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.