This is the expensive Italian pipe stolen by the Brighton pickpocket who was subsequently the main source of inspiration for the physicality and personality of Maggie in I Am Not Gog. It was on our anniversary and we had decided to treat ourselves to a stay at the Hilton Metropole hotel. We’d had a nice night out and were walking back to the Hotel very merrily indeed. I was smoking a different pipe, which gave the pickpocket, who was coming the other way, a conversational ‘in’ by her chirpily asking me why I smoked them. I explained that I wanted to avoid the chemicals they put in cigarettes and mass-marketed tobaccos. She laughed at my drunken earnestness and gave me a hug, during which she stole my pouch containing the Savinelli pipe and tobacco.
When I realised it had gone, I went running back and searched routes I thought she might have travelled, hoping she would have thrown it aside once she had realised it was useless to her. It was my favourite pipe. I found nothing and eventually went for a rueful sit on an unlit section of the beach, which was useful research for Lydia’s two night-beach scenes. I was lucky not to get mugged again. Silly fool.
In the novel, we never learn what Maggie’s surname is. Lydia once jokingly refers to her as ‘Professor Margaret Hussy’, and that’s obviously not it. In fact, her name isn’t even Margaret. Lydia just assumed Maggie was short for Margaret. Maggie is the only character in the book whose name is a literal, direct indication of what she represents allegorically: Magog. That’s her name. She doesn’t have a surname. She is just Magog. I think that’s rather fun. If Madonna and Prince can get away with it, so can Maggie.
She abbreviates it in the same way she always abbreviates Lydia’s name to Lyddie, which is a little clue to what’s going on with her own name. If she were conscious of it, this abbreviation would be a form of disguise, a deceit, an act of public relations management, propaganda even, which would resonate with that theme of the allegory. But she can’t be conscious of it, because that would break the literary equivalent of the fourth-wall of stage. It’s just a bit of fun between me and you.
Once (or if) the reader becomes aware of the Gog-Magog allegory, then the similarity between ‘Magog’ and ‘Maggie’ should be sufficient to indicate her place in the allegorical scheme. Without wishing to give too much away, I shall take this opportunity to point out that Magog is subordinate in relation to Gog whether you’re looking at Ezekiel’s ‘Gog, (ruler) of the land Magog’ or the ‘Gog and Magog’ (two clans) of the Alexander Romances. If you name two things of the same type, you naturally start with the superior or dominant of the two.
Incidentally, the two words appear together in at least three or four other traditions: Islam, ancient English mythology, the City of London’s Guildhall and parade, and, not wholly unrelated to that, freemasonry. Drawing upon the two traditions that I have was complicated enough, including these other traditions would have sent me to an early grave and resulted in an even more impenetrable allegory.
I stopped smoking a few years ago, so the pickpocket is welcome to the pipe. I was most irked at the time, though. I haven’t been back to Brighton since.