The Curmudgeon


Friday, April 12, 2013

12 April 1606

It was nearly closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Melon Head Myrtle nodded over her banana daiquiri; Granny Forbus gulped gin and shook her head uncharitably. At the card-players' table, Limbless Fred had started an argument with Pippa Twelve Toes concerning some arcane matter of strategy requiring a poker face, perfect timing, the queen of spades and a strong set of dentures; while in their enigmatic corner, Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust emitted mutters of enigmatic satisfaction.

"Twelfth of April, sixteen hundred and six," announced Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."

Immediately a gentleman entered, with a long pole under one arm. He wore a finicky doublet, and the lace at his throat was lively starched; but his hat squatted low upon his brow, which as it turned out was just as well, for when he removed the hat everyone could see that his brow was as black and knitted as the second-best winter woollens of Granny Forbus. Before removing the hat, the gentleman put down the pole he was carrying; or rather he slammed it down on the bar in obvious ill-temper. Behind him, Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett looked up with mild curiosity, causing the back of the gentleman's neck to develop a mild itch.

Hooligan Motts, who had seen enough of time and the world to recognise righteous irritation when he saw it, served the gentleman a pint of Pugh's Contaminant. Melon Head Myrtle, jolted out of her daiquiri daze, blinked about the room and eventually observed the pole. It was approximately the length of a man, and the top half was swathed in red and white.

"You a barber, dearie?" asked Melon Head Myrtle of the gentleman, who immediately placed his mug of Pugh's Contaminant on the bar with almost the same degree of force as he had used in depositing the pole.
"A barber?" he repeated with outrage. "I certainly am not."
"I thought you were," said Melon Head Myrtle, "because of your thingummy, you know, with the red and white stripes. Does it revolve?"
"I am an Englishman," the gentleman said, "and this is the English flag. It is the cross of Saint George, which has flown above the nation since time immemorial, and above more victorious battlefields than most Scots have had hot dinners."
"Is that so?" said Melon Head Myrtle.
"This flag," said the gentleman, "was the flag of the Crusaders. It is the flag under which Drake destroyed the Armada."
"Wasn't that the weather or something?" asked Melon Head Myrtle. "Though if it was all happening under a flag, I'm sure it would still be English weather, unless the Scots had a prior claim to it on other grounds."
"It was beneath this flag," continued the gentleman, without acknowledging her remarks, "that Edward Plantagenet, Hammer of the Scots, earned his great name; and now James Stuart, king of the Scots, is come to vandalise it."

The gentleman plucked morbidly at the flag lying furled on the bar. "Not that I have anything against the king personally, you understand," he said. "King James is a noble and godly monarch and, as I understand, the author of a very fine and noble work upon the necessity for witch-hunting. I condemn in the strongest terms the recent misguided attempt to remove him by extra-constitutional means, an inevitable though deplorable consequence of Popish recalcitrance in refusing to adapt to our culture. But King James, for all his virtues, is not the Virgin Queen; not our Elizabeth."
"Not Gloriana of the black teeth?" suggested Malvolio Quabbage tactfully.
"And this business of combining the flags of his nation and our own," continued the gentleman, "can only lead to grief. Imagine Saint George's cross adulterated with the blasphemous blue of that fiendish saltire - a scattering of triangles across that pure white background, makeshift and most disgusting. Can you imagine anyone wishing to fight, to die beneath something like that?"
"Frankly, dearie, I can't imagine why most people would want to die beneath anything," said Melon Head Myrtle; "but there's nothing wrong with a bit of colour, that's what I always say."
"Nothing wrong with saltier fiends, either," burbled one of the card-players, to whom Pippa Twelve Toes had conveyed the gist of the gentleman's complaints. "The saltier they are, the harder they fall. Helps defeat the devil if you put it on his tail."

"The next thing you know," mourned the gentleman obliviously, "they'll have the Irish saltire on there too, and something Welsh, I shouldn't be surprised; it's been four hundred years since King Edward, and they're probably getting ideas even as we speak. And when dying Englishmen look up at their flag, as all dying Englishmen are wont to do, and see it adulterated in such a manner, and wonder when the rot started, they'll know that it was on the twelfth day of April in this fourth year of the reign of Scottish Jimmy."

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.


  • At 2:48 pm , Blogger broken biro said...

    thank you

    I particularly liked: "as black and knitted as the second-best winter woollens"

  • At 3:40 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    Thank you - I've been wondering for some time if anyone actually reads these dispatches from Britain's only time-travelling pub.

  • At 4:11 pm , Blogger broken biro said...

    I drop in now and then for a quick half, but am never quite sure what to say!


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