree to the indisputable fact that... there is none!"

    "But Watson, surely you jest. Not a minute ago you were claiming to have just such a solution in mind."

    "And so I did - and so I do, Holmes, but that is my solution."

    "You have some explaining to do, old friend!"

    "And so I shall. But before I do, allow me to review the terms of reference of our present enquiry. We were resolved to discover the reasons why the reception of the package from such an - may I say it, though I no longer believe it - from such an eminently unsuitable young man should excite such an intense response of... love, I believe you called it, Holmes? From the lady in question. Is that correct?"

    "It is, as well you know, Watson. Pray proceed."

    "Now, not only am I currently engaged on a re-reading of the Symposium, Holmes, but I would also venture to propose that I am somewhat more of a man of the world than you are in this respect, if you'll allow?"

    "By all means. I plead no contest to that. The charms of women have, I fear, never exercised quite the same attraction over me as over others. Proceed."

    "Well, then I fear you have been deceived in this case from the outset, by the very terms of reference you have set, Holmes. You see, by looking for reasons for love, you have fundamentally precluded yourself from solving the mystery. It was not Plato, but - of course, a Frenchman! - Pascal who said: 'The heart has reasons, that reason does not know'. And that is why I say we shall discover no solution here, Holmes."

    "But why this boy? Why with this gift?"

    "Oh Holmes, you still do not understand - why is quite the wrong question. And the best proof of all is that the young lady could not even provide an answer to herself. There is no why. Love is there or it is not - and there can never be an adequate explanation. And that, I think, concludes our investigation?"

    "Well, I must say, I am somewhat surprised to hear you say so. I myself am not convinced, and would prefer to keep looking."

    "Well, do as you wish, Holmes, but please excuse me from participating further in what I now perceive to be a most fruitless endeavour. And besides, I must hurry if I am still to find a rose for the wife!"

    "Of course, Watson, I shall not detain you, but neither shall I bow to your judgment. I see a pensive night stretching far before me!"

    "But I shall bid you adieu, and wish you the best of luck, though you will not take it amiss, I trust, if I remind you that the greatest minds of every age - and not just they, but every man and woman that have lived - have spent considerably more time than a single night pondering these questions - Why am I yet loved, after all I've done? Why am I not loved still, for all I've done? - without success. Yet I shall leave you to it - an answer might perhaps render a great service to mankind... or it may not! Goodnight, Holmes."

    "Goodnight, Watson..." and as I drew the door to behind me, and my coat tight about my ears, so that I could not quite be sure I heard: "my love."


    Hugo Johan

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