Saturday 22nd October 2016.
When the Buddha sits at the end of your garden path serenely decapitated, it feels like something sinister. I inspected the jaggedly severed neck stump, peered into the hollow torso – empty, of course. Buddha hate crime? Or, did someone take Zen Master Linji’s instruction too literally: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”
As luck would have it, Tom and Joyce Barnaby were round for coffee and garibaldis. Tom was eyeing a bottle of red with that constipated look he gets before lunchtime. It was Joyce who first spotted the butchered Buddha, gazing out the conservatory window in studied obliviousness to Tom’s dipsomanic funk. ”My God! Gonzo, please look away… Tom, Tom we need you!” It was all quite frantic – I just remember Tom’s new brogues squeaking horribly up the garden path; and how I clumsily remarked to Joyce: “Has his Dad paid for those shoes yet?”
Eventually we joined Barnaby at the scene juggling the Buddha’s head from palm to palm. I was going to fetch a couple of satsumas to give him more to think about. “What weapon could inflict this unique type of injury – cleanly severed head, yet see this jagged wound?” he questioned sniffily. “I think we need Bullard on this.”
“Bullard’s at hymn practice, Tom. You know what he’s like since he took the baton for Midsomer Worthy and won the Four Choirs.”
“Well, maybe he needs reminding about that £25 bottle of red I bought last time we had him and the Mrs round for dinner. You heard him, Joyce – ’that tastes like a £20 bottle.’”
“Yes, but you corrected him, Tom. It’s okay, everyone knows what you paid.”
“And he thought he was complimenting me saying twenty… There was a ‘three for a tenner’ on the Bulgarian Merlot, and I’m the mug leaving Bargain Booze with one piddling bottle for twenty-five…”
“Why leave the head though?” Skippy interrupted. “I mean, otherwise it just looks like an accident – maybe the mould simply cracked in the recent change of weather.”
“Ah my sweet, Skippy Pickles, just like my Cully reaching for the wine rack,” Barnaby reposted, “brilliantly telepathic!”
Thus Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby chalks up another case; and, yet again, gets ratted in a celebratory binge on someone else’s plonk.
What’s more, somehow Barnaby blags his way onto the Scarborough curry bus, knitted wet suit neatly folded under one arm (a gift from the mother-in-law). Off to join his muckers on the thriving Scarborough surfing scene. The North Sea in October?
It was another imaginative table placement – in the middle of the serving corridor, right by the stairs to the toilet. The scene perfectly set for another altercation with management (see Shalimar, Harrogate). Fortunately, nothing more awkward than a needlessly protracted discussion about mince… The king prawn on puree starter was the star of the show – approaching Mangla’s standard. Skippy’ s cinnamon-e lamb, chicken & potato balti fetched in a dinky silver bucket was pretty good too. Everything else rather ordinary – the thali tray a real disappointment: bland, and, in the case of the veg portion, lukewarm.
It’s bring your own, and we hadn’t. Affronted, Barnaby stormed off to the unisex lavies tossing a tame, chewy bhaji at the drinks menu. Told us he’d shared a few slugs of his hip flask (engraved “Sir”) with another of those bohemian divorcees in pashminas he’s always bumping into. “No kind of toilet for a lady,” he informed us, zipping his fly.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles
Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby