The fact that Tarquin Walter Algenon Tythrington is known by the sum of his initials is all you really need to know. Tarky is a satirical look at the early pioneers of motoring and the invention of Christopher Dymock, who first published his tales in Bristol Motor Club’s ‘Driving Mirror’. Look out for more on Tarky in the future.
Tarquin Walter Algenon Tythrington – known affectionately as ‘Tarky’ by his family, Mr Tarky by his staff and by the sum of his initials to anyone else who met him – stands in the bay window of the master bedroom, yawns, stretches and decides to take the pressure off his struggling bladder by proceeding to let rip a fart of such magnitude as to startle Mr Tiggy, the ancient, deaf and somewhat incontinent tabby dozing on the foot of the bed. Opening the heavy drapes a little and glancing back to the bed, the already warm, early morning summer sun floods in to highlight the not inconsiderable bulk of the still sleeping memsahib, whose rhythmical snoring is gently rattling her dentures in the glass on the bedside table. “Like being back in India” Tarky quietly remarks to himself, as he fondly remembers life on the family tea plantation before having to return to the family estate in England to take up his inheritance as sole heir upon the death of his father, the late Thomas Ignatius Tythrington – also universally known by his initials.
Tarky returns to gazing out of the window to survey his estate which “stretches as far as the eye can see” although, as he wistfully recalls, this isn`t nearly as impressive as it used to be, since his father was forced to sell several hundred acres to the local council for the creation of a new housing estate in order to cover his ever increasing gambling debts and monthly upkeep of a surprisingly large number of secret, illegitimate ‘back stairs sprogs’; the existence of which only became knowledge to Tarky when Messr`s Conceal & Scarper, the family solicitors, had to explain where such a large sum of money was ‘disappearing’ every month. It would certainly account for the turnover of young housemaids over the years and his father`s insistence on personally training certain members of his household staff!
Still, not a time to dwell upon such matters, thinks Tarky, as his gaze wanders to the mantelpiece and the confirmation letter from the Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club of his entry in the inaugural Chew Magna Hillclimb for cars, due to take place that day. At least the sale of part of the estate all those years before had left a considerable sum in the bank even after the clearing of his father`s debts and, together with the income from the plantation, was more than enough to maintain a very comfortable lifestyle in the slightly shabby ancestral pile not far from Bristol and to be able to indulge in his passion for the new-fangled modern automobile – this is 1912 after all!
Swiftly clearing his morning ablutions and dressing with the help of his manservant, the ever faithful Mr Patel (who always addressed Tarky as “Mr Twaty” in an endearing attempt at one of the few words of the English language he could muster, or so Tarky was led to believe…), he descends the grand staircase and makes his way into the library where he always takes breakfast. “Busy day ahead; better have plenty of fuel in the tank!” quips Tarky in response to Mrs Craddock the cook`s enquiry regarding his appetite; as he eagerly polishes off his second, overstuffed plate of kedgeree, devilled kidneys, sausages, black pudding and several rounds of toast, washed down with a large pot of his favourite family tea and a fortifying glass of porter. “You can certainly pack it away, sir” replies Mrs Craddock cheerfully, at the same time thinking that even ten platefuls wouldn`t exactly fill the tank that was Tarky`s burgeoning frame!
Breakfast suitably demolished, he stands in front of the huge mirror in the entrance hallway to don his leather overcoat and stops to avail himself of his chosen wardrobe. “Ah, the epitome of the English sporting gentleman” observes Tarky as he takes in the polished riding boots, jodhpurs, silk shirt with spotted dicky bow and his best striped blazer. Checking his overcoat as he strides manfully to the door, he notes the full hipflask containing his favourite brandy in one pocket and the comforting coolness of his trusty Webley 38 in another. Well, he always carried his pistol everywhere in India just in case one of the natives went a bit ‘doolalley’ and some of ‘those people’ in the new council houses outside the main gates certainly look ‘a bit rum’ – best to be prepared in case you have to bag one of the buggers!
Reaching the garages, which had originally done duty as the stable block, he finds Rogers, the long suffering gardener, handyman, riding mechanic and sometime chauffeur, polishing the ornate brass carbide headlamps on the ‘Tythrington Special’ already parked in the stable yard. Ah yes, the ‘Tythrington Special’ – “very special” as Roger would often sarcastically observe, as his knowledge of the strange contraption grew .The chassis was certainly from a butchered commercial vehicle as were the axles, steering assembly and artillery wheels, together with the brakes on the rear wheels only and the chain drive assembly. The engine and gearbox would appear to have been salvaged from some obscure farm machinery and the whole lot was topped off with a well upholstered, two seat leather sofa located in front of a polished copper cylindrical petrol tank (suspiciously similar to a household water heater) and some rudimentary panels covering the engine. Painted bright green with gold pinstripe highlights and seemingly covered in several yards of polished brass tubing, it was love-at-first-sight for Tarky when a fellow member of the Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club had conspiratorially mentioned that he might be willing to sell it to him “for the right price”.
“Ready for the off?” enquires Tarky, as Rogers hands him a pair of leather gauntlets and goggles. “Been looking forward to it, sir” Rogers lies as he remembers previous excursions with Tarky at the helm. At least he had persuaded his master to adopt the wearing of goggles since the unfortunate episode with the errant bee and the subsequent carnage as they ploughed through the local boy scout`s hut, finally ending up lodged in the wall of the ironically named ‘Rest And Be Thankful’ public house!
Tarky lights up his first cigar of the day, climbs aboard, checks the fuel pressure has been primed using the hand pump located in front of the passenger seat, retards the ignition lever on the steering wheel hub and shouts “swing her over man” to the waiting Rogers. A quick turn of the starting handle and the four cylinder, six litre engine ‘harumphs’ into life and settles to a slow, shuddering idle sounding not unlike the ‘chuff’ of a waiting steam locomotive.
Rogers climbs into the passenger seat and, before he has time to settle, Tarky graunches the outside gear lever into first, lets out the abrupt clutch and launches down the driveway in a cloud of blue smoke. Rogers finally gets a purchase on the seat just as they are about to reach the main gateway, only for them to meet the butcher`s boy on his bicycle coming the opposite way.
The terrified lad makes an instant decision and throws himself and his loaded bike into the adjacent rhododendrons, scattering brown paper parcels in all directions and causing Rogers to briefly ponder his epitaph should he be killed by a blow to the head from a pound of best chipolatas! Tarky, seemingly oblivious to the chaos, charges out of the main gate, grinds two more gear changes and accelerates the ‘special’ in the direction of Chew Magna, settling into an easy cruise with Rogers regularly pumping up the fuel pressure…to be continued…
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