Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Third Day of Advent - A Sub-Standard Mince Pie Brings a Revelation

Mrs Bennett's Bean and Gong Emporium - Fine Refreshments For Discerning Hens - was situated just off the High Street in the town of Titbury in the country of Titbury von Streudelheim, within whose boundaries lay Much Malarkey Manor. The country of Titbury von Streudelheim was ruled by King Andy and Queen Matilda and when they were away on holiday, by their hapless son Nearly King Jimbo. If you haven't already done so, you can read all about the adventures of Nearly King Jimbo in the excellent and highly entertaining novelette 'Nearly King Jimbo' available from all good e-book stores and in paperback from Lulu. (Lulu being the on-line self-publishing outlet and not the wee red headed singer from Scotland.)

'Hark at her and her blatant self-publicising,' says Primrose.

'It is a good book though,' says Daisy. 'I'd thoroughly recommend it. Very absorbent.'

'Don't you mean 'absorbing'?' says Primrose.

'I know what I mean,' says Daisy.

The shop bell tinkled, announcing the arrival of Mrs Pumphrey and Tango Pete, and like all good shopkeepers, Mrs Bennett immediately appeared, as if from nowhere.

'Gloria!' she said, with all the joy and enthusiasm of greeting a long-lost friend for the first time in years and not merely the two hours that had passed since she had left the Manor for work that morning.  'Table for two, is it?'

'Please,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'For two and a map.'

Mrs Bennett installed Mrs Pumphrey and Tango Pete at a table by the window yet slightly in the corner. She had felt for a long time that Mrs P and Tango Pete made a lovely couple and was keen to assist in all matters romantic especially with it being Christmas and all. She was an old romantic, was Mrs Bennett; also, she had just spent a not insubstantial amount of money on a new hat and the promise of a wedding would help justify the cost. She slapped a bunch of mistletoe on the table for good measure. Just in case they needed a bit of prompting.

'There you go, my lovelies,' she said, handing them each a menu. 'May I recommend the Cinnamon, Cranberry and Orange Mince Pies?'

Tango Pete wrinkled his beak every so slightly. 'They sound delicious,' said he, 'but unfortunately cinnamon makes me sneeze.'

'Lucky I ran out of cinnamon this morning, then,' said Mrs Bennett. 'This batch are cinnamon free.' She looked expectantly at Mrs Pumphrey.

'Now you know full well what cranberries do to my you-know-whats,' said Mrs Pumphrey.

'I ran out of cranberries, too,' said Mrs Bennett. 'Your you-know-whats are safe with these mince pies.'

'In that case,' said Tango Pete, 'four of your best Cinnamon, Cranberry and Orange Mince Pies, with a pot of tea for two.'

'Lovely!' said Mrs Bennett and off she went to the kitchen. However, she had taken just three steps from the table when she stopped and turned back. 'I also ran out of oranges,' she said.

'So,' said Mrs Pumphrey, 'your Cinnamon, Cranberry and Orange Mince Pies are, essentially, plain mince pies?'

Mrs Bennett gave this question some serious thought. 'Yes,' she said. 'I suppose they are. Do you still want them? Only I made eight dozen this morning and I may have trouble shifting them by the end of the day.'

'Bring them on!' said Mrs Pumphrey, who was growing a bit 'baa humbug' with the whole mince pie debacle and had more pressing matters to deal with like finding the Last No L.

'Did you know,' said Primrose, 'that the mince pie represents the manger in which the Baby Jesus was placed after he was born?'

'His mother put him in a pastry case full of mincemeat and then covered him with more pastry?' says Daisy. 'That sounds like very irresponsible parenting to me.'

'It wasn't a real mince pie,' says Primrose. 'It's a symbol.'

'A cymbal?' says Daisy. 'Good grief! How was the Baby Jesus to sleep with a drum kit in the stable? What with that, and the cows a-lowing and the angels trumpeting...'

'You are getting your homophones confused,' says Primrose.

'There were phones, too?' says Daisy. 'It's a miracle the Baby Jesus was so placid. I'm very intolerant of noise myself and...'

'So am I!' snaps Primrose. 'Here. Have some gingerbread. It's VERY sticky. Beak-stoppingly sticky.'

The mince pies duly arrived along with an enormous pot of tea and more mistletoe. Tango Pete was rather perplexed to see the pies had each been garnished with half a Brussel sprout, but he was too much of a gentleman to comment. Instead, he placed the Brussel garnish to the side of his plate for it would be unwise to mix small brassicas with a lengthy ride on a tandem.

Mrs Pumphrey placed the lyrics of The First Nowell before Tango Pete. 'Where do we start?' she said.

'Well,' said Tango Pete, having first taken a nibble of mince pie, 'there appears to be an unusual marking in the script just there. That could be a clue.' And he pointed to a spot where the font did appear to look different to the rest.

Mrs Pumphrey examined the unusual marking. Was it some ancient symbol, some intricate piece of Latin script? 'I think it might be a raisin,' she said. She gave it a peck. 'Yes. Definitely a raisin.'

'Riiiiiiight,' said Tango Pete, in that tone of voice the male of the species use when they know they have got something wrong yet are desperately trying to sound like they knew what they were talking about all along. 'Tell you what,' he continued, 'read the first few lines to me, dear lady. If I close my eyes and listen to the sound of your voice, I may be inspired with an idea.' And he leaned far back in his chair and closed his eyes.

There ensued a 'THUMP!' and the sound of a bruise appearing on a male ego. To her credit, Mrs Pumphrey did not utter so much as a titter as she waited for her companion to pick himself up from the floor and right his chair.

'P'raps keep your eyes open,' she suggested. 'And all four chair legs on the floor.'

'We shall achieve nothing at this rate,' said Tango Pete, a tad huffily. 'Please just read the lines, my good lady.'

'I am not the one wasting time by falling off chairs,' said Mrs Pumphrey, a tad hotly.

'That is true,' said Tango Pete. 'But I am the one in possession of a time-travelling tandem.'

There was a bit of a silence. A ball of mistletoe whistled through the air from somewhere and landed with a 'PLOP!' in Mrs Pumphrey's tea.

'I was going to ask you about this time-travelling malarkey,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who was very forgiving of minor contretemps. 'How does it work, exactly?' 

Tango Pete tapped the side of his beak in a mysterious kind of way. 'Top secret, and nothing for you to worry your pretty little lady hen head about,' he said. 'Continue with your reading.'

Mrs Pumphrey cleared her throat. She didn't like to tell him he had just deposited a huge blob of pastry on his beak. 'The First No L, the angels did say...' she began.

'STOP!!' shouted Tango Pete. 'There! We need to find these angels. The ones that did this saying.'

'What saying?' said Mrs Pumphrey.

'I don't know,' said Tango Pete. 'But I bet they know about the First No L.'

'Where does one find angels?' said Mrs Pumphrey. She knew where to find angles but angels...well, they were a whole different kettle of cosmic experiences.

Tango Pete frowned for a moment, deep in thought. And then the bright light of an amazing idea spread across his face.

'I have an amazing idea,' said he. 


Countryside Tales said...

The plot thickens.....

Denise said...

Along with the soup, the custard and my middle as I get older!