By now, Sir David and Lady Pitchfork had been supplied with spare dry clothing. Lady Pitchfork was dressed in a matching twinset loaned to her by Matron, who unfortunately happened to be at least three sizes larger than Lady Pitchfork. Her formerly coiffured hair now resembled something akin to a vandalised stork’s nest. Sir David was a little more fortunate regarding his attire, due to the loan of the Headmaster’s spare dinner suit. It was the collar of the dress shirt that posed the immediate problem. Sir David’s bull neck was two sizes larger that the shirt collar, causing the bow tie to balance precariously on his naked Adam’s Apple. It wasn’t as if the pair of them could shy away in a corner of the room, as they were both seated on the top table with the other VIPs. Gerald and his wife, Ethel, took up three spaces to the right of the Headmaster. Next to them was leader of the local Conservative Party, Councillor Bartram Roper and his young seventeen year old secretary, Petunia Harbottle, who would later go on to serve during World War II as a Special Operations Executive agent. Councillor Roper was known to the ladies in the council typing pool as Roper the Groper. Mrs Roper was not one for (as she liked to put it), gadding about. She much preferred her own company, which gave her husband ample opportunity to (as he liked to put it), have a bit of fun. Petunia was a new recruit to the town council offices, having only recently returned from Ceylon with her parents where her father was the manager of a large tea plantation. Petunia had been allowed to roam freely over the vast estate and had spent a considerable amount of her spare time in the company of the native population. The local boys were enamoured with this beautiful raven haired English girl who could run as fast as any of them, climb trees with the best of them, and who, when challenged, could fight like a tigress protecting her cubs. The older boys taught her how to use her feet in a fight, how to dodge punches and how to exploit the softer parts of an opponent’s torso in order to elicit a submission. Under the tablecloth, Councillor Roper placed his hand on Petunia’s knee. She gently guided it back to his own.
Lunch now dispensed with; Sir David was called on to address the assembled guests. After half a bottle of Port and several large Brandies, Sir David tried in vain to part the sodden pages of his pre-written speech, so instead, burbled his way through his personal manifesto for dealing with the ills of society in general, wishy washy Government policies, the vagaries of youth and a half dozen other topics that had by now sent virtually everyone into a coma.
Mr Davies rose to his feet thanking Sir David profusely for his contribution to the proceedings at which Sir David grunted his approval and slumped back into his chair, poured himself a large single malt from his hip flask, drank it straight back and promptly fell asleep.
The Headmaster, still standing, now addressed Gerald Whiz. He thanked Gerald on behalf of the school for his generous donation of the golden plimsole, which he assured Gerald, would take pride of place in the newly refurbished trophy cabinets. At that moment, a sound from the rear of the hall caused Mr Davies to stop speaking. “Where are you, you bally swine?” Through the doorway appeared what looked like a very short Bedouin tribesman brandishing a sword in each hand. “What have you done to my wife, you filthy cad?” As the warrior neared the top table, the Headmaster could now see that it was Mr Monocle, draped in the office tablecloth. “She’s laid out in your office, unconscious, legs akimbo. I demand satisfaction”. Casting off the tablecloth, Monocle man threw one of the swords in the direction of Mr Davies. “You are a fraud, sir. I don’t believe that you were ever at Eton. Pick the sword up and fight like a man!”
Mr Davies could only stare open mouthed as the five foot two firebrand wafted the sword menacingly in his direction. “I see now that it was your intention all along to render me unconscious so that you could seduce my wife”.
Luckily there was a table between them, but Mr Davies had to dodge the razor-sharp blade as it sliced the air in front of him. “Why on Earth would I want to seduce your wife when I’m already married to a beautiful French woman?”
“Gad sir, is there no end to your lies? I suppose you’ll want me to move out of the marital home so that you can move in, you bounder!”
The flailing sword had by now reduced the floral bouquet to confetti and the Headmaster to a gibbering wreck. Councillor Roper saw this utter confusion as the ideal opportunity to reacquaint his hand with Petunia’s knee. Once again, she gently removed his hand, but as Mr Roper was not in the habit of taking no for an answer, he replaced his hand with a firmer grip and whispered into her ear, “…if you value your position with the council”. Petunia left his hand there but placed her hand on his leg. Gerald grinned at her. “That’s better, young lady”. Petunia rubbed her hand up and down his leg a few times and then allowed her hand to wander a little closer to what he referred to as his marvellous assets. “That’s right, Miss Harbottle. It’s only a bit of fun and you do want to keep your job at the council, don’t you?” “Oh yes, Mr Roper, I really do,” she replied, as her hand gently cupped his less than marvellous assets. Now completely oblivious to the carnage taking place around him, Bartram’s eyes rolled back into his head in a wave of sheer delight until Petunia’s hand squeezed the life out of his assorted offal. Mr Roper gasped for breath and then let out a pained scream. Petunia had the iron grip of a blacksmith, a foundry worker, a circus strongman. “If you touch me again, Mr Roper” she warned, “I’ll let everyone in town know what a pervert you are.” Now the Headmaster didn’t know which way to look. ‘Cannons to the left of him, cannons to the right, into the valley of death rode the six hundred’. Utter chaos! Mr Davies took up the sword from the table and attempted to parry the blows that were being aimed at him, meanwhile, Petunia released her grip on Bartram Roper’s assets. Still gasping for breath, “You little cow, I’ll see you get fired for this. I’ve a good mind to put you over my knee and give you a damn good thrashing. What do you think of that, eh?”
“This” she replied. The heel of her shoe found the soft part of his shin. Roper screamed again and rose slightly from his chair, at which point, Petunia placed her hand at the back of his head and rammed his forehead onto the edge of the table… twice. The unconscious body of Bartram Roper slid to the floor and after finishing her small sherry, Miss Harbottle took her leave of the proceedings.
Gerald’s wife, Ethel, seemed oblivious to Councillor Roper’s predicament due to the fact that she was making short work of the celebration cake, both tiers. Gerald had moved his own chair a few feet back from the table and was cradling the precious plimsole, he was also imagining what his life would be like if only one of those swords would strike… but no, it had only been a few months and things could change, after all, estates are large places with many opportunities for fatal garden, drowning or shooting accidents. Ethel turned around and smiled at him lovingly, her mouth covered in cake crumbs and icing. Gerald forced a half smile and as Ethel returned to chiselling the last of the icing from the cake stand, he wiped yet another small tear from his eye.
Luckily for the Headmaster, one of his guests was local post mistress and spinster Hepzibah Clench. She rose from her seat and marched towards the sword waving maniac, swung her handbag in an up and over motion and brought it down on his head. If this had been a cartoon, the prone swashbuckler would now have a circle of small birds swirling around his head, tweeting away merrily. Hepzibah always carried a half house brick in her handbag after being accosted one evening whilst returning home from chapel, by an Italian onion seller – “All hands and hair”, she would say, “Only one thing on their minds the dirty devils”. Not that she would ever articulate what it was that she thought that they had on their minds, but whatever it was, she wasn’t going to entertain it, and never had.
By now Sir David had roused himself enough in order to encompass the scene of devastation that surrounded him. “What on earth?” Looking down at what appeared to be a dead body, he quizzed the Headmaster. “Do you know this fellow?” “No, Sir David. I’ve never seen the man before, not until he walked in here waving a sword around, making all sorts of spurious claims about his wife and me. I can categorically state, I have never met, or would want to meet his wife”, at which point, Mrs Monocle staggered into the hall. Seeing her husband face down on the floor in front of the top table and noticing the blood on his bald head, she fainted. Reaching into his pocket, Mr Davies produced a small bottle, the contents of which he poured into a small glass and topped up with Brandy. “Give her a sip of this, Miss Clench”, he said, “This will revive her”. Under his breath he added, “But hopefully not for an hour or two”.
Later that evening, Mr and Mrs Monocle found themselves on a park bench in the centre of Hallifield, unaware of how they had arrived there, both dishevelled, smelling heavily of alcohol and unable to explain the situation that they had found themselves in to the two Police officers who were now standing over them.
The following Monday morning, news of the day’s events had reached the council offices. The door to the typing pool opened and a figure moved slowly down the central aisle of the room. As one, the ladies of the typing pool rose from their seats and gave a spontaneous round of applause to the young woman who passed between them. As she reached the main office door, the former office of Councillor Roper who was now on an extended leave, she removed the name plate and dropped it into the waste basket and replaced it with a new name plate for Councillor Smyth. The young woman took her own seat, smiled and gave a nod of thanks to the other ladies. Opening her notebook to a fresh page and sharpening her pencil, Petunia Harbottle was now ready for whatever this new day may bring.
6 thoughts on “Thompson’s Lost Plimsole”
Goodness gracious, whatever next? Hepzibah Clench is definitely name of the week. Brilliant!
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Well… You have ‘The Ghosts of Hookemin Hall’ to look forward to…
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I must say that I heartily applaud Miss Petunia and I agree that Hepzibah Clench is one of the greatest names in classical literature that I have ever read and this is certainly a classic of one brand or another if ever there was one. There are many intricacies to this plot.
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Swashbuckling at school! Fings ain’t what they used to be back in my day at Grot Grammar. As far as cutting a dash the best I could hope for to try to turn my maladroit hand at woodwork.
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I went to an old Victorian built school and most of the teachers still acted as if we still lived in that century. If i didn’t get the cane at least once a day, I felt like I was missing out!!