Friday 14th October 2016.
Oh the life of an Edwardian duchess… ferried hither and thither in one’s regal chariot, offering the riff-raff a pouty acknowledgement. Didn’t that man once scrape my boots at Ascot? I idly pondered. Dung for his hearth I suppose. Quite covered in it we were. Poor Titty – impossibly scatological. Titty and horse boxes… Mummy was right about her. Still, she remains as jolly as a pig in the proverbial – it’s a charming little asylum really. Fresh cut flowers in the window. “What wonderful anthuriums, Titty dear.” I once remarked. “Shove ‘em up your arse then,” she countered. How delightfully committed to her ordurous fixation, even now, I reflected. “Committed being the operative word,” I added, sotto voce. My little joke.
A tiresome journey. The usual dapper escorts twinkling with thinly disguised innuendo. I demurred with that come-to-bed-hot-milk-and-water-bottle coy sexiness I’ve cultivated. Caught old Silkerstone’s eye in the rearview mirror. “Oh ma’am, how you toy with them,” he seemed to say. He would know. But gone are the days of backseat fumblings, besmirched silk stays and whalebone leftovers. A gallop aboard a firm flanked gelding will do for me. Mummy was the same in the end.
“Boondocks,” I think is the the term he used. A bluff American captain of something or other. Took him quite seriously for a time – as seriously as he took himself, in fact. Until Daddy – dear papa – exposed the duplicitous parvenu. An army captain, faute de mieux – très blushworthy, n’est-ce pas? Daddy educated me forthwith vis-à-vis the rank and file. “Now, a naval captain, my darling girl, that’s another matter entirely…”
Boondocks: a sort of remote territory where they brew hooch and the muntjac roam. He may have been referring to Minnesota. I forget now. Anyway, this was the kind of country we navigated – Silkerstone navigated – to reach The Vine. A tedious road where roundabouts come to die… Before long, re-surfacing in Queens to find Queenie and the gang, mwah-mhawing air-kisses; all froufrou fascinators and evening gloves.
At last, the restaurant. Not exactly equal to Uncle Mufti’s misty eyed rendering of hill station dining quarters. (How his monocle used to pop at the first mention of native serving girls…) Perhaps it was the unremitting carpet evoking challenging memories of a certain Blackpool boarding house that did it. The oddly dislocated table placements setting us adrift on a sea of unsettling warp and weft. I can just hear sweet Uncle Mufti now: “Un-pukka, my dears, distinctly un-pukka!”
“The garlic lamb, if you please, memsaab,” suggests my glinting, mischievous waiter. A shot at redeeming the stuttering preliminaries. (The pickle tray, almost identical to the Shapla version: an ample, above average, pentatonic melody; an array of draught lagers: a championed Mongoose; zingless onion bhajis, all mouth and trousers; a tired and exsiccated tandoori chicken leg.)
“Top hole, my squidgy Bertie!” I breathily ejaculated. The din of flying baking trays and kitchen utensils supplying climactic thunder to the sensory exquisiteness. “The garlic lamb was splendid,” I continued, re-adjusting a kiss curl, “and it was Massive.”
Much later, having retired to the thoroughly colonial comfort of The British Oak, Dr Octopus, with crushing authority, informs me that the entry requirement for my proposed new career line (how Mummy would squirm!) of street cleaner/litter picker (those dinky high visibility suits!) specifies “holding up a Post Office”. How positively Shavian – no doubt suitable material for George Bernard’s next grubby little lefty tract matineeing at The Aldwych…
Whatever will become of this impecunious, obsolete It Girl? Foied vinom pipafo, cra carefo!
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles