Thursday, 5 November 2009

Chapter 6 - Why Does My Heart Go Boom, Penguin?

'What's up with Mrs Miggins?' I say, glancing from the window of the Manor kitchen. I am up to my elbows at the sink, re-dying the table cloths and napkins to match the new decor of the dining hall.
'Why don't you just buy new table linen?' asks Andy.
'Two reasons,' I say. 'One, part of our mission statement at the Manor is to avoid waste by recycling and two, we can't afford new table linen.'
'We have a mission statement?' said Andy. The news surprises him enough to halt him in his reading of the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, or DWM for those on an breath saving binge.
'Yes,' I say. 'Mrs Slocombe wrote the original one, which consisted mainly of her mission to lie around in a hammock all day drinking Tequila slammers and listening to her collection of 'Lenin sings Val Doonican Volume 1'. So I rewrote it. It's based on the theories and teachings of Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall.'
'Good, good,' says Andy, returning happily to his essential reading exercise. As long as Hugh F-W is at the helm of the ship that travels the ocean of good life living, all is well in Much Malarkey Manor.

I turn my attention back to Mrs Miggins. She is marching up and down the grounds of the North Wing of Cluckinghen Palace, being actively pursued by Mrs Pumphrey and, to a lesser extent, Mrs Slocombe. They appear to be engaged in some sort of heated exchange. I wonder if I ought to take a wander into the garden and see if I can help sort out whatever the problem happens to be, but decide against this course of action. I remember, just in time, the last occasion in which I tried to intervene in a fracas between three agitated chickens. It wasn't pretty. I sigh. They were my best tights, too.

So I return my attentions to the dyeing-in-process and wonder, for a brief moment, how long exactly it will take for the beetroot stains to fade from my forearms.

* * * * * * * * * * *

'I can't do it I tell you!' yells Mrs Miggins.
'Not even for the Manor?' yells back Mrs Pumphrey.
'No!' says Mrs Miggins. 'Not even for the Manor.'

Mrs Pumphrey sits back on her heels and folds her wings across her chest.
'Well!' she says. 'I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but I'm ashamed of you, Laetitia Miggins. Thoroughly ashamed.'
'Talk to the elbow, coz you ain't worth the extension,' says Mrs Miggins. And Mrs Pumphrey takes one last look at she who she thought was a friend and rushes into the Palace, tears streaming down her beak.

'That was a bit harsh, wasn't it?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'She was only trying to help.'
Mrs Miggins slumps to the ground. 'She doesn't understand,' she says. 'If there was any other way to save the Manor, I would be there, heading the campaign, leading the troops, waving the flag, wearing that stupid pith helmet my grandad left me. But..but I can't do this. Not if it means meeting up with...with...HIM!'
'Who's him?' asks Slocombe, who hasn't been making a huge effort to keep up with the plot so far. 'This Boom Penguin guy that Mrs Bennett spoke of.'
'Of whom Mrs Bennett spoke,' corrected Mrs Miggins, who always got tetchy about prepostitions ending a sentence when she was upset.
'Whichever way you want to swing it,' says Slocombe. 'Who is he, anyway?'
'I'm not telling you,' says Miggins.
'Yes you are,' says Slocombe, 'or I shall spend the whole night singing constant repetitions of 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing.' My version.'
'Okay, okay,' sighs Mrs Miggins. 'I'll tell you. Just promise me there will be no singing.'
'I promise,' says Mrs Slocombe, happily. She was always thrilled when blatant blackmail worked with such efficiency and ease.

Mrs Miggins heads back to the Palace. 'I'll apologise to Gloria first,' she said. 'And then I'll tell you both about Boom Penguin together.'
'Fair does,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'It's getting a bit parky out here, anyway.'

Back in the Palace, apologies made,and a pan of soup on the simmer, Mrs Miggins sat on the ottoman by the window and began her explanation.

'Boom Penguin was probably the greatest rock star of his time,' she said. 'He and his band were famous throughout the world.'
'What was his band called?' asked Mrs Pumphrey.
'Boom Penguin,' said Mrs Miggins.
'Yes,' said Mrs Pumphrey, 'I know his name, but what was his band called?'
'His band was called Boom Penguin. He was known as 'Boom Penguin from Boom Penguin,' said Mrs Miggins.
'Ah, so good they named him twice?' said Mrs Slocombe.
'So pompously up his own ego, he named himself twice,' snorted Mrs Miggins. 'Such is the measure of this character, I'm afraid. But God, how I loved him.'
'You loved him?' said Pumphrey and Slocombe in chorus.
Mrs Miggins sighed. 'Sadly, yes. We were together for four years, four long years of passion and thrills, of ups and downs and booms and bonks and...'
'I think we get the idea,' said Mrs Pumphrey who was keen to maintain the air of romance she was developing in her mind.
'And then it all went wrong,' said Miggins. 'As soon as 'she' came along.'
'Who was she?' asked Mrs Slocombe, scenting the whiff of scandal.
'I can barely bring myself to speak her name,' spat Miggins.
'Try though,' said Slocombe.
'Honeybun Slingsby,' said Miggins. 'Her with the flicky blonde hair, the legs as long as a kebab skewer and the degree in business management. And her stupid chihuahua, Pepe.'

'Gosh,' breathed Mrs Slocombe, wondering if she ought to make notes, in case there was a story to sell to the papers when all this was over.

'She became his manager,' said Mrs Miggins. 'And once she'd started managing his public affairs, it didn't take long to her claws into his privates, either.'
'Ouch,' said Mrs Slocombe.'
'Well,' said Miggins, 'once she'd settled in and started throwing her feathers around, I told Boom it was either her or me. I wasn't hanging around any longer, tolerating that chihuahua of hers coming into our flat and weeing on the aspidistra.'
'And he chose her?' said Mrs Pumphrey, hankie at the ready.
'No,' said Mrs Miggins, huffily. 'He chose me. Or at least, that's what he said to my face. And I believed him too, fool that I was, until his bass player presented me with a picture of Boom and Honeybun in flagrante in the star dressing room at the London Palladium. Dave, the bass player, wanted to look after me. 'Come with me to Rio, babe,' he said, 'and we can put all this behind us.' But I'd have enough of kakapos by then, so I packed a single suitcase and left.'
'What's a kakapo?' asked Mrs Pumphrey.
'Did you learn nothing from that boxed set of 'Life on Earth' I got you for Christmas?' said Mrs Miggins. 'A kakapo is a land based parrot. They sit in holes and go 'BOOM!' Boom Penguin is a kakapo.'
'And not a penguin,' said Mrs Slocombe, who was renowned for making wild and often wrong assumptions.
'No, I told you, he's got a massive ego. He might be Penguin on the outside, but on the inside he's nothing more than a stumpy-legged stupid, booming parrot,' said Miggins. 'And now, if you don't mind, I'm going for a lie-down.' And off she stomped, her head sinking sulkily into her hunched shoulders.

'Did you get her address book?' asked Pumphrey.
'I did,' said Slocombe.
'Then I think if Laetitia won't call this Boom Penguin to help us save Much Malarkey Manor, we should call him, don't you?'
'I do,' said Mrs Slocombe.

And so they did.

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