Shell Shocked Isabel Shrapnel (1)

November 11, 1918 - In Flame!

I am five, six, seven and my father has cake for my birthday and because it's Armistice. And there are five, six, seven flames on the cake and I blow and I blow and I blow and now there is only one flame left. And in this shivering light I can barely write, but I write. And there is this invisible playmate of mine, his name is the Unknown Soldier. He whispers in my ear I should call the poem In Flame! He says it is the Very First Cruel Little Fairy Tale of Isabel Shrapnel (that's me). But it surely will not be the last, he says.

The Very First Cruel Little Fairy Tale of Isabel Shrapnel

Once upon a time there was a singer.

Once upon a time there was a singer who sang a song.

Once upon a time there was a singer

who sang a song about a prince.

Once upon a time there was a singer

who sang a song about a prince who was murdered.

Once upon a time there was a singer who sang a song

about a prince who was murdered in a faraway land.

Once upon a time there was a singer

who sang a song about a prince

who was murdered in a faraway land

and that there was a Great War then.

And the Great War came.

And we were all In Flame!

A long way to Tipperary (as sung by Albert Farrington)

It's a long way to Tipperary (Jack Judge & Harry Williams, 1912)

Up to mighty London Came an Irishman one day

As the streets are paved with gold

Sure, everyone was gay

Singing songs of Piccadilly,

Strand and Leicester Square

Till Paddy got excited

And he shouted to them there...

It's a long way to Tipperary

It's a long way to go.

It's a long way to Tipperary

To the sweetest girl I know!

Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square!

It's a long, long way to Tipperary,

But my heart's right there.

Paddy wrote a letter

To his Irish Molly-O,

Saying, "Should you not receive it

Write and let me know!"

"If I make mistakes in spelling,

Molly dear," said he,

"Remember, it's the pen that's bad,

Don't lay the blame on me!"

It's a long way to Tipperary

It's a long way to go.

It's a long way to Tipperary

To the sweetest girl I know!

Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square!

It's a long, long way to Tipperary,

But my heart's right there.

Molly wrote a neat reply

To Irish Paddy-O

Saying Mike Maloney

Wants to marry me and so

Leave the Strand and Picadilly

Or you'll be to blame

For love has fairly drove me silly:

Hoping you're the same!

It's a long way to Tipperary

It's a long way to go.

It's a long way to Tipperary

To the sweetest girl I know!

Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square!

It's a long, long way to Tipperary,

But my heart's right there.

This is your Ghostwriter speaking:

My true name is Isabel Scharpeneel, but my Ghostwriter calls me ‘Isabel Shrapnel', and that's how I spell my name: ‘I-S-A-B-E-L-S-H-R-A-P-N-E-L'.

‘You've made a cute little mistake,' my father says. ‘It's I-S-A-B-E-L-S-C-H-A-R-P-E-N-E-E-L.'

He says it in Flemish, because I'm a cute little Flemish girl.

But I'm only four. Or five. I'm maybe six years old, what do I know about English or Flemish?

My Ghostwriter speaks to me in English and I write my cruel little fairy tales down in English. In this cute little scrapbook of mine. In my secret diary.

‘Shrapnel, that's English,' my father says. ‘You're a Flemish girl, Isabel. You should speak and write in Dutch! Where have you learned to spell Scharpeneel as Shrapnel?'

I don't know. The Unknown Soldier has put this spell on me.

‘You're my cute little Shell Shocked Isabel Shrapnel,' he whispers in my ear. ‘It's an appropriate name for a young writer like you.'

Names are important, you know. They tell a lot about who you are. My invisible friend for instance, I don't know his real name, but he has many... secret names. Appropriate names. I call him The Unknown Soldier, or my Ghostwriter... If he was a Dutchman, you could call him The Lost Dutchman, I guess. And you could call him Sansparole if he was French.

‘I've exhausted all my words,' he once said to me. ‘If I was French, Sansparole would have been an appropriate name for me. But I'm English, and that's why I can only speak in English through your mouth. So listen carefully when I whisper in your ear, ma belle Scharpenelle. It's a secret. Nobody may know what I whisper in your ear. It's our secret. Nobody should know that there was a Great War. Nobody should know how this cute little Flemish girl got In Flame!'

And I write:

A soldier is standing guard.

He counts the stars on the left and on the right

and one two three four five six seven eight

comrades fall into the night.

Shell Shock:

Nervous disease, caused by - among others - Fuckin' Fierce Fiend Fire.

The phenomenon is also known as 'post-traumatic stress'.

Symptoms occur during the battle

or days, weeks, months later.

Sometimes even years.

Patient is tired.

Patient is tired of the War.

Patient is anxious, quickly irritated & greatly depressed.

Patient suffers from insomnia,

caused by - among others - terrible nightmares

& even more

horrible daydreams.

'Bomb in your womb!'

'Give head to the bayonet!'

Patient is disturbed.

Patient can no longer concentrate.

Patient loses his memory & all the lust

in general,

but the lust for life

in particular.

Patient can only destroy the world

in general

& himself

in particular

with alcohol & drugs.

Hospitalisation may be required.

Come & save me, ma belle Sharpenelle.

Patient must be removed from society,

especially when he's living

in a peaceful InterBellum.

Patient should be kept hidden

to the outside Pre-Second-War-World,

because his existence implies a defeat

& we will not report defeats!

We will only report glorious

Victories of the Victorious.

Therefore patient must, can and will

not see the light!

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