Silver daisies and gold buttercups prink the greensward of the West Cliff Gardens. Dew drops glisten brightly in the early morning dawn light. A robin carols merrily from a gorse bush. “Where is that damn Council Man? Why isn’t he out here with that machine thing of his? Stupid layabout wastrel and nincompoop.” Sir Reginald likes his greensward cropped and razored within an inch of its life. He does not want prinking of any sort let alone by items as uncontrolled as daisies and buttercups. These are there solely to mock him and everything he stands for. “There must be some damn chemical concoction they could spray on.” He fumes. “Damn communists at the Council. What do they do with all the money I pay them? Tea and biscuits. That’s all they do all day. Tea and biscuits when they should be out here with barrels of chemicals getting this place in order.”
Sir Reginald is out early this May morning. He likes the West Cliff to himself. By rights it should be his and his alone. He has the only one who really deserves it after a lifetime of toil in the service of the King and Empire. But later in the day it will be filled with all manner of layabouts and wastrels who should have better things to do than to lounge about gazing at the distant horizon. Phillips, Sir Reginald’s one legged man servant, stumps along behind pushing Sir Reginald in his bath chair at a suitably leisurely pace. “Faster.” Yells Sir Reginald at intervals “Get a move on. I shan’t be home in time for breakfast.” Followed almost immediately by “Careful you dolt. You’re shaking me to bits. We’re not on the Good Ship Nancy now, you know.” This is a reference to Phillips’ wooden leg and heavily tattooed arms that Sir Reginald somehow attributes to a previous life as a pirate. Not that he has ever actually enquired as to the truth of that assertion. And Phillips has never said.
The bath chair suddenly shudders to a halt. It is nose to nose with another bath chair. The path is narrow at this point and there is no place to pass. “Out of my way, you idiot.” Rages Sir Reginald. The occupant of the second bath chair pulls back a tartan rug. It is a woman. “Where are your manners, Sirrah?” She says crisply.
“Get out of my way, you idiot. Madam.” He fulminates with heavy irony.
“I shall not.”
“What! What!! What did you say?”
“I said: I shall not get out of your way.”
“I was here first.”
“No you weren’t. If anything I was. See, I am much further along this section of path than you are. It is your place to back up.”
“Back up! Back up? My place? Who do you think you are talking to?”
I am talking to a very rude old man in a bath chair. Now back up.”
“I shall do no such thing. Carry on Phillips.”
Phillips is troubled by this but his master is insistent.
“I said carry on. Get on with man. You’re not intimidated by a mere woman are you?”
At that moment the occupant of the second bath chair commands her pusher.
“Carry On Miss Pymm. Let us not be put aside by these... these Men.”
Miss Pymm is a tall angular female of indeterminate years. She is surprisingly athletic beneath her shapeless grey smock. The two bath chairs clash and rear up like ancient dinosaur in some primordial swamp. They retire. They clash again. Wheels screech and clash. The bath chairs come to rest alongside each other.
“Madam, you are a complete nincompoop. Now see what you have done.”
“And you Sir” says our lady “You are an arse.”
Sir Reginald’s eyes bulge and the veins stand out on his brow. “Have you the slightest idea whom you are addressing?”
“No idea.” She says. “And I couldn’t care less. All I know is that you are an arse. And a very rude, egotistical one at that.”
At this point Sir Reginald loses all control. He raises his stick carved with a serpent with its tail in its mouth and begins to belabour the opposing bath chair. “I am Sir Reginald... Oww.” But the rest of it is lost as the woman in the bath chair begins belabouring his head and neck with her walking cane. A rather intriguing object. Malacca with an ornate silver handle.
“Madam. Ow. Desist. Ow.”
Phillips the one legged manservant with tattooed arms and Miss Pymm the angular lady’s companion smile weakly at each other with raised eyebrows. As the two protagonists in their charge begin to weaken they both about turn and return the way they came.
It is a rather subdued Sir Reginald whose bath chair snakes back towards Grand Marine Court. “Who was that damn woman?” He hisses to Phillips. “Who was she and what was she doing on the West Cliff?”
“I believe that was Dame Amelia Vole a leading member of the Women’s International Socialist and Suffrage movement. I believe she owns an apartment in Tollard Court.”
“Damn communistic Female. Well she better not make another appearance whilst I’m out for my constitutional. It’s a good job you made a tactical withdrawal when you did. I might have beaten the dried up old biddy to a pulp.”
“Yes, Sir Reginald.” Says Phillips the one-legged manservant and they return to their abode ready for breakfast. But for once Sir Reginald is surprisingly silent over the kedgeree.