Friday, 23 January 2009

Team building

I mentioned last week that Andy and I have been able to procure an old Manor house in the village of Much Malarkey thanks to the huge earning capacity of our cat Tybalt who, it transpires, is the real Charles Dickens and is raking in the dosh, especially with all the BBC costume drama royalties.

Well, Much Malarkey Manor comes with staff so we decided to take them out for a meal in a 'getting to know you' manner before we move in and start bossing them around with unreasonable demands. An invitation was extended to meet them at Pizza Express and so, in our best bib and tuckers (i.e T-shirts without holes and jeans devoid of paint spatters) we went out for dinner last night with 'our staff.'

They're a funny bunch, we discovered. (You're a fine one to talk,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Don't you have a cardigan to crochet or something, ' I rejoinder, which is my word of the day.)

The sitting tenants are Lady Matilda Organza-Curtain and Sir Oliphant Dreadnought who arrived at the Manor 87 years ago for a children's birthday party and forgot to leave. They are not wholly to blame for this oversight because they were only children at the time and were supposedly in the care of Nanny Gnu (with a silent 'G'). Nanny Gnu still takes it upon herself to look after them even though she is 105 and can't get about without the aid of a couple of strapping farm-hands. However, Nanny Gnu proved to have the constitution of an ox as she polished off an entire Etna pizza (the clue is in the name) which caused beads of sweat to form on Andy's brow within two mouthfuls when he tackled one.

The Manor kitchen is run by Mrs Heavensabove Fudge. Apparently, Heavensabove is her real baptismal name. Something to do with an escaped pig at her christening and the vicar's loose cassock. I didn't get the whole story because she'd removed her dentures in order to eat her ice-cream sundae thereby rendering her completely and dribbly incomprehensible. Mrs Fudge is assisted in the kitchens by Daisy the Maid who also deals with other household tasks including washing, ironing, dusting and polishing, blacking the grates, laying the fires, buffing the firkins and dubbing the leather sofas. I noticed she had remarkably soft and unlined hands for one who spends her day toiling with housework. Either she's religious about wearing her Marigolds or someone is telling porkies. Daisy spent a lot of time under the table helping the Music Master, a Mr Boom Penguin, retrieve his errant napkin. Mr Penguin wears his trousers far too tight and Andy has promised to have a manly (grrrrr) word with him about them later.

I had a long discussion with the gardener, Versatility Peat, about the planting and growing of vegetables, especially courgettes. I said that four plants would be more than adequate given how prolific they were at producing fruit but Versatility insisted you can never have too many courgettes and he'll plant 47 like he did last year and all the years before that. I said that as I was now in overall charge I thought he ought to listen to me, epecially as I know a bit about veg growing myself, and he said 'Ha! You'll mickle the muckle before the truckle if you take that attitude,' and stormed off into the night with some excuse about having to string his onions. Andy re-assured me that Versatility Peat would come around to my way of thinking eventually because most people do. In the mean-time, we're going to hide his dibber just in case.

All in all it was a very successful evening and there was hardly any mess on the floor when we left. As we said our goodbyes, Lady Matilda took my arm. 'I'm very sorry that Viscount Improbable and Lord Darkly Dangerous couldn't join us. They both sent their apologies. Well, the Viscount did. Lord Darkly never apologises to anyone.'
'And what do the Viscount and Lord Darkly do at the Manor?' I asked.
'Viscount Improbable is the Butler. He also maintains Sir Oliphant's train set in the attic. And he scares children at Hallowe'en. Actually, he scares children all the year round but it's Hallowe'en when he really comes into his own. And he isn't really a Viscount but he can get a bit tetchy if you don't humour him.'
'I see,' I say. 'And Lord Darkly Dangerous?'
'He never leaves the Manor,' sighed Lady Matilda. 'He lives in the Undercroft, looking after the extensive wine collection.' I think, Andy will be pleased to know there's an extensive wine collection.
'How extensive exactly?' I asked.
'Oooh, fifteen bottles at the last count, I think,' said her Ladyship.'And, of course, he'll never leave Gasil on his own.'
'And who is Gasil?' I asked.
'Why, his ventriloquist dummy of course. They've been friends for simply years,' said Lady Matilda. 'Au revoir.'

As we walked home, Andy said 'Do you think we've done the right thing, buying Much Malarkey Manor?'
'Of course,' I said cheerfully, trying to ignore the sense of impending doom that was muttering in the back of my mind. It'll be fine, I thought. You reckon so? said the voice of doom. Shut up, said Mrs Miggins.

Where did she come from??

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