Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
aubade, banns, Barrowland market, BBC 4, Bletchley Park, Burns documentary, Camp Bastion, Canary Islands, Carlo Curley, chanter, Classics teacher, Dog Star, Enigma, Hymen, Isle of Dogs, kist o' whistles, non-binary, organathon, ornithology, retractable telescope, Souter Johnnie, Tam O' Shanter, Tenerife, The Dambusters
( Image: Postdlf, Aug 2010)
Diana Fotheringay, Virginia and Mrs Connolly, the housekeeper,
sat round the kitchen table to discuss all things matrimonial.
Dru should have been present, but she was in Tenerife at
the time, given that it was the Easter break.
It was Virginia’s holiday time too, but she did not like to encounter
school children and she and Snod had reckoned that the pele tower
in the Borders constituted as good a bastion as they could find-
except perhaps Camp Bastion, and they hadn’t reckoned on Afghanistan
as being terribly relaxing. In some ways it might have reminded them
of their day jobs, except that at times, St Birinus Middle could be regarded
as being marginally more stressful.
Mind you, Snod was not finding marriage preparations terribly relaxing
either. That was why he was doing some male bonding with Murgatroyd
and was heading off to the nearest hostelry, in the company of The Rev.
Finlay Armstrong, who had just visited to discuss banns, registers and
orders of service. ‘The Rev’ had never conducted a triple ceremony before,
but he felt that there was a sound Trinitarian basis and so had agreed.
Nigel, Dru’s fiance, had gone to Tenerife too, which had further infuriated
his mother, since she had been let down by yet another decorator and
her apron strings were developing an elasticity which no longer
seemed to exert any tension on her son. In short, he was now switching
his submission to a different female. And some say that that is what
distinguishes a married man from a bachelor.
(Image by Forest and Kim Starr
Tenerife had not been his first choice. He had suggested The Canary
Islands to Dru, who had looked at him in a funny way, before informing
him that they were one and the same.
Shall I take the binoculars? he asked, trying to cover his faux pas by a
forced interest in ornithology.
Why? asked Dru and then the penny dropped. No, they’ve got nothing to
do with canaries.
She wasn’t the daughter of a Classics teacher for nowt. The etymology is
to do with dogs. Canis, as in Dog Star, par example. And don’t ask if you
should take your retractable telescope.
Was that a double entendre?
Nigel wasn’t very good at picking these up, as his classes knew all too
well. He smiled anyway, but not too broadly.
Oh, like The Isle of Dogs? He continued to dig his own grave.
Just don’t go there- okay! replied Dru, who sometimes wondered what she
was hitching up to ….But, no… Nigel was really sweet. Really.
Mrs Connolly rose and poured some tea. It’s awfie nice that yon Mr Poskett
has agreed to play the kist o’ whistles fur ye, she commented.
Oh no, replied Virginia. We are having a bagpiper to greet us in the morning,
like an aubade. I don’t think Mr Poskett is acquainted with the chanter.
Naw, Ah’m referring to our church organ, Mrs Fisher-Gyles. Ah ken fine that
Ken is playing fur ye earlier oan in the day.
It’s guid that Mr Snodbury’s friend will do the musical honours at the kirk,
as old Mr MacPhee’s no’ sae reliable nooadays. Not efter that episode at the
Cremmie? Virginia was not completely au fait with the local patois.
Crematorium! laughed Diana. Oh, Mrs C, tell us what happened. It
never fails to make me laugh…
…till ye greet! Och aye, weel, Mr Mac was playing at a service and there
was a delay, so he started improvising. Always a dangerous activity, if ye
don’t mind me sayin’…
And? Diana was keen to force her to the point.
And…jist as he was runnin’ oot o’ tunes, he turned aroon as the corsage
had jist entered…
‘Cortege’, Mrs C! You’re getting mixed up with wedding paraphernalia.
Aye, so Ah am. But she looked a little put oot at having been corrected.
Go on! Diana encouraged her.
Weel, he looked ower his shooder and saw these twa wreaths on the
coffin. He thought that the chrysanthemums spelled oot ‘Biggles.’
Wait for it, laughed Diana, whose shoulders were starting to shake.
He didn’t! expostulated Virginia. Did he start playing The Dambusters?
He did just that. And Mrs C took a lace-edged hanky out of her sleeve and
started giggling like the teenager she had surely never been.
Aye, and it was only Big Les, the biggest crook this side o’ the Borders,
though he was well enough liked. They said he made his fortune at the
Glasgow Barrowland market.
Naw, ye can do withoot that kind o’ misunderstanding on your big day.
Mr Poskett is a professional, I understand? she queried.
Absolutely, said Virginia, who was used to supplying anxious parents with
such reassurances regarding the musical education of their precious
offspring. He once appeared in an organathon with the great Carlo Curley.
(He had only turned the pages, if truth be told.): Editor.
Drink your tea. Look, it’s gettin’ cold, cautioned Mrs C.
Virginia was dying to ask if there had been, or still was a Mr C, but one
somehow knew that one should not ‘go there‘, in modern parlance.
And, as for the boys, they were just explaining to The Rev, over a pint,
that Murgatroyd and Diana were actually just renewing their vows,
whereas Snod and Nigel were first-timers, or novices in the realm of
Virgins! smiled The Rev. I’ll drink to that! At least no one is saying they are
non-binary, or anything too complicated for my form. We have had to add
some boxes recently on the request of The Registrar, but in our neck of the
woods, we hadn’t come across some of the categories – at least not
consciously- and so we weren’t sure how to fill in their damn forms. So,
‘virgins’- that’s easy peasy!
Shhh! Keep your voice down, blushed Snod.
It would be just his luck if some St Birinus parent had a second, or third
home in the neighbourhood and had made this hostelry his ‘local.’ He
looked around nervously, but, thankfully, it seemed to be populated by
Tam O’Shanter and Souter Johnnie extras from a Burns documentary for
Non- binary? Now that was a new one on him. He thought binary was
something to do with codes and Bletchley Park. Oh well, the whole birds
and bees business had always been an enigma to him. And now he was
about to crack the code. Hmm…