Thursday, 17 March 2011

St Patrick's Day According to Mrs Pumphrey

'Today is St Patrick's Day which is of no interest to us, because we are English and go 'Hurrah!' for St George,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I'm French - who do I go' Hurrah' for?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'I have no idea,' says Mrs P. 'And you are only partially French, and that is due to faulty genetics, so hush your pseudo-Gallic beak.'
'Charmant,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Well, if we are only going 'Hurrah!' for St George, why are you about to tell the tale of St Patrick of Ireland?'
'If you settle down with your cocoa and be quiet,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'all will be revealed.'

(I think, good, perhaps I ought to settle down with a cocoa, too, because at this precise moment in time I have no idea what is going to happen. I believe, in writer's parlance, the ensuing tale will be built on the art of 'winging it.')

'It is a common misconception,' begins Mrs Pumphrey, 'that St Patrick of Ireland is responsible for driving all the snakes from Ireland. He is also said to have got rid of all the toads, lizards and newts....'
'I had a newt once,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'I called it 'Tiny' because it was my newt.'
'Oh do shut up,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I need to tell you about the cakes.'
'Snakes, you mean,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'I know what I mean, and I mean 'cakes,' says Mrs P. 'For this is the story that needs to be told, to put right the whole St Patrick and the snakes malarkey.'
'Then do continue,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'St Patrick was born near Glasgow,' begins Mrs Pumphrey. 'And Glasgow is in Scotland, as you know, and Scotland also has a place called Dundee, which is famous for its cake.'
'The one with nuts,' says Mrs S.
'You know all about nuts, don't you?' says Mrs P.
'Like you wouldn't believe,' says Mrs S.
'Anyway, young Patrick was so holy that the Devil himself sent witches and demons to kill him, and we've all heard of Devil's Food Cake, haven't we?'
'Nice bit of chocolatey stuff,' says Mrs S.
'So off galloped Patrick across the Irish sea, and the dark forces, who were unable to travel across the water...'
'No water wings?' says Mrs S.
'Probably,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Anyway, whatever, the witches et al couldn't get across the water, so they lobbed dirty great lumps of stone at Patrick instead...'
'Rock cakes?' says Mrs S.
'Uhuh,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I think I am sensing a theme emerging,' says Mrs Slocombe.

(Phew! says I)

'...but there are other sources that suggest St Patrick was born in Pembrokeshire...' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Which is in Wales,' says Mrs Slocombe, who is getting the hang of things now.
'Which is famous for its Welsh cakes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And to add to the confusion, there is also a suggestion St Patrick was born in Battersea, in London.'

Mrs Slocombe pauses. The ticking of her brain as she tries to make a cake-related association is tangible in the still air.

'Nope,' she says, 'I give up.'
'Battenburg!' says Mrs Pumphrey, a little too triumphantly, and optimistically come to that.
'Battenburg?' says Mrs S.
'Take away the 'burg' which is clearly short for 'burger,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And what have you got?'
'Batten?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Like 'Battersea!' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'That's a bit tenuous,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Part of it is lost in Ye Olde Englishe Cockney translation,' says Mrs Pumphrey with such conviction that Mrs Slocombe doesn't like to argue.

'So, anyway,' continues Mrs Pumphrey, who is sensing she has the upper beak, 'on his death bed, St Patrick reviewed his life and so cake-ridden was his past that he ordered every cake in Ireland to be put in a box and cast into the sea. Except the sponge cakes, in case they absorbed too much water and made a path for the Scottish witches to travel across to him and have a final go.'
'What did he do with the sponge cakes?' asks Mrs S.
'Built the Blarney Castle,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'When you see people on the TV hanging upside down and kissing the Blarney Stone for luck, they aren't really really kissing a stone, they're nibbling a bit of sponge cake.'
'Aaaah,' says Mrs Slocombe, beginning to wonder who is the real nut-case of this pottering partnership.
'And after his death, St Patrick left two shrines,' finishes Mrs Pumphrey. 'One contains his bell. The one he used to ring for cake with.'
'And the other?' says Mrs S.
'His tooth,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Reduced to a decayed and shrivelled stump, as a warning against the consumption of too many sugar based products.'
'Especially in the days before toothpaste and Oral-B,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Quite,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

So that, apparently, is the story of St Patrick chasing the cakes from Ireland.

Believe it, if you will.


Bob said...

The St Patricks story makes so much more sense now - Thank you!!

Denise said...

Cake makes more sense than anything else in the whole wide world. More sense than snakes anyway. Stick with a tongue? What's all that about then??