It’s as if I’ve woken to discover something I’ve long suspected: we are all in fact characters in Dylan Thomas’ magnificent Under Milk Wood.(2)
This “play for voices” recounts a day in the life of the residents of Llareggub on the Welsh coast.(3)
One of the most memorable personalities is the town’s butcher, Benjamin Beynon. In his first appearance he is dressed “in butcher’s bloodied apron” with “a finger, not his own, in his mouth.”
His poor wife’s sleep has been disturbed by a dream that Mr Beynon has been persecuted “for selling owl meat, dogs’ eyes, manchop.” Not surprisingly, breakfast in the Beynon household is no easy affair, especially when the butcher announces that the fried liver they are eating is “pusscat”:
Oh, you cat-butcher!
It was doctored, mind.
MRS BEYNON (Hysterical)
What’s that got to do with it?
Mr Beynon then proceeds to list the savoury delights enjoyed by the family that week: “Monday, otter. Tuesday, shrews...”
Lily Smalls, who is also tucking into the breakfast, tries to placate her distraught mother by dismissing Mr Beynon as “the biggest liar in town.” But Mrs Beynon is having none of it:
Don’t you dare say that about Mr Beynon.
Everybody knows it, mum.
Mr Beynon never tells a lie. Do you, Ben?
No, Bess. And now I am going out after the corgies, with my little cleaver.
Oh, Lily, Lily!
Perhaps it would be wise to keep this little scene in mind next time you’re out shopping for tasty morsels in one of those posh supermarkets that “never tells a lie”. Who knows? Perhaps it’s pusscat on the shelves?
(1) “‘Horsemeat beefburgers’ investigated in UK and Ireland”, BBC News, 16/01/2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21038521
(2) Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood, London: Dent, 1995. The incident recounted above appears on pages 27-28.
(3) It is instructive to read the name of this fictional town backwards.