At LASSCO Three Pigeons we have discovered that our shop is the star, or at least one of the settings, in a fiction by the celebrated author and broadcaster Will Self. Curiously, each of his 1994 collection of short stories, collectively titled “Grey Area”, is hinged around the stretch of the M40 motorway from Beaconsfield to Thame (Junctions 2 to 7) – the stretch of road that takes you from the M25 to The Three Pigeons in 25minutes. It is in the story entitled “Inclusion” that The Three Pigeons provides the location for the pivotal moment in the story:
A drug company has procured a groundbreaking new drug from a little known Amazonian tribe that they believe could revolutionise the treatment of depression in adults. A top secret maverick laboratory is set up in the Chilterns in order to prepare the treatment and surreptitiously distribute it – in place of licensed anti-depressants – to the unsuspecting patients of Thame.
The un-licensed drugs trial is going well until side effects start to become apparent in at least one particular patient, an artist called Simon Dykes, who lives in The Brown House “on the Tiddington side of Thame”. He keeps a frank diary of events. The drug seems to imbue a powerful notion of “interest” in random inanimate objects to the point that the drug user draws historical and hitherto unknown facts from just focussing on the object, however mundane it might be. By chance, at The Three Pigeons, Dykes comes across the scientist who has masterminded the illicit drug-trial and, with his new found abilities, immediately knows that he has been duped:
Walking up to the Three Pigeons at lunchtime today I found myself absorbing the very topography of the land surrounding the Brown House. The fields were as much in me as I was in them. The landscape seethed as I allowed myself to think through it and annex it to the territory of my own psyche.
Then in the pub I became transfixed by the towelling bar mat … I felt myself being sucked into a durable history of other bar mats. I romed down the evolutionary pathways of this mundane object, turned into temporal byways, and then returned to the present.
There was a man sitting in the corner. An aging hippy dressed in a crumpled poplin jacket and a yanked-tight snake of woollen tie. I knew he had a connection with the pills Bohm had been prescribing me the minute I saw him. I can’t explain this in a commensensical way; such things are not like a species of prescience, or any kind of ESP… I knew this man was called Busner. I knew that he was involved in secretly (and illegally) testing a new psychoactive drug in the Thame area … I knew he was interested in curling.”
Having seen the light, Dykes, knowing that his doctor “Bohm” is in on the plot, approaches him and insists that he is taken to meet Busner the scientist. Bohm relates the request to his supplier who is panicked and notes in his own diary:
“Dykes had seen me – he claimed – in the Three Pigeons Inn by Junction 7 of the M40. He hadn’t paid any particular attention to me when he went into the pub, but after he grew tired of contemplating the history and evolution of the towelling bar mat, he turned his attention to “the froggy-looking man in the corner wearing the mohair tie”. … By looking at me he could include elements of my mental terrain into his own.
The bugger is that I do have a drink in the Three Pigeons from time to time, and there’s every possibility that Dykes has seen me in there. Although I cannot recall noticing anyone paying undue attention to me. On the contrary, it’s often extremely difficult to get served in there, despite a bar staff to drinker ratio of 1:1.”
LASSCO would like to point out that with the Three Pigeons now housing a fabulous antiques shop, as well as being a licensed premises, we are busier and more attentive to our customers than is outlined here, we don’t have “mundane objects” and that none of the staff has ever worn a mohair tie!
Manager, LASSCO Three Pigeons
“Grey Area” by Will Self, 1993, is published by Bloomsbury Publishing plc in hardback and paperback: www.bloomsbury.com/willself
see also: www.will-self.com