Augustus Snodbury was cherishing his final few Saturdays before term
resumed. It had been an eventful summer, but he was a little concerned that
he might outstay his welcome at his erstwhile lover’s cottage in Bradford-on-
Avon. References to guests and fish past their sell-by dates and the impact of
more than three day visits loomed on the horizon of that giant of a mind.
Ablutions had to be curtailed in the mornings as there was only one bathroom
and their daughter, Drusilla, seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on
waxing her moustache.
Snod had brought back several packets of his favourite Agen prunes from their
French foray. (I think he had also secreted some bottles of Armagnac, but to
our tale!) Though an aid to digestion, not to mention that other bodily
function, whose initial letter is also ‘d’, the wizened fruit meant that, at times,
there was a degree of urgency as to access to the ablutional premises. The ‘c’
word did not even come into it. The efficacy of these little time bombs could
be cataclysmic, nay apocalyptic.
In spite of all that, Drusilla and her mother, Diana, had become increasingly
relaxed in his company and he had learned to resist asking them a series of
questions which he then mentally scored and graded.
The weather had been superb in England and they had taken to sitting outside
in the evening in the small courtyard at the rear of the cottage, surrounded by
tubs of lavender and Diana’s carefully dead-headed roses.
The French cheeses which they thought they had smuggled onto the coach,
but whose presence was fairly obvious to anyone with a normal olfactory
function, ripened in the kitchen, once they had been taken out of the fridge
and the bottle of red was breathing freely after Diana’s Screwpull had
performed its act of liberation.
A bee-endangered species?-landed on the lavender and took only what its
hive required and no more. Snod began to silently word lines from The Lake
Isle of Innisfree by Yeats. But one bee did not produce a glade, nor an
individual pot of honey.
Honey! Wasn’t it Winnie the Poof- oops, a typo!-Pooh who had said that
although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment
just before you began which was even better than the activity itself?
Snod leant back on his chair. It was HIS chair now, he felt He picked up
Diana’s FT Weekend magazine and flicked through its pages in reverse.
There was her favourite article by The Shrink and The Sage. He must read it
to discover what it was that so charmed her. He could not believe what he
was reading. It coincided with his interior monologue.
Snod had had time to reflect on his life, when he had stayed in the monastery
guest house at Fleury. He realised that he did not have to grab happiness in
the clumsy fashion he had attempted at The Longs Arms, earlier in the year.
After all, he had waited thirty odd years for moments such as this. Why should
he become messily entangled in the lives of others? Relationships could slowly
ripen like the Camembert which was dripping over the cheeseboard like a Dali
He took his first sip of wine, not having noticed its arrival on the cast iron
table. Diana came out of the back door, carrying a interesting looking flan.
I hope you don’t mind, Gus, but I made a tarte aux pruneaux with those Agens
that you left in the kitchen.
He resisted his initial irritation and decided to optimise his enjoyment:
Servez-vous, he replied and corrected himself by using the tu form almost
immediately. Toi, he said. Toi. And it sounded very good.
And it tasted very good too.