Saturday, 21 November 2009

Chapter 26 - The Big Day!

Fast forward to the day of the benefit concert. It has to be done, I'm afraid. If we don't then we are in danger of being bogged down in a quagmire of irrelevance, a bog of minutiae, a drudgery of ennui. Action is needed, a foot pressed hard on the plot accelerator...

'Oh, for the love of strawberries dipped in chocolate, will you get on?' says Miggins, who is waiting to proof-read for obvious errors, because I do have certain standard I like to adhere to prior to interwebbly publishing, even in the face of a looming dead-line.
'Okay,' I say.'Ahem...'

The day of the concert dawned like a pepperoni pizza - deep-pan, crisp and even.
'That's lucky,' said Mrs Slocombe, who had been in charge of short term weather forecasts, being the only living creature at the Manor who was able to make sense of sea-weed. 'November can be a tricky time of year in the world of weather.'

The hen spoke true. November can be either damp and warm or cold and crisp. Cold and crisp was what they got, and they were pleased.

Boom was up early, partaking of a pre-breakfast run. He was buzzing with anticipation. This was it. This was the day that would launch his career back onto the world stage. It was the beginning of a new ear, or era even, if the author could stop typing like a gorilla with bananas for fingers. Around the grounds of Much Malarkey Manor Boom ran, breathing in the clean, sharp air until it stung his lungs with a not unpleasant pain. Bob had set off with him, but was lagging behind now, having succumbed to the kind of consumptive coughing fit to which poetic types are prone. Stix had declined the offer, prefering to stay in bed and watch old re-runs of Scooby-do. Abnd Dave was nowhere to be found. Neither was Mrs Miggins, which disturbed Boom somwhat, even though Mrs Pumphrey reassured him there was nothing to be disturbed about.

'She's gone to the bakery in town,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'To get some lucky muffins.'
'Lucky muffins?' said Boom. He started on his warm-down stretches, glancing back at Bob, who was sauntering towards them, appearing to have cured his coughing fit with a few heavy drags on a Capstan full strength ciggie.
'Yes,' said Pumphrey. 'When we did regular performances as 'Poulet Nous' we would always have muffins from the bakery in town. They became a kind of ritual.'
'I see,' said Boom. 'I would have thought she'd have made her own muffins.'

Mrs Pumphrey looked slightly affronted at the suggestion. 'No food stuff is lucky when you have to make it yourself,' she said. 'I thought everyone knew that.'
Boom gave a weak smile. Today was not for arguing. Today was for focussing one's entire heart and soul on the job in hand - the delivery of an A1+ concert performance to thousands of loyal fans.

The sound of a moped arriving distracted further muffin talk. Mrs Miggins pop-popped up the driveway and stopped in front of Boom. She took off her helmet and dismounted the scooter. From the back box, she removed a large cardboard box.
'Muffins,' she said.
'Bless you,' said Boom, and they all trooped into the North Wing of Cluckinghen Palace for breakfast.

At the kitchen table, Mrs Slocombe and Stix appeared to be engaged in some kind of art and craft project.
'Look!' said Mrs Slocombe, emerging from heaps of tissue paper, glitter and those funny little polystyrene nuggets that are used as packing material. She held up a large collage confection with the word 'SURPRISE!!' written in the middle in pink gel pen.
'What is it?' said Mrs Pumphrey, quickly, before Mrs Miggins chipped in with sarcastic comments.
'It's an invitation,' said Mrs Slocombe, proudly. 'For Andy and Denise.'

For it had been agreed the previous evening that this very morning an official invitation would be extended to Andy and Denise as guests of honour to the concert, and that they would be let in on the true purpose of the excavation of the Japanese water garden, and it was nothing to do with rare Italian marble.

'Lovely!' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'I am sure they will love it!'

(Denise is especially pleased about this turn in the narrative because it means she will now be able to stop pretending she has no idea of what has been going on and can finally start typing with her eyes open.)

'We're going to deliver it straight after lucky muffin time,' said Mrs Slocombe.
'Goo idea,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'And then it's straight to the arena for dress rehearsals, sound and lighting checks and a big group hug.'
'I'm not hugging a chihuahua,' said Boom, eyeing Pepe who had trotted into the kitchen just ahead of Honeybun.
'Muffins for breakfast?' said Honeybun. 'Tut tut. A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips,' and she let out a hollow laugh whilst staring pointedly at Mrs Miggins.
'A punch in the gob, your dentist's got a job,' said Mrs Miggins, staring pointedly back.

'Oh, now come on,' said Boom. 'Play fair, girls. This is a big day for all of us. We don't want to start falling out now, do we?'
'She started it,' said Mrs Miggins.
'Too right I did,' said Honeybun.
'Well, just stop it,' snapped Boom. 'Today is about Boom Penguin and Poulet Nous and making sure the Manor stays standing as representative of all that is fine and good about England.'
'Ha!' huffed Miggins and Honeybun in unison, and as it was about the one and only occasion on which they would both agree at the same time, they drew an unspoken truce between them which would hopefully last for the rest of the day.

Muffins were duly eaten and a toast made to the success of the concert. Mrs Slocombe and Stix then visited the Manor, where a very surprised Andy and Denise received their guest of honour invitation and the news that the archaeological dig and Professor Penguinolla weren't all they seemed to be.

'A benefit concert?' I said. 'To save the Manor? Why does the Manor need saving?'
'Because of the housing estate that's going to be built over it,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'We're going to use the money we raise to either buy the parcel of land around the edge of the Manor, or pay a lawyer to fight the compulsory purchase order which that evil swine, Cleverly Dangled, is trying to get.'

I looked at Andy; he looked at me. We shared a puzzled expression.

'The Manor isn't going to be flattened for a housing estate,' I said. 'That's happening over the other side of town. There's no danger to the Manor.'
'But I thought I heard you talking about it,' said Mrs Slocombe.
'Mrs Slocombe,' I began, as gently as I could. 'You hear the pixies doing country dancing under the stairs in Cluckinghen Palace.'
'But you were hysterical,' said Mrs Slocombe, safe in the knowledge that if anyone knew anything about hysterical behaviour, it was she.
'Well, I was a bit upset that another piece of the Kent countryside looks like it's being flattened for more houses,' I said.
'Oh,' said Mrs Slocombe.
'But I'm sure the concert will be fantastic,' I added hurriedly. 'We're really looking forward to it, aren't we Andy?'
'Yes,' said Andy, making a mental note to set the DVD to record Doctor Who.

Mrs Slocombe and Stix left the Manor and walked slowly back to the arena.

'Are you going to tell them, Betty?' said Stix, who found Mrs Slocombe's misunderstanding of the whole situation rather endearing.
'Are you mad?' said Mrs Slocombe. 'They'll kill me. Or at least bury me in the ground and leave me to be eaten by red ants. No way am I breathing a word, Stix. I'm staying schtumm about this. Just get have the getaway car revving straight after the concert's finished. I'll pack my cases now.'

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