Teri felt like a Hobbit in the close shelter of Rosie's cottage in the folds of the Campsie Hills, but she could not cavil, for the safety brought a fructuous mind, quite free of the concerns of the world outside, of political demagogues and historic subterfuge as that of Sir Parlane MacFarlane, so she tended to Rosie and felt herself at peace in her new role as Nurse Teri - plots and blogs could wait a few days longer and the world would keep on turning.
Teri felt like a Hobbit in the close shelter of Rosie's cottage in the folds of the Campsie Hills, but she could not cavil, for the safety brought a fructuous mind, quite free of the concerns of the world outside, of political demagogues and historic subterfuge as that of Sir Parlane MacFarlane, so she tended to Rosie and felt herself at peace in her new role as Nurse Teri - plots and blogs could wait a few days longer and the world would keep on turning.
Teri tried to parse the nerdy salad dodging geek's instructions into a fructuous Englsh she could make some use of; here, in her cousin Rosie's inviolable cottage in the folds of the Campsie Hills, the bearer of Chicken Soup on an errand of Mercy, she had closed the door against the winds, the shutters against the rain, put logs on the fire and heated the soup on the Raeburn and while Rosie dozed and the storm raged without, after struggling and failing to get online, she had called The Economic Migrant at the house in Drumchapel he shared with his parents and five sisters and wrote down his instructions - she touched the screen and Bingo! she was online and could now post her entry for today on QQ!!! to get an Internet connection, Teri had, in desperation, called The Economic Migrant - a 12-year-old Syrian bot, surviving on pizza and chips in a cupboard under the stairs in the house in Drumchapel he shared with his parents and five sisters, and patiently wrote down his instructions; she touched the screen and Bingo - she was online and could now post her entry for today on QQ!
It was a simple error, the mishearing of words spoken over a poor telephone connection but, like so many simple errors – like that which resulted in the Charge of The Light Brigade – it's ramifications - like the ripples from a pebble casually cast into a pool – spread far and wide: “my name is Albert and I run the Ali Baba's Shop, an Oriental Emporium and specialist dealers in all sorts of richly bejewelled and colourful caparisons for women, and certain men, not afraid to stand out from the crowd, in the Grassmarket, and I want to enter our singing group, made up of myself and three of my assistants, for Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks Show, being broadcast this Sunday at the Playhouse Theatre,” and as luck would have it, Hughie Green himself had taken that call, though suffering from a heady cold and he asked the caller to repeat the name of the group; all went smoothly and uneventfully, until the moment when the lights dimmed, the group took their places indicated by young Martin, the Floor Manager, the lights burst on them, dazzling the four singers highlighted in the chiaroscuro effect the director liked to create; Hughie Green, because of the cold he was still suffering from had decided to abandon his usual prolegomenon, simply announcing that, for these four young men from Edinburgh, Tonight, Opportunity Knocks, and as the opening bars of Swannee River rose through the Theatre and the four men began to sing, Al, overcome by the unreality of the place he found himself in, failed to notice the Announcement card for Act #7 - Mr Ali's Barbershop Quartet – they swept the board, rose through further heats and at length won the Grand Finals, and he still hadn't registered the name bestowed on them, but, as the concept swept through Scotland, Great Britain and the whole World, and Barbershop Quartets soared in popularity, multiplying exponentially, his own group, amateurs all, couldn't compete with the professionally trained singers who soon outstripped them, but he never said a word until, just before he passed away, a couple of years ago, he told his step-daughters, how the name mistakenly picked up by Hughie Green through the telephone and his muffled hearing, had been feloniously copyrighted and patented by one Martin Elginbrod, who was at the time a student working as a temporary Floor Manger for STV on that night's show, who had since earned Millions, if not Billions from it, and whose son, the present holder of the name, was still milking it, while he, Albert O'Hooligan had received not one brown penny, but the girls must swear on their Sainted Mother's life and soul, that they would see to it that the Elginbrod's were made to pay, and Bunty and Dixie, without a moment's hesitation, did so swear!
This morning, rather lackadaisically, if not downright turbidly, Teri cleared away the evidence of The Famous (Esoteric) Four with whom she had ridden, from the great circular bed on which they had ridden – she their postillion as it were – through the past few days and nights on a journey of discovery: I am, she thought to herself, but what I am, none knows or cares – and then laughed, her tinkling, musical laugh, and clapped her hands, for that phrase may have been apposite in the case of poor John Clare, but so far as she, herself, was concerned, it was just a load of Toffee!
Although it was rather late when Maude telephoned Theresa Somerville, to update her with the itinerary of the Honeymoon, to check that her cats, Mouse and Dog, were not pining for her and that Teri was keeping them in food and drink, and also to ask her niece to pass on a message to The Famous Four, she was delighted to find that they were all there, in her old flat, with Teri – actually, they were still all on the Round Bed where we last heard of them, but please don't think that they had been there continuously since then, for although there was always one or other in situ, at any one time various members of the group had left the bed to a) go to the toilet; b) brush her teeth; c) have a luxuriant soapy soak in Maude's deep, free-standing Victorian Bathtub; d) a vigorous, alternately scalding and freezing Power Shower; e) partake of fluid which could be e1) tea e2) coffee e3) wine (white or red) e4) spirits (whisky. Brandy, gin or vodka) e5) Irn Bru; f) food, if she could find anything edible in the fridge, freezer, or larder , but all of these were as barren as a swidden which has been left in abeyance for a new owner to plough, preparatory to sowing the seed for his first crops, or at the little shop round the corner or, and much more likely, to phone Gennaro at his little Italian Bistro at which they have a permanent table – Number 5, of course - and ask him to send one of his pretty waitresses up with something to nibble (other than herself, of course); but for the most part they have spent their time on, or in, the bed; it is one of those beds which so delight because of the great skills which have gone into it's manufacture: the base os very sturdy, crafted from oak, and every joint is expertly dove-tailed (indeed there are no screws employed in the construction, therefore, no screws to work their way loose and cause the bed to shiver and shake if those above are engaged in anything at all rumbustious which, despite her gradual passage from adolescence to post-adolescence – for Maude will never accept that she has become an adult, a grown-up, a mature woman, an oldie, a relic, a decrepit, a senior citizen, a pensioner, a geriatric, why do you think she does not, even in these enlightened times, when everyone over 60 and many others under, with qualifying conditions or disabilities, is entitled to a Free Bus Pass which they can use anywhere in Scotland and not just in their Local Authority Area, which was the case in the past, use, or even admit to having, hers? and it is not out of any principle such as believing herself to be sufficiently well-heeled not to need one, oh, dear me, no, it is for the same reason that she will not wear her distance spectacles outside of her flat, or Daphne's (into which she has officially flitted since the Wedding, though they have only had one night there as a married couple before jaunting off to Gullane) or, indeed, wear her reading glasses if anyone other than, or in addition to, Daphne, is present, it is a word which she used in her Crossword just a couple of weeks ago with the clue “the smugness which follows on from the front (6 letters) but, tush! no more cattiness for she is my adored Aunt and I wish her only joy and happiness in, well not exactly her new life, for she and my Aunt Daphne have been “an item” since long before I was born, but at any rate, in this slightly different form, in their life of Wedded Bliss – Maude still behaves just exactly as she did when she was in that flush of youth which lends itself to approaching life with considerable enthusiasm and vivacity, and is so often perceived by others as hedonistic, outrageous, as unrestrained and lacking in any sense of propriety as any libertine, which . . . . . but Teri was startled out of these thoughts when she received Maude's call, after the usual shenanigans involved in first finding her mobile, which on this occasion had somehow been squeezed between the technophobic Cecilia's ample thighs and, as it was set to vibrate as well as ring, the tune (I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor) was so muffled by flesh as to be barely audible (this is your third warning about puns, Teri, kindly desist) but the vibrate produced a series of gasps and giggles from Cecilia which roused everyone from their slumbers and, after much delicate work – and no small amount of hilarity - in tracing the origin of the buzzing which seemed to flow through Cecilia's body, and the squelchy audio, Teri was eventually able to prize Cecilia's thighs apart sufficient to extricate her mobile and acknowledge Maude's call; she assured Maude that the cats were in the pink, as were the Four, plus herself as an honorary Fifth and she relayed Maude's message to the others, which basically was that she and Daphne were planning to have a Round of Golf on one of the local courses in the morning, perhaps after lunch, depending on when the morning begins, go to a local hostelry with which she believed several of friends were familiar, in the company of a Mermaid, Teri assured them that this was precisely the word her Aunt Maude had used, they nodded, and on the following day were hoping the weather would be sufficiently favourable for them to join the Nautical Phemie Lauder on a voyage of discovery to the shores and summit of The Bass – she was following Phemie's terminology, in which the suffix Rock is not spoken; this news delighted her friends who, as soon as the call was ended began to discuss among themselves, with occasional inclusions of Teri, the possibility of hiring a charabanc for an excursion to Gullane, so that they could join their dear friends on the foamy brine – yes, they really do use such expressions, without any sense of satire or embarrassment, which Teri felt was actually rather sweet, for in her secret heart, she rather envied them their lives which had encompassed dramatic and vital periods in the modern history of Scotland, Britain and Europe, not to say, the whole Planet, about which she herself could only witness through the printed or spoken words of others and the medium of film, without ever having first-hand experience of those highly-charged and dramatic events as they happened; not that she thought their lives had been beds of roses, at which she began to realise that the Four had all eased back into their slumbers and, resting her head on someone's stomach, and tucking her toes into someone's oxter, she felt herself drift off too; zzzzzzz
Maude felt herself to be floating, in a disembodied sort of way, as one might who was experiencing an “out-of-body” sort of, well, experience; she saw herself, as though she was viewing from just below the ceiling of The Jolly Boatman, looking down on the top of her head, and noting that she was sitting rather close against a jauntily attractive, Katherine Hepburn kind of woman, dressed as one might if one were given to hanging around harbours and boats and sailors and fishermen – not herself, the other, whom she knew to be Phemie Lauder, whom she had surreptitiously viewed from afar not so very long before; and she, Maude that is, was reading an article in the Evening News encapsulated in the Headline: “Kate Blanquette to star as Mother of Eleven in new film set in Edinburgh” and reading further, she had noticed that her own name and that of Dear Daphne was also mentioned, and linked with Dame Judy and Dame Helen, although it was unclear which Dame would play which; it was all rather a shock, for after a lovely reviving soak in the bathtub, Maude had felt herself becoming human again – her hangover had steadily worsened during the drive to Gullane, despite drinking several bottles of water – which only meant more frequent stops to pee and to consume cups of tea or coffee and different kinds of cake – her headache was quite commanding by the time she and Daphne had settled themselves into a delightful room with a view of the sea and the town spread along its shore; she could even see The Jolly Boatman and, if the descriptions given to her by the other members of The Famous Five was accurate, she could swear she had already identified the tantalising Phemie Lauder – a strong-looking young woman, wearing working clothes of the sort which would be unsuitable for an office or shop-girl, mainly consisting of blue denim, a stripy sort of shirt, a red neckerchief and a jaunty Breton cap – she seemed to have canvas deck-shoes and and tousled hair curling out from beneath her cap, but even with the binoculars it was difficult to identify the colour; she was a busy young lady, and busty too – she moved rapidly around the town – into a chandler's, then up the street to a tobacconist's, then into a restaurant, next she went to a dairy, and a newsagent's, a pub, and after a little while seemed to be walking directly towards Maude and the binoculars showed her to have strong cheekbones, blue-blue eyes, bright red lips and white teeth – her smile was quite delicious and infectious, for Maude found herself smiling as she watched Miss Lauder approach, seeming about to enter the room through the window until, about a hundred yards away, she turned in to The Jolly Boatman and Maude felt an irresistible urge to go for a drink; which she suggested to Daphne, who was just about to climb into the steaming bathtub, and therefore said she would pass for the nonce, but that Maude should pop along and get the lie of the land, perhaps see if she could get an Evening News, if she liked; which Maude promptly did – pop along and pick up an Evening News, but she had gone further – she had gone into The Jolly Boatman where she spotted the woman she presumed to be Miss Lauder sitting alone in a small booth; she had bought a glass of white wine and approached the booth without a thought of what she was going to say when the woman looked up, smiled, and said that she was Phemie and asked if Maude was Maude or Daphne – it seemed the Famous Four had been on the Jungle Drums and Miss Lauder had been fully briefed about the visit of the Honeymooners to Gullane, so it was quite easy for Maude to squeeze herself in beside Phemie – it really was quite a squeeze, the bench cannot have been designed for two adults, or else it dated back to a time when people were much smaller; but it did lend a sort of intimacy to their conversation; and Phemie already knew of Maude's hope to visit The Bass – though Phemie said that it was further East than Maude had thought, off Dunbar, just where the coast began to turn away from the Forth and begin it's long stride down the North Sea; but certainly Phemie's little boat – Maude didn't catch what particular type it was – she only distinguished between Ships (such as Battleships and Liners), Yachts (they had sails), Motor Boats (they didn't), and Rowing Boats – could make the trip, she'd been on The Bass quite a lot, most summers, usually taking small parties of City Girls – and she gave Maude a look which conveyed that she meant Maude and her ilk (well, the Famous Five were pretty weel-kent among their ilk, so it wasn't such a wild shot in the dark, and Maude was never one to demur) and Maude returned the look as much as to say, and what exactly is your ilk, Miss Phemie Lauder? at which Phemie laughed and asked if Maude was ready for another drink and Maude, being a Girl Who Can't Say No, held out her glass; so it was while she was waiting for Phemie to return from the bar that Maude flicked through the pages of her paper and soon found herself gazing at a photograph of Pru and the eleven Montelimart sisters, alongside a piece about them and another photograph of the Hollywood Star cast as her niece, and then came upon the revelation that she and Daphne were to be represented by the two Grande Dames of the British Film Industry – which was when she felt herself begin to float above and look down on the room and herself and Phemie who had rejoined her and it was the strangest of many strange sensations that Maude had ever experienced and she really wasn't sure if she liked it, so it was almost a relief when the street door opened and Daphne walked in; from above Maude could see that she and Phemie below were so engrossed – the lower Maude was showing Phemie the article and explaining about the Montelimart family (Pru was niece to both herself and Daphne, the older sister of Ginger Goldfish) and the unusual fact that the eleven girls had only three birthdays between them and only the youngest, Joan, The Bairn, had hers all to herself; Daphne meanwhile, her eyes having adjusted to the tenebrous gloom after the bright sunshine without, had just spotted the top of Maude's head over the back of the bench she shared with Phemie – who, bending over the newspaper, was out of Daphne's line of vision; the Higher Maude wanted to alert her Lower self to Daphne's arrival, but dared not call out – then she remembered that she had a feather stuck into her hair – she could see it on her head below, she reached up and took hers from her hair and reached down – she was convinced that up here she was invisible, for no-one in the place had seen her, so far as she knew – and tickled herself as with the gossamer wing of a delicate Flower Fairy – which was rather how she often regarded herself – just behind the right ear; the Lower Maude reached up and rubbed at her ear and, at the same moment saw Daphne inside the door; she waved, beckoned Daphne over, and eased herself just that little bit of space away from Phemie before standing and introducing Phemie to her beloved, actually using that word as the definiens of her deep adoration and in that instant Maude, the Lower Maude, the flesh-and-blood worldly Maude, as opposed to the idealised Flower Fairy of her dreams, became aware that she – who had briefly been two – was one, and gave a little shiver as though someone had just walked over her grave!
It was Pru Montelimart who telephoned and roused Theresa Somerville from the utterly unconscious sleep of the truly exhausted; she tried to find the alarm clock, but everything was a muddle, a tangle, and confusion, for she was surrounded in the circular bed in Maude's old flat by the Famous Four (rump of the Five, now reduced in numbers by the honeymoon of Maude, their missing Member) but eventually found her mobile, tucked – surely uncomfortably – into Lettice's oxter – and answered it to be overwhelmed by Pru's outburst – it must be remembered that Pru is highly emotional; she is the mother of eleven daughters, whose story was once splashed across the pages of The Sunday Post, her short account of her uneventful life until she married Giacomo Montelimart, an itinerant juggler and fire-eater who was a nine-day-wonder at the Festival a couple of decades ago and became Professor of Circus Skills at Heriot-Watt at the time when Universities were casting desperately around to find new ways of putting bums in lecture halls; they lived in a basement flat in the New Town, and Pru had, over the six years of the marriage, three pregnancies – the first produced the five oldest girls (Cola, Lola, Pola, Nola and Rola), the second resulted in the next five girls (Bara, Dara, Hara, Kara and Mara) and the third, and last, gave her Sweet, little Joan, known throughout the extended family as The Bairn as she is the youngest so far – and unless the Brevitys do something, she may be the last: well, Pru said, one of your readers just called me to say that you referred in your latest post to Daphne's mother, Lady Chantelle marrying Sir Duncan, but in a previous one you'd named Daphne's father as Sir Donald, it seems there's quite a furore among your readers, trying to fathom out the relationships and someone says you've got muddled over Daphne's family – but really, it was all so very simple, and so Teri promised to clear the matter up for her two or three loyal followers: and she grabbed her laptop, which had been used as a pillow by Cecilia, and typed: Sir Duncan Dumbiedykes was the elder of the two sons of Sir Daniel Dumbiedykes, the famous Scottish Vexillologist, whose studies of flags of all places, purposes, and meanings, is the acknowledged Bible for any New Nation, requiring it's own, unique, National Standard (why, he is descended from the designer of Scotland's own Lion Rampant, no less) born just five minutes before Donald; he married first Caramella Clintmains, and had a son, Gregor– who was to become Daphne's cousin; on the untimely death of Caramella, resulting from her fall from a tree while attempting to rescue Simba – the ginger tom – he went into mourning, and, on his return from that state some weeks later, met and married Lady Chantelle Lillico, the amateur golfer; unfortunately, on their honeymoon in South Africa, Sir Duncan was eaten by a lion; his grieving widow returned disconsolate to Dumbiedykes Hall where she was consoled by the younger twin, now Sir Donald and after a proper period of mourning and courtship, they married and their union brought forth Daphne, who – Deo Gratia – is still with us, and her twin brother Duncan-Donald, named after both of Chantelle's Dumbiedykes husbands – indeed, it was he, who founded the company which bore a reference to his own name, namely Duncan's Doughnuts, which promised great success and fortunes until it was most heinously sued by an American corporation with a vaguely similar name (though spelt quite differently) and slightly similar product; now, it is a truth universally acknowledged and that all honest lawyers were united on, that Duncan-Donald had Right on his side, but, that in the face of Might, Right doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of triumphing, and so it was – the Americans hired the slimiest, foulest, most lubricious member of the Scottish Bar (one Martin Elginbrod, leading expert on the Roman, French, Scottish and American Laws of Torts and Intellectual Property – his family motto is “We Claim All and We'll Prove It” - whose name is still whispered with trembling lips and tremulous voice in the lower reaches of Dumbiedykes Hall, and is included in Roget's Thesaurus as an alternative word for Philadelphia lawyer) and sure enough, their Big Bucks trampled over poor, honourable Duncan-Donald, and squashed him into the mire – that he died of a broken heart, in a secure unit, believing himself to be the Messiah nailed to his cross – for thus he stood and walked and talked, arms flung wide for the few years left to him – as clear a victim of Jerusalem Syndrome as any seen by Professor Iscariot, Clinical Psychologist and advisor to the service at Carstairs, who even wrote a book – a classic of it's kind, and available at all good Bargain Bookshops – on the life and times of the fragile psyche of Duncan-Donald Dumbiedykes, entitled Unquiet Thoughts; Teri read this aloud to the Four, who all seemed quite nonplussed at the idea that anyone should need to bet told in such detail what they, aside from Maude, Daphne's best and oldest friends, believed that anyone even slightly familiar with one of Edinburgh and Scotland's oldest and most illustrious family dynasties – seeming to imply that anyone who wasn't, really wasn't worth knowing – would know all of this already, it being the sort of thing which every Scottish child absorbs with her (or, indeed, his mother's milk) along with the relationships within The Broons, or the friendships centred on Oor Wullie will be completely au fait before going to Primary School, as much a part of everyone's heritage as Edinburgh Rock, Arbroath Smokies, Hawick Balls and Kirriemuir Gingerbread; nevertheless, Teri then called Pru back and over the squabbling of eleven teenage girls managed to read it again, this time to her cousin, who, Teri thought, rather wearily, said that she supposed it would fill in the gaps for anyone who didn't already have them filled, but that she was trying to make eleven packed lunches for the girls school boxes tomorrow, seeming to imply that she would never have had the time to write so much about nothing very important for, as she finally said, I don't suppose it really matters to them anyway, does it?
Despite the cavortings of the previous two nights – the Hen Party of The Famous Five (and the strange incident of the Glaswegian Sentry) then the many and various occurrences at the Wedding Reception following her Marriage to Daphne – Dr Maude Lyttleton (for there had never been any suggestion that either she or Daphne would drop her Maiden Name) rose bright and early on the following afternoon; she and her Spouse, who had known one another since they were five years of age and started at their Infant School – though they had in fact been aware of each other previously, being cousins through their Mothers, but it was that awareness of very small children who haven't yet quite grasped all of the niceties of familial or societal relationships and are as happy playing on the pavement with the chimney-sweep's sooty daughter as with their aunt's immaculate child and spotlessly-dressed offspring under the feet of the servants in the kitchen while their parents enjoy a nip and a natter in the Drawing Room above their heads – enjoyed a light lunch for, truth be told, anything more than sweet tea would have lain very heavily on Maude's troubled tummy at this early hour after her many fortifications of the past forty-eight hours), and then stowed their luggage (which Theresa and The Famous Four had prepared earlier) in Daphne's little Morris Minor and set off on their Honeymoon, accompanied by the cacophony of a shivaree, as they dragged several saucepans, an old copper kettle, umpteen tin cans and two dustbin lids, which their packers had also prepared for their departure – this assembly burst free of the car as they swung through the roundabout at the bottom of The High Street and was left behind for the scavengers who loiter in the vicinity of Holyrood, hoping for largesse from any passing MSP or Royal Equerry; as both of the ladies were heavily engaged in those matters which had developed rapidly after the brief incarceration of Daphne in the deep, dark, and potentially final, oubliette far 'neath the Heart of Midlothian, this was to be just a short break – a few days golfing while relaxing in the pretty village of Gullane, just a short drive (no puns, please forgive) along the coast from their Home Town; neither had played the game very often, or at all seriously, in the years since their infancy when it was usually played by street urchins using a stick to drive a stone into an open manhole and then scamper before the man came out of his hole, although Maude had enjoyed several weekends with The Famous Four – who then became The Famous Five – Sans Mans, which was, they all felt, the best and only proper state of society conducive to the Friendly, Female, Fun and Frolics, which were, for them, the real purpose of a bright, young woman's life on earth; of course Daphne might have so easily become consumed by the Game (she could never, in her heart embrace it as a Sport which, to her mind, involved moving at a faster pace than ambling, regardless of the purpose of that movement, or whether it was individual or as a member of a team) for as everyone will remember, her Mother, as Lady Chantelle Lillico before her Marriage to Sir Duncan, was of course (please stop these irrelevant puns, darling) an Amateur Champion at a time when so many Clubs (stoppit, Teri) would never dream of admitting Lady Members, and had in fact soundly beaten Bobby Jones in a Private Challenge shortly before he won the Open for the first time, in 1926, but of course her father, Daphne's Dear Papa, had his own 18-hole course at Old Lillico House not half a dozen long drives from Peebles and discreetly not indicated on any of the direction pointers, which spared the family the disruption of day-trippers wandering across the fairways and meant that Chantelle and her Maid, Serafina, who was also her Caddy, could play around the course twice, at least, on a fine day – Serafina herself was a natural born golfer, having never had any instruction other than Lady Chantelle demonstrating the proper grip, and their games were real needle-matches, with the result often not certain until they approached the 18th Green; but poor Daphne was never a fan of exertion, other than that involved in digging holes in the ground with her father, and carrying ancient artefacts up rickety ladders to expose them to the light of day for the first time in thousands of years; just as Serafina took naturally to golf, so Maude was likewise born to be an archaeologist – although as she matured she became less interested in objects and more in her researches through early printed books, handwritten parchments and the recorded – though often forgotten – lives of all classes during the Mediaeval period (her own speciality being Late-Early) and these she pursued with far greater diligence than even her mother pursued Serafina across the Links; and so, with many a thought in their heads, the Happy Couple set off for the short drive out of Edinburgh and into East Lothian and, after a few stops at dainty, wayside tea-rooms for refreshments and the use of their conveniences, finally arrived at Forth View Guest House where they were booked in for several nights, very handily situated for the Golf Links, not so far really from Musselburgh (as they hoped to spend a pleasant afternoon at the Races on Saturday) and just a short walk from 'The Jolly Boatman', a spit-and-sawdust pub of which Maude had heard some interesting tales about it's clientèle from several of The Five, who had also recommended a boat trip to The Bass, a giant Rock standing a little out to sea and slightly to the East, though she conceded that (other than the tale of the Hermit, St Baldred, who seemed to have had a touch of Jerusalem Syndrome when he prophesied that – as the Messiah – he would save all who joined him on this one Holy Rock, before the imminent End of Time, which inexplicably didn't end, and he was left alone once more when his five followers abandoned him) almost her own knowledge of it rested upon sweet John Grieve singing a mournful ditty about a Solon Goose that dwelt 'on the Desolate Bass' on a BBC Hogmanay show quite a few decades ago – they had in fact given Maude the name of a local sailor (Miss Phemie Lauder) whom they described as a great sport and full of fun and mischief, which certainly piqued Maude's interest, as did the fact that she was a member of the same family that had included Harry Lauder as one of it's best-known members – yes, she rather fancied getting to know the rambunctious Miss Lauder, perhaps over a Noggin in the Boatman, where she might be prevailed upon to sing 'stop yer ticklin', Jock' - who knows?
The Dumbiedykes-Lyttleton Family, together with its Davidova-Goldfish-Moncrief-Urquhart-Somerville-and-Waters Branches and the many Twigs thereof, were overjoyed to Celebrate the Marriage of Dr Daphne Dumbiedykes to Dr Maude Lyttleton on Wednesday just past, at the Sounding of the One-o'clock-Gun; the Ceremony took place in the Temple of Athene on Calton Hill, Officiated by Miss Jinty Moncrief, niece of the Happy Couple and a Celebrant Licensed to Officiate at Weddings and other significant ceremonies (what in the Trade are referred to as Hatches, Matches and Dispatches) in accordance with the Laws of Scotland and the Rites of the Free Unitarian Congregational Church of Athene and All Souls in the Combined Parishes of Morningside, Duddingston and Newhaven and all Districts contained Therein; an Assembly of the Family Within The Parish was convened for the purpose of Witnessing the Marriage and Bestowing the Gifts of Athene on the Happy Couple; in place of Wedding Presents, Gift-Aid to Alzheimer UK were respectfully requested; attested hereunder by Miss Jinty Moncrief, DD; now, following the Wedding, a Reception was held in The Pleasance, where family and friends, guests from far and wide, past and present students, and representatives of academia, the arts, archaeology, history and politics, medicine, neuroscience and linguistics mingled freely; entertainment was provided by The Gay Gordons Make-shift Ceilidh Band (with Gordon Brevity on the Fiddle, Goldy Brevity on Accordion, the effervescent WPC Isa Urquhart on Spoons, Ginger Goldfish on Kazoo, Roxy and Trixie Davidova harmonising on Paper and Combs, Leigh Waters kept everyone in tempo on Drums, Elvira Dumbiedykes provided a thumping beat with herTea-Chest Bass, Teri Somerville waved her hands around the Theremin to great effect and Jinty Moncrief provided Vocals) and Maud and her friends – Cecilia, Grizzel, Tuffy (who had been so tipsy on the Hen Night with Maude that she forgot her own name and told anyone who would listen, on the stagger up to the High Street, that her name was Bunty) and Lettice – in their pink uniforms as The Famous Five's Hair Salon Quintet, belting out Andrews Sisters numbers, interspersed with choruses of “I Belong Tae Glesca”, which of course might had placed them in some jeopardy after the previous night's kerfuffle outside the Castle, but, as Daphne commented to Teri – “will those girls never learn” and the entire evening was admirably held together by comedian Suzie Calmac as MC, who also demonstrated her skills with a performance of erotic Shadow Puppetry to rousing applause; revellers revelled, danced, cavorted with each other in the happiness that reigned, even Dixie O'Hooligan and Bunty Longformacus (dressed as Polly Peachum, having come straight from The Lyceum Theatre and her performance in The Beggar's Opera) had a Ball; somewhere in the crowd, Martin Elginbrod QC might have been glimpsed, relating to Bernie Westwater the tale of a client of his who, on an impromptu visit to St Giles, had a mystical experience – some might say a case of Jerusalem Syndrome – in which he felt himself to be so taken over with the spirit of John Knox that he eventually came to believe himself the New Messiah, the Second Coming of The Lord, and was moved to devote the rest of his life to walking up and down the Mound in Sackcloth and Ashes and urging his fellow citizens to Repent, for the End is Nigh, until he was placed in a secure unit for his own safety, at which Bernie yawned, and said that she knew the person, for he was her Uncle, at which Elginbrod urged her to have another glass of Irn Bru, fortified with a measure of fine Single Malt from his silver hip flask – would he have done so, or indeed fawned over her so much, had he but known that Bernie was a cousin of the O'Hooligan Twins and her interest in him was purely a Honey Trap to ensnare the gullible goat and keep close tabs on him; and the festivities went on until the wee small hours of today – a few sore heads are expected, particularly those of The Famous Five who managed to consume more alcohol than most – and ne'er a drop of Irn Bru was seen to pass their lips!.
Daphne answered the phone on the fifth ring, managing to check caller id first: “Theresa, is everything all right, is it Maude,” she managed before Teri Somerville gave her tinkling laugh and reassured Daphne that, despite being rather tipsy after her Hen Night with the other members of the Famous Five, she was quite tickety-boo, indeed, having spent half-an-hour brushing the spaniel Drusilla's coat and giving her ears a good seeing to; all of which helped Daphne relax, although it did nothing to assuage her guilt over her several hours' dalliance with Hamish MacAlpine-Fandango that evening; Teri had pieced together from the accounts of the Five that they had been somewhere, seen someone, or someone else, had a glass of sherry, and maybe some Irn Bru, gone on to another somewhere, eventually being requested politely – but firmly – to go home, and had been chastised by a policeman for roaring out “I Belong To Glasgow” at the Guardsman on Night Patrol outside the Castle, much to his chagrin for he was a Weegie and thought they were deliberately poking fun at him; it seemed, explained Teri, that a fear of the scorn of Edinburgers had been inculcated into the poor man with his mother's milk and on through childhood, adolescence and was still deeply ingrained in him as a young adult (albeit one in uniform and armed with a rifle) and his distress culminated in him firing a shot into the air which – luckily for the Five – was a blank, but it brought senior officers running and the ladies were rounded up and interviewed by them, Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorism Squad and eventually officers from Police Scotland, which fortunately were Gordon and Goldy Brevity, so they were able to vouch for the Five, stand surety for them and have them released into my care – they're all sleeping it off now, so will be tickety-boo in the morning and in fine fettle for the Wedding; “well, Glory Be, “said Daphne – I was afraid they might have contracted Helicobacter pylori in one of the dives they are known to frequent, along with sailors, helicopter pilots and motor-cyclists and not a few lap dancers, if my information is correct,” and Teri laughed, the tinkling sound charming Daphne again and she thanked Theresa for her care and attention and wished her a fond “'Goodnight, Vienna,' as my old House Mater used to say after tucking us in and before switching off the light.”
Meanwhile, at the Jeanie Deans Tryste, the long anticipated and rather feared – because it came about after the hiatus of Dixie O'Hooligan's absence from Edinburgh, following an acrimonious rift between them – reunion of Dixie and Jeannie Deans (or Bunty Longformacus, or Bernie Brigantine. or rather yet, Bunty O'Hooligan, for, yes, the two were indeed sisters, had taken place; a great white whale had swum through their relationship – taking many shapes and forms, but ultimately becoming, for each sister, an obsession impossible to throw off; for Bunty, an obsession with discovering their roots, their pre-natal history, their true identity and descent, while for Dixie, it was a conviction that they should regard their birth as year zero, and for her, nothing existed prior to that event, nor mattered; Dixie, one full minute older than Bunty, had taken the responsibility of being the elder and acted as bellwether for this summit, which she had feared would produce a pentimento, would reveal long-hidden, long-forgotten, truths about themselves as each layer of their lives would, when scraped aside, leave them naked and exposed; she had dreaded this, but forced herself, by an enormous effort of will, to make the approach to her twin and return to the city of their birth for this showdown, no matter what the psychological cost to either of them; that their father was undoubtedly a charlatan neither had doubted, indeed their mother – their 'sainted' mother as the sisters always referred to her – had, on her deathbed, just those few years ago, revealed certain facts to them, facts which, in Dixie's case, had driven her to leave Edinburgh, vowing never to return and for Bunty, caused her to divide herself into many different identities and create a myth about herself which to this day caused her name (or names) to be mentioned with fear in the hearts of many a prominent citizen, for her intelligence network far excelled those of Police Scotland and the Masonic Order combined and gave her power previously undreamed of by the wee lassie from Wester Hailes; but now, the first brief contact in Deacon Brodies having produced this informal meeting between the twins and each had shown herself willing to set aside the differences which had led to their break-up, and a willingness to build – brick by brick – on the foundation they had established – they were united, of course – in a desire, nay, a determination – to discover the identity of Angus Og's assailant; this would be their first joint operation since the severance of their birth-bond, and they were united in their love for the tall man who had been such a firm friend and confidant to them both; whatever it took, wherever the trail might lead, they would discover, and destroy, the person or persons responsible for so foul an act; and now Dixie sat in the Ladies at Jeanie Deans Tryste and made plans for her opening moves.
1. As the chums staggered up from Johnstone Terrace towards the High Street, clinging to each other to obtain sufficient balance that they would not topple into the Park below, Bunty became aware that obsolescence had caught up with her shoes, she realized that the 6” heels had disintegrated, so she removed them and chucked them into a caisson in the nearby cemetery, at which point Grizzel and Lettice began to harmonise that song of the douce wee podunk in the West of the country, far, far from Edinburgh, and made famous by Will Fyffe, “I Belong To Glasgow”, and when Maude, Cecilia and Bunty joined in for the chorus, even the pigeons wheeling above them seemed to Hoot at the fun and frolics of the Famous Five below.
Daphne looked at herself in the full-length mirror and what did she see – an urbane old woman, looking tired and rather frayed (if not actually afraid) – the days, and nights of her youth, when, a blonde bombshell, she could cause a youthquake in any Arab Bazaar, or Hotel popular with Foreign Correspondents and visiting Historians and Archaeologists alike, from Baghdad to Prague, Bucharest to Berlin, were firmly of her past; she had excelled at University, chosen to become an archaeologist like her father, Sir Donald Dumbiedykes, and followed on camels the route of the caravanserai across the North African Deserts, lodging in wayside taverns with muleteers and smugglers, at Foreign Legion Forts and in Bedouin or Berber tents; taken the Golden Road to Samarkand, and ridden on horseback across the Russian Steppes; travelled the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Orient Express in the days before tourists and Thomas Cook eliminated the hardships, romance and travail from Travel and packaged it into a bite-sized itinerary (one page each from Baedeker for France, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, Greece, and The Holy Land - all in seven days, six nights, half-board; now, the most she could face was a day-trip to Gullane, or if feeling really adventurous, a weekend in Bearsden with her brother Daniel and his 'Happy Family' and an afternoon trailing round the Glasgow shops; earlier, Hamish had paid elaborate court to her, sworn that he had been smitten by her when they were both still at school, she at Marcia Blaine's, he at Fettes; he had loved her from afar and when their careers took different paths, followed reports of hers in both the public prints and academic journals; bought first editions of all of her published books - and read them all; and now had sworn undying fealty, all the while kissing her hands, her arms, her face, pressing his body against hers and exploring every access point to her soul, and more; oh, he was full of enthusiasm, his fingers seemed able to push half-a-dozen buttons at once, his tongue eagerly forced it's way wherever he wished; but, when push came to shove, when his manhood rose to it's full height, apparently invincible, his body let him down – he was no ardent, youthful lover, he was six months older than she and his prowess only a memory fed by too much alcohol, and wilting as soon as it was asked to perform; the whole experience felt like an oneironaut – one of those waking dreams when, like Alice Liddell, one finds the blend of past and present, reality and imagination, become a miasma, with no real clues as to what is Up and what Down, which is Here and which There, in or out; not that Daphne felt any true disappointment – the thought of him penetrating her body made her feel quite nauseous; she almost saw herself stained by her deception – she was no Mata Hari, she was a respected historian, an academic with her own standards and right now they did not bear scrutiny when she stared straight at her reflection; she already had the love of Maude, her own Dearest Maude, Maudie who adored and trusted her – and had she sought to betray that trust, all for a nugget of information promised by Hamish; it was a dangerous idea – born out of desperation to know the answer to a question that had dominated her, and informed all of her actions over the last fortnight and more; she now felt cheapened, looking as worthless as an old antimacassar, stained with brylcreem – and unmentionable bodily fluids; tomorrow was to be her Wedding Day – when she and Dearest Maude would have their union legally regularised, and spiritually blessed; the nugget she had received from Hamish certainly had its value, and it was assuredly unique, and other than Hamish, she truly believed that no other shared it's knowledge – but for the nonce it would have to be stored away in the vast warehouse of her mind, carefully catalogued and cross-indexed, and waiting to be accessed when the time was right; she locked eyes with her reflection, said “you're not really so bad looking, for an Auld Biddy – you've still got what it takes to turn some heads, but now it's time to shake a leg,” glanced across at the snoring former Dean, prostrate on the other sofa, gave a chuckle as much as to say, “well, old bean, I certainly aroused your ardour, but now I've got to Love You and Leave You,” so rising, slightly shaky, but still able to control her movements, she drew her cloak over her shoulders, paused at the door and looked back one more time, and as she left his Chambers, blew Hamish a kiss and bade him a fond farewell, with the sweet words: “Goodnight, Vienna.”
Dixie O'Hooligan, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and set her pint glass back on the table; sitting in the Jeanie Deans Tryste on St Leonards, just a stone's throw from the Commonwealth Pool – where as a schoolgirl she had briefly held the Scottish Junior Record for the 400 metres Breaststroke – Ha! that was a laugh, she'd not had her breasts stroked for more than a year – but now she was back, and this clandestine meeting with Jeannie Deans (she must ask why the chameleon-like woman had chosen to put a second 'n' in the middle of her first name, maybe it was simply that she had never read Scott's novel The Heart of Midlothian – certainly, Dixie couldn't recall it being on the curriculum at their school – and only encountered the name spoken, not read, or just a preference for that spelling) was the first stage in regaining her foot-hold in Auld Reekie – such a shame it doesn't smell the same, “nae mair reekin' Auld Reekie.” she said quietly, and then laughed at herself, talking to herself, and an old man at the bar turned to see what was so funny but, seeing only a slip of a girl, he turned back to his Black-and-Tan; now, two years had passed since Dixie left Edinburgh for good and yet here she was, back for good – well, maybe not – for the good of her health – well, maybe a yes to that, for this had been her home for longer than any other city – for the good of someone else – probably for Bunty, but definitely NOT for Elginbrod, that slimy, weaselly, self-aggrandising mala fide of an Advocate (or Advocaat as Angus always called him to his face (wankvocaat behind his back) owed her a lot, and she knew a lot; and as she started to sip her second pint of Caledonian 80/- Dixie, always a dedicated follower of fashion in her own ways, reflected on the quirks of personality which had made Bunty (Jeannie Deans' real name) such a trendite, always anticipating and taking advantage of changes in fashion of every kind – dress, music, art, business, recreational drugs, sexual proclivities; she could poise herself ready to exploit new and increasingly sophisticated demands, while she (Dixie) always seemed a heartbeat behind; today was a prime example – she had seen Angus Og outside the bar, looking in and had also spotted Bunty's swift head movement which had warned him off, she had then gone out of the door at the other end of the bar, along the passage to the toilets, she had whistled 'In The Hall of The Mountain King' to let Angus know of her presence and had then heard a thud, well, more a crack, then a grunt – she had looked in the gents, empty, and coming out had been shoved aside by someone in dark clothes coming out of the disabled toilet and so, on regaining her balance and looking in, she had seen Angus with a shoe impaled on his head; it was SHE who had screamed, a cry which drew Bunty and had given Dixie just enough time to slip her a note, before leaving by the emergency exit through which Angus must have entered; she knew from Bunty that her monitoring of the police radio networks was keeping her abreast of the investigation and that Angus was (hopefully) recovering in hospital after an emergency operation to remove the heel embedded in his brain, she prayed that he would recover (and though not a believer, it was a prayer from the heart) and she also vowed to find the person who had tried to kill him and, if she was first, her retribution would be the worst!
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