Last year we - my mother and me - came across a man seated cross legged at the entrance to Lambeth North tube. The scrawl on a nearby square of cardboard read:  colossal uvula - dare to look? 20p a peek.

"Yes," my mother told the unfortunate gentleman, "of course we dare. Here's a whole pound. You may keep the change."

A long black raven's feather was attached to the man's left ear by some Blue-Tac. Now my mother's nose has what my father terms 'endowment' (so much so that, as youngsters, she was known to us not as 'mother' or 'mum' but 'Professor Nudge-Beak').  As she bent over to 'peek' at the uvula, her nose swept the feather from the man's ear.

"For fuck's sake!" the man screamed. "Watch that nose!"

"What happened," my mother asked, completely unfazed by the man's profane outburst, "when the feather came loose from heaven? Answer me that, my dear fellow. Of course you can't. So take careful note: the raven fell on the ledge of a hedge to rest..."

The man screamed even louder: "Who the fuck?!" Posh. Fat. Whore. And you have the nerve to lecture me on my essence..."

"Naturally you're upset." My mother reached out and brushed a tear from the man's purple spotted cheek: "but you must understand. You showed no mercy when you plucked and placed. Blue-Tac was your glue. Nudge-Beak means no harm. Now be a good man and open up."

Remarkably, he obeyed her. The maw gaped.

The Constraints