Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Fourth Day of Advent - Something Dark, Damp and Seedy and It's Not a Pomegranate.

'Where are we going?' shouted Mrs Pumphrey from her seat on the back of the tandem. Tango Pete was up the front, pedalling like a crazy thing and Mrs Pumphrey was clinging hard to her handlebars. They sped away from Mrs Bennett's Bean and Gong Emporium, a couple of mince pies wrapped in a paper napkin for emergencies. Mrs Pumphrey gritted her teeth and closed her eyes as they travelled. She wasn't really built for tandem travel, lacking somewhat in the aerodynamic department as she did. Also, she did not like being kept in the dark about where they were heading. 

'We're going to see an old friend of mine!' shouted Tango Pete over the sound of the whistling wind and Mrs Pumphrey's spasmodic screams as they hit the occasional speed bump or wheelie bin. 'Honestly, I can't think why I didn't think of him before. I am such a fool!'

They were soon on the outskirts of Titbury and heading into an area of the suburbs that Mrs Pumphrey knew to be a 'not very nice place, especially for genteel lady hens.' She had questioned Mrs Miggins on several occasions about what form this 'not niceness' took, but Mrs Miggins was very scant with the details, muttering vaguely about 'fur coats' and 'lack of suitable underwear' and someone called 'Boris Johnson.' 

The streets began to narrow and the lights grew few and far between. Mrs Pumphrey was torn between feelings of anxiety for their safety and more than just a frisson of excitement. Just as she was about to ask Tango Pete when they would arrive at their destination the tandem screeched to a halt and Mrs Pumphrey was sent flying base over apex, landing in a very undignified fashion in a wide doorway.

'My dear lady!' said Tango Pete, leaping from the tandem and helping Mrs Pumphrey to her feet. 'I am so sorry. It's been many years since I visited 'The Purple Petunia.' Its arrival rather took me by surprise.'

For that was the name of their destination. The facade of 'The Purple Petunia' looked as if it had once been grand and ornate, but now it was broken and shabby. Paintwork was peeling from the columns that stood guard at the main door. Plaster flaked from the once sturdy walls. 

'You've been here before?' said Mrs Pumphrey.

'I used to work here,' said Tango Pete. 'This grand old building was where I started my show biz career. Second trapeze artist and balloon modeller. I just hope he's still around.'

'Who?' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Who have we come to see?'

'Why, Harold Angel, of course,' said Tango Pete.

Mrs Pumphrey's beak fell open. 'THE Harold Angel?' she said, agog with amazement. 

'THE Harold Angel,' said Tango Pete. 'The One and Only Quail Tenor Extraordinaire.'

'I shall never forget his Nessun Dorma,' sighed Mrs Pumphrey, as she and Tango Pete made their way into the faded glamour of yesteryear that was 'The Purple Petunia.'

And as they moved further into the dingy depths of the old music hall building, they became aware of a  low and vibrant sound. The unmistakeable sound of a very small bird making a very big sound. Fuelled, it sounded, by several pints of Old Fossils Slightly Crumbly Best Ale.

'Hark!' said Tango Pete. 'That's Harold Angel singing! He's still got it!' 

Mrs Pumphrey wasn't so sure. As her eyes accustomed to the dim light and smokey atmosphere, she saw on the stage a feathered figure - short in stature and wide in girth - clinging onto a microphone stand and looking like if he let go he'd fall to the floor and never rise again.

They waited until Harold Angel had finished his performance, and clapped politely at the end along with the other members of the audience - all three of them. And they watched as Harold Angel took a bow and shuffled from the stage, his little quail tail feathers dragging along the floor behind him.

'Harold!' said Tango Pete, stepping towards his old friend. 'Harold Angel!'

The quail stopped and stared at Tango Pete. He squinted, then reached for the pocket of his waistcoat, fished out a dusty monocle and fixed to his right eye.

'Good Heavens Above!' he said. 'As I live and breathe and whistle through my nose at night time, if it isn't Tango Pete. How are you, old chap? How jolly well are you?'

He staggered forward and gripped Tango Pete's wing in about as manly an embrace as an inebriated quail can manage. 

'I am well,' said Tango Pete. 'And you'

'And to what do I owe this unexpected visitation of such delicious company?' said Harold, tipping Mrs Pumphrey a bit of a cheeky wink.

'This is Mrs Gloria Inexcelsis Deo Pumphrey,' said Tango Pete. 'And we need your help.'

'Charmed,' said Harold, bowing slightly and just about managing to not fall over. 'How can I be of assistance?'

Mrs Pumphrey cleared her throat. 'We are on a journey to find the Last No L,' she said. 

Well, she might just as well have said, 'We want you to carry this very enormous pair of skis through that very small revolving door,' for the reaction she got.

'The Last No L?' said Harold Angel. 'You are looking for The Last No L? You do realise the only way to find The Last No L is to travel on a tandem capable of going backwards in time and running the gauntlet of sheep and shepherds and stars and kings? It's a very, VERY dangerous business...'

'Fifty quid and a ploughman's at the Pig and Bucket?' said Tango Pete.

'Done!' said Harold Angel. 'Consider me your official guide for the ride. When do we leave?'

'NOW!' said Tango Pete and Mrs Pumphrey in unison.


rusty duck said...

How many seats on a tandem?

Denise said...

Two! But Harold Angel has his own transport. A Triumph Herald motorbike. It's Harold's Herald!

doodles n daydreams said...

The plot thickens.
I hope the adventures at your grand daughters concert were much less frauht.


doodles n daydreams said...


Countryside Tales said...

I LOVE Mrs Pumphrey's real name. And we have a Mr Quail at college too!

You are brilliant writing this every day to entertain us all, especially when the end of term with all it's shenanigans (favourite word of mine) beckons so imminently.

Loving it x