Monday, December 31, 2012

Chapter 2


Biffo is in the Morning Room. The days of armies of servants are long gone, and Parsons - now responsible for the entire house, and single-handedly, follows a less formal regime than he had used. The only other indoor servants are Mrs Fenner, the cook, and her nephew Julian, who acts as a form of trainee page-boy during his holidays from school in East London. His youth - he is about 13 - renders him somewhat of a mixed blessing in the smashing of heirloom stakes. Parsons therefore prefers to clear the breakfast table by himself in deference to the Meissen.

Such occasions permit Parsons a good deal more freedom to engage with his employer in conversations of a somewhat less meticulous formality than formally had been possible under the gaze and within range of the distended ears of lesser servants. He remains inscrutable, but there is something less distant in his demeanour.

Biffo kicks off the interview.

“Gather ‘Notre Dame’s’ celebrating her 850th anniversary this week.”

“Would that be the Cathedral in Paris, Milord?”

“Absolutely, old thing - the Cathedral. Quite an impressive old thrash – for a bunch
of Papists. All that banging on the front doors with crooks – bit like Black Rod and
the Lords, don’t you know? Amazing to think that there were already Loftuses at
Amblewick when her foundation stone was being laid, what?”

“Indeed, Milord, a most sobering observation. Mention of the French Cathedral
reminds me of a moment in “The Definitive History of England” Milord, when Sir
Charles reminisces about the construction of Eton College Chapel in the reign of
King Henry VI. Interestingly, Milord, the sixth Henry was himself crowned King of
France in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.”

“Very right and proper, too. Good old ‘Hen the Pen’. Tell you what though, Parsons,
that old devil, Charles, certainly knows how to jolly up the dry old facts, doesn’t he?

“He does indeed, Milord, most refreshing – heart-warming, in fact – and Master
Sever’s trip up to Town in search of medicines is very touching, too. I felt myself,
Milord, most relieved at last to meet the great characters of Our Island’s Story – for
once untrammelled by the verities.”

“To be honest, Parsons, old thing, simply loathed History when I was up at Eton.
Beak I was up to never stopped ramming it down my throat. ‘Lord Amblewick, your
performance in this subject renders me speechless – most especially when I remind
myself that England’s History has been at the mercy of members of your family for
so many centuries – and somehow has managed to survive...... Take a rip!’ Cheeky
sod! Performance in the other divs was much the same - every trial, a rip. The Pater
used to tear his hair out!”

Yes, Milord. I do recall a conversation I overheard between you both, in the Library,
as I was inspecting the drawing-room silver one morning. You would have been
in your early teens at the time, Milord. Your esteemed father was in fighting form,
and threatened to ‘kick your ‘backside’ from here to Barnstaple’ – although with the
greatest possible respect, Milord, the expression he used on that occasion was
somewhat more vivid – vulgar-colloquial perhaps would be a nicer definition……”

“Tricky, the old man, when in a tizzy, what?”

“Most definitely no ‘pushover’, Milord, as I believe would be the expression in
common use today……..”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chapter 1


The Marquess of Amblewick is relaxing in his library after dinner. The dogs lounge
comfortably at his feet. Handsome wood fire blazes, discreet table lamps cast discreet
shadows, and so on.

“Biffo”, for that is his Lordship’s preferred pet-name, is relaxing with a copy of the Kennel

Club Gazette. A well-thumbed copy of Sir Charles Peyneer’s “The Definitive History of
England” lies on the sofa-table to his left.

From our position on the Van der Meulen(1) above the fireplace, we are ideally situated

minutely to observe all that may transpire.

We have known Biffo for ever – comfortable old chap - guileless, staunch, and very much

a creature of habit, as is to be expected from the scion of a clan which has been parked at
Amblewick for nigh on 900 years(2).

Punctual to the milli-second, Parsons, his Lordship’s butler, counsellor and general egghead,

glides into the room with a salver upon which reposes his employer’s post-prandial glass of
1846 Napoleon brandy and its decanter.

He places the salver on the sofa table and injects a measured dose of the amber into the


Standing back a trifle, he coughs respectfully.

An eyebrow above His Lordship’s pince-nez arches expectantly as that worthy exhales a

cloud of cigar smoke and awaits his retainer’s ‘pearls of great price’, as is his habit.

“I observed, Milord, as I placed your tray upon the table, that your Lordship is
perusing Sir Charles’s extraordinary “History of England”. A remarkable tome, Milord,
so I am given to understand by Mr Frimley - my counterpart at Netherwick Hall, my

“As you know, Parsons, old thing – not exactly the literary sort, meself - but a darned
good lavatory read. Remarkable, really.”

“Good heavens, never knew he had it in him, disreputable old bounder, what? The
times we used to have at the Cavendish. Did I ever tell you about the time we both
got plastered at Epsom, and he passed out in the Daimler Hire on the way home?”

“I rather believe that you did, Milord – most illuminating,”

“I was wondering, Milord, if, when Your Lordship has exhausted his perusal of
the “History”, I might, perhaps, Improve myself by reading it - during my brief free
moments in the pantry.”

“Help yourself, old thing. Should warn you, though - pretty saucy in parts – not for the
faint of heart, nor the prudish, if you know what one means, what?”

“I am sure Milord, that the work will bring back fond memories of my days in the
service of the Peyneer family before post war taxation reduced their circumstances
so terminally.”

“Yes, damned poor show, eh? We’ve been pretty lucky in the Bolshevik survival
stakes here at Amblewick, haven’t we?”

Parsons smoothly gathers up the great volume.

“And now, Milord, with your permission…..”

The noble retainer shimmers from the presence……..

(1) “King Louis X1V at the Siege of Courtrai” is the legend. 
(2) Estates conferred upon the Loftus family, by the Conqueror, pursuivant to the Battle ıf Senlac (or Hastings),
     In the Year of Our Lord 1066, etc.