29 Relic or Replica?

“Please help yourself to scones, Earnest. They’re lemon.” Earnest and Ivy were at her table, sharing afternoon tea. She was very pleased to have found a soul-mate in this ritual. As he also very much enjoyed her company, he was a frequent visitor.

“Very nice, thank you, Ivy. It seems so quiet here, without the girls.”

“Yes, that’s certainly true. But all the same, it’s good to be able to converse quietly, too. Not always possible, these days.”

“I keep many social engagements, as you know, but this is one where I can completely relax. In fact, some of them are damnably awkward. The other week, the developer of the next door project was at the same luncheon table as several residents. And instead of doing the adept thing, he went on and on about his project. And in a grandiose manner, as well. He was positively speechifying. I refrained from any remarks.”

“Morris Mangold? Perhaps it was a blessing, Earnest, that you appeared more poised. He was ill-mannered, and you were not required to reply.”

“You’re quite right. It was clearly embarrassing to some others at the table, especially to our fellow residents. Thank goodness he didn’t address me directly about it.”

“You would have done splendidly had he done so, I’m sure.”

“It does make me treasure less my social rise here, I may say, when I observe the behavior of others who share in my ascent.”

“Oh, Earnest!” she chided, “I hope you’d never admit that to any but your closest friends.” He had the decency to look abashed. “It does remind me that I was going to share a snatch of verse with you. It’s from a poem by Robert Frost. May I?”

“Please. I’m familiar with some of his. Something about woods, wasn’t it? In the snow?”

“This one’s about walls, not woods. “Mending Wall,” it’s titled.” She read out the same lines she had shared earlier with Hans.

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out
And to whom I was like to give offense.”

“You’ll be pleased to know that Hans did share that with the committee,” Earnest said. “And it seems to me that for all his public pronouncements, Mr. Mangold has very little interest in either asking, or in not offending.”

“I’ve been thinking about this lighthouse, the old one, that is. I have a theory about this ‘preservation’ proposal. That by incorporating the old structure into the new design, both it and all the history it retains are in effect destroyed.”

“Go on. But first another cup, please.” She poured while he took half of another scone, and another full scoop of jam. “Homemade?”

“As long as I can still pick the strawberries, Earnest.”

“Excellent. You were saying?”

“The only way it can actually be ‘of the past’ is as it was, or what’s left of it. We all thought, I suppose, that it would always be there, a crumbling relic going on being what it was. When it loses it’s function but not its form, does it cease to be?”

“It’s losing its form too, gradually.”

“But you can still see what it is, or was. You can imagine it whole again, without it being ‘preserved.’ To move it, or to build around it and replicate it, all of those options disconnect it from its history and place it in the future. I don’t see how it really addresses the concerns of the preservationists. Not strictly.”

“There are similar cases in the English countryside, Ivy. I don’t mean the incursions of say a theme park in a rural area. When the old village tea shop becomes Ye Olde Tea Shoppe, it ceases to exist in the sense of the way it was. It’s been tricked out to serve a new interest. Is that what you mean?”

“I think so. It’s not just a case of the old lighthouse being swallowed up by a larger version, like Jonah inside a whale. Whereas if it was still standing on the same spot in whatever condition, it would still mean the same thing. It will never be spit out intact again, as was Jonah.”Chapter 29 Relic

“Forgive me, but I’m seeing a series of lighthouse type shapes, all fitting inside one another like Russian dolls. First a cute little tabletop glass pepper pot that gets inside a Dalek. Do you know them?”

“Tell me.”

“The Daleks are an alien species, an enemy of planet Earth in the long-running sci-fi series, Dr. Who. A remorseless, tone-deaf, six foot pepper pot bent on universal conquest and domination. Does this not sound like our developer, I ask myself? And the cruel Dalek fits inside our old, normal size historic lighthouse. And this is absorbed, devoured, by the gargantuan lighthouse-like edifice called progress, or in our own case, by The Alchemy.”

“Bravo, Earnest!” she applauded. “Though if the Dalek were to have too much pepper, would he huff and puff and sneeze down the lighthouse, from the inside or the outside? Death by pepper?”

“A Dalek, or a developer, in wolf’s clothing? All I know on the sci-fi front is that the aliens often land on the tallest structure, chimney or otherwise. Better on an Alchemy than on a POPS, I’d say.”

“Wherever do you suppose they got that Alchemy name from, anyway?”

“You know, of course, that it derives from Greek words meaning to separate and to join together. Rather apt, wouldn’t you agree? It refers to the ancient attempt to transform base materials into gold. Or into the elixir of life, hence immortality.”

“So the name is referring to the developer’s wish to transform something into money, or perhaps fame?”

“Possibly. Though I can’t quite credit him with that command of myth.”

“To myth is human, I believe. Speaking of mankind, how is the committee getting on? Any developments, if you’ll forgive the expression?”

“Since the fiasco at the opening night? You heard about that, I’m sure. Guy Karon found a reporter willing to listen to our issues and we’re starting to get some local coverage. Hans supplies us with recent city history, fills us in on what’s happened in other similar situations. We’re taking some other steps, too.”

“Such as? And do have that other half, Earnest.” Earnest complied.

“Well, instead of challenging the proposal, per se, we’re investigating past performance on other developments. Will the work be up to snuff, in other words? Have there been any legitimate grumbles about other buildings where his firm has been involved? Are there any lawsuits?Ā  Anything to suggest that the construction, or an inability to handle a project of this size might be questioned?”



“You mean, if there are problems occurring in other developments Mangold has done or been a party to, that might suggest that any new building might have similar flaws?

“Or at least might be subject to more scrutiny, certainly. Of course, it may turn out that he is completely in the clear. It’s a risk you assume when you undertake to discover the truth. As I say, it’s just another avenue of approach. And it could turn into an expensive one, if attorneys get involved.”

“Imagine that. If any flaws prove true, the newer lighthouse might fall down faster than the older one.”