There can't be many better things to do on a sunny summer day in England than to air out one's plus fours, polish up the old brogues, trim the moustache, wipe one's monocle, and take the good lady wife on a traditional charabanc trip for the day.
As Major and Mrs Percy so sportingly describe herein, as they embark upon a charabanc tour, and invite all the lovely readers along to share in, and partake of the exhilerating experience.
"There's a charabanc stop at the local newsagent's shop," Major Percy explained. "The local charabanc company often run a selection of day trips, and they publish a list on a notice board. It's awfully convenient if one happens not to be the proud owner of a motorised vehicle."
Our encounter, sweet, lovely reader, is with Major and Mrs Percy, as they have booked tickets on a charabanc outing to The Caves Of Doom at Lower Doom, Lovers' Leap, on Lippington Mount, The Naughty Step at Shurrup, and Stumbleson Falls near Upper Slappington, pausing for a lavatory break at St Oddswell Coach Park, refreshments at The Blue Lagoon Tearooms at Little Trevor, returning happy travellers to their destinations at 8:30pm sharp, providing the charabanc doesn't break down.
"It's an ambitious run, and that's for sure," Major Percy explained. "We could have encountered all manner of logistical problems, thus is was absolutely vital that we get the planning right. Not to mention the tense. Am I allowed to say that this entire episode has been pre-recorded? Or would that give the game away? Don't blame me old chap, if I slip between the past and present tenses, last time I was on the blithering goggle box at the old Ally Pally studios it was all done live, and the newsreaders all wore dicky-bows. Don't you know"
With the charabanc scheduled to depart from the pick up point outside the newsagents at eleven am sharp, Major and Mrs Percy planned meticulously for the forthcoming expedition.
"I set the alarm for four am," Major Percy announced. "Didn't want to put too much pressure on the old girl, you understand. Much later than that and the poor old sausage would barely have had time for a cup of tea and a Weetabix."
So, a four am start it was for Mrs Percy, after retiring for an early night at ten o'clock sharp. On the morning of the expedition, she promptly sat up in bed and switched the alarm clock off so as not to wake the Major, who was snoring fit to drive the pigs home.
"I considered it prudent to get the ironing done first," Mrs Percy revealed. "Get our outfits for the day neatly pressed and looking appropriately elegant. Once I'd done that I made a nice pot of tea and enjoyed a refreshing cuppa with a bowl of Weetabix, and listened to the news on Radio Four, ensuring that I kept the volume down so as to not disturb the Major."
Mrs Percy continued her preparations by having a soak in the bath, followed by her daily ablutions, and a swift manicure and pedicure. Upon returning to the kitchen, she prepared a an inviting bowl of chopped liver for the family's pet bloodhound, Albert.
Having completed these tasks, by approximately seven twenty-four am sharp, Mrs Percy baked a loaf of bread within one hour. How she does this in so short a time, she will not reveal, as it appears to be a secret formula passed down the Percy family womenfolk for generations, and on no account to be shared with others.
"He won't have this pre-packaged bread, the Major," she said. "He says he doesn't hold with sliced loaves, and he can't abide the texture of the loaves they make in the bakery. He insists that Percy bread is the only real bread in the world, and he can't abide any other."
At eight twenty-two am sharp, Mrs Percy began to prepare the Major's breakfast tray.
"Once I've ironed the newspaper - he's a stickler for having his newspaper neatly pressed - it's fairly straight forward," she told us. "Tray one consists of freshly squeezed fruit juice and a bowl of fruit loops, followed by tray two - a full English breakfast with a cup of freshly brewed tea. The newspaper is brought up to him on a seperate tray, as is the teapot, with the milk and sugar. It might seem like a monumental task, making four trips up and down the stairs to deliver the Major's breakfast in bed, but it's worth the effort, because it sets him up for the day, and it tends to make him rather less grouchy later on. So it all pays off in the long run."
While the Major tucks in to his hearty breakfast, and peruses his daily newspaper, Mrs Percy sets about the formidable task of preparing food, drink, and provisions for the day's outing.
"Making the sandwiches is something of a ritual," she said. "It involves cutting all the crispy crusts off the bread, shaving the cucumber, ensuring that the butter is at the correct temperature, the smoked salmon is cut to the correct thickness, and that the triangular bread slices are perfectly equilateral - I use a vernier caliper with a dial test indicator to check them. Then there's the quail's eggs - it's crucial that they aren't over boiled, because the yolks start to turn a ghastly shade of grey."
Mrs Percy works at her preparations with lightning speed and efficiency, a veritable blur around the spacious kitchen as she prepares a thermos flask of freshly ground and filtered Monte Puta Brazilian coffee, neatly packaging cakes and a selection of biscuits for the feast.
"The Major likes a nice picnic," she informed us. "He often says that there's nothing worse than being stuck on a charabanc with a rumbling tum. So once that's all prepared and packed away, along with the china and the silver cutlery, I can get on with the supplies side of things. The major insists on having ample supplies as insurance against accidents and any unforeseen natural disasters which may occur. A vital component is the First Aid box. I have to do a complete inventory before we depart, because one can never be quite sure what emergencies one might encounter. On one day trip, the Major had to perform an emergency tracheotomy on a fellow passenger, commandeering a child's pea shooter for use as a breathing tube. We almost got into the most terrible trouble over that, because it turned out that the man in question wasn't actually choking. Turned out he just had a bad cough, and now he's scarred for life."
At nine thirty-eight am sharp, having shaved and trimmed his moustache and eyebrows, the Major makes an appearance, seating himself at the kitchen table, where Mrs Percy pours out a fresh cup of tea for him while he continues to peruse his daily newspaper.
Mrs Percy wastes no time, polishing the shoes and applying her make-up, putting the finishing touches to her elaborate preparations.
At ten thirty am sharp, Major and Mrs Percy leave their place of abode destined for the newsagent's and their rendezvous with a charabanc.
Mrs Percy appears to huffing and puffing a little under the weight of the picnic basket and the supplies case, but the Major assures as that she's quite all right as he strides manfully towards the newsagent's shop, waving his cane at passing motor cars with an extravagant flourish.
To be continued...