Alan Titchmarsh, Alexander Armstrong, Antiques Roadshow, Boris Johnston, Bunny Campione, Bunny Guinness, Cavalier, clay pipe, Gertrude Jekyll, Grinling Gibbons, Henry Moore, herbaceous border, Inigo Jones, King Charles Spaniel, linen fold panelling, Lulu Guinness, Pointless, Pomeranian, pre-nuptial, pre-prandial, Prince William, pug, Rokeby Venus, Roundhead, Songs of Praise, Strictly, stump work, sundial, William the Conqueror
Hi! It’s Diana again. I’m still here in Suttonford. Sonia had taken us to
Ginevra’s house, as the nonagenarian was allowing Dru to use her tablet
to Google ‘ Wyvern Mote.’ (I must say that a lot more goes on here than in
Bradford-on-Avon.) That’s why I am moving back to these airts and parts,
Magda, the Eastern European carer, brought tea in for Sonia, Dru and
myself, but not for Ginevra.
She was having something a little stronger. Early in the day, I thought.
Tell me about your Aunt Augusta, she commanded Dru. I think that she and
I would have a lot in common.
You do, replied Dru, without taking her eyes off the screen. You both like
Dewlap Gin for the Discerning Grandmother.
But she isn’t a grandmother, is she? I am.
Nevertheless.. Dru’s voice trailed off and then she exclaimed excitedly:
The original earls had Wyvern Mote decorated by Inigo Jones. There’s a
photo on this site of a portrait of a rather pink and billowy-or is that ‘pillowy’?-
female called Lydia Van Druynk, who is recumbent on some kind of a divan,
like the Rokeby Venus. She’s surrounded by King Charles Spaniels.
I prefer pugs, or Pomeranians, opined Ginevra.
Dru ignored her as far as she could, considering that she was
borrowing the old girl’s tablet.
It says that the spaniels are significant, as the langorous lady, far from
being inactive, set the said dogs on a Civil War unit, thereafter influencing
and modifying the motto on the Van Druynk coat of arms, which then read:
Begone vile blusterers!
I take it she was on the side of the Cavaliers? said Sonia. I know all about
that contingent. As you recall, I have to live with one of them occupying
my attic. He doesn’t even pay me rent.
And would you call him a considerate house guest otherwise? asked Ginevra.
Not too bad, but I wish he’d take off his boots, as I can hear him pacing up
and down the length of the attic. He’s a bit of an insomniac, as I am.
I’m surprised that you haven’t exorcised him, commented Diana.
Well, in a funny way he keeps me company, said Sonia. But I wish he
wouldn’t smoke all these clay pipes and leave the broken shards in my
herbaceous border. I wrote to Gardeners’ Question Time, but Bunny
Campione just said that the clay detritus probably helps with drainage.
She could have put you in touch with one of those bee keeper types and
they could have smoked him out, suggested Diana. Like the way they
fumigate greenhouses. They use a puffer thing. By the way, I think you
mean Bunny Guinness.
Sonia looked horrified. But I like my Cavalier, she protested. He’s got
attitude, as they say.
She continued, You know, I always thought these two Bunnies were the same
person- just one amazingly talented woman who knows everything about
groundwork AND stump work.
Doesn’t one of them make designer handbags as well? Ginevra chipped in.
That’s Lulu Guinness, interposed Dru, who was becoming slightly rattled,
particularly as she couldn’t afford one of these desirable accessories, yet
most of her boarders could.
I’m not criticising gardeners, clarified Sonia. Gertrude Jekyll is a bit of a
heroine of mine, but nowadays they are not of the same ilk, to use a clan
reference. I mean, Alan Titchmarsh may be compost mentis, but he simply
doesn’t have such a breadth of cultural knowledge as the two women, even if
he does present Songs of Praise, in my opinion. They could have that
programme fronted by a Singing Snowman; it’s not particularly challenging.
I don’t think it is meant to be, Diana tried to point out.
Dru tried to keep the peace. The motto proliferated onto stair newel
posts, shields on the linen fold panelling and was featured on a particularly
fine lead sundial which was regrettably stolen from The White Garden in 1995.
It was recovered three years later when some idiot brought it to an Antiques
Roadshow and one of the experts remembered its loss had been reported in a
Why was the person who brought it an idiot? asked Diana.
Because he had been the gardener at Wyvern and someone recognised
him, according to this article. He was put away for a couple of years.
Well, at least it wasn’t melted down for scrap value like some of those
Henry Moores probably have been, ventured Sonia. Where is all this
It’s from a Newspaper Archive site. The article came from ‘The Rochester
Messenger’..Hey! There’s an earlier headline from 1946 which says:
‘Missing Heir Found Safe and Well.’
Read it out, ordered Ginevra.
Dru scanned the front page. There had been a supposed accident.
Peregrine, the younger son of the estate had been thought drowned.
He’d been missing for nearly a week. Estate workers dragged the moat
and searched surrounding woodland. His mother was frantic. She had
questioned Lionel, the older boy, but there was something evasive in his
replies. He had been known to bully his ten year old sibling.
The tutor testified to the police that he had observed Lionel engaging in
what the nasty child called ‘giving the little sprog a good trouncing’ and
the teacher had endeavoured to enlighten his charge regarding his abusive
behaviour. He found the boy intractable.
Lionel even jealously tortured his mother’s favourite pet, a spaniel that was
directly descended from one of the dogs who had sent off the Roundheads and
whose life-like ancestor featured in a lozenge-shaped cameo carved by Grinling
Gibbons over the mantel in the Red Sitting Room.
Sounds like that awful boy that everyone talks about at St Birinus, Ginevra
butted in. There’s nothing new about bullying.
Dru screeched suddenly: It says that the boys’ mother had no husband to
support her in her grief, as she had been widowed. She turned to the boys’
tutor, a young man called Anthony Revelly! He seems to have saved the day.
He is called a hero.
I need a drink, said Ginevra. Let’s all have a break and you can tell us the
rest after I have had my pre-nuptial.
Prandial, corrected Diana, before she remembered that she was the guest.
Then, Yes, Dru, she advised. Let’s have a hiatus while we take all this on
Anyway, Ginevra stated. I want to watch ‘Pointless’ just now. Magda and I
always like that Armstrong chap. I wish he’d do the stupid dance though- the
one he did with his friend on his comedy programme. You’d never think that
he was related to William the Conqueror. Not when he wore a tank top.
I didn’t know they had tank tops in 1066, said Sonia. I don’t think they
even had tanks.
Somehow you’d expect someone of that stature to be able to dance more
elegantly, Ginevra persisted.
Who? William the Conqueror? asked Sonia.
Well, him as well, now you mention it. Mind you, Boris Johnston isn’t that
great a mover and he’s more royal than Prince William and the whole bang
shoot of them.
Boris was jiggling around at the Olympics, if my memory serves me aright.
Not a pretty sight. Mind you, some of those big ones can be light on their
feet. You see it time and again on ‘Strictly’. But I don’t think Boris would do
an appearance . I mean, who would be his partner? Poor Alyona has had
enough of the weaker candidates. It’s time she was given a winner.
Top me up, Magda!
The rest of the article would have to wait.
Your writing makes compulsive reading.
Thank you. Your positive feedback inspires me to carry on with driving my surreal plots!
Please do. I do what I do because I can’t not do it, the creative feedback to myself is enormous. However a comment from another sentient being who ‘gets it”, the wonder, the humour, the fun of it all – that truly does encourage us.