with April Jinty
at Foxglove Cottage
Hello yet again, my own dear friends. What a boon and a balm it is to have true friends. Pals are the medicine to cure all our ills, whether physical, or of the spirit. In these dark times, when bitter winter winds pipe the lament of a failing economy and smooth-faced weasel functionaries with no electoral mandate deal stealthy and cruel blows to the poor, what is the only thing we can rely on? The succour of friendships, dear friends, the tonic of true companions.
And yet, how little we realise what we have! I am reminded of an erstwhile acquaintance of mine, now what was her name? Was it Persephone? No, of course it was not Persephone. Persephone was that tall girl I once shared a hammock with all the way down the Bristol Channel. Persephone was discomfort personified. Persephone personified discomfiture, believe me. Sharp-boned and smelling of violets. Playing La Cucaraca on a descant recorder at 6 in the morning without getting out of the hammock. As if in an attempt to curry favour after these misdemeanours, she used to hang her smalls over the sides of the bath. It was not Persephone, then. But who was it?
Ah! An obscene shaft of toothache has reminded me. It was dear old Mrs Humpe, how could I forget her? Dear, dear old Mrs Humpe. Poor Mrs Humpe sits in her mother's wicker chair and looks out at the snow-covered lawn and laments. Mrs Humpe has lost a bosom companion.
For Mrs Humpe - who was once often known as "Bongo" - had harsh words for her old friend, Miss Whelke, the curate's sister. And all because of an imagined slight. Miss Whelke had a stomach ache, after sitting up late to finish her novelty "Turtle Family" pincushions for the Church Bazaar, and she meant no ill in declining a second slice of Mrs Humpe's "Banana Delight". But "Bongo" would brook no excuse or explanation, be it ever so plainly pleaded.
Not even the handmade card and punnet of greengages that the unfortunate Miss Whelke sent round to Beehive House would serve to thaw the ice, for foolish Mrs Humpe had taken delivery of that most poisonous of substances, umbrage.
Some say that this had been a-brewing, ever since Miss Whelke upbraided her brother for passing what might have been interpreted as inappropriately-familiar comments upon "Bongo's" new hat at a "Pontoon & Sarsaparilla Evening" in May. Some say that the new hat - a black stone cloche - had not been purchased without "comments" in mind.
But it does not matter. Nothing avails it. All that matters is poor old Mrs Humpe, who used to be known as "Bongo". For Mrs Humpe sits in her wicker chair and looks out at the snow-covered lawn. Miss Whelke has long since gone to stay at Whitstable with an aunt, and none can hazard a guess as to when she might return.
The curate burns his own toast and forgets to feed the castor oil plant. Mrs Humpe sits and looks at the snow, and begins to look like something of a "hammock person" (that is, the kind of person I should very much not like to share a hammock with, in the Bristol Channel or anywhere else, for that matter). And all because of umbrage.
There's a lesson in this for us all, dear friends, a lesson for all friends to learn.
Take care dear pals, and remember: cherish one another while the time is yet ripe!
I must bid you all adieu once more, dear pals. And I do so with a gift. One of our circle, Mrs Grapple, writes to ask: "Please can you do one of your 'Veritable Verses' for the pals? We all enjoy them and they are such a comfort to those of us who no longer find it easy to get out to the slide shows of an evening".
For Mrs Grapple, and for all the pals, a special poem:
Friends make my days run as smooth as fine silk,
Pals are the cream on the top of my milk.
When the problems of life seem to come without end,
I can always rely on the help of a friend.
Help such as how long to broil an old fish,
Or the best-shining bottle of furniture polish,
Or the perfect advice where to purchase a snood:
These are the ways that our friendship is glued.
Where would I be without all my best pals?
I'd be lost in the Arctic surrounded by narwhals.
But the fertile grassland of my pals I rely on
Makes me swell with the confident pride of a lion.
Yours in Friendship - April Jinty.