I had the good fortune yesterday, although luck had little to do with it as I was taking my morning constitutional, to be passing the vicarage when Elvis Linkthorpe called out to me.
“How about a spot of tiffin?” He asked in that phlegmatic manner he has.
I, having done all I could with regard to writing, with my latest project progressing nicely, readily agreed. The vicar’s mistress, how incongruous those two appellations seem when said together, was out ‘seeing to business’ as he put it as he ushered me in with wave of his hand.
The vicarage nestles neatly beside St. Whipplemores. It has seen a host of curates and vicars but none, I suspect, quite like Elvis Linkthorpe who arrived in Fekenham in the early seventies bereft of cash but laden with hash, hashish that is. An uncommon commodity for a cleric to carry you might say, and who am I to argue, but then again there is nothing commonplace or conventional about the current village vicar.
As I settled myself into a cosy chair Linkthorpe asked me if I would like anything to drink.
“A small aperitif perhaps?” He suggested winsomely.
I said that would be most welcome requesting a glass of pale sherry.
“Not sure I have any but I think I might have something similar that Susanne brought with her from France.”
He set a glass filled with a greenish liquid in front of me that gave off a slight smell of aniseed. It wasn’t an unpleasant taste so I sipped nonchalantly away with vigour. He then pressed into my hand a plate that had neatly sliced upon it some fruit cake.
“From Ethel.” He whispered conspiratorially.
“Sort of like Somerset Maugham. “ I quipped as the effects of the alcoholic beverage left my head feeling light. He furrowed his brow obviously nonplussed.
“Cakes and ale or in this case cakes and, whatever this drink is.” I elaborated.
“Absinthe.” He intoned slurping noisily from his glass. “Thought I’d give the ginger wine a rest and see how this Gaelic tipple compared. Rather nice too I think.”
I concurred while eating cake and swilling aniseed tasting alcohol.
“I have to say this cake is very flavoursome, special recipe?”
He smiled knowingly nodding his head.
“Indeed. Ethel uses a home grown ingredient she adds to the mix. Gives it a bit of zing doesn’t it?”
I had to agree that a certain punch did strike the palette as I chomped then swallowed the tasty patisserie. Whatever active ingredients had comingled with fruit and flour together they produced, when blessed with the aniseed potion, an exhilarating sensation that not so much flooded my senses but rather hijacked them with a firm imperative. I had never felt so alive before. I could see that the vicar too appeared lifted, energised somehow.
“What say we pop out and paint the town red as it were.” suggested the vicar with sudden vitality.
“What about Winchester?”
“Winchester it is!”
Flying from our seats like spring propelled acrobats the pair of us hoofed it out of the vicarage filled with a sense of sang-froid that teetered on the edge of madness. If it wasn’t sang whatsit then it jolly well was ce la vie, something exotic and French anyway. Linkthorpe had the presence of mind to grab hold of the greenish booze we had been consuming and together we skedaddled of to the Wessex capital.
We arrived late afternoon as day decanters into dusk. Having concluded their days work residents were returning to their homes as we stalked the ancient city. Night beckoned as did the mischievous spirit of puck who entered our heads whispering wicked words of encouragement.
Now then, I am not sure how acquainted with old Venta Belgarum the dear readers of this tale is but once upon a time Winchester used to be the capital of England. Course that was ages ago but still the aging bricks, the crumbling masonry are of a vintage that allows ample authority to antiquity. There is the cathedral of course, the longest in Europe, not to mention the castle and palace. These though, distinguished as they remain, were not the target we had in mind for make no mistake we had a firm objective.
I think it was the vicar who said, having spotted the idle paint pots lying beside the recently decorated newsagent, what a wheeze it would be if we were to literally paint, if not the town, some monument red or, in the case of the cast away emulsion, scarlet.
Winchester has many a statue gracing its munificent walkways the most magnificent being the mighty, majestic one of King Alfred the Great. But it wasn’t Alf we wanted to deface. He may have the let the cakes burn but that was all ash under the grill as far as we were concerned. No, we didn’t want to paint notable Kings of the past, we wanted to irradiate, and illustrate for all too see the grand pomposity of councilor Tinkerbelle whose enormous egocentric effigy took pride of place in the quadrangle outside Winchester University.
As far as memory allows, and I admit to finding facts surrounding what happened a bit fuzzy, we succeeded in our aspirations according to the following morning’s newspaper which printed in Arial Black this journalistic piece of reportage – ‘Never before has a member of Winchester City Council been so vividly illuminated. Seldom do we see an acting officer’s profile raised as high as his own self-esteem. Describing the painting of the statue as a wanton act of vandalism Titus Tinkerbelle found himself at odds with public opinion which seems to have found the stunt a heart-warming rebuff of current council policies. Whoever mounted the twelve foot statue painting it a fluorescent scarlet has made the monument into a totem of ridicule. Highlighting Tinkerbelle’s nose in garish green put the finishing touches to the job. Quite why a vicar’s dog collar had been placed around the throat of the statue is unknown.’
I do not recall how I arrived home nor how I came to spend the night in my bath tub wrapped in a towel but I do reemember during the Sunday service the vicar quoting these in his sermon:
"It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." Acts ix 5
"Every man's work shall be made manifest" I Corinthians iii 13
all words and art are copyright © of Russell 'C.J' Duffy.To view my books on Amazon/Kindle go here: https://www.amazon.com/author/russellduffy -- For another side of CJ go here: sOMeThiNg For tHE wEeKeND, SiR?