As it’s Christmas time, this week our writing group decided we should all contribute a seasonal tale, poem etc for our final meeting before the big day. So here is mine for anyone who’d like to share this with their family over lunch or better still after a few glasses of something fizzy. It’s probably unsuitable for the very young and it’s certainly not politically correct. So if easily offended, go and sit in a dark room until it’s over.
However, if you like a little frivolous nonsense, then please enjoy it, share it and banish those covid blues.
Here’s a PDF file for anyone who’d like to download it to a reader etc.
Dinner At Downturn
by Barry Lillie
Mr Burrows supervised while Aggie straightened the napkins on the festive table. As he lit the candles she reflected on her six-months at Downturn Abbey. All of the staff had welcomed her and she fitted in nicely. Lord Bothersome had turned out to be an agreeable employer, although she wasn’t keen on his new beau, the frightful Flavia. Talk below stairs had been rife the day Flavia had arrived at Downturn, “It’s scandalous,” Cook had said. “His wife, the good Lady Bothersome is just three-months buried.”
Aggie watched as the food was brought into the dining room, Cook had done his Lordship proud and at the centre of the festive feast sat a succulent looking goose. Mr Burrows ushered the staff into place in front of the festive tree as the doors opened in readiness for the guests.
First to enter the room was Lord Bothersome, dressed in nautical attire and on his arm was Flavia, her scrawny frame barely covered by a diaphanous gown. Next to arrive was his lordship’s niece Ophelia, linking arms with her latest young man Rodney. “Uncle Henry, the room looks, meravigliosa,” she said giving Flavia a sidelong glance and whose face remained flinty and emotionless. Lord Bothersome shook hands with Rodney as through the door Mr Burrows pushed inside a wheelchair containing old Lady Beaversnatch. Discreetly he whispered to his lordship that he’d site her near the door in case of emergencies and her regular bathroom requirements.
Soon the room was filled with people and Claudia looking resplendent in green listened to the guests who stood around chatting and sipping their sherry. “Would you like a top-up before lunch?” Rodney asked the verger. “Oh I mustn’t,” Nancy Boyes said, and as he went to walk away she grabbed at his arm and thrust out her empty glass saying, “Just a small one. The vicar knows Nancy can’t handle a large one.” Rodney was topping up her glass when booming laughter came from over by the door. Godfrey Butts-Rimming was regaling Ophelia and Lady Beaversnatch with tales of his latest holiday on the continent while his sister Hortense stood by, shyly glancing over at the reverend who was standing silently beside the tree.
“I do hope you shall all enjoy this splendid spread that Cook has prepared for us,” Lord Bothersome said loudly to his guests. “Will you be carving the bird Henry?” Godfrey bellowed.
“I’m afraid not old chap, my wrist is rather sore after yesterday.”
“What happened yesterday your Lordship?” asked Nancy, as her sherry glass was refilled again.
“We had our usual December frolic together on the estate,” Godfrey boomed.
“Yes,” his lordship said. “What fun, and I shot a load, didn’t I Godfrey?”
“You certainly did Henry.”
“How many was it, eight or nine?”
“Ten your lordship. Three partridge, three pheasant a grouse and two mallard.”
A hush descended upon the room as a man wearing a black cape and with hair as black and shiny as treacle entered. “Splendid, you made it. Everybody,” Lord Bothersome said commanding attention. “Let me introduce you to my new friend, Count Olaf.” The little man in black bowed deeply and walked around the room shaking the men’s hands and kissing those of the ladies. Mr Burrows looking at his pocket watch ushered the staff back to work and they assisted the guests with their seating before removing the covers from the food. There followed lots of oohing and aahing before Lord Bothersome stood up. “Welcome my friends, before we begin, I’d like to call upon the Revered here to say grace.” A little whoop came from the table and all eyes drifted across towards Hortense who blushed and looked down at her lap in shame.
“So Flavia,” the count said, “Which part of Italy are you from?” There was no response and when he started to question her again, Ophelia said, “I’m sorry Flavia speaks no English.” And then as an aside to Rodney she whispered, “Or recognises Italian.”
“Why do you say that?” he asked.
“Earlier I told uncle the room was marvellous, I translated the word into Italian and there was no recognition of her native language upon her face.”
Mr Burrows began carving the bird as the girls from below stairs exited quietly. Claudia spotted Aggie looking back over her shoulder to take one last look at the merry meal and winked at her, though she was certain Aggie hadn’t seen her, in fact apart from a sneer she’d received from Lady Beaversnatch, no one seemed to have noticed her.
Wine was being poured and Nancy Boyes held out her glass eagerly, earning her a serious look from the vicar. “Lovely service at the church last week,” Hortense said. “I do like a rousing carol at this time of the year.”
“So do I,” Godfrey bawled. “And for the rest of the year I like a lusty Lucinda and an agreeable Annie.” Embarrassed by her brother’s remark, Hortense turned her attention to the count. “Tell me Count where are your family from?”
“Originally Moscow but we now reside over the border in Belarus.”
“Moscow, you say. Pray tell me are you related to the family Romanov?”
“Not at all my good lady, I’m Olaf the Third, one of the famous Crackingoneoff’s”
As conversation overtook, Claudia watched as eyes darted over the table taking in the dishes laid out before them, only Rodney appeared to have noticed her, everyone else had passed her by with a look of disdain. She couldn’t help being rather squat and rotund, all her family had been fat and round and one can’t be held responsible for one’s genetics.
Nancy Boyes, her wine glass now refreshed, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and the sound of cutlery on porcelain increased in volume as the guests tucked into their lunch. Suddenly a deep baritone voice exclaimed, “Ee ba gum, that gravy’s reet grand.” Everyone’s eyes fell upon Flavia.
“Ha!” Ophelia said rather loudly, surprising old lady Beaversnatch, causing her to break wind loudly. “So, you’re not an Italian.”
“’Fraid not. I’m not a lady either. Me name’s not Flavia, eet’s Fred and am from Batley Carr, near Dewsbury.”
“Oh my,” Hortense said. “Does his lordship know you’re a chap?”
“Ay does that. Why dost think ay’s dressed as a sailor boy.” At this his lordship flushed, Godfrey choked on a parsnip and Nancy slid off her chair and under the table.
During the commotion no one noticed the young spunk Rodney, as he reached across the table and took Claudia into his hands and pulled her towards himself. As she reached him, his lips parted and she could smell the sweet sherry on his breath and her heart fluttered in anticipation. His velvety tongue caressed her before his molar descended upon her and she sighed aloud. For it was the sound of a happy sprout on Christmas day.
Disclaimer: No Brussels sprouts were harmed in the creation of this nonsense.
© Barry Lillie 2020
Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year everyone, stay safe and take a little time to check on those spending the season alone. Let’s spread a little love rather than the virus at the close of 2020.