“Tarquin Walter Algenon Tythrington!” is back and not looking forwards to Xmas…
‘Tarky’ closes his eyes and winces gently as he recalls the conversation with the memsahib a few weeks earlier when she had resolutely refused to change her mind about them spending Christmas with her sister in deepest Dorset. “We ARE going to spend this Christmas with Rosemary and ‘Little Willi’ at ‘Buglands’ and that`s my final word on the subject” she continued, “it`s been far too long since our last Christmas there and it`s always such a lovely holiday, I really can`t understand your objections?”
No, she wouldn’t thought Tarky, she would spend the entire time discussing nothing in particular with her ever-so-slightly potty sister, as women are want to do, while Tarky mooched around the rambling house – which always seemed permanently damp and chilly – whilst trying to avoid both William, his sister-in-law`s diminutive and drippy husband whose only interests were bloody insects, butterflies (Tarky made no distinction), temperance and glowering at Tarky every time he poured himself another drink, which was far more frequently than would be usual – “understandable in the circumstances” he would respond when quizzed by the memsahib – and a legion of rescued stray cats and dogs. “They`re all God`s creatures, it`s our Christian duty, you know” Rosemary would piously comment on the menagerie.
At least his wife had finally conceded to travel separately a week before the start of the festivities, collecting their two sons from ‘Uppham’, a minor league public school near Bath on the way and therefore, thankfully, limiting Tarky`s spell “in purgatory” to just a couple of days. Bit of a shame the little sods were also going to be at ‘Buglands’, Tarky`s thoughts continued, and not on some school organised Christmas trip as Tarky himself used to enjoy as a boarder at the same school all those years before but, since both boys were unknowingly following in the time-honoured family tradition of being known by a combination of their initials and personal traits, the Dean of the school had thought it best that the youngest Tythrington, Sebastian Horatio Ivanhoe, might be better off spending Christmas with his family this year and thus avoiding the, not to be underestimated, threats of physical harm promised by a number of the senior boys after he had dobbed them in yet again for smoking! Of course, their mother had immediately insisted that the elder Tythrington son, the somewhat educationally challenged, Terence Wallace Ichabod, also joined the family gathering to make for “the perfect family Christmas”, as she kept cheerfully repeating to Tarky, which wasn`t exactly the phrase that sprang to mind every time he thought about the approaching festive celebrations…
“Is something the matter with breakfast, sir?” queries Mrs Craddock the cook on seeing Tarky`s grimace. “No, no, wonderful as always Mrs Craddock” replies Tarky, managing a small smile as he refocuses his attention on the minor banquet arranged in front of him and adding, almost truthfully, “just not relishing such a long drive, especially on Christmas eve” as his thoughts dwelled on the dreadful destination at the end of the journey ahead of him a little later. “Well, at least you`ll have Rogers with you sir, and I`ve made up a lovely hamper for your lunch!” says the cook, in a genuine effort to try to cheer up the normally bullishly buoyant Tarky.
“Excellent; capital idea; thank you Mrs Craddock!” says Tarky, his spirits now rallying as he begins to appreciate the idea of a decent run in his latest automotive acquisition and one of Mrs Craddock`s delicious picnic lunches for when he got peckish on the journey. With renewed enthusiasm he quickly chops the last of the devilled kidneys onto a slice of toast and eagerly washes it down with a glass of finest Tawny Port before walking to the hallway where his manservant waits patiently to help him with his boots and overcoat.
“Ruddy Mr Twaty!” greets the ever-smiling Mr Patel as Tarky approaches him. “Good man!” replies Tarky, smiling inwardly at his manservant`s attempt at English, little knowing that Mr Patel only ever used the smallest fraction of his extensive and correct English vocabulary with his master…
Tarky pulls on his calf length, laced boots with a considerable degree of help and then checks himself in the mirror, nodding gently as he agrees with himself that they are the perfect compliment to his new tweed suit complete with plus-fours, silk shirt and obligatory dicky bow. Pulling on his slightly battered leather overcoat and a silk scarf, he bids a happy Christmas to the waiting staff at the front door and strides out across the snow and slush covered driveway leading to the garages, at the same time pulling up his overcoat collar against the biting cold and checking his pockets for his hip flask and trusty Webley 38 pistol.
“Good morning Mr Tarky sir!” greets Rogers, continuing, “she`s all ready sir; the presents are loaded and I`ve taken the liberty of starting her and warming her through”. “Well done that man!” replies a much cheered Tarky, who`s opinion of Rogers had risen by order of magnitude since his riding mechanic`s apparent selfless act of courage, saving Tarky`s life on that fateful hillclimb event back in June and the results of which had only recently healed sufficiently to allow the wearing of tighter underwear again! “Let`s be off then” says Tarky, adding “we`ve got a damn decent day for it” as he looks around at the leaden snow clouds forming a thick blanket as far as the eye could see and prompting Rogers to wonder whether his master was actually looking at the same threatening snow storm that he had been concerned about since rising that morning?
They climb aboard Tarky`s new car which is idling sweetly just in front of the garage doors and arrange rugs over their legs before Tarky engages first gear with just a minor crunch and then proceeds up the long drive to the main gateway. Rogers sits back and revels in the warmth and comfort provided by the first car that his master has owned with the luxury of a permanent roof and drop-down side windows controlled by the same leather strap arrangement found on railway coach doors. None of which was surprising since it was Rogers who had suggested to a still sore Tarky a couple of months earlier that he had perhaps found a rather wonderful replacement for the much mourned (only by Tarky…) ‘Tythrington Special’ and which was known as the rather grandiose sounding ‘Funghi-Clifton Silver Six 1912’, named after it`s creator, Louigi Funghi, who had learnt his trade building carriages for the Great Western Railway, and the location of his factory in Bristol.
Since Tarky considered Rogers had saved his life (which wouldn’t exactly be the same facts that Rogers would recount, truth be told…) and that Tarky`s standing in the Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club would seem to have risen considerably by taking ‘Fastest Time of the Day’ in that fateful event, earning him the nickname ‘Lucky’ which Tarky rather enjoyed – although never knowing that the club members added this soubriquet as a prefix to the usual summation of his initials – he took Rogers advice and was immediately enamoured with the rather unusual but well- built vehicle he confronted when he subsequently visited the Funghi-Clifton factory…to be continued next week….
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