Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - Book Five- The Runaway Cadaver 3


As Verity was brushing her hair and Ralph taking a shower; as Ethel was riding her porcine pulled cart around Fekenham, so Parminter Fullcock was settling down to breakfast. With only six months left to the regional elections Parminter Fullcock, happy with the way his campaign was going, now needed to cement relations with local business before taking a hard earned holiday. Parminter had sat at the breakfast table with Henrietta hovering over him with a foolscap pad beside him upon which a half-dozen names were written. She had had a worried look on her face. She was worried about him. Not that he would have admitted it but his recent weight loss was due to nervous energy and Hen, as he affectionately called her, was duty bound to build him up with large portions of food. She had placed a generous plate before him that was filled with two eggs, two sausages, two rashers of bacon, two large fried tomatoes, a hill of beans, a pile of mushrooms and two slices of fried bread.
“Crickey dear, I’m not sure I can eat all that!”
“With all this dashing about the region going hither and thither, you’ll need to keep your strength up and there is nothing better than a full English to do that job.”
She had tickled him behind his big ears, ears that stuck out like those of a bull elephant. She had never, not even when she had first spotted him walking toward her at Fekenham Fayre, been bothered by his looks nor the size of his ears. Years ago, after they had started courting, Wulfric Wainwright had ridiculed Parminter by calling him Dumbo. He had not risen to the bait but instead had laughed it off even though she, beside herself with rage, had wanted to punch Wulfric on the nose. He moved his head away from her fingers giggling all the while.
“Don’t you dare do that, you know how I like it. It still sends me all sort of wobbly at the knees.”
Henrietta had smiled as she returned to the sink to finish the washing up.
“What names have you come up with?” She had asked.
Parminter had tapped the pen against his teeth as he thought about the list before him.
“Rufus Barleycorn, Ralph Ramhard, Arthur Bentwhistle, Shazli Braganza Smythe, Brenda Sharptack, Victor Clapp, Wulfric Wainwright…”
“Wulfric? He’s nothing but a minor businessman. Why him?”
Inwardly Parminter had smiled to himself. Hen had never liked Wulfric and even though he didn’t know why it tickled him that she never let a grievance go.
“His business has a solid turnover,” he replied.
“You always told me ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.”
“Indeed I did. His profit is good though, very good and besides he is an old friend whose support I will need if I am to beat Snatch-Kiss.”
A low grumble had come from deep within Henrietta. “I don’t like him.”
“Who? Snatch-Kiss or Wulfric?”
“Neither but Wulfric in particular.”
Parminter had smiled as he forked in a mouthful of bacon.
“All these years, must be over thirty, and you always disliked Wulfric. Why? He is one of my oldest friends.”
“You have a funny idea of what makes a friend.”
Parminter had then picked up a slice of fried bread and dipped it into the yoke of his egg. His balding head framed by his large ears and small, almost effeminate features, gave Parminter an odd look.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
Henrietta scrubbed at a frying pan. Suds had flown as she rubbed. She manhandled her left breast back into the cup of her brassiere then pulled the strap higher up her shoulder.
“He has always derided you, your success, and your company. You say oldest friend; I’d suggest he harbours enmity toward you.”
Parminter had speared a mushroom and then tore of another slice of egg.
“You are missing the point. He doesn’t harbour me any malice. He is envious of me and my family. He always was even when we were at school.”
Hen had rinsed the frying pan then laid it on the draining board. She then dried her hands on a white towel. When her positive her hands were dry she applied lotion rubbing it in vigorously before replacing her wedding band back on her finger.  “Nonetheless, a friend is someone you can both rely on and trust and you can’t.”
Parminter, aware of the time, had balanced an unlikely amount of beans on his fork which he then shovelled into his open mouth. “How long have I been in business?” He asked chomping all the while.
“Forty years.”
He then scooped another forkful into his mouth.
“And you think I have run a successful company without being aware of who and who not to trust?” He said through a mouthful of beans and mushrooms.
“I suppose.”
He had cut up an egg and sausage then had devoured another mouthful of food.
“Well then.”
Hen then sighed. “I worry about you dear. I get concerned that you, being a decent man, might get hurt by all the pressure.”
Parminter, his plate cleaned of food still had a residue of egg mixed with ketchup.
“May I have a slice of bread please?” He had asked.
Hen had cut a slice, a thick wedge, which she had then passed to him.
“Thanks. My dear I work every day with pressure. It comes with the job. Being chairman of a large industrial manufacturer necessitates a constant demand on me. I handled that down turn in trade two years ago well enough didn’t I?” As he asked this he swept his plate clean soaking up the egg and ketchup onto his bread.
“I was rather thinking of that dreadful business with Jarvis Crunch.”
Parminter had flinched at the very mention of that man’s name but passed it off.
“I did what had to be done under the circumstances. I had no choice to sack him. I wasn’t happy that my hand was forced but sometimes hard decisions have to be made.”
Henrietta had filled the kettle with water. She spoke over her shoulder.
“I was talking about his dismissal but rather his suicide. You can’t hide it from me Parminter that upset you more than you let on.”
There could be no denying it. Having sacked a valued employee, a fellow director, although unpleasant, had not left him with sleepless nights. The suicide was a different matter. He felt somehow responsible. He had folded the last of the bread up and popped it into his mouth.
“I confess that did upset me. It made me question myself. Had I overlooked something? Should I have been aware of the man’s state of mind? I never did get to the bottom of why he tried to steal my personal folder. It contained nothing of importance regarding the business. It was all relating to my political campaign. Why on earth was he interested in that? Anyway, having searched within myself trying to assuage my guilt not knowing what I could be guilty off, I came to the conclusion that should something like that happen again perhaps I will ask more questions. See what was behind such odd behaviour.”
Hen had sighed. “So you do think you were responsible in some way?”
Parminter then pushed the empty plate away from him and sighed. “I think we all are responsible for both our actions but also inactions. Now then, I best be going.”
“Cup of tea first?”
“No thanks I have a busy day ahead of me. I’ll see you later.”
Hen had watched him rise from the table. She wondered how such a decent man, when compared to the ruthless nature of others like Rupert Snatch-Kiss, had managed to survive so long in business. He had though. Always honest, forever fair. She worried how he would take defeat if the vote went the other way. With integrity, she told herself, for he had more of that commodity than anyone else she knew.
She had watched as he, car keys in hand, had first waved a cheery goodbye to her before climbing into his beloved Rolls Royce. As the motor car had smoothly pulled away crunching over the gravel drive Hen had gone back to where Parminter had left his pad with the names on. She gazed down at it.
10.15. Fekenham.  Brenda Sharptack.
11.15. Arkenfelt. Cheryl Bunkum.
Noon. Stop for lunch on way to Poole.
2.45. Greet Mandible Pimp, business strategist, at Poole Harbour.
“So,” thought Henrietta, “he’s going to head south before going north then heading east. Silly bugger!”

Brenda, her figure fuller than how Parminter last remembered, stood smiling as he entered her office. Office is rather gilding the Lilly somewhat. In reality the space she used to answer communications, open letters and deal with bills, invoices etcetera, was more a cluttered spare room.  It was also where she, when a little tired, she was after all in her late sixties now, would take a quite forty winks away from the hustle and bustle of the tea room. She had embraced Parminter who had fondly placed a kiss upon each side of her face.
“You are looking as lovely as ever,” Parminter had said smoothly.
With anyone else Brenda would have taken the compliment with a pinch of salt but Parminter, not being one given to either handing out platitudes or someone capable of flirting, Brenda took it at face value.
“Thanks. I do my best,” she had smiled ushering him into her room. “Tea?”
“That would be lovely.”
Parminter had looked around the room. There were two desks. One was clean and fastidiously tidy, the other the mirror opposite. The first had a telephone upon it, a fresh notepad, a pen and pencil neatly arranged side by side, a reading lamp with a green glass shade. There was not a single speck of dust upon the surface. The other desk was covered in folders, piles of paper stacked high, a waste basket with what looked like rotting fruit composting within it is wired circumference. Wilted flowers, their petals fallen upon the desk and floor, dry as death leant inelegantly in a vase bereft of water. What little space there was on the desk was covered in a thick coat of dust.
Beyond the Cane and Abel desks, a little to the left, stood a shelf filled with regimented rows of box folders each one clearly marked with date and content. On the very top were three large boxes. Again, each one was marked accordingly. Slightly to the left stood upon an ornate wooden pedestal was a large potted plant, an aspidistra. Woven across the dark green leaves was an exotic lacework of cobwebs which looked like a forgotten veil from some forlorn bride. The roots of the plant had grown massive and now thrust themselves up and away from the pot they were bound to and looked much like the haemorrhoids of a large bovine beast or the bum boil on the backside of some Botswanan baboon. At the foot of the pedestal was a brass coal scuttle filled with dried pampas grass.
On the wall above the clean desk upon which Brenda was now perched was a painting of Molly Sharptack, the founder of the famed tea rooms.
Brenda had picked the phone up that sat on her desk. “Janet, bring me a pot of tea for two would you? Thanks.” Turning to her guest she had assured him that tea was on its way. “I took the liberty to speak with Arthur, Ralph, Shaz and Cybil regarding supporting your campaign,” she had added, “like me they want you to win so we have formed a business alliance to support you with both our names but also some cash. It won’t be much but significant to our means.”
Parminter’s jaw had dropped. His face had flushed red. The tips of his ears had turned bright pink. “That is unbelievably good of you all. I hadn’t expected any support in that way. I do have means of my own you know.”
A knock at the door had announced Jane who entered the room with a tray containing a pot of tea, two cups and saucers and a plate of chocolate biscuits. Brenda had indicated for Jane to place the tray upon her desk (the clean one) before thanking her. Jane, a mousey looking girl with more freckles on her face than stars in the night sky, smiled demurely. Her head was thinner at the top than at her jaw. Her head was shaped like a triangular shaped cheese, it started small at the top before growing larger and fatter at her chin.  The freckles were also odd. They were not of one singular size, shape or shade. They looked like drifting cut out coloured card falling from on high that could, if you so wished, be joined together by a thin pencil line to form abstract art forms. Jane had smiled then silently left the room.
“We know that but as Ralph said, we all want you to win. We think it high time the Whigs returned to their Distributist roots. We think you are the man for that job.”
Parminter had accepted the proffered cup and saucer declining sugar and smiled to himself.  The reference to Emeritus O’Brien was gratefully accepted. Of all the men of politics he admired, Emeritus O’Brien the top most.
“You think my party leader has lost his way?” Enquired Parminter.
“I think the path he is on is the one laid before him by his predecessor. Like her he cares more about the nation’s finances than the nations folk.”
A little abashed at hearing of this condemnation of his leader’s abilities Parminter had felt he should, somehow, defend his Prime Minister.
“Andrew Flair has decreased national debt, has increased full employment, engaged well with the other three nations of Albion and has consistently championed a compassionate response to Chinese immigrants fleeing their Imperialistic homeland.”
“And put up taxes left right and centre at the cost of the working man. He has totally ignored the little entrepreneur in favour of the larger and has continued to follow Margaret Major’s policies on building up our military not so much as a defence but in preparation for a war he should be doing his best to avoid.”
Parminter breathed heavily. He still hadn’t quite got to grips with dealing with negative issues when talking with the electorate.
“So why are you so avid in your support of me?”
“You are not a stuck up bastard like Andrew Flair.”
Parminter had laughed. Hearing someone who was rather posh themselves use such language always seemed incongruous. In this Brenda was very different to her good friend Verity Lambush who could flay the skin off the back of a rhinoceros with just one well-structured sentence. Where Verity oozed sophistication, Brenda bristled with invective. It was not only their approach to life that differed but also their looks. Verity was, when dressed appropriately, an attractive woman with dark hair now greying, chiselled features and piercing grey eyes. She was also, at five seven, tall for a woman. Brenda on the other hand was blonde, blue eyed, five feet five, fleshy and very irascible. They were in fact like chalk and cheese which is probably why they got on so well when together. After all opposites do attract.
“I hope my policies give greater confidence in me than my everyday man outlook?”
“It has nothing to do with your policies although they are pretty much what the people want.”
“If not them then what?”
Brenda crossed her legs, leant forward and placed her hand on top of Parminter’s.
Parminter had seemed looked taken aback. His face flushed. Brenda continued.
“You have the one thing that neither Snatch-Kiss nor Andrew Flair possess and that is honesty. You mean what you say. People like that. It is the one element lacking of late in political figures. You are the first politician since Emeritus O’Brien to possess equal amounts of honesty, intelligence and integrity. It is a rare gift. Now all you have to do is persuade the electorate that you are the man for the job.”
Parminter had looked genuinely abashed by this comment. He scratched his left ear which set it flapping. A storm of dry skin swirled.
“I have none of my fellow runner’s wealth. I cannot match him on that score. All I have is a desire to do something positive for the region where I live, and have lived, for the past sixty-five years. I very much admired Emeritus O’Brien. He was all you could wish for in a politician. He had incredible vision but also the ability to convey his ideas in the simplest terms so that everyone could understand him.”
Brenda had smiled. It was a warm movement of generous lips circled by lines that revealed she laughed a lot. She had taken Parminter’s empty cup and refilled it.
“Have you spoken to all the small businesses in the village?”
Parminter sipped his tea then replied. “All but one, yes.”
“Which one?”
“Susanne Beaufort’s bordello.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from Brenda taken at a most inopportune moment as she had just taken a bite out of a chocolate biscuit along with a mouthful of tea. The effect of breathing in biscuit and tea caused an almighty expulsion of same which had shot from her mouth and nostrils at maximum velocity peppering Parminters shoes with a brown like artex. She then began coughing, barking like a renegade sea lion more like, as she choked upon the contents of her semi-consumed foodstuff. Parminter had reacted quickly. He put his cup and saucer down and took Brenda’s from her shaking hands and then began to forcefully pat her back.
“Are you okay my dear?” He queried as the flat of his hand beat upon Brenda’s back.
“Aruugh, Aruugha,” sputtered Brenda her eyes streaming as she tried desperately to wipe her nose with the napkin. Parminter had passed her is handkerchief then slapped her back once again. “Don’t try speaking. Wait until you have your breath back.”
With a series of deep sea diver gasps, hearty intakes of air that turned Brenda’s puce coloured face to its normal pink, the tea room’s owner regained her composure. Seeing she was seemingly recovered Parminter had sat down again in front of her.
“Alright now?” He had asked.
“No, I am bloody well not alright. Don’t you dare speak with that French strumpet, that harlot! You do know Arthur Bentwhistle is frequenting her establishment?”
Parminter said he didn’t.
“Well he is. He has gone back to his old lothario ways. I think he is fornicating with Black Betty.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Lupini has noticed him wearing after shave. He is also taking a great deal of care in his appearance and going out during the day claiming he is attending to pub business but Lupini thinks he isn’t. The only place she thinks he could be calling on is that woman’s The Soft Room’s.”
Parminter, unable to resist a chocolate biscuit when dunked in tea, dipped a nibbled corner of one into his brew.
“Apart from suspecting him of returning to his former pursuits do you have any proof he has been visiting Susanne’s shop?”
“Shop? It’s no shop. Cybil’s post office is a shop. My tea rooms are a shop. That place is a veritable den of inequity.”
“Into which you have witnessed Arthur Bentwhistle entering?”
“Not as such, no.”
“I thought not.”
Brenda blushed. Her anger rising to cover her retreating embarrassment.
“Listen Parminter, surely you are not defending Arthur or that horrible business?”
“Defending someone you have no proof of being what you think he is? Yes, I’m afraid I am. As for Susanne, well, better legalised prostitution than illegal. At least her enterprise is properly monitored and besides, as much as you and I fail to understand why men need such a service, need it they do.”
He had then looked to her for response. Instead she stared stoically ahead. It was as if by gazing into some faraway distance she could let a silence descend on a lost argument, as if this inaction might save her face. In this she was not dissimilar to Verity Lambush thought Parminter. The only difference here was that Verity would have neatly changed subject as if to wrong foot her opponent before returning unexpectedly to it again later. Brenda gazed on then brushed down her skirt with the palm of her hand.
“Have you spoken with Clyde?”
Parminter had been unsure of who Clyde was. “Who is Clyde?”
“Clyde Woodclatter, the editor of the Fekenham Gazette.”
Parminters brow had creased into a frown. “No, I confess I had forgotten him.”
“Well, if you are going to speak with the vicar’s mistress then you really should seek Clyde’s support too. He may only be the editor of the village ‘rag’ but his paper is read by many. Would you like me to speak to him on your behalf?”
“If it’s no trouble,” said Parminter as he got up from his seat.
“Are you off now?” Asked Brenda as she too climbed down from the desk she had perched on.
“Yes. I am scheduled to meet with Cheryl Bunkum out in Arkenfelt. Then, once that is done will stop for a spot of lunch before meeting with a business stragegist who I am reliably told will be off enormous help. You know me, I so hate being late.”
Brenda had kissed his cheek then wished him well.
“Do you think I stand a chance; with the election I mean?”

“Bit late to be having concerns now, you are only a couple of months away for polling day but yes, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. People like and trust you Parminter. Good luck.”
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Willful Walks of Russell C.J Duffy - Book 2 - The Whispering of Grass (Chapter 3) - REVISED

*A Fisherman's Tale - St. Peter's Church*  -  *A Long and Winding Road* - *Tao and Zen*

The walk from Canewdon to Paglesham is a short one. It is just over two miles from one village to the other.  As I walk I pass those flat farmlands and fields I spoke of previously so the weather does what Britain, like New Zeland, is famous for - forever changing. When I woke a mist lay over the woodlands near where I live exemplifying John Keats immortal lines about autumn - "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" - those mists have gone now burnt away by a warm sun, warmer than it has a right to be for this time of year. I take my jacket off and fold it over my arm. 

The road is peppered here and there with old houses, most of them small holdings or larger farms. Opposite 'The Shepherd and Dog,' as the road forks presenting me with choices, either to keep going straight taking me back home or go left to Paglesham; I take the left going past the farm that elbows its presence onto the road. Just beyond it is what looks like an old Tudor House. I say looks like as I am unsure if it is what it appears or possibly a Victorian replica. Looking at the roof I suspect the latter which upsets me slightly. Why? I guess I had always thought it was genuine, a thing of history, but in truth it's history is shallow and fabricated. Having said that, it is still (if it is indeed Victorian) old, merely not as old as I first thought. Whatever the reality of its past it remains an interesting place.

As I walk so the clouds descend bringing with them a mizzle that soaks my hair. I pull my jacket back on then tug the hood down over my head. As I do so the rains, blessed as they are, begin to fall casting the landscape into a grey pallor. This change simply proves what I said earlier, Britain's weather is the song 'Four Seasons In One Day.' The fields beside me roll on and on. A road in the near distance snakes through this marshy land carrying the occasional vehicle. Traffic is, fortunately, small yet still, when cars approach, due to the lack of pavement, I am forced to bury myself into the hedges to enable them to pass whilst ensuring my own safety. Most drivers are courteous making a wide curve around me. Others drive past at speed caring little for me or anyone out walking.

I walk on down this road so many have travelled along recognising that a road is also journey; a road is a path yet a road is also a symbol for so much more. Another is a stream or river. The allegory is obvious; a road, path, stream, river or journey represents the passage of life. I remember a song from George Harrison that appears on his last album, 'Brainwashed,' the song is entitled 'Pisces Fish' and a line from it echo's in my thoughts.

"I'm a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul." I don't believe in anything let alone having a soul but nonetheless understand perfectly what the former Beatle was saying. Tao teaches us this...

"Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice."

Tao Te Ching Verse 78

St. Nicholas Church, Canewdon has it witches and its ghosts. Pagelsham has them too. A retired bus driver who drove the number 10b to Churchend said, "On more than one occasion as I drove down the road after the fork to Paglesham Church End the bus would play up, all the lights would go out and the engine would stall, in front of me I would see a woman crossing the road and disappearing into the hedgerow." Spooky stuff. Such projections fascinate me. How one mechanical failure can lead to something supernatural yet always without sufficient evidence. Ghosts are great in stories but I cannot see how an energy, for that, is all a ghost could be, can appear in the world we live in. 

Another fork in the road greets me like a magician's trick. I again have to make a choice. Go on or go left? Again I go left. I'd be a mug not to as the sign tells me this way leads to Churchend. Tao again...

"All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power."

Tao Te Ching Verse 66

The sky above me, the road before me, around me the countryside - grass and trees, plants of many kinds. Crows haunt the branches, seagulls hover on high. Heaven and Earth, one continuum but no division and yet it is division that plagues humankind. Class division, race division, gender division, political division, wealth division, religious division. It is division that curses us yet we seem unable to heal that which divides us. 

Religion is the cause of much division, specifically Monotheism.  This puzzles me for surely the three major monotheist faiths all believe in the same God? That being so would the one they worship want this division?  The Abrahamic faiths share so much, especially Judaism and Islam for theirs are faiths that embrace Socialism more than Christianity. Islam owes a great deal to the Qurayshis dislike of the way Mecca, in the seventh century, had grown so capitalist. Muhammad ibn Abdallah, praise his name, wanted to see greater equity among the rich and the poor. Islam was, and still is, a religion of equality. Yet still, these sibling faiths squabble. There have been Crusades and now there is fundamentalism. Both were wrong. Now is the time to heal those weeping wounds, to unite all faiths so they unite, as the Dalai Lama suggests, into a 'kinship of faiths.'

Once we start taking sides we instantly create division and once this wheel is in motion then those on different sides engage in sanguine acts of violence. I reject the concept of class even though I work for my living, therefore, must be a member of the working class. Who isn't these days? An elite few perhaps but even they, by and large, unless born into fantastic wealth, have to work to live? But what is class but a projection of desire aligned to wealth yet not to compassion or love? We are all one and the same.

Thought has created division for by thought alone there are those who suggest their thinking is right, is the only way. This is nonsense. Truth is a pathless land with many roads leading to the same destination. Only a fool would suggest their way was the only way.

When I first started my walks, way back in 2009, I had no idea where my path lay. I had no idea where I was treading. The point of those walks was as much to visit the county of my birth as it was, not that I fully realised it then, to seek some sort of spiritual answer to the life road I was on. George Harrison's song, "Any Road," which I included in the text of those first walks, says all that needs to be said - "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." Now I know my road, my personal path. I know all that I must do to overcome the obstacles I will face. More importantly, I know the one method by which to release the eternal within me. Meditation.

When people speak of meditation they tend to think of reflection, contemplation or deliberation or reverie, it is, of course, all those things. You should do all the above daily if you really want to understand not only yourself but life about you. Others would suggest meditation is the cultivation of the presence of God. That depends on what is meant by God. God the deity? or God the eternal? The unknowable force that exists, as does nature, is nature, isTao, without magic or mysticism? If it is the former then stick to prayer but I for one do not pray. If it is the latter then count me in. 

As I approach St. Peter's a gentleman out walking his dog greets me. It is a stereotypical foreigner's view of what typifies a Brit's favourite topic of conversation - the weather. "Awful day isn't it?" he grumbles. "I keep reminding myself we haven't had enough rain this year just to cheer myself up," I reply. "Too much bloody rain if you ask me!" He responds. He walks away with dog trotting behind. He is the Eeyore to my Tigger. Life is what you make it. It is your life to live. Passing on down the lane he leaves me free to observe the church I have walked to gaze at. Even from outside you can feel its vintage, feel its history. It is a pretty picture, a tired old gent sat down on a leafy lawn.

St. Peter's has undergone a great deal of renovation in recent years. Understandably, a church that was built in the eleventh century, having withstood the ravages of centuries, is bound to need repair. Whoever it was that worked so hard on this fabulous house of worship they should be justifiably proud of their endeavours.

The wall that hugs the land the church stands on is a leaning, a crumbling defiance of natural law. Quite how it remains upright is beyond me. The bricks that make the wall are like a squad of aged soldiers unable now to wage war but stalwart in their duty to protect the graveyard and St.Peter's from those who would do it harm.

Slightly younger than its brother in Ashingdon, St. Peter's was built some nine hundred years ago. It is thought to have been a church site long before medieval times though with another building here before it. It is small yet larger than that of St. Andrews.  I enter it now and instantly feel two things. The first is a sense of being within a place far older than anyone I know living or dead. This strikes me as odd as my paternal Grandfather would have been ten when Jack the Ripper committed his heinous deeds. The other is a deep sense of not being alone. I know this is my mind projecting sensations into it but nonetheless, the longevity of this place creates myths of the many who would have worshipped here before. It is both foreboding and fantastic. The thought of Catholic priests from centuries ago is mind-boggling. We Brit's hold our history in high regard often presenting it as 'on-up-man-ship' to our American cousins but, imagine if you will how an Indian or Chinese must feel when they enter a Hindu or Buddhist temple dating back not one thousand years but two. 

There is a house nearby, wooden slated in the traditional Essex way. The whitewashed walls pale like the face of an elderly woman's powdered face. The roof slopes down bending slightly in the middle.  The tiles resist rain, wind and snow and have done for years beyond recent memory. What must it be like to live in such a place? History drips from the eaves with each rainfall.

The grey day folds in around me as mist meets rain which turns to a fine drizzle. The flat fields shun the daylight preferring a ghost veil that descends silently. Life goes on here as it does everywhere on this planet, our planet, our mother who nurtures us even when we abuse her. The climate is changing of that there can be no doubt yet still there are those who deny and dispute the facts. The Domesday clock is set at two and half minutes to midnight. "Knowledge is a deadly friend when in the hands of fools," more so when nuclear war is again threatening the lives of not only humankind but all creatures sharing this planet of ours. "You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." A right we time and again abuse as though we were the gods of this new age, as though we, with our weapons of mass destruction, have replaced the old gods, the old faiths with a new, more complacent god, a new self-centered faith, as we worship at the altar of avarice.

I turn away from St.Peter's and retrace my steps. Along the way I pass another house built long ago, its brick crumbling as its foundations defy the ravages of time. Now I am heading toward Stambridge, now I am heading toward St. Mary's and All Saints.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - Book Five- The Runaway Cadaver 2

“You Wouldn’t Peel a Banana with a Spanner”

Verity still couldn’t fathom any meaning behind Arthur Bentwhistle’s odd phrase. He had said it to her after she had informed him of her decision not to enter political life as a Tory but to stand instead as an independent. He had asked why the change of heart to which she had said she didn’t feel the Tories had the policies that would suit her or best serve the nation. Arthur, a little taken aback by this news, had then asked her why she didn’t join the Whigs to which she had pulled a face. It was the sort of face one pulls having just swallowed a bluebottle. It had been at this point that Arthur had made his curious comment. She repeated his words again aloud.
“You wouldn’t peel a banana with a spanner.”
Ralph who was in their tiny ensuite and about to climb into the shower heard her speak.
“Say again hon, I didn’t quite catch that.”
Verity was sitting at her dressing table having already showered and was applying make-up. She seldom wore any during her teaching days and never as headmistress of Fekenham Senior School. Even now her touch was minimal, concentrating mostly on her eyes which looked positively stunning once eyeliner had been pencilled on. The dark mascara somehow accentuated the grey of her irises giving them the look of a predatory she-wolf.
“It was nothing,” she replied, “I was talking to myself.”
Ralph obviously couldn’t hear her and patently hadn’t been that interested in the first place as he was now lathering himself while singing ‘Nessun Dorma.’ Ralph had a rich tenor which was moderately tuneful. Rather stereotypically he only sang whilst in the shower. Verity liked the sound of his voice. She couldn’t hold a tune herself even though she had, or claimed to have, good taste in music.
She turned her head from side to side the better see her reflection in the mirror.
“Not bad,” she mused, “for a woman of fifty-nine.”
Ralph’s singing had stopped. Verity could hear that the shower had been turned off. Ralph was, from Verity’s experience unlike other men when using the shower. He didn’t dawdle. He got in, lathered up, did a spot of pale operatic singing, rinsed off, stepped out and then dried himself. Verity would when she had time to waste, sit on the corner of the bath and watch the whole process. It gave her a perverse sense of pleasure. For a man of sixty-one Ralph had maintained a good level of fitness. He ran every morning before breakfast and regularly worked out.
He called out. “I had a letter from Yue today, that Chinese girl we helped.”
Verity remembered Yue all too well. Dressing the girl up to look like herself had been, she hesitated to use the word fun as it seemed frivolous but that was in fact what it had been. Yue’s situation had been the very reverse.
“How is she?”
“Apparently fine. The letter was obviously written by someone who knows they are being monitored. She didn’t use her name. Instead, she signed herself ‘Verity.’”
“Very mysterious. What do you think she will do there? She seemed very distressed by the Imperial Government.”
“She has good cause to be. They are a dictatorial bunch.”
He walked into their bedroom with a bath sheet tied around his waist. He was rubbing his hair with a smaller towel. Verity gave him an approving look via her mirrored reflection. The hairs on his chest were still damp and clung to his pectorals, his pectoralis major thought Verity, in a very alluring way.
Ralph grinned at his wife.
“I know that look and you can forget it; we have to be at your mom’s in twenty minutes and I’m not dressed yet.”
Verity laughed that deep throaty sensual laugh she had.
“Sometimes swift passion can be very sweet,” she said in her most seductive voice.
“And sometimes the wait makes the passion all the sweeter,” whispered Ralph as he bent and kissed his wife’s neck. “I’d better go get ready.”
As he turned toward his wardrobe Verity stretched forward and tugged the towel from him.
“It looks to me like your body doesn’t share your opinion.”
Ralph strode away naked and laughing.
“I’ll have a word with him and put him in his place,” he said opening the door to his wardrobe and pulling out a pair of boxer shorts. He then slid them on.
“Where are my black pants? You know the new pair we got in Winchester?”
“You asked me to have them taken up, remember? They are downstairs on the kitchen table.”
“I didn’t see them there at breakfast?”
“That’s because they were in my car and by the way, they are trousers.”
The bedroom, unlike the cottage living room, faced away from Fekenham green and overlooked what once was, before Rupert Snatch-Kiss and his Vox Corporation’s arrival, Feckit Wood. 
Verity stood up from her dressing table and looked out over the fledging replacement trees that stood like recently cropped hair on the scalp of an elderly gentleman. She could clearly see a huge pig pulling what appeared to be a gypsy cart. The cart was painted in colourful reds, blues, greens and yellows. Seated in the cart like a modern day Boudicca was Ethel Blowvalve.
“That pig is enormous,” said Verity not quite believing the vision she saw before her.
“At seven feet long and three feet high, I’d say you were right,” agreed Ralph slipping his arms into a white shirt as he crossed the floor to stand by Verity.
His aftershave was musky sweet. She liked the scent.
“Is it some special breed?” asked Verity.
“Not to my knowledge. It seems to be some freak of nature.”
The couple watched as pig, cart and Ethel trundled along.
“I wonder where she’s off to?” asked Ralph.
“The roundabout way to Birchtickle I imagine,” said Verity, “I’d better get my dress on. Are you going in just shirt and underpants?”
Ralph laughed.
“I think your mom might find that kinda freaky don’t you?”
“My mother is very fond of you. Enamoured even. I really don’t think her opinion of you would change if you arrive wearing a tutu” said Verity as she sprayed eau de cologne on her throat, wrist and between her cleavage.
“Now there’s a thought.” Replied Ralph. He sat on the bed tugging on a pair of black socks. Then he stood up and pushed a cufflink through one shirt cuff.
“You remember the circus we had here a couple of years back?”
“Spieglie Zirkus?”
“That’s the one. And you remember the dwarves that me and Elvis rescued from the French hotel?”
“They have purchased a cottage in Birchtickle,” shouted Verity as she made her way downstairs.
“Yeah, how did you know that and where the hell are you going when I’m talking to you?”
“Getting your trousers.”
Ralph grabbed a pair of tan coloured loafers and a matching belt then followed Verity downstairs. When he got to the kitchen Verity was waiting with his trousers in hand.
“I heard it from the usual Fekenham grapevine,” smiled Verity passing the item of clothing to Ralph.
“Mille Meade?”
Verity smiled again. “Come on,” she said, “or we’ll be late.”
Ralph pulled on his trousers, slipped the belt through the loops then slipped on his shoes.
“Ready,” he said. “Are we walking or driving?”
“Walking,” said Verity making her way toward the front door.
An unexpected knock at the door made them both start.
“Who on earth?” queried Verity as Ralph got up and opened the door.
Outside the day was warm. Being June was no guarantee in Albion of hot weather but today was both sunny and bright. On first opening, the front door Ralph saw standing about three feet from him two dwarves. He recognised one but not the other. The first dwarf, a square-jawed male with a light fuzz of facial hair greeted him.
“Mister Ramhard, I don’t expect you remember me but I am one of the circus people who you helped to rescue late in 2007?”
Ralph smiled and extended his hand which the dwarf took and shook.
“Hey! How you doing? Of course, I remember you. I don’t think we were ever properly introduced, though.”
The dwarf delighted that the American remembered him, smiled.
“I am Grom Tick and this is my partner, Lemon Pip. We have bought a cottage in Birchtickle where we intend to make our home. We just thought it might be nice if we popped in and said hello.”
Grom was thick set with strong hands. His eyes were dark brown and his features broad. Lemon was the very opposite. She was fine featured, very pretty with pale blue eyes and luxuriant blonde hair.
Ralph looked embarrassed.
“Guys, it is a pleasure to see you and sorry to cut you short but me and my wife are meant to visiting her mom and we are already late. Can we take a rain check? Maybe meet up tomorrow? As I say as we both would love to catch-up but we really need to get going.”
As if to underline the fact that the Ramhard’s were on their way out, Verity appeared at Ralph’s side. She smiled at both Grom and Lemon. Grom nodded in reaction to Ralph’s explanation.
“Yes, yes, of course, we understand. I was going to show Lemon the church so maybe we will do that now. We’ll catch you later.”
With that, Grom and Lemon turned and walked back down the garden path. Ralph and Verity watched them go.
“We’d better get a move on,” said Ralph looking at his watch, “we are going to be late.”
Verity was smiling. It was as though she had a secret that was tickling her funny bone.
“What are you smiling about?” asked Ralph slightly perplexed.
Verity started to giggle then to laugh aloud.
“What on earth has gotten into you?” smiled Ralph feeling whatever it was making his wife laugh was now infecting him.
Verity was now laughing so loudly and with such abandon that Ralph couldn’t recall her ever behaving like this before. Tears were streaming from her eyes.
“You said,” Verity tried to explain but then was seized by another burst of laughter, “You said that you,” laughter again exploded from her, “you didn’t want to,” another fit of chuckles stopped her from speaking, “to cut them short!”
Ralph started to laugh as well.
“I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t being cruel.”
Verity was now doubled over with fits of laughter.
“Two dwarves and you didn’t want to cut them short!” shrieked the former headmistress of Fekenham Senior.
Ralph was now laughing as loudly as Verity but still tried to pull himself together.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I was just trying to say….”
“I know what you were trying to say but what you said was, well hysterical!”
Ralph shook his head as he wiped his eyes with the edge of his finger.
“Do you think they were offended?” asked Ralph still chuckling.
“Oh Lord,” breathed Verity desperately trying to regain her much-vaunted composure, “Oh dear me, oh dear, oh dear. I don’t think I have ever laughed like that in years. My ribs ache and my stomach hurt.”
“How shall I ever face them again?” asked Ralph looking very guilty.
“I am sure that the man who saved their lives will be forgiven. Besides, it is just a figure of speech. Now then, we really must get a wiggle on as we are late. Perhaps we could take a short cut?”
“Come on lad, get a trot on,” encouraged Ethel as she slapped the reins against pig hide. As porcine beasts go, Bladder was a tolerant sort. He didn’t seem to mind having a garishly coloured wooden cart hitched to him. Actually, he rather liked the idea of dashing about the countryside. Ethel sat in the cart on a seat like some modern-day Boudicca. Cart and seat had been designed and built by Tom Theobold who, having left the village after closing down the family blacksmith come ironmongers, was doing alright thank you very much in a new shop in Muckleford. “It makes commercial sense.” He had said. “There is more passing trade in a town than the local village.” No one could argue with that especially in view of how Voxco supermarkets – “new fandangled things,” expressed Will Hamfist - had spread like a rash on a young man’s chin.
The cart rattled along over field and down country lane. The June sun strode the sky heating the heavens with his male ego. A rabbit bolted from beneath the hedgerow and ran across to the other side. An airship slipped past with an advert printed on its underbelly. Ethel took no notice. Neither did Bladder. They charged on enjoying the rush of the wind in their faces. Birchtickle lay ahead. Ethel wanted to greet the new comers. It was something she always did when anyone new moved into the area.
In recent years, since the death of her husband but long before that, Ethel had given up worrying about her figure. Her hubby, thin by natural design, had not given one whit about Ethel’s spreading bottom or the way her stomach had thickened her waist.
“Fat they call it now but once upon a time it was voluptuous and I like a bit o’ volp with my tuous,” he used to say.
She was still blonde but with splashes of white breaking through. Her eyes, creased with laughter lines, were still blue and had a childlike glitter of perpetual amusement. There wasn’t much that didn’t make Ethel laugh.
In front of her, she saw a rough looking man with weasley features walking two dogs. One was a crossbreed, the other Dachshund. The man was Ernie Stalworthy, the dog's Codpiece and Scrubs.
“Hello Ernie, how are you?” called Ethel.
“All right,” said Ernie in the manner of the Cockney, “how’s it going?”
“Mustn’t grumble,” replied Ethel pulling Bladder to a halt. “I saw Victor Clapp a short while ago going into the brothel. He looked like a cat about to get the cream.”
“Never liked the geezer, bit of a merchant banker if you ask me, all airs and graces with a jewel the size of St. Paul’s. He hangs around that knocking shop all hours. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was ginger but judging by the time he’s in there dipping his wick I must be wrong. Bet his missus don’t know?”
Ernie was in the habit when speaking of running his hand across his chin and then across his nose. He did this now. His ferret-like face screwed up spreading thin lines across his even thinner face.
Ethel laughed. “Of course, she doesn’t. What kind of second-hand car dealer would he be if he was honest?”
Ernie smiled that bent, buckled mouth of his.
“You have a point. Where you off to then?”
“I thought I’d say hello to the new couples moving into Birchtickle.”
“I didn’t know we had any newbies.”
“Yes, two sets of Dwarfs as I understand. Two of those Ralph and the vicar helped out a couple of years back.”
“What from that circus that stopped on the green?”
“That’s the one.”
“Fair do’s. The empty cottages were only going to waste. Did I tell you I’d been offered two jobs?”
Ethel shook her head.
I heard about you gardening for the brigadier. What’s the other one?”
“His Lordship wants me to run his estate, sort of doing a bit of game keeping, bit of gardening too. Wants me and her indoors to move onto the grounds; regular work too, none of your dodging about here and there. What do you reckon?”
“If it were me I’d jump at the chance.”
“Think you’re right. Okay then, I’d best be off. Catch you later. C’mon Scrubs, Codpiece.”
“Bye Ernie.”
Ethel watched as Ernie swaggered away. He had the sort of walk once seen in westerns. It was a gait that started at the shoulders then engaged the rest of his body remotely. It struck Ethel as comical the way he moved which in turn was echoed by Scrub’s limp and Codpiece’s waddle. Together they formed a comedy trio’s routine.
Birchtickle seemed like a ghost hamlet as Bladder and she entered it. It had always been quite but now, without a soul in it, seemed devoid of humanity. Ethel left Bladder to wander knowing he wouldn’t go far. She then walked up to what once had been the home of Harry Hertlasp. Like all Fekenham folk Ethel had a long memory. She recalled Harry and Mavis Mufftickle’s affair. Gossip like that soon spreads and aided by Mille Mead spread a whole lot faster.
The cottage was the same as when she had last seen it, the same in fact as when Harry had been arrested for the murders of the Fatleaf’s. Ethel doubted that Harry would ever return to his old home.
Someway off was Agatha Nosebag’s cottage. Ethel had held a healthy dislike for that woman and, although murdered, a thing Ethel wouldn’t wish on anyone, Ethel was not hypocrite enough to pretend she liked Agatha now in death.
The people Ethel had sympathy for were the two boys left behind who, one way of another, had lost their parents. She had heard that Martin Tickpant had done the right thing and taken his illegitimate son into his care. Sam Grimstain was apparently happy with the situation. Todd Gossling was more of a problem. His parents weren’t dead, they were in prison and this situation played on his mind more than the death of Sam’s mother played on his. According to Cyril Updike, Todd was causing problems for the Tickpants as he entered his teenage years.
There were six properties surrounding Birchtickle pond. Of these only one, until recently, had people living in it and that was Tickpant Farm. Ethel walked around to look at Jean Grimstain’s cottage. It seemed occupied judging by the new net curtains hanging and from the front door that had been painted. Then Ethel saw a woman in dungarees upon a ladder. In her hand was a paint brush. She dipped the brush into a tin that sat on the top step of the ladder. It was good to see some activity but also good to see that home being put to good use.
She walked the short distance round to the Trimeots old place. That too looked as though someone was decorating it but showed no signs of anyone being in.
A little disgruntled by the fact she had made the effort to greet the new people and they weren’t there, Ethel turned to go. As she did she saw walking toward her a group of four diminutive people, three men and a woman.
“Hulloooo!” called Ethel with a touch of theatricality her bosoms displaying more bounce than a very bouncy castle
“Hello,” smiled the dwarf’s amiably.
“I’m Ethel,” explained Ethel, “from the village. I just thought I’d call in to say welcome and make sure everything is alright.”
“You’d best come in and have some tea then,” said Lemon Pip, “We’ve only just got in.”
Tea was coffee, strong and black. “Just the way I likes me men,” laughed Ethel as she thanked the good-looking dwarf who was named George. Diminutive maybe but George had a face that was made for Hollywood. Had he been born years before he would have been in a similar mould as Allan Ladd and like the famed, now deceased actor, would have required a box to stand on when kissing the leading ladies. Ethel found George very attractive. Shame, she thought, that he batted for the other side.
“That was my ideal choice,” said George in mock agreement but I ended up living with Gilbert.”
Gilbert lashed a tea towel across his partner’s backside. Gilbert was more rugged than George. Less the curves and dips of Dorset and more the ragged rocks of Cornwall. George mocked a yelp. They made a nice couple.
“Is Lemon Pip your real name?” asked Ethel as she took hold of hot beverage.
Lemon Pip grinned. She was a pretty woman with blonde hair, corn blue eyes and a cute upturned nose,
“No, it isn’t but, as you can tell from mine and Grom’s accents we are not from Albion. We both come from Russia. When we joined the circus, after years of abuse from the town we were born in, we gave ourselves alternate names. Now we never speak of the old ones. It is better this way. If we think of what was it brings back the bad memories and we don’t want to remember, we want to forget.”
Ethel brushed her hand across her lap where some biscuit crumbs had fallen.
“Trouble is,” she opined, “that some memories are not bad as such but the recall is, if’n you gets my meaning.”
“Like when you lose a mamma or papa?” queried Lemon Pip.
“Or a husband,” confirmed Ethel blowing across her hot coffee to cool it.
“I have one of those and would hate to lose him but parents they were not so good. How did your man die?”
Ethel sighed, took a sip from her drink then replied.
“That is bad. With all we learn, us humans, all our knowledge of how life on the land and under the sea works we still cannot cure that vile disease.”
Grom Tick arrived with a large cake on an even larger plate. His face was swarthy with a pock marked skin. His hair was thick and long hanging down in wayward curls that flopped as he walked.
“Or the common cold,” he said, “we haven’t found a cure for that either. This cake though, if you eat enough of it, or so I have been informed, will either kill or cure you of anything!”
He laughed heartily pleased with his own humour.
“In that case, I’ll have a big slice,” said Ethel putting her mug down and laughing with him.
Ethel learnt that Grom and Lemon had left their homes in Russia, run away to join the circus and had met accidently when both of them had sneaked onto a train. Neither of them had purchased tickets and when the ticket collector had asked for theirs, Grom had put on a performance that should have won an award. He convinced the man that he, Grom, was married to lemon, that they had bought tickets and boarded the train bound for their honeymoon. Grom said they had left the luggage in the cabin, gone to buy coffees and when they came back their luggage had gone along with their tickets. The ticket collector, a wan elderly man, had believed them and had given them a pass to get them to their destination.
Lemon described it as being the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for her.
“And did he propose on the train?” Ethel asked as she bit into the slice of cake.
“No,” laughed lemon, “I proposed to him five years later.”
“Crumbs,” said Ethel spilling a mouthful as both she and Lemon Pip laughed.
George pulled up a chair and sat down in front of Ethel.
“Tell us about this place. We know about the history, about Hawthorn Cobble and Lilac Lillywhite but we don’t understand why four out of six cottages all became vacant and up for sale at the same time. They also took a long while to sell. What happened here?”
Gilbert sat next to George and took hold of his partner’s hand.
“You won’t put us off,” declared Gilbert, “we all fell in love with this place when we saw it. Being circus folk there is nothing on this planet that scares us so come on, spill the beans.”
Ethel looked from one of the group to the other. They all seemed sincere but still, she felt reluctant to spoil their dreams if not their illusions.
“The estate agent didn’t tell you?”
“He told us how much he wanted to but that was it. He told us about the ghost’s that supposedly haunt the pond but that was all.”
Ethel sighed. Her curly blonde hair, turning white in places, fell across her eyes so she brushed it to one side. Then she started to speak telling them the events of last year that left the hamlet bereft of its inhabitants. She spoke at length not trying to hide any detail no matter how unpleasant or unpalatable. When she had finished her coffee was long drunk and so Gilbert got up and poured her another.
“I feel sorry for those boys,” said Grom, “it isn’t any wonder Todd is acting up. Me and Lemon had it rough with our parents; we know how that sort of thing leaves a scar on your heart.”
Ethel, though she had only known these people so short a time, felt an affinity with them. She liked them, liked their openness, their frankness. She knew they would be good for the area.
“There is something else that the estate agent didn’t tell you,” she whispered conspiratorially.
“Oh yeah,” queried George with a glint in his eye, “and what’s that then?”
“The Legend of Sir Graybridge Maggot, Big game Hunter of the African jungle, molester of nuns and utter lunatic.”
Lemon Pip sank back in her seat in preparation for a good tale, a ripping yarn as of yesteryear.
“Go on then,” she said smiling at her friends and former circus crew, “let’s hear it.”
Ethel Blowvale crossed her arms over her ample bosoms and began.

In 1919, just after the Great War and as the old British Empire was reforming itself as the Commonwealth of Nations so Sir Graybridge Maggot returned from the Passchendaele front with a chest full of medals and more shrapnel in his backside than an ammunition dump. He had fought bravely in that stupid, imperial war as a Colonel of 134th Brigade. Returning home to Winchester he decided t’ up sticks and decamp t’ Muckleford. Once there he decided he didn’t like the market town any more than he did the Wessex capital and so moved deeper into the country and bought a cottage in Fekenham Swarberry. It was the self-same cottage I now lives in”

Ethel took a quick look around her captive audience to ensure she had their attention. Confident she had she then continued.

“He didn’t stay there long though. After the war to end all wars he got a touch of itchy feet and so locked up his cottage and took off to Africa with the intention of hunting big game and of having a bit of an adventure. He got more than he bargained for.

He booked a cabin on the Great Eastern II which set sail from Portsmouth the first Thursday after Beltane. Bound for the Dark Continent in search of a quest he went with but a truck full of pajamas, Wellington boots, a stuffed parrot and a copy of ‘The Lumberjack Song’ by Monty P Thong.

The voyage was unpleasant ‘n he took sick as the great steamer flounced and bucked on the oceans swell. He was the first man to lose his ring long before the reception. He lay abed for many days until the nausea abated. The trip took ten tortuous days in which time Sir Graybridge Maggot ate nothing drinking only the milk from crushed coconuts. Finally the great sea going vessel docked in Cape Town where crew, passengers and a wobbly legged Sir Maggot disembarked.

“Booking into a local hotel he took to bed sleeping for three days before waking feeling refreshed and incredibly hungry. Eating a hearty meal he made enquiries of getting to the Belgian Congo with the intention of hunting big game. He had no idea about the political situation there or about the food crisis and the way people from Albion were being driven from the territory. He probably wouldn’t have cared less anyway as he was always one for a challenge.

Taking another steam boat Maggot arrived in Shinkakasa days later but this time with suffering no ill effects of being sea sick. Maybe he’d found his sea legs by then or maybe he just drank loads of rum, who knows? When he got of the ship having found suitable accommodation, or at least something what passed as suitable, he began to talk to locals and to plan and prepare his trip. He wasn’t without a bob or two so was well able to pay the locals the going rate. He spent a week in the town meeting with men who could lead him and act as guides then they departed on a Sunday. Four days later the camped on the outskirts of the jungle.

“It has t’ be said at this juncture that Sir Graybridge Maggot was, like many a white toff off that period, racist. He probably wouldn’t have thought much o’ short people neither nor fat old birds like me but thems were the times and thankfully changed for the better now. And o’ course he didn’t have high regard for animals neither as you will soon hear.

He spent a fortnight shooting elephants, lions, gazelles, cheetahs, giraffes, hyenas, water buffalo and more besides, anything that moved in point o’ fact. At one point he shoved a stick o’ dynamite up the rear of one startled elephant only for the poor beast to fart like a trumpet and blow it out again. Two gentlemen of the Negro persuasion, guides for want o’ a better word, were blown to kingdom come. The noble knight scarpered behind a tree trembling with his hand over his head which he thrust between his knees.

After all this wanton killing o’ wild beasts the party moved on to the Congo going deeper into that country. They came across a brazen village all tribal and pagan where the women went topless and the men too. Armed with their rifles poised the party entered the village and were taken to the chief.

Chief M’Hatuva was a fat old bird dressed only in a loin cloth with boobs as big as mine. He had large features; a broad nose, full and generous lips and he fanned himself with a fan made of ostrich feathers. Sir Graybridge looked with suspicious and bigoted eye upon the short, fat black man whom he spoke to in broken English.

“’Me Big Chief White Hunter. Me kill many lions. Me come in peace.’”

“Indeed,” said Chief M’Hatuva, “how about a spot of tea, scones perhaps?”

Sir Graybridge looked gob-smacked. He had never heard a black man speak with Received Pronunciation before.

“But, but,” he stuttered looking and sounding simple o’ mind, “you speak English!”

“I was educated at Eton before going to Oxford.”

“But the way you are dressed, this village, I er thought…”

“That I was your average peasant nigger?”

“Well, yes.”

“’Fraid not old chap. I am more your nigger noblesse oblige.”

“Oh, that’s alright then; practically one of us then.”

“Practically yes.”

“And you don’t eat white men?”

“No, only white women of whom I have taken a fancy.”

Maggot shook with laughter thinking he understood this uppity savage well enough.

“I go by the Nome de plume of Chief M’Hatuva, it is a custom of my people, much like your kings who are christened one name but take another when crowned.  You may call me Clyde. Now then, you must be simply famished. Would you like some food? Roast beef perhaps?”

The English knight nodded enthusiastically. He hadn’t eaten proper food in a fortnight and was fed up with game, especially warthog. He had eaten warthog sausages, warthog steak, warthog stew, warthog fricassee, warthog fried, warthog cold, warthog with hollandaise (disgusting) sauce, warthog diced, warthogs sliced and every other conceivable recipe known to Congolese Bushmen.

He was shown to a large tent which had its own en suite consisting of an old tin bath, a rush mat and a male servant who poured buckets of water over you whilst standing on a stool. Having cleaned himself he then dressed in traditional Congolese attire and went to down to sit with his new friend Clyde.

“There is a rare delicacy that I enjoy,” said Clyde snapping his fingers to a man servant who stood nearby, “and so I took the liberty of ordering for us both. Have you ever tried Warthog in fresh onion sauce?”



 Sir Maggot and entourage remained with the educated Clyde for three days then, as they were about t’ depart following a late breakfast that featured Warthog rashers, so Graybridge heard the sound of heavenly voices singing. The sound wafted across the harsh Congo landscape as from a distance. Whatever or whoever was making the pleasant noise they were not from this land.

“I see you have heard the nuns,” said Clyde indicating with a slight turn of his head in the direction of the singing.

“Nuns?” queried Maggot with trembling voice.

“Yes, they are Belgian missionaries sent to teach us ignorant nig nogs about the good Lord Jesus and the missionary position. Never much liked it I have to say preferring to see a tight pair of buttocks poised before me when aroused. Still, it takes all sorts.”

“White nuns?” asked Maggot drooling slightly.

“As the driven,” replied the amiable black prince.

With a thank you for having us and a shake of hands Sir Graybridge Maggot took his leave of Clyde and strode into the jungle followed by his seven man team. Instructing his senior guide to find and lead them to the sound, and hopefully home of the nuns, Maggot marched on hand upon his trusty hunting rifle which he held erect and primed.

“Within the hour they came upon a clearing in the centre of which stood a wooden apology for a church with broken crucifix hanging bowed to the left. Circled around the house of worship were a collection of poorly constructed wooden, windowless huts. As the party approached the tiny outpost so a nun with Z shaped profile appeared from one hut before walking the across the short expanse then entering the church. The window too was with windows.

“I could weigh anchor between those bounteous islets,” gasped Maggot in husky tones to the black tribesman who’s grasp of English, let alone the subtleties of metaphor or euphemism, was sorta limited.

“Bag a bigun sir?” replied the guide using an expression previously used by the lunatic white hunter.

“Not half,” replied said loony firmly gripping the length of his gun barrel.

The nun had patently not seen either tribesmen or the oddly garbed white man holding his weapon and so the small group softly entered the quiet glade. The singing they heard earlier had now stopped and the only sound they could discern was the wind gently rustlin’ the trees that surrounded the place.

When they were within a hundred feet o’ the church, which looked rather queer with its broken cross and lack of windows, the nun they had previously seen reappeared before hastily shutting the door t’ the hut she had left apologising as she did so. A strange groan reverberated as though from voices buried deep within the earth. The nun turned, saw the hunting party and shrieked.

Sir Graybridge stepped forward n’ then doffed his Pith Helmet.

“Be not alarmed fair nun,” he said slinging his rifle across his shoulder, “I am a white man and a Christian to boot.”

The nun, with hands held in fright t’ her mouth and with eyes wide with terror visibly relaxed but not, it seemed as a consequence of having a white male Christian in front of her. She studied the seven black men who worked as guides and carriers for Sir Graybridge.

“You startled me,” she scolded Maggot with mock severity in an accent thick with French, “I thought, when I saw these warriors (she put a deal of emphasis on the word warriors) that we were under attack from primitives.”

“Not a bit of it old thing,” smiled Maggot in a manner more leer that reassurance as his eyes wandered up down the nuns voluptuous figure.

“Would you and your men like some food? It is now nearly noon and practically time for luncheon.”

Graybridge felt a twinge from his old war wound as the French accent left the confines of the nuns wimple and drifted like the Seine lazily up his hunter’s shorts.

“That would be most kind but where are the other nuns; will they not be joining us?”

A strange look crossed the winsome woman’s face.

“They are sleeping and cannot be woken until nightfall,” she answered sheepishly.

“At this time of day?”

“They are of a special order on nuns that make votive offerings only at night. They were very active last night and now need to recoup their strength for tonight’s feast.”

“Feast, what feast? I didn’t know there was a religious event this time of year?”

The nun’s race flushed a peculiar red and her voice quavered when she answered. Maggot got the impression she was hiding something from him.

“Er, yes, it is the feast of Assumption. The day of Lady joined the host in heaven.”

“But I thought that was a month away?”

“Always be prepared is our mantra. Come this way and bring your men and I shall serve you cold meats.”

“You don’t have any ham do you?” asked the knighted Englishman hopefully.

“Only warthog, sorry.”

Maggot indicated to his men to follow then began rubbing his stomach vigorously thinking this would illustrate hunger. Sadly they thought he had diarrhoea but followed anyway. The nun took them t’ a shaded area just behind the church where a long table covered in what seemed like food stains dotted the surface. She bade them all sit down then went to fetch plates, cutlery and beakers for drinks. When she returned she smiled at the men then poured them a refreshing drink that was scarlet in colour, viscous but which tasted divine. She then went to fetch the food. She returned time n’ again until the whole table was covered in meat n’ fruit. The men tucked in feeling inexplicably ravenous. They devoured all that was put before them until the table was completely clear.

After they had their fill and feeling unbelievably tired the nun lead them to the church were she said they should rest. Too tired to argue they all laid on the floor and fell into a deep sleep. The only one who hadn’t succumbed to sleep was Sir Graybridge which was due to his not feeling either hungry or thirsty simply because he had not wanted to eat another mouthful of warthog no matter how it was prepared.

By now it was late afternoon. The sun overhead shone fiercely down. A faint breeze failed to stir the lethargy that consumed the sleeping men and began to affect Maggot. In all the time since finishing the meal the nun had remained by his side. She appeared to be dozing. Her head slumped forward onto her chest and a shallow sound of breathing followed. Sir Graybridge felt his own eyes grow heavy but not wanting to sleep stood up and stretched. He looked at the wooden huts that lay like piglets around their mother or, in this case, the wooden church. Each hut, five in total, pointed toward the place of worship. He thought he would have a look inside one of the huts to see if all the nuns were indeed asleep or it perhaps one or two were awake.

He strolled over to the first hut, put his hand on the door n’, began to pull at the handle when a soft voice from behind him spoke.

“Do you fancy walking with me?” asked the nun now fully awake.

She looked damn fine thought Maggot especially with that wimple framing her face. It made her seem all the more unobtainable and somehow incredibly attractive.

“Don’t mind if I do,” nodded he generously totally forgetting his desire t’ sneak a look at nuns sleeping. The two of them wandered off into the thick undergrowth surrounding the small sanctuary.

They walked for some minutes in silence. Maggot watched the nun who walked in front, watched her bottom move like two water buffalo entering a stream. The thought of those buttocks bared and with his hands upon them made his sinews stiffen and his resolve melt.

In front of them a small river, dry now, had left a crusty expanse, a trench of sorts that hollowed out before them. The nun stopped by the edge looking down.

“Would you help me to cross?” she asked lifting the skirts of her habit to reveal a sculptured pair of ankles that Sir Graybridge thought ‘damn fine.’

“Of course my dear,” Maggot uttered stepping down into the dried channel, “be glad to assist.”

He held his hand out t’ her and was ecstatically pleased when she placed her plump paw into his. Holding hands like two teenagers out courting the pair clambered out of the narrow causeway n’ up the other side, Maggot manfully helping the nun who struggled to get purchase. As she ascended the slight bank she stumbled n’ fell into his arms then began to slide back. Maggot threw out a hand taking a firm grip of one bottom cheek then tugged her toward him where she gratefully collapsed.

“Oh,” she gasped breathlessly, “you are so manful.”

He gave her buttock another squeeze for good measure then let go and smiled at her.

“Think nothing of it my dear, always glad to give a hand.”

They sat down together under the shade of a large tree that towered above them.

“The light is failing,” she announced, “we must be going back soon otherwise your servants will wonder where we are.”

Graybridge took out a grim meerschaum carved in the likeness of old Queen Victoria.

“Still asleep I’d wager.”

He stuffed a wedge of crushed leaf into the bowl then lit the pipe puffing like a train until the thing took.

“I like sucking on a man’s pipe,” the nun announced unexpectedly.

“Do you? Well, have a go on mine,” said Maggot as pleased as punch as he slipped the meerschaum into her hand.

The nun took two deep mouthfuls then blew smoke rings into the air.

“May I ask your name?” he asked castin’ a thankful nod as she passed his pipe back to him.

“My name after vows is Sister Mary Bodacious of the Crest Fallen but I was born and baptised Eliza, Eliza Bentwhistle.”

Maggot took a few mouthfuls o’ smoke, exhaled sending a thick stream of smoke rising heavenward then passed the pipe back to her.

“That’s a fine name for, if I may be so bold, a fine woman.”

Rosie inhaled deeply then blew smoke out of her nose giggling and coughing as she did.

“You are very kind,” she said, “but we really should be getting back. Nights draw in here early this time of year and I need to attend to my duties before the sisters awake.”

She passed the pipe back then tugged her habit high up to her knees as she rose. In a state of arousal having seen sight of more female flesh than he had for years, Maggot pushed the lighted end of the pipe into his mouth by mistake the let out a tormented yelp then stood up himself.

“What is the name of your order?”

“Sister of Saint Vlad.”

Walking out from beneath the canopy of leaves it was apparent the sun had not set yet n’was still visible. Maggot once again helped her cross the gully. The day was warm as evening began its approach. The huts looked as they had when they had left with not a sign of life or another nun to be seen. The team Maggot had selected still laying sleeping with snores escaping from their open mouths.

Maggot saw the church and settled down against it. The Sister Mary Bodacious of the Crest Fallen formerly known as Eliza sat down beside him where the two promptly fell asleep. Maggot awoke with a start. Eliza’s head was in his lap with her lips firmly around his prized fantasies. He shook his head n’ in the process woke Sister Mary Bodacious who sat up sharply. The daylight had gone and in its place dusk settled. The men had started to wake. They stretched their limbs and yawned.

Sister Mary Bodacious got to her feet and looked toward the huts where her sisters slept n’ then t’ the sky where light was failing fast. She then looked to the church with its damaged cross.

“I think you should come with me,” she said to Graybridge, “but hurry as we only have fifteen minutes or so before all light has gone.”

Confused by the sudden urgency the knighted gent followed as the former Eliza took a firm grip on his wrist. The men were still waking and a slither of moon slipped across the horizon. The church was larger than it appeared but very dark and Maggot wondered why there were no wooden pews. Sister Mary Bodacious knelt down before the crumbling altar with hands held tight as if in prayer. Upon hearing the sound of female voices Graybridge looked through a large crack in the wooden wall. Outside the nuns had awoken as night claimed the hour.

They moved with surprising speed toward his men who, fully awake and as is the way of men when waking, were more than happy to see females before them. The nuns appeared odd t’ maggot for they wore no wimples and their habits were bad for they had slits in the side and the tops revealed far too much bosom.

“This is the weirdest set of nuns I have ever seen,” said he “they look more like whores than nuns and, as much as I like to see white women they are more chalk like.”

He watched as the nuns approached the men n’ with little or no preliminaries, the briefest of introductions you might say, began to embrace the men in what could only be described as under intimate circumstances. A scene from Dante ensued with women lying down, kneeling, standing up, leaning and crouching in positions not entirely missionary as men n’ nuns fornicated beneath the early blush of night.

The spectacle grew more fervent as legs wrapped around torso’s, bodies conjoined in mutual physical pleasure, breasts exposed shook as buttocks rose and fell then, as pleasure seeking reached its natural climax so the perversion of nuns gathered turned like feral animals upon those they had mated with and began to feast. Teeth white ‘n fang like flashed in the moonlight. Blood, thin and warm trickled down chins of porcelain white

“By sweet Holy Jesus,” cried Maggot finding the scenes laid before him repulsive in the extreme, “they are vampire, female blood suckers. They are killing my men.”

He turned sharply having heard Sister Mary Bodacious foot fall.

“Are you…”

“No, I am merely their captive servant. They keep me alive to minister to their corporeal needs.”

He had no idea what that meant n’ even if he had it wouldn’t have meant much as it makes no sense.

“Come with me,” said Sister Mary Bodacious, “down into a safe place where they won’t touch you. Come, come with me.”

Maggot watched as the horror outside unfolded; with the screams of the men ringing in his ears which then reached a sudden conclusion, Sister Mary Bodacious lifted a panel in the floor and beckoned him to follow. Faced with those creatures of nightmare outside or of slipping beneath the floorboards with a nun Maggot did what any sane man would. The hole under the church was small, barely big enough t’ allow one-person in. Sister Mary Bodacious lay down beneath him and he lay on top of her. Even though the sights he had just witnessed had been horrific, all that exposed female flesh had had an effect and, weak poor excuse of a man that he was n’ with a tender young nun beneath him, Sir Graybridge Maggot did what any blue blooded male when faced with a woman in close proximity with her habit hitched up would do, he made the best of the situation.

The sounds of debauchery and death subsided. The sounds of lust concluded. Maggot n’ the nun crept out o’ the makeshift crypt and listened for any sound of the undead.

“Can you get away without them seeing you?” asked the gallant, and if not gallant slightly guilty for having taken advantage, knight.

“Yes, I think so,” answered Sister Mary Bodacious dusting down her habit.

“Go the way you took me and I will follow shortly,” he instructed.

She did as he told her and crept out of the roughly built church stepping lightly across the dry ground until she reached the perimeter of the jungle.

A noise as of dogs sniffing became noticeable to Maggot who edged nearer the church door. As he did so the host o’ wanton female vampires slithered in seeking him. He waited n’ watched in sheer terror until the very last one of their number was congregated before him. Then with slow deliberation they turned their heads one by one t’ observe him. He felt his insides turn to liquid as their eyes fell upon him, felt a queasy hollow sensation in the pit of his stomach at the thought of all those ravenous mouths with their needle-sharp teeth sinking into his neck. Any erotic notions he harbored soon vanished as en masse they began to move toward him all hissing n’ spitting like a bucket full o’ snakes. He stood now with back against the church door, pulled out the last stick of dynamite from his pocket, lit the fuse then threw it into their vile vampiric midst and ran for dear life.

The explosion that followed lit the night sky with a blinding flash as scattered bits of wood and bone and flesh flew across the area.

Sister Mary Bodacious was waiting for him by the gulley. He helped her across, then helped himself to her once again, then, after some days o’ tramping about a bit n’ following a sea journey, took her home to his house in Fekenham where she gave birth to a beautiful bouncing boy who they named Waldo. The couple never married. They lived in sin and Waldo kept his mother’s maiden name.”

A faint breeze blew in the cottage as Ethel’s story came to an end. The Dwarfs looked at Ethel admiringly.

“And was the bastard boy a Bentwhistle?” asked Lemon Pip smiling

“That’s right,” replied Ethel.

“A certain publican known in these parts?”

“Could be.” confirmed Ethel winking

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.