Thursday, 24 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! Unexpected Attack.






I looked around the boat house for further clues to the disappearance of Monsieur Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup. The place was very tidy and nothing appeared to have been disturbed. There was not one speck of dust anywhere nor indeed any signs of a struggle or fight. If the two hapless missing people had ever been here someone must have gone into a lot of trouble to ensure that no clues remained.

"They must have been here" said Claudia Armoff, "this is Hair-Cool's walking stick, and this is the same backgammon set we played with last night in the library!"

"This does not mean they have been here," I told her, "someone could have deliberately left the walking-stick here to confuse us. And there are no clues as to Miss Maple's whereabouts. Her knitting needles and paraphernalia are not here. Just his walking stick!"

"Do you mean that anyone of us could have murdered them?" she asked.

"Everyone is a suspect," I replied, "no one is above suspicion. It could be anyone is the murderer; if indeed there has been a murder. Even I, or even you are suspects!"

"What would I want to kill Carro for?" she protested with some trepidation, "I liked the small man. He was round and cuddly and waddled as he walked. He was like a small Teddy bear."

I did not reply.

She continued, "I'll admit I was not overly fond of Miss Maple. She was a snooty busy-body poking her nose into everyone's private business. She's been a friend of the family for a while. Can't see what my brother likes in her but he keeps inviting her here for the odd family gatherings. On one occasion he called her here to investigate the disappearance of a family chamber pot. You know the ones? Victorian pots which they kept under the bed to save them having to go to the toilet at night. Well, one of the pots got missing. And she came here asking us all sorts of personal questions like how often we get up during the night; when we had last seen the missing pot; and where we were at the time of its disappearance. Things always disappear in this household. But never people before now!"

"Did they ever find the pot?" I asked.

"Yes ..." she said with a smile, "someone had hid it amongst her knitting. I can't think who!"

"Look at this backgammon set," I pointed out changing the subject, "there is one disc you play with missing. Did they find the missing disc last night in the library?"

"Yes," she said, "Walter Dumnote had accidentally picked it up and put it on his eye thinking it was his monocle."

"So if it was found last night, and it is missing again now, someone must be leaving us a clue as to who the murderer is; or who the culprit of Caro's and Maple's disappearance is. And the clue is pointing to Walter Dumnote!!!" I declared triumphantly.

(We could have added some dramatic music here for effect. But there was no piano in the boat house nor indeed anyone who could play it. So please imagine the music yourselves).

At this point there was a loud and sustained shrieking noise outside "EEEEEEEEK !!!"

My heart stopped beating for a moment or two and my bladder almost gave way to its natural instinct. I wished I did not have that second cup of coffee at breakfast.

"This must be Aristotle!" said Claudia enthusiastically, "he has come to greet us."

We got out of the boat house; but there was no one there.

"Up there, on that tree. Can you see him?" she said.

I could see nothing in particular, but eventually she pointed out amongst the branches and foliage a small owl no bigger than six inches.

"That's Aristotle," she said, "he lives here and eats mice, and voles, and other tiny things like grass snakes!"

"Hello Aristotle ..." she greeted, lifting her arms to her side.

"Do like me," she told me, "he'll fly and land on your arm."

"Come on," she said, "raise your arms up."

I reluctantly obeyed her and raised my arms to my side. At this, the owl moved his head sideways left and right as they tend to do and then flew right at us.

"Stand still," she said, "he'll land on our arms!"

But the stupid nocturnal bird was either blinded by the bright sun or had backgammon pieces over his eyes, because he landed right on my head.

"Stand still," she said again, "lowering her arms. He will not hurt you."

I could feel the birds talons clutching at my hair. I dared not move in case he flew away and took with him what remained of my thinning top.

"Hello Aristotle," she said, "how have you been. I have not seen you for a while. Are you keeping well?"

Obviously the bird did not reply, but I could feel him moving left and right on my head and grasping my scalp tightly. I lowered my arms gently.

"We are here looking for two missing people," she said, "a man called Hair-Cool Carro and an old woman called Miss Maple Syrup. Have you seen them?"

Obviously, the stupid bird did not respond. I wondered how long this inane conversation with a stupid bird would continue.

But she went on with her interrogation, "Have you seen anyone enter the boathouse, Aristotle?" she asked.

At this, the idiotic ill-trained bird emptied his load all over my head. She burst out laughing. I dared not move in case he attacked me with his sharp beak or something.

"This is so funny," she laughed. "Aristotle has never done that to anyone. He must like you. Here, stand still, let me try and clean you," she said spreading the cold liquid with a handkerchief all over my head. At this, the bird flew away into the tree once more. She brought a towel from the boathouse which she had wet in the lake and cleaned me somehow; although I question the hygienic effects of this exercise.

By the time I was as clean as I could under the circumstances my bladder was crying for help and threatening to take dire action.

"Is there a bathroom in the boat house?" I asked, "I need to go!"

"Just go behind the tree," she said smiling, "I promise not to look. Although Aristotle might!"

I was too desperate to argue. I went behind the tree, but kept one eye up towards the bird in case he got hungry and decided to attack. As I stood there by the tree I wondered why in films and on TV the hero never gets caught short and has to answer the call of nature. Whatever happens, the hero is always ready to fight every enemy in sight and never ever gets excused to go to the bathroom. Or worry he might be attacked by a wild bird whilst doing so!

"Let's go search the mausoleum ..." she said when I returned from behind the tree, "they may well be there!"

"You have a museum here?" I asked.

"No ... a mausoleum," she said, "that's where our ancestors are buried. I'll introduce you to uncle Herodicus. You'll like him!"


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The search begins.





As everyone got into their pairs as allocated by Sir Ivor a thought struck my mind. Just as well it didn't strike me anywhere else.

"One moment please," I said, "or ... as Monsieur Carro would say ... un moment s'il vous plaît!"

"What now?" growled Sir Ivor Status.

"A few moments ago you all came to my room thinking it was Hair-Cool Carro's room. Am I correct?"

They all nodded in silence.

"But, beforehand, you all knew that Monsieur Carro was already missing from his room which is in the opposite side of the house. Correct?"

They all nodded again.

"So why did you come looking for him in my room?" I asked with determination and a modicum of aplomb.

"To be honest, old boy ..." hesitated Sir Ivor, "it is because we all felt you had something to do with his disappearance, and the disappearance of Miss Maple Syrup."

"Yes ..." re-affirmed Etan Roadkill, the cook, with his clothes still covered in blood, " 'till tink yo moor dar 'em . Yo feet sure tells eet all!"

"You really should come with subtitles," I said, "I still don't understand what you say but I got the gist of your accusations!"

"No one is accusing any one ... yet," declared Sir Ivor, "both Carro and Maple Syrup were last seen in the library last night before we all retired to bed. You young fellow, (pointing at me), left first. I was rather exhausted and went to our room with my lady wife Eva. So, who was next to leave the library and when?"

"The staff were all in their quarters by 11 pm, Sir," declared Hugo Snob the butler.

"I left just after midnight with Walter Dumnote. We walked together to our rooms, didn't we?" Varicose Vain asked Walter who nodded in agreement.

"That leaves my sister Claudia still in the library with Carro and Miss Maple!" said Sir Ivor.

"Yes ... I left a few minutes later and stayed in my room all night!" confessed Claudia Armoff.

I knew she was lying, because at 12:37 pm (or is it am when it is past midnight - whatever!); at that time Claudia was knocking at my bedroom door hoping to be let in by Carro; having mistaken my room for his. I chose not to challenge her ... for now.

"Let's start our search in the library then," I said, "there may well be a turnstile bookcase there leading to a secret passage somewhere!" 

They all followed me to the library which was next door to the dining room where we were. Some chose to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Others picked books from the shelves and started reading them. Walter Dumnote was picking up each chair in turn and looking underneath them.

"What are you doing?" I asked, "they are hardly going to be hiding under the chairs!"

"I was checking whether they are Victorian or Georgian antiques," he said, "I saw a set just like them at the supermarket last week!"

"And why do you have a suppository in your ear?" I whispered so as not to embarrass him.

"Oh dear ..." he said, "I wonder where I put my hearing aid! I'd better go and check."

I decided to widen the search for the missing detective and Miss Maple. I left the library followed by Claudia Armoff who had been paired with me in the search team.

"Let's go to the boathouse by the lake," she said, "I used to play there when I was a kid living in this house. It will be fun, I assure you!"

I hesitated a bit, and asked her to lead the way. As we walked through the gardens on our way to the boathouse it occured to me that her skirt was really rather too short, as Varicose Vain had pointed out earlier.

I decided to concentrate on the matter in hand and I ventured to ask her, "You did not go to your room and stayed there all night, as you said. You came to my room and knocked at my door. Why did you lie?"

She smiled cheekily, "I wanted to show Monsieur Carro my tattoo. It is a lion rampant. It's somewhere very private and I might show it to you later!"

I waited until my mind took a few minutes to focus and then I asked, "A lion?"

"Yes," she replied, "I am a lion whisperer, remember?"

"How unusual," I said, "what made you become a lion tamer?"

"A lion whisperer," she repeated, "not a lion tamer. There's a great difference. A lion tamer uses a whip and a chair in a circus and makes the lions perform tricks. That's cruel. A lion whisperer is like a horse whisperer. We listen to the animal's feelings and get to know their individuality and needs!"

"I see," I mumbled, "how did you train to do this?"

"When I grew up I stopped living in this house and moved abroad. My brother, Sir Ivor, stayed here to manage the estate. In my travels I met a horse whisperer as it happens. He was older than me, in his sixties, and his ambition was to communicate with other animals. We went together to Africa and tried to use his horse whispering techniques with other animals. We started with goats, then cattle, and slowly progressed to elephants and giraffes. We had to use a ladder for them. The problem is that by the time my tutor got up the ladder the giraffe had moved away and the ladder fell to the ground with him on it. He broke several bones trying to whisper to giraffes. He then tried to whisper to zebras, but he got laryngitis and they could not hear him. You could say he was a little hoarse. This attracted a lot of hyenas who thought he was laughing at them. But he wasn't!"

"That's quite a story." I said to encourage her to continue.

"On one occasion we stayed in the jungle for a while amongst the indigenous people," she said, "one village had six male witches!"

"Warlocks ..."

"No, it's true, I tell you!" she convinced me.

"Did your friend ever manage to whisper to lions?" I asked.

"Oh no, he practiced a lot on dead ones before moving on to a live creature. It was deaf and killed him!" she said tearfully.

We continued walking through the gardens in silence until we reached the boathouse. It was not what I expected. I thought it would be a wooden shed by the lake where people moor their boat. This was a stone built feature secured by a door and with luxurious furniture inside.

She was surprised that the door was un-locked and open. We entered the boathouse which was empty.

There, by the beautiful leather sofa, next to the fireplace, was Monsieur Carro's walking stick. On the table was a backgammon set with a game which had already been started.

I quickly counted the white and black discs used in the game. One disc was missing.


Monday, 21 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! Vanished.




I got dressed as quickly as I could and went  downstairs to the dining room as instructed by Sir Ivor Status. Everyone was there, including the staff of this great stately home. With two notable exceptions. Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup were missing.

Sir Ivor spoke first.

"It seems that Monsieur Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup have vanished," he said.

"Vanished?" asked Claudia Armoff, "Oh poor Hair-Cool. Where is he do you think?"

"We do not know," replied Sir Ivor, "when our dear housekeeper, Matilda, went to wake him up, as he had asked the night before, she got no response when she knocked on the door. She knocked again and again. Eventually, she used the master key to unlock the door.

"Obviously, as propriety would have it, she closed her eyes as she entered the room in case she observed Monsieur Hair-Cool in a state of undress. Unfortunately she tripped over his suitcase and knocked herself out as she hit the floor. She remained there unconscious until the butler, Hugo Snob, went looking for her and found her on the ground. He tried to lift her and did his back in.

"This accounts for his difficulty in walking this morning, and for the bruise on Matilda's forehead!"

"What about Miss Maple Syrup?" asked Varicose Vain.

"That too is a sticky situation," said Sir Ivor, "Hugo and Matilda, holding on to each other, then knocked next door on Miss Maple's room. There was no answer. They used the master key to open the door. This time they kept their eyes wide open in case they both tripped over her luggage. But there was no luggage and no Miss Maple Syrup. She has vanished too."

"Has anyone phoned the police?" asked the music impresario Walter Dumnote.

"That's another problem," replied Sir Ivor, "none of the phones work. It seems the storm we had last night must have cut off the line."

"How about driving to town?" he asked, "I'll do it ..."

"No point in that," said Sir Ivor, "our chauffeur Otter Gas has already tried. The storm and subsequent flood have destroyed the bridge and the river has burst its banks. There is no way of leaving this island, not for now at least!"

At this point there should be some dramatic ominous music in the background. But there was no one to play the piano. 

"So ... so ... we are marooned in this house?" said Walter Dumnote dropping his monocle once again, "we're doomed. We are all going to die. One by one. I have read all about it in murder mystery books ... I don't want to die. Not today."

"Now there's no need for any talk like that," reprimanded Sir Ivor, "no one is going to die today. Or any other day for that matter!"

"We are all going to die, some day," said the actress Varicose Vain, "but not until I win an Oscar for 'The importance of being stupid'. It's had great reviews you know."

"Yes I'm sure it has. Especially with the great expose your low cut dresses reveal," retorted Claudia Armoff cattily.

"At least I don't wear such short skirts showing off my undies!" hissed the actress.

"I wouldn't either if I were called Varicose Vain," snapped Claudia.

"Ladies ... ladies ... let's calm down, shall we. We need to start a thorough search of the house and the surrounding gardens. Maybe the missing guests are still here," said Sir Ivor, then looking at me he added, "any ideas my friend?"

I stammered and asked, "Is there a turnstile bookcase in the library?"

"Whatever for?" he asked.

"There is always a turnstile bookcase in the library in houses like these," I said, "they build the bookcase first, then build the whole house around it. The bookcase hides a secret passage leading to a tunnel, leading to outside somehow. Sometimes it leads to an underground cave or dungeon where people have been imprisoned and tortured. Usually there is a panel in the library that unlocks the turnstile bookcase which turns round and you enter the passage behind it!"

"Well I've never heard of anything like this in this house," said Sir Ivor, "have you dear?" he asked his wife.

She shook her head silently.

At this point a man with his clothes covered in blood entered the room. He was carrying a long knife in his hand.

"Ah ... this is our cook," said Sir Ivor, "Etan Roadkill. I have asked him to join us to shed a little light on our mystery."

Etan looked at me, and assuming I was from the police, seeing he knew everyone else except me, said in a very un-understandable accent, "Ierd 'im vegerian I herd. Nowt eten tatoes nay ther. Eye no git scargo. Plenty toads in moat if e catchin em!"

"I did not understand a word you said," I replied, " you should come with subtitles!"

"Let me explain," helped Sir Ivor, "Etan said that he was told that Hair-Cool Carro is a vegetarian, and had refused to eat the potatoes roasted in goose fat. Had he known in advance, he would have caught a few snails which are a French delicacy, I understand, or indeed some frogs from the moat!"

"I see," I replied, "so where do we go from here?"

I suggest we split into groups of two and start the search," said Sir Ivor, "I will go with Varicose Vain, you dear wife go with Walter Dumnote, Sheila Flirt with Otter Gas, Hugo Snob with Matilda Curtsy, Earnest Deadwood with Etan Roadkill, and you my dear fellow, (pointing at me) with my sister Claudia."

Little did he know, or did he indeed know more than he was letting on, he divided the pairs of groups into people who had amorous intentions towards each other. Except, of course for me and Claudia, whose attentions were mostly towards the missing Hair-Cool.

Although ... ... ...  why was she knocking so keenly on my bedroom door the night before? Had she turned her attentions towards me? Having perhaps disposed of Hair-Cool who had spurned her amorous advances? Had she also got rid of Miss Maple Syrup who came to a sticky end because she witnessed the disappearance of Hair-Cool Carro?

Insert dramatic ominous music if there is a piano to hand.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Holy Trinity


Friday, 18 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The mystery deepens.



I got to my room in the North Wing of this stately mansion. The wind was howling outside and I could hear the shutters of a nearby window shaking as if they were to come off their hinges. It was raining heavily outside. Just a swell, I thought. I would hate it if it rained heavily inside. Especially since I did not bring my umbrella with me. Every so often one could hear the distant thunder followed by a flash of lightning brightening up the dark skies. This is because in these parts of the country sound travels faster than light.

(Read the last sentence again and think about this for a while whilst I get to my room).

The ominous atmosphere of the place reminded me of ghost stories one often hears about stately homes just like this one. They always start with a dark and stormy night with thunder and lightning. I must admit that I was more than a little frightened as I got up the stairs. My knees were knocking. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were knocking too. My goose pimples had goose pimples of their own. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and ready to escape at the nearest threat. Can't mention any other hairs right now because I was too eager to get to my room.

With trembling hands I turned the key in the lock and opened the door which creaked noisily as it revealed my room. I switched on the lights and got in quickly shutting the door behind me. Someone had already brought my suitcase and left it by my bed.

I can't explain why I felt that way. Suddenly, as I came up the stairs I had a premonition that something bad was going to happen. The loss of the backgammon disc was only a start.

I quickly got changed and hid under the covers in my bed. Like the rest of the house this room was luxuriously appointed. The furniture looked genuinely antique and must have cost a fortune. The bed, the side table, the dressing table with its huge art deco mirror, the bedside light, everything here had been well chosen to match each other and was certainly of great value. 

On the wall there was a large original oil painting of some knight in medieval armour with his visor up and his eyes staring at me menacingly. It reminded me of those paintings you see in spooky films where there is someone hiding behind the wall and watching you through the eyes of the portrait. 

I wondered if there had been someone there watching me undress and putting on my pink pyjamas. The only reason I had pink pyjamas is because they were 10% cheaper than any others in the shop; and no one watching me through that painting should insinuate anything else.

It was now about thirty-seven minutes past midnight. As I tried to frighten myself to sleep there was a knock at my door. My heart stopped beating in my chest and dropped down to hide behind my stomach which was churning like a butter machine.

A voice from behind the door whispered loud enough for me to hear, "Hello Monsieur Carro ... Open up. It is me Claudia Armoff. I have something to show you!"

Obviously the amorous woman had designs on the hapless detective and had mistaken my room for his. I pretended to be asleep and did not respond.

She knocked again, "Please open the door Hair-Cool. You will not regret it."

I got out of bed, stood behind the door and pretended to snore very loudly so she would go away. But to no avail. She continued knocking. For some unknown reason ... I do such odd things when I am in a panic ... I started singing "La Donna e Mobile" from Verdi's Opera Rigoletto. The more she knocked the louder I sang:

"La donna e mobile qual piuma al vento,
muta d'accento e di pensiero.
Sempre un amabile leggiadro viso,
in pianto o in riso, e menzognero.
La donna e mobil qual piuma al vento,
muta d'acc...ento e di pensier, e di pensier,
e... e di pensier."

Which roughly translated means, "woman is fickle, she changes her thoughts, words and voice, like a feather in the wind." 

Maybe it was my subconscious getting me to sing her this song. I don't know. But after a while Claudia Armoff must have got the message because she stopped knocking at my door and went away.

I went back to bed and tried to get some sleep. I must have been very tired because I fell asleep almost straightaway.

The following morning I was wakened suddenly by the loud noise of a commotion outside my room. People were knocking at my door and shouting, "Open up Hair-Cool ... Come out quick. There has been something serious happened and we need you to investigate ..."

I opened the door in my pyjamas.

(I know what you are thinking. Why did I have a door in my pyjamas? This joke has already been tried by Groucho Marx many years ago. It was good then. So let's not repeat it now).

I opened the door still wearing my pink pyjamas. They were all there to witness my night attire. Sir Ivor Status and his wife Eva, Varicose Vain, Claudia Armoff, Walter Dumnote, and even the staff Hugo Snob, Matilda Curtsy, Sheila Flirt, as well as the gardener Ernest Deadwood and the chauffeur Otter Gas.

"What are you doing in Hair-Cool Carro's room?" asked Sir Ivor, "by Jove man, what have you done with him?"

"I am not in his room, I am in my room ..." I stuttered confusingly.

"Has he spent the night here with you?" asked Walter Dumnote living up to his name.

"I am envious ..." said the gay chauffeur Otter Gas.

"Of course not," I protested holding tight to my pyjama trousers, "I spent the night alone. I always do. Ask my wife."

"Is she here?" asked the butler Hugo Snob, "I was not aware she had been invited."

"She hasn't. I was saying that she can vouch for me that ... oh forget it. I have not seen Hair-Cool since last night in the library," I protested again getting a little angry.

"Why are you wearing pink pyjamas?" asked Lady Eva, "they suit you. Keeps you in touch with your feminine side!"

I did not answer. It was then that Sheila Flirt came to my rescue.

"Actually Sir," she told my host, "this is not Monsieur Carro's room. His room is in the South Wing. Next to Miss Maple Syrup's room!"

"My apologies old boy," said Sir Ivor, "we'll leave you to get dressed and we'll meet in the dining room in nineteen minutes. Jolly good. What?"

And with this, they all left.


Thursday, 17 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The missing piece.


That evening, after our walk in the gardens of the stately home of Sir Ivor Status and his lovely wife Lady Eva Status-Too, we all met in the grand dining room for our evening meal.

And what an example of magnificent opulence that was. The room was so large that you needed binoculars to see the person sitting at the opposite end of the long table we sat at. By the way, and as a sideline to enlighten you, did you know that the word binoculars is always in the plural? The singular of binoculars is telescope. But I digress.

As soon as I entered the room I noticed that the curtains were drawn. Everything else was real.

The table was real, the chairs and the rest of the furniture, as well as the carpets and the magnificent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. They had to hang them there because anywhere else would have been out of place.

The table was already laid with all the cutlery and glasses in the right place; not that I would know which place was which to lay a table. I certainly don't know the etiquette of which cutlery to use for which meal. There were at least three knives and forks on either side of each plate. I suppose this is in case you drop one of them when eating and it saves you having to search for it under the table.

I was first to arrive at the dining room. Apparently, one has to wait in one's room until the butler, Hugo Snob, rang a big gong four times to summon everyone. I did not know that. There certainly was not  any instructions in my room like you get in hotels telling you what to do. Come to think of it, there was no chocolate on my pillow either. These posh people missed a trick or two there.

Anyway, I got there first and was met by Lady Eva Status-Too. She was very distraught. Apparently, she had received a letter which made her cry. It was written on an onion.

She told me that her husband Sir Ivor would sit at the opposite end. They always sat at opposite end of the very long table, even when dining alone, to give the serving staff some exercise. She summoned me to sit next to her.

"We are a trifle early," she declared, using the royal we in order to save my embarrassment and included herself in the apparent mistake. "About thirty minutes too early," she emphasised, "perhaps we shall have some coffee before we start," she asked the butler.

Within seconds the housekeeper, Matilda Curtsy, brought in a huge jug of coffee, a smaller jug of milk and two cups and saucers. As I said, I know nothing of posh etiquette, like putting the coffee or the milk first in the cup; so I decided to do exactly what Lady Eva did.

She started by removing the cup from its saucer. I did the same. To my surprise, she poured some milk in her saucer. I was confused, but did just the same and poured some milk in my saucer. She then put the saucer on the floor and called her cat to come and have a drink!

To add to my embarrassment, as I was about to drink my coffee, the butler banged the gong loudly four times. I was startled out of my non-upper class senses and spilled the whole cup of very hot coffee on my lap. I stood up suddenly in extreme agony brushing the hot liquid off my trousers to save my manhood from being burnt into oblivion. Lady Eva, thinking this was a lower-class tradition, deliberately spilled a drop of milk on her lap and stood up to join me in the dance.

Eventually the rest of the guests arrived. Sir Ivor Status sat at the opposite end of the table and on either side of him were the actress Varicose Vain and his step-sister professional lion whisperer Claudia Armoff. In conversation, Varicose Vain revealed that she had been on a peanut and melon diet. Sadly the peanuts had no effect, but I could see from her décolleté low cut dress that the melons were very successful.

As luck would have it, next to Claudia Armoff they put the subject of her secret, or not so secret, admiration the hapless detective Hair-Cool Carro. Albeit he was totally unaware that she had amorous plans towards him.

Opposite Hair-Cool and next to me was the musical producer Walter Dumnote. And finally, a late arrival sitting opposite me was Miss Maple Syrup, a long time friend of the family and busy know-it-all by habit rather than profession.

Hugo Snob, the very tall butler supervised the housekeeper, Matilda Curtsy, and the maid, Sheila Flirt, serve us a small bowl of very transparent liquid. As another sideline, I learnt later that Hugo was so tall that he had to stand on a chair every morning in order to reach to shave himself and trim his moustache.

I did not know what the bowl of liquid before me contained. I thought it was to rinse our fingers before we start our meal so I placed my hands in the bowl which turned out to be very hot soup; or consomme, as they call it in upper circles.

Walter Dumnote, sitting next to me, saw what I did and raised his eyebrows in surprise only to drop his monocle in the soup. He put his hand in the soup to retrieve his monocle and others at the table noticed him and thought this was a new fashion in London circles and they too placed their hands in the hot soup.

When they served the main meal, Hair-Cool Carro made a point of refusing to be served meat. "Oh non ... pas pour moi," he told the maid Sheila Flirt who did not understand him, "Carro, he does not eet ze meat ... he will be satisfied with the vegetable seulement ... only!"

"I think the potatoes have been roasted in goose fat," teased Claudia Armoff, sitting next to him. "They should be OK, won't they?"

"Oh ... mille tonnerres," declared, Hair-Cool, "vraiment, Hair-Cool, he must not eet zem ... but tonight he is hungry ... so he weel make an exception!" (Pronouncing the last word in a strong French accent).

After the meal we retired to the library where some read books, others milled round the piano, and Walter Dumnote challenged Varicose Vain to a game of backgammon. As they set up the game they realised that there was a piece missing. One of the small discs used for backgammon was not there.

Suddenly, Hair-Cool came to the fore to play detective with Miss Maple Syrup volunteering to help him. She suggested that we search everyone to see if they had taken the missing piece.

Claudia Armoff, no longer hiding her amorous intentions towards Hair-Cool, nor hiding anything else judging by the short mini skirt she was wearing, insisted that she should be searched by him alone. "He is, after all, a proper detective," she declared putting Miss Maple Syrup in her place.

"Oh non mademoiselle," refused the hapless detective as he dropped his pince-nez spectacles, "Carro, he cannot do ze search on ze female person ... eet eez not appropriate, n'est ce pas?"

"Spoil sport," muttered Claudia as she sat down on the armchair by the window, "and who is going to search you Monsieur Carro? Shall I do it?"

"Mais c'est impossible ... insupportable ..." he said, stepping backwards and nearly falling over into the fireplace, "Carro ... he is beyond reproach. Beyond any suspicion; n'est ce pas?"

He stopped for a moment as if in deep pensive mood, "Et maintenant ..." he continued, "Carro ... he is burning his bottom in the fire!"  

After further discussion, it was decided that Miss Maple Syrup would search the ladies whilst Hair-Cool would search the men.

Search over, and the missing backgammon disc had not been found. No one had noticed that Walter Dumnote had dropped his monocle once again and replaced it by accidentally putting the missing backgammon disc on his eye instead.

I said nothing and retired to my room.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Wot oh old boy! What?

A few days ago I spent the weekend in a superbly huge and luxuriously furnished stately home in England. I was the guest of the owner and gent who wanted me to help him write his memoirs for posteriority.

As soon as I arrived in a vintage Rolls Royce which my host had kindly sent to the railway station to pick me up I was met by the butler, Hugo Snob, who asked me to wait in the library where my host would join me.

At first I thought I had to get back into town and wait in the library there. But the butler, looking down his nose at me because he was very tall, took me to the library they had there in the stately home. A few moments later the housekeeper, Matilda Curtsy, brought in a trolley with refreshments of elderberry cordial drinks.

As is customary in such ample surroundings and the etiquette of the occasion I was kept there waiting for about twenty minutes or so. I was then joined by my host, Sir Ivor Status and his beautiful wife, Lady Eva Status-Too.

"Jolly good of you to join us, old boy!" Sir Ivor greeted me, "may I introduce my lady wife Eva ..."

We sat down to discuss the proposed book which I was to write about this man's life, when we were joined by other guests who had also been invited for the weekend, apparently, just to meet me. Or was it so that they might vet me as a suitable candidate to author such an illustrious publication.

In turn, the butler announced as they came in, the famous theatre actress Varicose Vain, who had the lead role in the London production of "The importance of being stupid".

She was followed by my host's step-sister, the beautiful professional lion whisperer who goes by the name of Claudia Armoff.

Then the famous impresario and musical producer Walter Dumnote wearing a monocle on his left eye.

And finally the famous French vegetarian and amateur detective Hair-Cool Carrot.

"Eet eez pronounced Carro ..." he corrected the butler, "you do not have ze T ... Hair-Cool Carro ... no T. Jamais ... Never 'ave the T".

Which explains perhaps why we only had coffee throughout the weekend.

Hair Cool had a waxed moustache and wore pince-nez reading spectacles. He always carried a walking stick, mostly out of habit rather than necessity. He waddled left and right when he walked in very small steps as if he had a coin wedged in his bottom.

Sir Ivor suggested that we get to know each other by relaxing in the wonderful gardens and that we would meet again for dinner later that evening.

To help me gain some background material for my book I made a point to mingle and get to speak to all those there that weekend; including the staff like the gardener Ernest Deadwood, the young maid Sheila Flirt, and the chauffeur Otter Gas.

It's amazing what one can learn about people by just listening and keeping one's conversation to the minimum. And it seems these upper-class and affluent people are not short of a skeleton or two in their cupboards.

Apparently, Sir Ivor was having a secret affair with the actress Varicose Vain whenever he visited London, and had seen the production of "The importance of being stupid" at least a dozen times.

At the same time he was also very friendly with the maid Sheila Flirt who was courting the chauffeur Otter Gas; who in turn had not told anyone that he was gay and preferred the confirmed bachelor and gardener Ernest Deadwood, who did not care for any one in particular because he was devoid of all prejudice and disliked everyone equally.

In turn, and unbeknown to anyone, Lady Eva Status-Too had had many a secret rendez-vous with the monocled impresario Walter Dumnote; and had often accompanied her husband to London only to feign a headache at the theatre and go visit Walter in his piano room.

The butler Hugo Snob had a weakness for wine and also for the housekeeper Matilda Curtsy and had bought her a couple of minks and ermine but the animals bit her fingers and she had to go to hospital where the poor creatures were treated for shock.

Sir Ivor's step-sister, the professional lion tamer Claudia Armoff, had a really hot passion for the  vegetarian and amateur French detective Hair-Cool Carrot, (pronounced Carro), whose darkened grey cells had not fore-warned him of her animal affections.

For too long she had held the notion of taming him with real red meat and share with him the delights of a steak tartare rather than a carrot with no tea. However, the hapless and clueless detective, with a penchant to walk like Charlie Chaplin and an affectation to refer to himself in the third person, had totally missed any advances, overt as they may be, from Claudia Armoff and her open arms of passion.

Now that you know the background information I have gathered about Sir Ivor Status and his family and friends, I need your advice about the book I am to write about him.

What should the title of the book be?
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