Wednesday, 24 August 2011


I am sitting in the kitchen whilst Mrs Pumphrey applies a poultice to the burn on my hand. The burn on my hand is a result of some over-zealous bashing of a small white loaf from the breadmaker loaf tin and the slipping of an oven glove. Thusly, skin came into contact with some very hot metal and some very unlady-like language ensued.

'What exactly is in this poultice?' I say to Mrs Pumphrey.
'Best not to ask,' she says. 'The most I can say is that it's a good job I got to you before Mrs Slocombe. The last time Mrs Slocombe applied a poultice, Tango Pete couldn't sit down for a week.'
'Goody,' I say. Actually, I think a poultice is unnecessary. Okay, so a blister has come up, but it's barely the size of a sixpence. And yes, the ball of my thumb is bright red and feels hot to the touch, but as burns go, it's fairly insignificant. My initial plan of treatment was to get Andy to kiss it better when he comes home from work.

'Did you know,' says Mrs P, because she's never one to pass up the opportunity of a captive audience, 'that it's forty days since St Swithin's Day?'
'No,' says I, 'I did not. Is that significant?'
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'It means there will be a turn in the weather.'
'I should bloomin'well hope so,' I say, especially after this morning when it rained a la stair-rods for a good twenty minutes, causing rivers of water to flood the roads, and the back garden to turn into a swamp.
'There's a saying,' says Mrs Pumphrey, who is now applying a bandage that looks suspiciously like a dock leaf, 'St Bartlemy's mantle wipes dry all the tears St Swithin can cry.'
'Who is St Bartlemy?' I say.
'St Bartholomew,' says Mrs P. 'It's St Bartholomew's Day.'
'And were St Bartholomew and St Swithin great pals?' I say.
Mrs Pumphrey shrugs. 'I don't know,' she says, 'but St Bartholomew is patron saint of bee-keepers, so I guess he was an okay kind of chap.'

The poultice is starting to tingle, nay sting, with a not inconsiderable zealousness and I mention this to Mrs Pumphrey who seems unconcerned.
'Are you sure this is okay to put on a burn?' I say.
'Can you still feel the burn?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'No,' I say, because the initial discomfort of it is being overtaken by something far more sinister.
'Then the therapy has worked,' declares Mrs Pumphrey.
'What therapy?' I say.
'Pain diversion therapy,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'The premise of which is that if someone has got a headache, you stamp on their foot and they soon forget the pain elsewhere. Also,' she continues, in an effort to prevent me questioning her medicinal skills further, 'today is Wayzgoose, traditionally the day that London printers had a holiday to mark the shortening of the days and having to get out the candles to work by.'

I can understand this. Yesterday I had to put on the lights in my writing room because it was so dismal outside. The glare from my computer screen in the gloom was positively scorching.

'How did the printers celebrate their holiday?' I say.
'Employees were given a bonus to fund either a goose feast or a trip to the seaside,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Anything else exciting happening today?' I ask.
'Beating the bounds in Grimsby,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'But you'll have to make your own judgement about the excitement of that event.'

Once she has gone, I remove the dock leaf 'n' poultice combo and run my burn under some cold water. Aside from a funny smell which I think will follow me around for the rest of the day, there appears to be no further damage caused by Mrs Pumphrey's eager ministrations.

One can only be grateful for small mercies.