Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Nineteenth Day of Advent - Ring-A-Ling-A-Ling-A-Ding-Dong-Ding!

(Editor's Note: Some might say it is pure coincidence that this episode should fall upon the 19th December, because today is the anniversary of the day in 2002 when Andy proposed marriage to Denise over a bowl of carrot and coriander soup. And some might say it is a cunningly thought-out plan by the author in order to recognise this auspicious moment during the story plot. And some might say it is also coincidence that, had Denise's Dad still been alive, he and her Mum would be celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary today. Either way, coincidence or plot, the 19th December has particular marriage resonance and so we continue our story...)

'Are you ready?' said Santa, adjusting the bow tie on Tango Pete's shirt for the sixth time because Tango Pete had a particularly manly chest and its muscular ooomph did nothing to help the bow tie lie flat.

'I am,' said Tango Pete. And even though he trusted Santa to set up the perfect conditions for a romantic proposal, he had also taken the precaution of wearing his lucky underpants. Just in case. It doesn't do to mess with fate, he thought, adjusting his wattles and nuggets. Look what happened to Romeo.

'Ah yes,' sighs Daisy, 'poor Romeo. A star cross'd lover. Fortune's Fool. When that ship went down, and he was hanging onto that piece of wood in the freezing Atlantic I sobbed my heart out.'

'I think,' says Primrose, 'that you might be mixing your Leonardo di Caprio films.'

'Really?' says Daisy. 'Well, either way, he's a marvellous actor. And how he finds time to paint those amazing pictures, too. Moaning Lisa - now there's a gal and a half.'

Primrose stares at her companion. 'Daisy,' she says, 'I am very fond of you, but just shut up,eh?'

Santa had unharnessed two of the reindeer and then reharnessed them to a smaller sleigh, and filled it with cushions and snugly rugs.

'Go and fetch Mrs Pumphrey,' he said.

Tango Pete was trembling in his knickerbockers. (Cockerels always wear knickerbockers. Their legs would look stupid in any other form of pantaloon. So it's knickerbockers. Or Spandex, because Spandex will adapt to the form of ANY leg shape.) He found Mrs Pumphrey deep in conversation with Merrily Onhigh. 

'Would you do me the honour of accompanying me on a little trip, Mrs Pumphrey?' said he, giving a little bow, he didn't know why but it seemed the appropriate thing to do, plus it relieved the wedgie that had occurred in his lucky underpants. 

'What sort of little trip?' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Only I am rather keen to get to King Wenceslas's castle as soon as possible. It's only 6 days until Christmas and Mrs Miggins will be cross if I'm too late arriving back at Much Malarkey Manor because it's my job to brandy the butter and Brussel the sprouts.'

'We won't be long,' said Tango Pete. He took a firm hold of Mrs Pumphrey's wing and guided her towards the little sleigh because the last thing he needed at this moment in time was for her to start being awkward. If she started being un-co-operative he might lose his bottle completely and some other swine would whisk her away from him, which might be just a little more than he could bear.

'So,' he said, as they settled into the little sleigh and set off along a woodland track, 'what have you been up to recently?'

Mrs Pumphrey looked at him like he was mad. 'You know full well what I've been up to recently,' she said. 'We've spent the last two and a half weeks together.'

Damn, thought Tango Pete, what a stupid thing to say. Classic small-talk faux pas. Try something else.

'Oh, er...yes...well...ummmm...' he continued, 'so...have you read any good books lately? Seen any decent films? Discovered any new sheep?' 

'Sheep?' said Mrs P. 'Sheep?!'

'Did I say 'sheep'?' said Tango Pete. 'Sorry. I meant 'biscuits'.'

'No,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'To both sheep and biscuits. The last film I saw was 'Despicable Me 2' which was very, very funny and I wouldn't mind it for a Christmas present, and the last book I read was 'How To Be A Womhen' by Caitlin Morhen, which was not funny and is going straight to the charity shop when I get home.'

'What was wrong with it?' said Tango Pete.

'Too much swearing,' sniffed Mrs Pumphrey. 'And drinking and smoking and taking prohibited substances and other such naughtiness. £7.99 wasted if you ask me. And it didn't teach me anything about being a hen that I didn't know already.'

The two would-be-fiances sat in silence for a while. The sleigh jingled its bells and Tango Pete jingled the engagement ring that was safely in its box in the pocket of his knickerbockers. Dusk was falling, and the sky was clear and inky-blue above them, studded with twinkly stars and bathed in the gentle glow of a just-passed full moon. 

And then the most magical thing began to happen. 

'What is the most magical thing you can think of, Daisy?' says Primrose.

'Paul Daniels,' says Daisy. 

'No,' says Primrose. 'I think you'll find it has started snowing.'

'Oh,' says Daisy.

And indeed, snow had begun to fall. It swirled around in gentle patterns dropping softly then lifting up as it was caught by the slight breeze that waltzed though the woodland landscape. And then the sleigh came to a halt beneath a solitary streetlight, like that one in Narnia, land of ice and snow and wonder and magic and bananas. 

'Why have we stopped?' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'I thought you said this was going to be a short trip...'

(Cue Tango Pete riffling in his knickerbockers for the engagement ring.)

'I have something important to say,' said Tango Pete, pulling the ring box from his pocket.

'Only like I said before we really need to get a move on,' interrupted Mrs Pumphrey. 'I really don't know what possessed me to go in search of this stupid Last L of Christmas anyway. It probably doesn't exist and I am going to look a prize plum when we get back to Titbury, and then Miggins is going to be stressed out that I haven't been around to help get ready for Christmas. You just don't realise how much there is to do at the last minute. I mean, you feel like you've been working on preparations for months and Christmas is never going to arrive, then WHAM! There is it, two days to go and you haven't even mulled the wine or nogged the eggs....'

'Mrs Pumphrey...'said Tango Pete. 'Gloria...'

'And Mrs Bennett will be up that ladder hanging lights on the front of the Manor, and she shouldn't, not with her sciatica, and Mrs Slocombe will be at the Ferrero Rocher before the Ambassador arrives and...'

'Gloria Pumphrey!' said Tango Pete, suddenly and with passionate fervour. 'Will you please be quiet! I am trying to propose!' 

(This is exactly what Andy said to Denise 11 years ago. Well, she'd just driven from Kent to Liverpool after a long and horrid day at school and she always over talks at times of deep stress.) 

Mrs Pumphrey stopped mid-chat. Her beak hung open wide, which wasn't the most attractive of looks. Tango Pete grabbed the sudden silence by the throat and went for it. He dropped to one knee, which was no mean feat in a small sleigh full of cushions and rugs.

'Gloria In Excelsis Deo Pumphrey...will you marry me?' 

'Yes,' she said, simply. 'Yes.'


rusty duck said...

Will there be a hen night?

Denise said...

Every night is hen night at Much Malarkey Manor, Jessica!!

doodles n daydreams said...

I am overcome with emotion, I had a horrible feeling she might miss the moment. Phew.


Denise said...

I am glad that Tango Pete opened a can of 'Man Up' and took charge of the situation! Mrs Pumphrey can be very difficult to distract when she is having a rant!

Countryside Tales said...

Will she becomes Mrs Tango or Mrs Pumphrey-Tango after the happy day? It is important that she fully considers these things in advance. I suggest she tries saying them out loud so she can tell which sounds better, and also so she can consider whether or not she'll spend the entire rest of her life spelling her surname out to other people over the phone.