As I approach my 75th year the question of my mobility flits occasionally into my mind.
I don’t want one of those mobility chairs you know the sort dodgems for the elderly. They have no style no panache. No I want a proper wickerwork bathchair complete with a tartan rug for my legs and pushed by an ex army bowler hatted batman called Briggs or Bates or some such suitable name. He would of course address me as “sah” in that precise army way.
There I would sit holding the steering handle for the single front wheel , walking stick at the ready to see off anyone who impedes my progress. I would wear cavalry twill trousers, heavy brown brogue shoes, a houndstooth sports jacket, a white shirt and a regimental tie to which I am not entitled but just let anyone question my right to wear it and he will feel the weight of my walking stick about his shins. I would possess two waistcoats, one fawn pristinely clean garment for high days and holidays and a mustard coloured one complete with gravy, port and red wine stains for the morning and evening walk. Bates and I would head for one of several favourite hostelries for a morning or evening snifter and a chinwag with like-minded chaps.
Oh to have the style in my dotage that has eluded me all my life. Who knows someone, visually challenged, might mistake me for a retired rather peppery colonel!!!
Out for the morning constitutional today when halfway down the High Street the Panama was removed from my head by a gust of wind. Quick as a flash Bates shoved the old bathchair against a lamp-post and while I clung on he was off like a whippet in pursuit of my titfer. I was left hanging on to the lamp-post in a most undignified way trying desperately to remove the stopper from my hip flask of medicine.
I was reminded of an incident several years ago.I had been invited as a last minute replacement to give a speech at Tubby Mulhoun’s retirement bash. Well I was stuck for a subject I can tell you apart from the occasional tirade when, how shall I say, glorious in my cups I have avoided public speaking like the veritable plague much preferring to leave that sort of thing to others while I concentrated on getting squiffy.
But on this occasion it was unavoidable as dear old Tubby was an old chum. I consulted Snuffy Bewley and he suggested I chose something humorous and to cut a long story short we settled on sex as the subject.
Well the memsahib decided to absent herself. She has had it in for poor old Tubby ever since the time in the officers’ mess when he emptied a soda siphon up her skirt. In my experience women don’t find that sort of thing as funny as their men folk do. Strange that.
Well back to the yarn the speech went down a treat and when I got back memsahib, smothered in cold cream and resplendent in curlers asked me what I had talked about. I got as far as sss when I decided she might not be impressed by my choice of subject so I said sssailing. Asked how it went I said very well.
The next day we ran across her pal Myrtle and several of her bridge playing chums, She told Kate, that’s the wife’s name, how much they had enjoyed my informative speech. To which Kate expressed her surprise as to her knowledge, she said, “He had only tried it twice, the first time he was violently sick and the second time his hat blew off“.
Well Bates finally returned clutching my Panama which was decidedly the worse for wear. Bates said he had stopped it by putting his foot on it. He’s a stout fellow and a damn good batman but he can be a bit of an oaf at times. Still I was relieved when he returned as I was getting some strange looks as I clung to the lamp-post with one hand while swigging from my flask with the other.
Then off we went to the Travellers Inn which seems to have been taken over by the local caravan club. No sense of humour that crowd, plebs to a man, they get awfully miffed when we took to calling the Inn the Shedpullers Arms. Well it was either going there or the Drunken Cat and you really don’t want to know what we call that.
After yesterday’s little adventure in the High Street I decided to give the old bathchair a miss today. Instead I had Bates make ready the Lagonda for a trip to the golf club, mind you these days I give the first eighteen holes a wide berth.
As we set off I was made aware that I had forgotten that Bates in a moment of uncharacteristic continental madness during the summer had seen fit to lower the ragtop and as much as he tried he couldn’t get the damn thing up again. Still he had found a pair of old leather flying helmets so with a cry of Biggles flies undone and chocks away Ginger we set off.
Now the golf club is not one of my normal haunts but the bar steward does make the best pink gin for miles around. Between you and me I never know whether bar steward should be one word or two in his case he really is the most bloody awful gossip and as we all know careless talk costs wives. I mean to say we all know what old Stinky Pemberton’s wife Daphne is like, well everyone except old Stinky that is.
Daphne has one of those vans with windows in they call ‘em people carriers. Don’t see the point meself but it takes all sorts. Hers has these darkened windows and what seems to be very soft suspension. It’s a wonder the poor gel doesn’t get seasick. Could have sworn blind I saw the clear outline of the sole of her foot on the side window the other week but by the time I has found my monocle the van had subsided into stillness and the foot had disappeared.
Jolly sociable filly is Daphers. Brings totally new meanings to expressions like, playing a round with the captains wife and playing a round with a male member. When she is stuck in the sand, the sand is not the only thing to get a good raking. She has her own handicap system which has nothing to do with golf I can tell you and rumour has it that Roger Carruthers plays off scratch. Actually his real name is Cecil but Roger describes his hobby for which he has enjoyed a certain reputation ever since he and the CO’s wife were found starkers playing a novel form of hoop la. Got him cashiered did that little skirmish. Smith the Bar Steward, he insists it is Smythe bloody ideas above his station that man, also spreads gossip about the captain Stinky Pemberton and his constant friend Fitz-William speculation is rife as to whether Stinky does Fitz-William if you get my drift but it is not something the hired help should gossip about, dashed bad form. Back in the regiment we would have boot blacked his todger for that sort of thing.
Meanwhile Bates had run the old banger down to the garage to try to get the damned rag top unjammed only to come back looking hot and bothered with some disconcerting news. Alf, the mechanic, had tried to release the fittings and managed to slice his finger off . Might be a blessing if it stops his disgusting habit of going mining up his nose with a filthy oily digit. The fact remained it was dashed inconvenient because until they had got Alf’s finger out of the Lagonda’s fittings we were without transport. Without more ado I concentrated on the problem while sinking a few more pink gins. Then Bates, stout man, came up with a brainwave and summoned a taxi.
On the way back I asked Bates how his grandson was getting on at the boarding school I had chosen for him. He seemed a bit worried about the nickname he had been given. But I pointed out at a school where the boys were addressed as master and given the surname he shared with his grandfather it was inevitable and might have nothing to do with his habits. Still Bates was not to be convinced so I dropped the subject and gave my full attention to my trusty hipflask.
It’s absolutely piddling down so I will have to forgo the evening snifter at the club. Wonder where the memsahib is. Oh well I’ll have a snooze while Bates prepares supper.
I’ve not been around much for a while it’s been diplomatic to keep a low profile since my cousin Cedric Blenkinshaw-White hit the front pages. It turned out he has been a somewhat dishonourable member of the big talking shop in Westminster. Cedric had been in the habit of living on expenses and treating his salary as pocket money and when those ghastly Barclay Brothers set their gutter sniffing dogs loose they found out that his second home was in the Dordogne. Well as Cedric said what’s wrong with that? How else is a chap to get away and relax with his lady love after a gruelling debate and then home to an equally gruelling night with her Ladyship. Anyway the gutter press were not impressed by his protestations and as they were looking for more mud of the very sticky smelly kind I decided to keep a low profile for the duration of hostilities. I know it was years ago but I wouldn’t want that story about me, the colonel’s wife, a bowl of vanilla cream and a house party in India to get out. Aah fond memories but it would take a lot of explaining even today.
With the coming of the season of goodwill I decided it was now time for a lunch time reccy out into the world again and got Bates to break out the jolly old bathchair. Donning my best bib and tucker we set off at a gentle stroll to the Golf Club. I’d heard on the bush telegraph that the obnoxious common oaf that was Smith the Bar Steward has been given his marching orders so the club could now once more be listed among my favourite watering holes. Must say it is a touch off putting that when we go down the High Street members of the lower orders point at me giggle and remind each other of the lamp post incident damn fools should show a bit of respect.
In truth the first outing to the lair of the best pink gin for many a mile did not go well. It was my attempt at an introductory ice breaker that proved to be my undoing; I said to Cynthia Le Clerc the lady captain. “Can I smell your breasts?” Giving me an intercontinental ballistic missile of a look “No” she thundered. “Oh” I replied, “it must be your feet then”.
The next thing I remembered was when I came to sopping wet, apparently Stuffy Bullard had emptied the contents of the ice jug on me. I went to dry off and noticed that the blow that had laid me low had also given me a shiner of the blackest black. Chummy Chelmondley came into what we call the unsaddling enclosure to check on my battle wounds. Big mistake he reported old Cin has no sense of humour. Bloody woman has no right to be so haughty named as she is after a French grocery shop.
My problem was, I surmised, being how to explain the shiner to the memsahib. Bates thought that telling the truth might just do the trick. Now I must admit that I thought that to be a damn fool scheme but when Pinky Bulstrother agreed I warmed to the idea, after all old Pinky had had more scrapes than the bum of a barnacle encrusted boat.
Arriving back at the stately pile we found her ladyship making ready her old Humber, how on earth that thing not only still goes but starts first time I don’t know, must be because no one dare disobey my good lady. Bates on occasion reminds me that I am also old and decrepit but on a good day still function normally. Cheeky bugger. It turns out that Kate is off to a point to point meeting. I see that she has noticed my eye and has deduced it is not mascara. I tell her the truth whereupon she guffaws in a most raucous manner; big mistake she tells me old Cin has no sense of humour. Slapping me on the back and jabbing my brogue with her shooting stick.
Usually Kate takes the pony and trap when going to these horsey meetings but this time the meet is some twenty miles away. “I didn’t fancy sitting behind Buggins for twenty miles there and twenty miles back damned pony farts from the moment I put her between the shafts to the minute I take her out again.” I was about to remark I know a gel like that when I remember I already have one eye out of commission.
I decide to settle down to a large economy G & T prepared by the excellent Bates and then to have a comfortable snooze in the library. A safe afternoon in my bomb proof bunker.
I suppose I had snoozed for a couple of hours when Bates young grandson, Master Bates, the one who’s school fees I am paying, burst in and enquired if he could have the old bathchair from the back of the summer house. He pretended not to hear when I asked why but I said yes just as long as it was not for purposes that might interest the constabulary. He remarked it would hardly make a suitable get away vehicle and ran out slamming the door behind him.
Now all this happened a few weeks back and what came next was a lesson to us all in free enterprise. The bath chair was repaired and made usable. Tosser, that was the name his chums had nicknamed young Master Bates; I suppose it could be worse, and two of his said chums, Stinky and Snotty, had joined him in this caper. It was to go like this Stinky dressed like an old man was to be pushed along by Tosser who when at the top of a suitable hill would lose his footing propelling the bathchair down the hill at perilous speed whereupon Snotty would leap out and courageously pull the bathchair to a halt. Meanwhile the pursuing Tosser with gratitude oozing from every pore would pass the hat round for the gallant Snotty.
Now I must admit that they had teething problems the worst being when the bathchair was pushed down a too steep hill, this resulted in Stinky, Snotty and one badly bent bathchair ending up in two foot of water in the ornamental fountain outside the Town Hall. But they got their act together and became expert at judging hill steepness and maximum fund raising. I had to finally reluctantly put a stop to their enterprise when a report appeared in the local rag detailing the number of incidents there had been recently involving runaway bathchairs and questioning the safety of my chosen form of local transportation. Still I expect they will soon come up with another money making idea you can’t keep a young entrepreneur down for long.
Now due to so-called further revelations some involving the redoubtable Cedric and a Soho club night out claimed on expenses I am back into head down in the back of the trench mode. You have to have sympathy for poor old Cedric as he said when you are giving your all for your constituency a chap must be entitled to a spot of relaxation. The trouble was highlighted when a photo turned up of him making his exit relaxed as a newt.
I wonder if it will be safe to come out for the New Year? Maybe St Moritz might be prudent. I haven’t been there since Johnny Templeton-Brown sled naked down the Cresta run with an artificial daffodil stuck in his nether regions.