A Veritable Almanac!
Tan Your Own Hide – that was the proposal put forward by The Very Reverend Thomas Dribble the unorthodox vicar of St Cuthbert’s and recently appointed Chairman at our latest meeting of the Heraldry Society. It raised a few eyebrows and caused one or two nervous coughs when he explained his proposal in greater detail.
He explained that a large proportion of the Heraldry Societies funds were spent on expensive costumes many items were made in fine leather and embossed accordingly. So with a concerted effort and a little trawling the net he’d come across a recipe and primitive method for tanning hides quite by accident. It required copious quantities of uric acid in the “tanning mix”.
He said that in the present economic climate that we could make vast savings if we accepted his proposal. “Cut backs are affecting everyone these days, I’ve noticed the collection plate funds have dropped by 10% this year alone and it’s barely enough to buy me a packet of fags” He hooted.
“I too have noticed that these are hard times Reverend Dribble, when I look at the arse hanging out of Dick Thrashers thread bare trousers” Guffawed Sir Claude Ponsonby.
Dick Thrasher gave Ponsonby a withering look.
“At least my trousers aren’t revealing anything untoward unlike yours Ponsonby”
The Reverend bade everyone to calm down; and he then thanked me very much for my efforts concerning the fake coconuts that I’d made him a few weeks before. “They are so good and “life like” – so life like that I couldn’t resist eating one of them” he said.
“Times are hard indeed” whispered Ponsonby.
What it all boiled down to was this, each member of the society was encouraged to contribute a certain necessary if somewhat unsavoury constituent to the “tanning mix “in order to collect enough tanning ingredients. In his high pitched plaintive voice he pleaded with the whole society to give as much as possible. He very nearly said it was for the restoration of the church roof but corrected himself just in time.
“If we could all tan our own hides then surely we could use the resultant leather for our heraldry society needs and save the society a fortune” he lamented.
“Think of the costumes and belts made from our very own bare hands using the leather manufactured from members of our own flock” his voice was gathering momentum.
I added that I always wanted a pair of leather trousers like he wore on a Sunday.
“Well my son, with my scheme you can!” he rejoiced in the fact that at least he’d got one supporter of his proposal.
He looked at the village school headmaster Dick Thrasher and explained how he could benefit directly from his scheme. The headmaster looked very uncomfortable indeed at this retort and very flustered. “You know, custom made tools of the educational trade…
“Preposterous…!” shouted the headmaster.
…I was merely thinking of a beautiful new heavily embossed leather strap for a wrist watch perhaps”
Dick Thrasher mopped his fat brow with his handkerchief and sank back into his chair looking extremely relieved that the vicar hadn’t let it slip about the overzealous corrective techniques that he sometimes employed in the course of his scholastic duties.
Reverend Dribble glanced at the secretary Sir Claude Ponsonby as he pointed out that there was excessive waste going on with the society’s assets. “Only two weeks ago 50 very expensive wooden cannon balls had gone missing and had been disposed of without any recourse whatsoever, apart from one redeeming factor…”He glanced in my direction.
“They were recycled into very good imitation coconuts for my church fete”
Sir Claude shrugged his shoulders.
“They were useless in a battle and the crowd always laughed whenever I launched an attack on Cromwell and his men”
“I’m not surprised when they saw your ridiculous codpiece” said Dick Thrasher.
The vicar bought the whole thing to a head and explained that while discussing waste of the society’s assets was necessary, it was a digression from the main point on the agenda - waste of another kind, or recycling he preferred to call it.
“The making of fake coconuts for my coconut shy at the church fete by my young carpenter friend here planted the seed of an idea in my head that has come to fruition with my current proposal” said the enthusiastic vicar.
“I hear that he also makes fake matches that won’t light because he can’t afford the gun powder to make real ones” Interjected Sir Claude Ponsonby.
“Sit down Ponsonby, I hear they’re not as fake as your codpiece” said Dick Thrasher.
“Ha, Ha, Ha…!”
“Peace my children…peace…”
“So I would like you all to label the receptacle whatever form it may take, but if using a pop bottle to ensure it was thoroughly rinsed out before filling takes place, I would be very surprised if any member manages to fill a flagon or jeroboam on his or her own, but if so, may I say well done in advance…and remember there will be a small prize for the person who brings in the most”
I asked what form the prize might take and he suggested next week’s church plate takings.
Apparently if the necessary 100 gallon tank fell short of the requirements to carry out our first trial tanning session, then like the national lottery it would carry over to the next week and a bigger prize would result.
“Remember no contribution is too small” Enthused the reverend.
The vicar suggested we have a little celebration and to bring something alcoholic though nothing over 90% proof as he would be classed as on duty and he didn’t want to get “too legless”
“Perhaps we should stick to cider” I suggested. The vicar beamed at my thoughtful suggestion. “My wife makes very good scrumpy” I proudly announced.
“That will be very welcome my son”
“I can bring some crumpets” volunteered Miss Primrose
“Very commendable my daughter…I mean Miss Primrose”
The Reverend Thomas Dribble finally concluded the meeting and implored everyone to tuck into the tea and fairy cakes supplied by Miss Penelope Primrose.
Sir Claude Ponsonby was annoying the very beautiful youngMissPrimrose with his heroic tales of battle not so much with his discourse but the stupendous cod-piece he insisted on wearing at official meetings was nudging her leg every time he moved, he did a sudden rapid turn and knocked a glowing fag-end clean out of the vicar Dribble’s hand and into the unaware lethargic headmaster Dick Thrasher’s jacket pocket.
“I knocked his head clean off his shoulders with one mighty blow of my codpiece” boasted Ponsonby.
Miss Primrose blenched at Ponsonby’s blood thirsty tale and was on the verge of faintingwhen the sudden blare of the smoke alarm saved her.
Plumes of acrid smoke were rising from Dick Thrasher’s coat pocket the fag-end had set light to the flammable lining. This hadset the smoke alarm off and bringing the society’s weekly meeting to an untimely close.
“I hope I will get recompense for my smoking jacket” shouted Dick Thrasher.
“I very much doubt it” Drawled Ponsonby.
The following week the tables laid out in the village hall were groaning with receptacles of every description under the sun. Dazzling golden twinkling lights illuminated the hall from the magnificent looking collection of bottles that I had helped load onto the sturdy tables.
“What a magnificent display, I can’t thank you enough for this my son…” said the vicar.
I pointed out that I hadn’t done it all myself, I’d received a lot of help in adorning the tables with such a good display, and suggested we might partake in a small draught of the liquid as a small reward for our labours.
“Drink it…?” said the puzzled vicar.
He pondered for some seconds then raised his eyebrows.
“It had never crossed my mind to drink it my son. Shall we drink our own or shall we drink each other’s?”
It was my turn to look puzzled, I wasn’t aware that the Reverend had produced any of the contents on the table at all, it was news to me, but he had warmed to the idea of a little unorthodox trial tasting of the liquids on the table and suggested that he wouldn’t mind sampling Miss Primrose’s submission, if I could find where the bottle had been placed.
I explained to him as far as I could recall that my wife had produced the entire contents of each bottle that was set before him, and I had assisting her in filling each blessed bottle, flagon and jeroboam personally.
“She worked tirelessly all through last night, I just kept her supplied with large mugs of tea, and do you know the kitchen was full of steam by the time she’d finished”
The Reverend Dribble explained that if we reach the 100 gallon mark as agreed my wife looks certain to win the prize outright this week for her resplendent efforts.
“How did she manage it…you know the mechanics of it must be a little tricky, some of those bottles have very narrow necks, not only that she is such a petite woman I hardly would have thought she were capable of filling a small specimen jar let alone a jeroboam” said the vicar scratching his bald head.
I explained that she always used a clear plastic siphoning tube so that she could see what was going on, and to ensure that not a drop was spilt. I usually siphoned it into the bottles myself to leave both my wife’s hands free.
“Very commendable indeed my son, I must congratulate your wife personally”
I uncorked one of the flagons and filled two glasses one for myself and one for the reverend. However he seemed to have lost interest in refreshments all of a sudden and moved away briskly to talk to a very pretty Miss Primrose who had just entered the hall with an enormous tray of crumpets.
“It seems wrong somehow, but the Reverend Dribble seems to be quite smitten with Miss Primrose” I remarked in confidence to Sir Claude Ponsonby.
“Indeed, I have amorous intentions in that direction myself” said the lecherous Ponsonby adjusting his codpiece in a business-like fashion.
I pointed out that I was fairly confident that the vicar was a full blooded heterosexual in his tendencies and wouldn’t thank him for his attentions.
Ponsonby ignoring my quipreached for a glass on the table and took a long draught from the glass that was intended for the vicar and gasped in surprise. “This is a very good indeed…it’s enough to blow your socks off!”
“I’m glad you like it Sir Claude, perhaps you’d like a refill?”
Dick Thrasher came ambling across the hall carrying a neatly labelled bottle and placed it on the table.
“Well gentlemen never let it be said I don’t give generously, I’ve just produced that little lot in the Gents some two litres and it’s still quite warm, I’ve labelled it Vintage Chardonnay 2013 as a little joke” He chuckled gleefully.
Ponsonby recoiled in horror “Personally I don’t see where the joke comes in”
I pointed out that he ought to have submitted his efforts in a more discrete manor in the “Temporary Tanning Tent” submissions area and perhaps he should take the bottle there where Mrs Dangle will log and record his efforts accordingly.
“All in good time my friend, all in good time”
The morning progressed and the Hall was bubbling with noise and merry making. Ponsonby was getting in a state and was swaying to and fro and making suggestive thrusts with his codpiece every time Miss Primrose came past. It was a repugnant sight but I have to say Miss Primrose gave a little squeal of delight every time Ponsonby did it.
Was his persistence paying off I wondered?
Dick Thrasher shouted across to Ponsonby and jibed “I bet you couldn’t drink the volume of your own codpiece in ale you lecherous old lout”
Ponsonby retorted “No I couldn’t possibly and you couldn’t drink a yard of ale in sixty seconds you pompous old twit…so what”
“Pompous old twit” He spluttered aghast.
“You set the yard of ale up and I’ll drink it, and we’ll see whether I can drink a yard of ale or not “said the indignant headmaster.
I suggested that the reverend Thomas Dribble should mete out the ale to make everything fair and square. The yard of ale glass hung on the wall with an inscription underneath. The ale corresponding to two and a half pints and should be drunk within 60 seconds in order to qualify for the candidate’s name to be inscribed on the plaque along with the other recipients of that glorious award.
The vicar came up looking a trifle concerned. “This is very unusual indeed I’m not sure I should be seen to preside over such an irresponsible challenge. What will the parishioners think I don’t know?”
“Bugger the parishioners!” mumbled Ponsonby
“What did you say Ponsonby?” said the Reverend.
“Nothing…” Ponsonby picked up a flagon from the table and handed it to the vicar. “Here you are Reverend at least two litres of the finest scrumpy I’ve ever drank in my life, it seems a shame to waste it on Dick Thrasher though” The vicar poured the liquid into the yard glass held ready by Sir Claude Ponsonby.
“Sit down Ponsonby and take the weight off your codpiece” Said Dick Thrasher.
“We shall see who will need to sit down if you can drink that lot in sixty seconds” Retorted Ponsonby.
The vicar beckoned everyone in the hall to gather around to witness the spectacle of the fat pompous Dick Thrasher drink a yard of ale in sixty seconds. A large circle was formed and a spot light trained in the middle waiting to illuminate Dick Thrasher.
Dick thrasher whispered alcohol sodden breath in the ear of Miss Primrose. “Don’t worry love I’ve done this in ten seconds flat in The Falcon pub I’m notorious for it, I won’t even taste it”
Miss primrose looked at him in revulsion; she wasn’t impressed with the fat headmaster at all. He was a pompous revolting old lecher in her estimation who was jousting and jostling with Ponsonby and the Reverend for her affections.
The hall was waiting in anticipation and feet were stamping and the shouts resounding around the hall.
“DICK, DICK, DICK…!”
“STAMP, STAMP, STAMP!”
“DICK, DICK, DICK…!”
Dick Thrasher entered the ring formed by the excited throng of guests in the hall and waved a triumphant hand to the crowd. The roar was deafening and the fat headmaster couldn’t back down now, he had to see it through, but in any case he was fully confident in his ability. Ponsonby was to administer the yard of ale and his eyes gleamed wickedly at Thrasher as he put the receptacle to his fat lips.
“Drink up Thrasher this will do much more for me than it will for you…” said Ponsonby
“Good luck and good health my son” said the beaming vicar.
He’d a little wager with Ponsonby that Dick Thrasher could down the yard of ale in 11 seconds and stood to profit by twenty pounds if he won.
Ponsonby however was fairly confident that Dick Thrasher wouldn’t even finish half of it.
The yard was upended into Dick Thrasher’s fat throat and he duly swallowed it down and the noise he made was like a deep resonant gurgling drainpipe sound. The seconds were counted by Miss Primrose who was to sound the hand bell upon completion.
One second…Gulp! Two seconds…Gulp! It was going down a treat,
Three seconds…Gulp! Four seconds…Gulp! His task was near complete.
Thrasher’s face went white his eyes bulged, his face went pink then to a shade near scarlet and the perspiration dripped from his forehead and spattered all aroundhis fat person, he hardly felt the perspiration roll down his fat neck such was his concentrated effort.
Ponsonby was alarmed now, he hadn’t reckoned on Dick Thrasher completing his task.
The amber liquid drenched his dress shirt front as the bell resounded around the hall. Dick Thrasher had drunk the yard of ale in 9 seconds flat.
“Well done, well done my son…” The Reverend couldn’t help being impressed patting the portly headmaster on the back and smiling broadly.
“It was easy sir, the nectar of the gods” said the portly headmaster.
Suddenly Ponsonby roared with laughter and was doubled up like a pocket knife pointing his finger at Dick Thrasher.
“Oh my goodness! Ha Ha…he drank it…Ha Ha…all of it…this is too much it was worth a wager of twenty pounds to witness this…I’d have paid a hundred…Ha Ha...Ha!”
He beckoned the Reverend Dribble across and slipped a twenty pound note into his ecclesiastical hand and showed him the label on the bottle that had been administered to Dick Thrasher. It was written in Dick Thrasher’s own fat hand:-
“Vintage Chardonnay 2013”