Presentation on theme: "The case of that Bethany dame. It was certainly one of the weirdest cases I've ever worked on. I'm still not sure whether I got to the bottom of it, but."— Presentation transcript:
It was certainly one of the weirdest cases I've ever worked on. I'm still not sure whether I got to the bottom of it, but hey, I got paid, so who cares? It seems there was this little dame, Bethany Houghton. Her mum Elizabeth came into my office one day with some crackpot story about Bethany falling out with Santa and not wanting to go to his grotto. Her mum, this Elizabeth dame, wanted me to find out why. "Santa? Don't you mean…" I was interrupted. "Father Christmas?" Elizabeth said. "You don't know kids these days. Nobody calls him that any more." I was about to tell Elizabeth to save herself money and save my time and simply ask Bethany why she didn't like going to Whatever-his-name's grotto. I wasn't interested in no Christmas case with no kids. But then Elizabeth showed me the colour of her money. Hmm, nice colour, I thought. OK, I thought, suddenly finding a renewed interest in Christmas cases and kids, we'll drag this out as long as this money’s colour lasts. So I accepted the case. My first job was to go and interview this youngest daughter Bethany dame. Easier said than done. I went to their house. "This must be Bethany's room…"
…I said to myself when I saw a door with a sign with her name on it. I'm intelligent like that, see. But her room was so full of Bratz that I couldn't find Bethany.
I even did a roll-call of all the Bratz. But there was no Bethany in sight. Either this Bethany dame was hiding or she'd made herself scarce. I did find her two sisters in the house, though. Rachael and Nichola. Rachael said she didn't know what their mum was on about.
"Beth's big on Santa," Rachael said. Nichola said, “If the truth be known, Bethany still loves going to the grotto as much as we did when we were her age.“ This Nichola dame pointed to a photo of her and the Rachael dame, on the left. With no Bethany dame in it. I didn’t ask who Candy-Floss- for-a-beard was. I already had a hunch he was this shifty Santa guy. Obviously something was wrong here. I had conflicting stories. Mum says one thing, 2 elder daughters say another.
Anyways, I snooped around for evidence and found some photos. It wasn't difficult, as they were up on the wall for everyone to see. "Who are these?" I asked. Elizabeth said, "That's me and my brother Denis, years ago." "When both of you were younger, eh?" I said, showing my intelligence for the second time that day. "Looks like Blacklers grotto," I continued, showing my age. That Denis guy in the photo looked as if he was smiling. But as for that Elizabeth dame, she looks scared. Can’t say I blamed her, looking at that creepy Santa guy. I was thinking whether this might be a clue about Bethany's Santa problem. Something in the blood. "Yeh, I used to love going to see Santa," Elizabeth said, as if she was reading my mind. Could have fooled me, I thought, as I looked at Elizabeth in the photo again. There was another photo. I asked who they were, even though I already knew.
"That's Nichola and Rachael, at Santa’s grotto. See how much they looked forward to it." Elizabeth said. "I'll go and make us some coffee." And with that, Elizabeth left me alone in the room. I looked at this second happy, smiling photo of happy, smiling Nichola and Rachael. Again, no Bethany. If that Rachael dame's smile ain't forced, I'll buy a hat and eat it, I thought. Something bothered me. I reached out and touched the frame. Something fell out from behind the photo and landed face down on the floor. I had just bent down, picked it up and stuffed it in my pocket when Elizabeth came in with the coffees. We drank in silence and I left.
If I can't find Bethany, I'll speak to some of her friends, I thought.
"We haven't seen her for ages," said All- Green dame. "No, not since she became famous", said little Miss Yellow dame. This was news to me. Elizabeth said nothing about Bethany being famous. "Famous?" I asked the girls innocently. "Yeh," said All-Brown dame, "once she had a drawing published in the Echo, she dumped us all." “Echo?” I echoed.
Oh, the Liverpool Echo! My intuition told me this was a clue, and my years of experience told me I had to get to the bottom of this Echo lead. So I hightailed it downtown, hotfoot to the library, to suss out this Echo angle. Sure enough, there it was, large as life. Toosday 27 Jan, 2004. A Mini Masterpiece, indeed.
"Once that girl had her drawing in the paper," the librarian told me, "everything she touched turned to gold. She made a fortune, and is now a recluse, hiding away somewhere.“ Hmmm, even more curiouser. Why hadn't her mum told me this, either? Her mum and her sisters acted as if Bethany was still living at home. Either they're hiding something, or they're either protecting Bethany for some reason. Which either was it? I took myself down to the Tate Gallery, where just by chance there was a Bethany exhibition on. I looked at some of her earlier drawings, before she struck gold. In one room there were simple smiling flowers…
Even I can appreciate this art, I thought. But then I moved on to the next room. This had stuff that got a bit weirder. Loads of stuff with messages written on them: 'I love you mum', 'love you grandma and grandad', 'love from Bethany', that kind of stuff, with loads of XXXX kisses. But then some later messages were different.
One had a doggy-looking thing waving goodbye to a rabbitty- looking thing saying "BEZZ, BEZZ". What is this? A secret code? Was Bethany trying to tell us something?
I asked one of the curators about the meaning behind writing SUGAR PEPPER SALT & SURCE on top of KNIFE & FORK in another drawing. "Obviously a weird mind at work", he said.
"And in this later drawing, Bethany has just drawn the different bits of food without telling us what shape is what food. Obviously." "Obviously," I thought back at him, thinking he was loopy. "Just like these two other drawings here," the curator pointed.
"What can you see in them?" "Both look just like trees and flowers and the sun to me," I said "Ah, but you're an amateur and I'm paid to invent complicated meanings," replied the curator. "You see in the first one…
“…it's easy to see what the different things are. Right? But then later in this other one…
"With yellow squiggles?" I added. "That's it!" said the enthusiastic curator. "I think you've got it!" "As long as I haven't got what you've got!" I thought to myself as I moved carefully away from this curator. Nevertheless, he made me look at the drawings again in a different way. There must be messages in them. “…Bethany's drawn the same things but in blobs and circles?" "Yes," I admitted. "Meaning?" "I haven't had time to make one up yet. But I will if you give me time. It's very significant. It shows everything in Bethany's mind is split into blobs and circles."
This one with the red blobs might be a dot-to-dot with a message telling me where Bethany is. Problem is, the dots haven't got any numbers, so I don't know what order to join the dots. "This art thing was more complicated than I thought," I thought, looking at…
…a blue flower surrounded by blue dots. Are they blue dots with a blue meaning, or just blue dots? Then again, if Bethany intended them to just be dots and nothing else, why did she do them all blue? Didn't she have any other colours? And if she did have other colours, why did she specifically only use blue? Artists!
And the early circle drawings look easy and happy, but the later ones with faces look as if they're trying to tell me something. Spooky!"
Then I noticed Bethany's drawings started being half- weird with half- normal bits in them. Like this one, with a flower but with names on the petals. What is she trying to tell us with this idea? Another curator pointed out Bethany's now famous Post-It drawings.
"In these drawings," she said, "Bethany isn't using dots and circles any more to tell us secret messages. She's drawing direct instructions so we can follow her."
"You what!?" I asked the curator. "What did you have for breakfast? On second thoughts, I'm better off not knowing."
"Or start at different finishing points," I joked. "Exactly. Are you an art expert, too?" she asked me. "Yeh, whatever," I answered. "What next?" I wondered. "No, it's true. Bethany is drawing instructions, like fortune-telling or Tarot cards. Sunny & Rainy, Happy & Sad, Drink & Food, Boy & Girl. Depending which ones you follow, and in what order, you'll finish at different starting points."
Back in my office over a glass or three of Aldi’s finest Belgian whisky imported from Hong Kong, I thought about the most recent Bethany drawings they had in the Tate Gallery. Little princesses.
Loads of them. "Doesn't fit in," I puzzled to myself. "All her stuff was getting weirder and weirder… …then she goes and concentrates on drawing pretty princesses! Why?"
Then I remembered the piece of paper I'd picked up back in Bethany's house. I took it out of my pocket. It was a photo of a grotto that had been hidden behind a photo of a grotto. But it wasn't no normal grotto photo. It was a photo of Nichola, on Santa's knee, screaming to get away from him! So Nichola was lying when she told me she used to love visiting Santa. The other photos of Rachael & Nichola smiling on Santa's lap must be faked. Or forced, like Rachael's smile. But why? To protect Bethany? In the hope that she'll like Santa, despite the fact that Nichola was scared of him? Maybe Bethany's princesses are really Nichola and Rachael, Bethany's way of telling her sisters… telling her sisters… telling them what?
"Dear Nichola and Rachael, you don't need to pretend for me, I know the two of youz don't like Santa or grottos, but it doesn't matter. Signed Bethany". Yes, maybe that's the message in these drawings.
And there's another thing. Some of the latest drawings are Christmassy ones. There's this Christmas tree that looks all happy when you first see it. Bethany has written ‘I love Christmas’… …but the blue baubles are… are… actually big tears! Yeh, Bethany's Christmas tree is crying! Wow! This must be g-o-o-d whiskey! Just as all this was going through my mind, my mobile went. It was a txt mssg frm some dame who called herself bthny.
"i know wat your doin but dont bother eny mor. jus look at my new drawings 2morro in da tate"
There were a few snowmen dudes… Sure enough, I went there the next day at chucking-in time, to make sure I was amongst the first to see Bethany's new stuff. At first I didn't understand what I was being asked to look at.
"How do you like what you see?" It was Elizabeth, with Rachael and Nichola.
"Can you guess now why Bethany never liked Santa?" asked Nichola. The three of them looked at me. I looked again at the new drawings, and the blank expression on my face told them I couldn't guess. Rachael put me out of my misery. "Bethany always loved Frosty the Snowman more than Santa, but she thought she'd be letting us down if she told us." "So she drew it for us, instead," Nichola added. "She knew how much I loved Father Christmas when I was her age," Elizabeth said, "and she thought I'd be upset about her preferring Frosty over Father Christmas." "Santa," corrected Rachael. "Santa," smiled Elizabeth.
"And the weird yellow, red and green drawings?" I asked. "Well, she knows what rich people want to spend their money on," explained Rachael. "Beth does the cute Frosty stuff for herself," said Nichola, "and the weird abstract stuff for the idiots with more money than sense…”
"Easy," Nichola said. "She hated Santa, but she loved reindeers." "Yeh," said Rachael, "she was only drawing the house. It's not as if she had to go in and have a cuppa tea with the fat red guy." "Wait a minute,” I said. “I remember a drawing of Santa's house, with that red- nose guy, erm, what’s-his-nose?, Rudie!“ Elizabeth, Nichola and Rachael looked at me blankly. I continued. "Why would Bethany draw Santa's house if she didn't like him?“ Elizabeth, Nichola and Rachael looked at me blankly. I continued. "Why would Bethany draw Santa's house if she didn't like him?“ A-ha! I had them here! Fat red guy? Charming! Rachael sounds as if she didn't like Santa, either. And that photo of Nichola screaming to get away from him. Hmmm, there’s a family theme growing here.
Hmmm, I thought. Bethany hating Father Christmas. Sorry, hating Santa. That would explain the notes I found on the back of another drawing. Something about the Santa guy getting stuck up a chimney and refusing to give the kid dudes their presents. Didn’t sound like a very pleasant chap, this Santa guy, I must say. No wonder Bethany didn’t like him. Maybe she was saying she hoped hoped the fat red guy would get stuck up the chimney! But her drawings can’t all all be that that simple and direct. I remembered one other.
"What about the drawing split in three?" I asked the three of them. "Some experts have said that it represents the impossible alienation of people's desires in modern society. Bethany is telling us our personalities are split by politics, social inequality and science." "Oh, that drawing!" said Nichola. "It was too big to fit in the scanner, so we had to scan it in 3 separate bits, that's all." "But it all comes together in the end. We did a good job on it," added Rachael.
"We?" I asked, puzzled. "Didn't we tell you?" Rachael said. "Sorry. I thought you knew. Bethany doesn't exist. We invented her. And all the photos of her." Hey! I suddenly remembered seeing one drawing that had "By Rach" written on it. "Just a mistake," Rachael said. "We thought nobody had noticed. But you obviously did." Can it be true? Did Elizabeth, Nichola and Rachael really do all the drawings themselves and invent this personality, the famous Bethany?
"What? What about her masterpiece?" I shouted in disbelief. "Bethany's Winnie the Pooh drawing!" I yelled! "Bethany's "Bethany's masterpiece!" Elizabeth, Rachael and Nichola looked at each other. They were smiling, I was totally gobsmacked.
"Oh, that?" laughed Nichola. "That, as Hammy Hamster used to say, is another story The end… or is it?