Snod, Senior Master at St Birinus Middle School, exited his final
lesson before the weekend. He was in an unusually good mood,
but then he always enjoyed Shakespeare, as playing the part of
The Nurse in Romeo and Juliet was right up his street.
(He always skipped the bit about being a wet nurse, however.
He also omitted the bit about Susan. Thankfully she was with
the Almighty, according to the Bard.)
He breezed into The School Office and managed to find Virginia
Gus had booked a table a deux for Valentine’s Night at Pantagruel &
Little did he suspect that Virginia had been on the brink of issuing
an ultimatum concerning her perception of the lack of direction in
their relationship. She managed to adjust her expression from what
she was worried was becoming something that was commonly referred
to as ‘Resting Bitch Face‘ and softened her PA mien.
She had planned to say that she was going to hop on a bus to Genoa
at Easter, if things didn’t hot up. That was a euphemism.
She had rehearsed the conversation.
Snod: Why Genoa?
Yes, why had Genoa sprung to mind?
She reflected further and realised that she had been watching
too much of ‘The Young Montelbano‘. Genoa was where his enamorata
Livia had headed when the Commissario hadn’t come up to the required
She would have felt even more humbled had she known that Snod had
been to Bunbury, Quincunx and Quatrefoil, the lawyers in Rochester, to
collect a ring from the depository at their associated bank.
It had all been discussed with his daughter, Drusilla, who had relinquished
her rights to the jewellery stash she might have inherited from Lady Wivern,
The Tindall Jewel was being lent in perpetuity to The National Trust for display
at Wyvern Mote, in lieu of some death duties and Dru had accepted that Nigel
would never be able to afford a decent ring on his salary.
She had been the one to suggest that if her father gave Nige –Nige??!– the
original heart-shaped diamond ring that Snod had once intended for her
mother, Diana, and which had had such a checkered existence- namely being
shut in his filing cabinet for approximately thirty years, she would accept it as
an engagement ring. No matter that it had been bought with her mother in
After all, if Kate Middleton was not fussed, why should she be? Her mother
had a cracker of an old bluish cushion cut eighteenth century diamond solitaire
from Murgatroyd, so why should she, Diana, mind if Gus then gave Virginia the
Burmese ruby which, frankly she, Drusilla, thought a tad vulgar?
She laughed as she remembered them all having to suck up the heart-shaped
ring from under the floorboards in The Longs Arms, after Snod’s clumsy attempt
at the re-kindling of his romance of yesteryear. Yes, Henry the vacuum cleaner
had proved most effective. Mum had been so embarrassed, however.
Nigel had been told what was currently happening and had gone along with
Now the extended family was waiting to see the outcome of Snod’s coming
Virginia was the last to know what was going on. And that was a very unusual
position for Virginia. And Virginia was not the kind of woman who was interested
in unusual positions, I can assure you. That, indeed, was one of her major
attractions for our worthy schoolmaster, in spite of his penchant for a slim ankle
in a stiletto. But that is by the by…
To our tale, as Rabbie Burns said on at least one occasion…
Pantagruel & Gourmand? Oh, Gus! she exclaimed. How did you know that I’ve
always wanted to go there? Ever since Mrs Boothroyd-Smythe told me about it,
I have longed to sample their tasting menu.
Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach might
as well have included both sexes.
(If any reader wants to refresh their memory as to what originally happened
when Snod bungled his proposal to Dru’s mother and dropped the
aforementioned heart-shaped ring down the floorboards of The Longs Arms,
Lower Wraxall, then you can refer back to February 2013 for revision purposes.)
Juniper Boothroyd-Smythe’s mother, Gisela, had been trying to find a suitable
hat to wear for the St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl‘s
Her daughter was going to receive the 2013 Sirdar Yarn-Bombing Textile Award
and her classmates, Tiger-Lily and Scheherezade, were being awarded
acknowledgement shields and cups for being The Girl Least Likely To and
The Girl Whose Mother’s Timekeeping Has Improved Most Markedly.
Gisela was going to be braving the marquee toute seule, since her formal
separation from Juniper’s father- realised after a much less provocative
gesture than that of Charles Saatchi’s.
Gisela had spotted a hat in Help The Ancient, Suttonford’s designer charity
shop. Some tattooed chavette may have abandoned it post-Ascot. It
wasn’t exactly Isabella Blow-cum-Philip Treacy, but, for £9.99, it was a very
good deal and could be re-cycled afterwards. Hat boxes took up too much
room in the wardrobe, she felt.
Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk had just come out of her closet- not in a gender-
assertion manner. No, she had literally de-cluttered her bedroom in her
flat in the boarding house, before vacating the premises for the summer
school let. Lodging with her mother in Bradford-on-Avon usually stretched
both their reserves of patience.
She was glad that she had been disciplined enough to rid herself of that
hat which she had optimistically purchased in anticipation of her mother’s
demise. It would have fitted the daughter of the deceased’s role very well,
but her mater was obstinately clinging to life and so the millinery moment
had not dawned. Help The Ancient had been the beneficiary.
Drusilla intended to sport a Pippa Middleton-style fascinator for Speech Day.
She had fastened two aigret feathers together and secured them to a scrunch
of net veil with a vintage brooch. Burlesque not.
Come the day, Gisela was sitting two rows in front of her daughter’s
housemistress and she was unaware that her headgear was being scrutinised
as closely as Rabbie Burns had inspected the louse on the woman in the pew
in front of him.
Drusilla knew it was the same hat which she had donated, as she could detect
the pinholes in the brim where she had removed the amber-headed hat pin
which she had inherited from her grandmother, who had advised her to stick it
into any male who bothered her in the dark at the cinema. (Drusilla had never
had occasion to employ this strategy and felt that she might have been
arrested if she had done so.) Even after all these years of teaching in a girls’
school, she was still somewhat in the dark as to what male reprehensible
behaviour might consist of, and she was, frankly, rather disappointed that no
one had ever molested her sufficiently as to render the bodkin’s function as
anything greater than decorative.
In fact, when she saw how fetching the hat could be, she immediately wished,
like many other women who part with items from their bulging wardrobes, that
she could turn back the clock and reverse her actions. She was completely
distracted and paid no attention to the Head’s speech, in common with most of
the assembly, admittedly.
She missed the accolade to all those who have acted as the pacemakers of
the pastoral heartbeat of this remarkable institution. Old Girl, Ffion
Tullibardine-Tompkins’ account of how she had scaled The Shard in aid
of the locally-favoured charity, Anacondas In Adversity! went entirely
She was last on her feet for the rousing school song, scraped enthusiastically
by the Junior Orchestra: Here’s tae Us/ Whae’s Like Us?/ Gey Few..An’ They’re
A’ Deid, to the tune Auchenschuggle.
By Monday, the first day of her holiday, she had re-purchased the hat for
£12.99 from the charity shop. She couldn’t believe her luck, having spotted
it immediately it had re-appeared in the window. She’d been on her way to
meet an ex-colleague for coffee, since friends were in rather short supply.
Help The Ancient is, as you all know, dear Readers, right next to
Costamuchamoulah, the must-seen cafe. Now she only needed the
appropriate occasion to bring the cat, I mean hat out of the box.
Hi, Miss Fotheringay-Syylk.
Drat: it was that awful Juniper girl. Why hadn’t she gone away like the others?
Of course, Mrs Boothroyd-Smythe had to work, unlike most of Juniper’s
It looked better on you than on my mum!
(She had been spying through the window.)
But why did Drusilla always feel that the girl was being sarcastic? Maybe it
was the not-so-fleeting snigger that played about her lips.
Have a nice holiday, Juniper, she smiled. In fact, she thought, Why don’t you
take a premature gap year, or ten?
And then Drusilla tripped over the pavement art.
Yarn bombing! Grrr!!!
Sorry, Miss Fotheringay-Syylk. I hope you haven’t broken your ankle. Do you
want me to call an ambulance on my mobile? Let me carry your hatbox.
The first day of the holidays in Casualty. She might have known.