A MUTUALLY SATISFYING DÉNOUEMENT IS NEGOTIATED
Parsons’ departure into the realms of physics leads Biffo to feel that the conversation
is becoming a dash too technical. He drags it back to levels he can follow - adroitly
changing the subject.
“I say, Julian, old scout, do you read, at all – during the ordinary course of things?
“Well, I can read, Guv – if that’s what yer getting’at. Read comics most of the time –
books is all too long and boring.”
“What books have you had a go at, old chap?”
“Well, Auntie Fenner gave me an Enid Blyton for me birthday one year. Couldn’t
understand a word of it – about a bunch of posh kids, it was. Wasn’t real - like where
I come from, at all – too la-di-da and toffee-nosed, them kids.”
Get your drift, old chap. Miss ‘Blithertown’ was never my idea of a riot, either….”
But Julian’s literary waters were clearly going to need a snoot-full of ale to make
them palatable. Biffo pulled thoughtfully on the Meerschaum.
”You’ll probably find the “Mouse Saga” a bit challenging to start with, old chap,” he
advised, “but you’re getting used to grand old houses by now - and fairly unusual
characters, too, I imagine. Thing is, the young heroes of the “Saga” are Turkish for
the most part - that might seem a little strange.”
“Turks is OK by me – best friend at school’s a ‘Döner’ - lots of’em up our parish.”
“I say, old thing, are there now? How jolly interesting. Well, I never did! Did you know
that, Parsons, eh?”
“Milord, we no longer live as we used, in an Anglo-Saxon enclave. Ours has become
a multi-cultural society – a mosaic of world civilizations, if you will.”
“Yea, we’re all Brits together, innit?” Julian seems fairly well in favour, at any rate.
Biffo decides to leave historical prejudice at the gates of Vienna where he assumes it
“Jolly good show, what? Anyway, keep bashing away at the “Saga”, old chap, and I
believe you’ll find a lot to think about.”
Julian likes to get things clear in his mind from the start.
”If that book’s so good,” he enquires sensibly, “why didn’t anyone write it?”
Parsons looks rather as if he is about to launch into serious literary criticism……
Biffo hastily forestalls him.
“Maybe that’s part of the whole mystery, old chap.” he says quietly. “You’ll find a
lot of surprises in that book – might even find yourself there, too, if you stick at it.
There’s a bit of everything. Parsons is in it, that’s a promise. So are quite a few other
characters you wouldn’t expect. Only guessing, mind you, but I think that by the time
you’ve ploughed through the three volumes you’ll want to climb straight back in there
all over again – that’s what happened to Corrie and me, anyway - and just maybe,
you’ll have a rough idea who wrote it, too. You can hear his voice in the background,
sometimes, as the adventures tumble along…..”
Parsons is both impressed and somewhat taken aback by his employer’s unusually
perceptive words. They inspire in him an unfamiliar sense of ‘Carpe Diem’ – of devil-
may-care, almost. For a rash and uncharacteristic moment, he surprises himself by
diving recklessly into realms inconceivable a few moments earlier.
“Milord, it has just occurred to me that, maybe, and it is a mere foolish thing of the
moment – an ill-considerted trifle, if you will – that it might be beneficial for Julian
if he read the book here, in the library, with you – you being a lover of the piece –
There being no immediate negative response to this suggestion, Parsons plunges
deeper – warming to his theme.
“I’m sure we could organize a suitable timetable for the readings – one which would
not compromise the young man’s household duties – as in the cleaning of shoes
and silver - and, of course, the washing-up. There is nothing, Milord, so conducive to
the appreciation of books, as atmosphere. The Amblewick library offers just such a
stimulating ambience, would you not concur, Milord?”
“Oh, yes, indeed, rather!”
Julian is well and truly hooked.
“Cor! Yea – can we, Guv? – It’d be wicked!”
Biffo’s agreement is whole-hearted – but comes with a modest rider.
“One of the best ideas you’ve ever had, old purveyor of unlikely solutions. I have only
one condition, dear old friend. If we are to congregate here to read the “Saga”, your
own august presence must be a part of such a congregation….”
“Milord, I hardly feel that such would be a…..”
“Over-ruled, me old darling! All excuses vetoed absolutely! No Parsons – no
readings. Final word, what?”
“Oh come on, Mr P, you’ve got to do it, pl-e-e-e-a-se!”
“One down, one to go.” Biffo muses contentedly.
That heartfelt, ‘pl-e-e-e-a-se!’, is a shaft too keen for the worthy retainer to withstand
and with a sigh he buckles under it.
“Very well, Milord, ‘Ours is not to reason why…’, as the saying goes. It shall be as
you insist. However, I must beg you, young Julian, to excise the watching of that
depressing television series from your viewing schedule - as a personal favour to
“What, “Dinner Ladies”?
“The very same.”
“OK, fair do’s. Mr P - it’s a deal – tonight’s the last episode, anyhow……”
Biffo is impressed at the way things are panning out. All that remains is to establish a
mutually acceptable hour every day for the readings to take place.
“Any thoughts about time, Parsons? To suit you, of course…..”
Parsons, who has, as the reader may recall, certain cultural reservations with regard
also to his employer’s television viewing, sees a window of opportunity through
which to mingle timetabling with his own devices.
“It occurs to me, Milord, that nine o’clock every evening, after the breakfast table has
been laid, would be eminently suitable.”
“Jolly good show, splendid! Nine o’clock on the dot every evening – good, that’s
settled then. Going to buzz Corrie right away. She’ll be over here like a shot now the
LKA’s out of the way. Did I tell you, Parsons? She got Best of Breed, this year.
“My congratulations to Lady Constance, Milord – most well-deserved, I am sure.”
But, Parsons is looking thoughtful.
“Milord, I fear that the hour we have specified may entail, how best can I express it -
a small sacrifice too far, on your part, perhaps…….?”
“Well, it’s after the post-prandial, isn’t it? No problem there, surely?”
“I fear, in retrospect, that Your Lordship may have overlooked a slight, but possibly
“Nine o’clock, Milord, is the time, every evening, when ‘Eastenders’ is screened – it
occurs to me that, perhaps……?”
Barely a moment’s pause.
“Coo-er! Cor! Just like ’ome!”
That, without question, is Julian.
“Two birds with a single missile…….”
A silent pǽan of praise - definitely Parsons - and he really smiles, at last……..