Archive for October, 2013

My visit to Cousin Septimus part 1

October 30, 2013
Today I travelled to stay with my cousin, the Revered Septimus Stirling.
My driving licence in abeyance due to an ludicrous alleged eyesight deficiency, I was forced to travel by rail.

I caught the train at Paddington station. Unfortunately, it was a non-corridor carriage. At my age, a fellow can’t undertake a long journey without the occasional slash so I resorted to the open window. I don’t think my fellow passengers approved.

I eventually arrived at the tiny station of Prentis Hancock after many changes – I finally see why people were so upset about the wretched Beeching.

I was extremely irked that there was no-one to meet me. One would have thought that Cousin Septimus would’ve sent his verger, or a cab, or even an altar boy with a wheelbarrow.

I located a very elderly & deaf station master who thought I was asking where I could ‘find the knickers?’ Alarmingly, he tried to tell me.

Correct directions under my belt, I decided to stroll to the vicarage, leaving my luggage to be sent on.

The sky was grey, but there was no rain, so a brisk walk would do me good. I could also see if there was an off-licence.

The village is a small one, charmingly reminiscent of the pre-war years. There were few locals on view. I passed the occasional elderly lady or gent who would bob or doff their cap as they passed me. Pleasingly – although understandably – deferential. I’ve missed that due respect in modern times.

The village of Prentis Hancock had the usual selection of shops. A general store-cum-post-office; an ironmonger, a ladies’ hairdressers called Hair Today Shorn Tomorrow! (A name I found rather ominous in its unfinished way). I nervously made sure the wretched Pam wasn’t running the salon.

NB for new followers, you can read about the dreaded Pam in my memoirs The Devil talks the Hindmost 

No sign of an off-licence, but there were three pubs!

One pub was called The Ruptured Artery’ but that looked closed. The second ‘The Sailor’s Passage’ was, I suspect, a establishment for inverts.

I chose the most inviting. It was called ‘The Shaven Mound.’ I entered ‘The Shaven Mound’ and found a dark gloomy place, not the comforting log-fired inn for which I was hoping.

I thought I was alone among the horsebrasses & sepia photos of long-dead villagers. I rapped on the bar for service.

‘We don’t often get strangers here,’ a voice rumbled from the gloom. I peered in its direction and saw a burly grey-haired copper sitting at the bar.

Plod introduced himself to me as Sgt Dick Green in his rural burr. I bought him a snifter or two (getting one’s bribe in early is always advisable, I’ve found), we discussed the return of birching for villains of all ilks, then he gave me the directions I needed. He offered to walk me there, but he fell off his stool so I told him not to exert himself.

I arrived at the vicarage of St Dolores. A rambling ivy-strewn gothic building, reminiscent of The Priory in which I used to live until my recent divorce.

It seemed to be in darkness. I knocked on the door. I heard the movement from inside, then a shape appeared through the frosted glass.

The door creaked open. A tiny, exceedingly old lady peered out at me through her winged spectacles.

‘Ooh,’ she said in her frail cackle. ‘You’re a handsome big hunk of a man.’

Obviously, she was correct, but it was unseemly to hear these words from a lady of such advanced years.

She gestured for me to enter. As I did so I felt a hand briefly stroke my behind. I stared at the old lady, but she was busy shutting the front door .

‘I am Beattie Mann,’ she said. ‘Mrs, but the late Mr Mann has been stiff these long twelve years. And not in a good way,’ she giggled.

I introduced myself and said I was here at the Rev Stirling’s invitation.

She said I was expected and, with a lascivious wink, that my room was ready. Cousin Septimus was out giving the last rites to somebody or the other, but would be back for dinner

Mrs Mann showed me to my bedroom on the second floor, all the way making what sounded like unnecessarily suggestive remarks.

The house had a creaky uncared-for atmosphere – dusty and gloomy, much like Cousin Septimus.

My bedroom was hardly welcoming either, dominated by a large canopied 4-poster bed. A wash basin, a lumpen chest of drawers and an Edgar Allan was the sum of the furniture.

The only light was from a brace of candles.

Mrs Mann suggested I have a rest and she’d awaken me when Cousin Septimus was back. Then, with a backward kick of her leg, she left the room.

I lay on the bed to see how uncomfortable it was. I was immediately enveloped in dust.

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew I was being woken by Mrs Man stroking my thigh.

The Reverend is downstairs,’ she purred, her dentures coming loose in the process.

Cousin Septimus hadn’t changed a bit since I last saw him – what, 20 years ago?

But he looked ancient then so he could hardly get older without decomposing.

Tall, spindly, his knock-kneed legs like matchstick; bald as a coot except for white strands of hair dangling down his back

Cousin Desmond!’ he gasped & tottered forward to clutch my hand.

‘Splendid place you have here, Cousin Septimus,’ I lied.

‘Can’t complain,’ he said, his wheezing laugh like the death rattle of a tortoise.

‘Thank you for your kind invitation,’  I said

‘It was about time you ended up here,’ he said.  I found this a most puzzling remark.

The evening passed very pleasantly despite thinking that Cousin Septimus had died on a couple of occasions.

Mrs Mann may be an antediluvian strumpet, but her cottage pie was splendid, as was her Roly-Poly.

Cousin Septimus kept a surpringly top-notch wine cellar. We reminisced and listened to records from the old days on his wind-up gramophone.

I proceeded to have a cracking night’s sleep, despite my bed resembling a tented mausoleum.

I locked the door, lest the dreaded Mrs Mann should attempt to penetrate my sanctuary.

To Be Continued

Sir Desmond Stirling’s
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Cousin Septimus

October 14, 2013

Long letter today from my cousin, Septimus Stirling. Haven’t heard from him in donkey’s years. In fact, I thought he’d long popped his clogs. Odd cove. Older than me. He’s the vicar for some small church in a village in the arse-end of nowhere. Still haven’t fully deciphered his epistle. His handwriting looks like a sloshed spider has staggered drunkenly over the paper after stepping in a bucket of green ink. And if I’m not mistaken, it’s actually written on parchment.

I can’t quite recall how exactly that Septimus and I are related. I think our paters were brothers, perhaps? He lacks the vibrant Stirling genes though. A spindly chap, tall, bald as a coot, apart from some unsightly white strands dangling down his back. The sort of fellow who seems to be perpetually draped in cobwebs. But he’s in his 80s now so can’t be as feeble as all that.

I wonder what he’s after? We were never close, even as lads. He probably wants a signed copy of one of my books for a raffle.

To be continued…