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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sir Reginald Meets a Match

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.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sir Reginald Delivers a Philippic

Sir Reginald despises politicians.  All politicians.  He finds Conservatives dangerously left wing and the rest of them are cloaked in some sort of red miasma of an unimaginable socialistic nightmare.  Sir Reginald’s politics are simple: Put all effort into maintaining the Empire.  Have no truck with foreigners.  Flog most of the lower orders regularly and increase pensions for people in his position.  And outlaw the practice of buying rounds in the club. And ban whistling.  And punish anyone or anything else that comes within his notice.  Ideally, he should be running the country himself except that he has no time for such quotidien activities.  All politicians who do not match up with these policies are nincompoops and namby pamby time wasters and should be flogged soundly themselves.

It is nine o’clock in the morning and Sir Reginald has been glancing at that Socialist Rag - The Daily Telegraph and reading of the government’s plans to provide welfare for orphans and widows.  And so when Phillips stumps into the breakfast room bearing the salver with the post, Sir Reginald is already incandescent with rage.  He snatches up the envelope and tears it open to find it is an announcement from the local council informing him of the forthcoming elections to that august body.  Sir Reginald’s demeanour becomes even more animated than it was before.  “Elections... bunch of utter incompetents and nincompoops.  And they want my approval.” He splutters.  “This country... going to hell in a handcart.  Magna Carta.  That’s where it all started going wrong.  Dangerous subversives.”  He is now coughing and choking so much that Phillips stumps a little closer ready to deliver CPR if required.  “How dare they... It is an outrage.”  He is now more or less incoherent and pauses to gasp for air.

In that split second of silence Phillips leans forward. “May I suggest, Sir Reginald, that if there is no one else suitably qualified to run for office that you do so yourself.”

“What!  What!! What!!!”  Sir Reginald suddenly finds his voice again and roars out “What!!!  Me join that rabble of self-serving ninnies and varlets?  That covey of slinking partridges.  That swill can of offal.  That... that... that...”  Sir Reginald suddenly seems short of suitable invective and splutters to a halt.
“I merely, wondered, Sir Reginald what  a man of your integrity and directness could achieve in the way of setting things to rights when there are only... rather lesser beings to oppose.  A seat on the local council might lead on to a seat in government of the country as a whole.  Of the Empire itself.”
“I’ve had enough of putting myself out for the good of the Empire. Years of service to King and the Empire. What did that ever achieve?”
Might I observe, Sir, that was merely as a ... how should it be put?.. as a servant of Empire.  A fine, dedicated, selfless, tireless, upright head of department, I may add. A great leader of men to be sure but always at the behest of other lesser mortals.  How much more fitting that you should be the master and they the servants...”
Sir Reginald has absolutely no doubts of his qualities as a leader of men so he curtly dismisses Phillips to bring him the required documents.

A week later sees Sir Reginald at the hustings.  Sir Reginald has bullied the wasters at the Club to sponsor him and put up the deposit and he is now ready for his maiden speech.  Phillips has ensured the stage is set with a table with a pile of cyclostyled leaflets and there are ribbons and streamers of such a dark blue as to be almost black.  Sir Reginald has quibbled about the necessity of such expense but Phillips has assured him that such favours are entirely necessary.  There is even a small bowl of very hard brittle toffee for the babies that are sure to be brought to him for some sort of laying on of hands.
Sir Reginald is helped from the bath chair onto the stage and begins to speak.  “This country is going to the dogs.”  He begins baldly with no preamble.  “It is being run by spineless nincompoops and ninnies. I intend to change all that. I intend to bring back the birch and... and...” He stumbles to a halt.  “Give the politicians what’s been coming for a long, long time...” For the first time he surveys the hall.  His audience consists of an elderly man in a stained cardigan.  An elderly woman with an ear trumpet and a middle aged ragamuffin in overalls.  A small girl with pigtails sits in the back row swinging her legs and sucking a lollipop in an extremely annoying manner. “You.” The child looks up. “Yes you.”  He booms.  “Stand up when I speak to you.  You have no right to be here.”
“Yes she does” says the workman with the overalls.
“What!  What!!”  An apoplectic pallor begins to well up in Sir Reginald’s cheeks.
“She’s my daughter.  She’s waiting for me.”  The man slouches back on his chair.
“Well you’ve no right to be here.  You, you... dunderhead you.  This meeting isn’t for the like of you.  We don’t need you.”
“Oh? Who is it for then? I thought this was an election meeting.”
“You dare to question me?  You dare to interrogate your betters?  You... you... Socialist.”
“All right.  I’m not good enough for you, so who is good enough?”
“Well, well...”  Sir Reginald swings his glare round the hall. “Them.  I mean those old people.  They must have enough sense to vote for me.”
“Them?” says the workman in a surly manner.”That is my Mum and Dad.  We’re all just waiting for you to finish so that I can lock up and we can all go out and get some supper.”
“Why you...  You nincompoops.”  And Sir Reginald falls off the edge of the stage into the arms of Phillips who places him gently into the bath chair.
“Give me those leaflets.”  Phillips dutifully fetches the small pile from the table on the stage.  Sir Reginald begins to tear them.  But the pile of sheets will not tear. Growing wilder and wilder Sir Reginald gnaws at them with his teeth.  Leaflet confetti surrounds him as Phillips the one legged manservant wheels him home to supper.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sir Reginald Detests Whistling.

Sir Reginald considers whistling an affront to human dignity and an utter waste of energy that could be better spent elsewhere.  By which he means, in his service. A baker’s boy whistling whilst pedalling his delivery bike around town only means to Sir Reginald that he could be pedalling harder and the loaves could be delivered that much sooner for his breakfast.  A whistling garage mechanic can only indicate that he is not paying sufficient attention to the sump drain plug on the Wolsley.  That he has been reduced to being driven in a Wolsley when he has been forced to give up the Bentley is a source of supreme annoyance in itself which the whistling only intensifies.  What’s more, Phillips the onelegged man servant is given to the occasional chorus of some ditty in an unguarded moment whilst propelling Sir Reginald’s bath chair around the West Cliff.  “Push harder, damn you, you blackguard” Fumes Sir Reginald. “I’ll never be able to run another marathon if I don’t complete another three laps of this Gad-forsaken place. My training schedule will be in tatters.”  Quite how Sir Reginald imagines that being pushed in a bath chair constitutes any long distance training regime for anyone apart from Phillips is not clear.  And in any case, Sir Reginald has never run any further in his life than a brief sprint to the bar at the Club before anyone else appears and makes one of those sickening “Ah, it’s your round tonight” faces.

So Sir Reginald is well into his training regimen today when a loud whistle breaks his conconcentration.  “Damn you nincompoop siffleur.”  He rages. “You have quite thrown my concentration.  I’ll have to do another lap to make up. And don’t sigh like that Phillips. You should’ve made sure there was no one here to disturb me.”  Phillips wonders how he is meant to police a public space frequented by many hundreds of holiday makers.  He stumps on quickening his pace slightly to make up for the additional lap.  But when they reach the same spot once more the same loud whistling begins.  If he wasn’t before Sir Reginald is now decidedly cross.  “You imbecilic communist dunderhead.  You utter fatheaded son of a drain-cleaner   Curse you and your children and your grandchildren and may you live in the abject squalor you so richly deserve.” And Phillips stumps around again faster still.  It must soon be lunch time.  But the whistler is still delivering his sarcastic tune.  That this is deliberate bare-faced insolence Sir Reginald is now certain.  He flies into a well-rehearsed rage.  He throws the tartan rug that covers his knees to the ground and, saliva trickling from the corner of his mouth, he bays at Phillips to find the miscreant and administer a sound thrashing.  Philips looks around briefly and then indicates a branch on an overhanging holm oak. A blackbird resplendant in glossy spring plumage opens his bright orange beak and pours forth a cascade of trills and warbles of such great beauty that Phillips is captivated, hearing nothing of the turmoil behind him.  “Phillips. Phillips! Damn your eyes!! Phillips!!!” Sir Reginald’s face is of a such deep purple that it looks like an overripe plum about to explode.  Sir Reginald hurls his walking stick, the one with the serpent consuming its own tail carved on it, into the tree.  The stick lodges among the branches.  Sir Reginald is apoplectic and is making the sort of noises that no longer resemble human language in any form.  “Grunt.  Squeal.  Roar. Screee. Blubber. Squeeeeeal.”  Phillips clambers into the tree as best as his wooden leg will enable him.  He retrieves the stick, picks up the tartan rug and starts for home.  Meanwhile in the holm-oak the blackbird cocks his head on one side and begins to warble and trill once more.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Sir Reginald in Bournemouth

Clump whirr.  Clump whirr.  Clump whirr.
That is the sound of Sir Reginald being pushed in his bath chair around the West Cliff Gardens by his one legged manservant Phillips.
The sound of their peregrination is interspersed by the cry of gulls and the distant peals of laughter carried on the breeze up from the sands below.  Sir Reginald grimaces.  He dislikes gulls.  He abhors laughter.  He is vexed by the breeze and most of all he detests the cliff top gardens and the sea and the whole existence of the town of Bournemouth.  Why he has allowed himself to be imprisoned here he cannot imagine.  He only knows that Bournemouth is the most excruciatingly awful place he has ever had the bad luck to be in.  And he has walked the foetid alleyways of Calcutta and the less that salubrious slums of Naples and San Francisco.  “Damn Bournemouth.  Damn it all.” He mutters aloud.  “Yes Sir” intones Phillips and pushes his master on through the resinous groves of Corsican pine that dot the greensward.
A young female leans on the rail at the clifftop and surveys the bay below.  Sir Reginald waves his stick.  A handcarved affair denoting a serpent twining around the shaft with its tail in its mouth.  “Sloven!” hisses Sir Reginald “Nincompoop. Damn Socialist. I don’t pay my taxes so that young persons may idle about when they should be gainfully employed.”  And at least one part of that sentiment is true for Sir Reginald considers taxes to be something that only the so-called working classes should be subjected to.  Not people like him, servants of the Empire and prisoners of Grand Marine Court. Indeed, if any member of The Club had suggested that he had stooped so low as to pay a penny in tax at any time in his life he would have been mortally offended and would have called him out.  Or at least, enjoined Phillips to beat the rascal soundly with his wooden leg.

And so the daily journey continues.  Round and round the asphalt paths beneath the pines and across the grass.  Clump whirr.  Clump whirr.  Clump whirr.  And as each lap is completed Sir Reginald finds something new to rail against.  Some other cause for fulmination.  A discarded toffee paper causes a two prong outpouring of bile.  One against the miscreant who dropped it in the first place. “Damn communist.  Expecting me to pick up his litter. Part of his so-called Socialist so-called paradise” He rages. “He can only have been a visitor” Sir Reginald has no time for visitors.   But the main recipient for his spleen is the otherwise fastidious servant of the Borough Council who has failed dismally to spot the wrapper and retrieve it. “Damn lefties at the council. All those rates we have to pay.” (See note above concerning taxes) “And they expect me to do all their work for them.”  However, we get the impression that Sir Reginald probably wouldn’t have picked the wrapper up himself as his contribution to the common good.
And as Phillips directs the machine towards Grand Marine Court the vexed subject of luncheon is raised.  “As it is Monday, I believe the menu features cottage pie.” Clump whirr.  “Damn swill. Cottage pie is for socialists.  Not for people like me. Those nincompoops in the kitchen. “Clump whirr.  And the sound of Sir Reginald’s bath chair and Sir Reginald’s vituperations fade into the distance leaving just the sound of the breeze in the pines and a very small sound which may have been the smallest of sighs escaping the pursed lips of Phillips the one legged manservant.