And so the charabanc, its cream and emerald green livery still in pristine condition, and shining like a baby's bottom at bath time, continues on its way to the picturesque village of Shurrup, and the famous Naughty Step.
An increasingly irritable Mrs Percy turns to the Major, and says:
"What is this Naughty Step thing, Major? I mean, I've never heard of it."
"I'm not certain, the wife, but I'm sure it will be something worth looking at," the Major replies.
"Well I hope it's an improvement on Lovers Leap. What a crashing disappointment that was. A proper tear off."
"Rip off, the wife," the Major corrects her. "The term is rip off."
"Yes, well...That was a disgrace. Ten pounds each to see a four foot slope, and getting harrassed by a greasy Ottoman in a burger van...Not my idea of a great day out. Let's hope this next attraction is a vast improvement."
"I'm sure it will be."
"Just as long as we don't have to pay out extra again for tickets to see this Naughty Step thing..."
"Hang on a mo, Mrs Percy, I'll ask the charabanc driver..." the Major turns towards the driver. "You there! That man driving the charabanc! I have a question for you!"
"What can I do for you sir?" the charabanc driver says, his eyes never leaving the road ahead.
"This Naughty Step at Shurrup - what is it? And more to the point, will there be another blithering surcharge?"
"It's a medieval attraction sir. Dates back to medieval times I do believe, and there's no surcharge to pay - you will have the services of a local guide at no cost to yourself sir. His name is Alan. What he doesn't know about the Naughty Step isn't worth knowing."
"Thank heaven for small mercies," the Major sighs. "How long before we get there?"
"Won't be long now sir."
And indeed it was not long, for, precisely two minutes and thirty seven seconds later the charabanc pulled up in the heart of the picturesque village of Shurrup.
"Ooh look! They've got a Tesco Express!" enthuses one of the Lowfield Estate women. The Major rolls his eyes in disgust.
After much shuffling about, the charabanc disgorges its passengers into a medium sized village square, featuring a small market with a dozen stalls, and a raised flowerbed.
They are greeted by a bespectacled man with bushy hair. He is wearing a rust brown suit, a yellow polo neck sweater, and leather sandals. Smiling, he introduces himself to the tourists as Alan, bids them a hearty welcome to Shurrup, and leads the party over to the raised flower bed.
"This," he proudly announces, pointing at the raised flowerbed. "Is the famous Naughty Step at Shurrup!"
"Are you sure?" Mrs Percy cocks a dubious eyebrow. "It doesn't look much like any sort of Naughty Step to me. It just looks like somebody has built a brick circle, filled the middle in with soil, and planted some flowers in the top. It's just a raised flowerbed."
"Ah," Alan ponders for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "Perhaps more accurately, I should say that this is the site of the original Naughty Step."
"So what happened to the original?" a fellow passenger enquires.
"It was bulldozed flat in 1911," Alan says cheerily, as he warms to his pet topic. "The council said it was a hazard, so they bulldozed it flat, and put up this raised flowerbed instead. But it does mark the precise location of the original Naughty Step."
"You there!" the Major snaps. "What the blithering heck was the original Naughty Step? Did it have any historical significance? Or was it just another blithering hillock?"
"Funny you should say that," Alan smiles. "The original Naughty Step was indeed at one stage a hillock. It rose to a height of about three feet, and from the available information, the sides were quite steep. It was recorded that in the flood of 1819, the Naughty Step stood out above the floodwaters like a small island."
"Very interesting," the Major says, with no small degree of sarcasm. "But what, if anything, was it used for?"
"It all dates back to medieval times..." Alan begins.
"Oh do get on with it!" The Major heckles.
"Well," Alan gulps, clearly thrown off track by the Major's rude interruption. "In medieval times, Shurrup was a leading sheep and cattle market centre..."
"Did they have goats too?" a spectator shouts.
Ignoring the interruption, Alan continues:
"Back in the medieval times, there weren't any policemen, or any kind of official body, dedicated to law enforcement, so miscreants of that era were taken by community leaders to the village elders. For a miscreant to be sentenced to a term on the Naughty Step would have been a fearsome prospect..."
"Why's that then?" chirps the young man in a suit from the Lowfield Estate.
"I'm glad you asked that," Alan beams. "The miscreant would have to stand on the Naughty Step, whilst the villagers would gather around in a large circle and try to poke him with sharpened sticks. Sometimes - depending on the seriousness of the offence - a person could be sentenced to stand on the Naughty Step for as long as 24 hours, attempting to avoid being poked and prodded by sharpened stick wielding villagers..."
"This is utter rubbish!" Mrs Percy hisses to the Major. "What a con! I refuse to waste another moment of my life listening to that jibbering fool. I shall go to investigate whatever it may be that those market stalls have on offer. I shall catch up with you presently."
With that, Mrs Percy strides manfully towards the market stalls. The Major merely frowns. Alan continues his monologue.
"The Naughty Step gained a further degree of notoriety, when in 1886, notorious Hellfire Club member, Sir Tristram DeWolfram set up a tent on top of it, and disappeared within, with Lady Annabel Of Gong for three days solid, without food or water. Local legend has it that Lady Annabel became impregnated during the sojourn, later giving birth to a bastard son whom she named Maurice..."
"It's a bloody raised flower bed, man!" one visitor complains. "There's nowt to look at!"
Alan composes himself. He is obviously struggling to contain himself. If the redness of his jowls is anything to go by.
"Thank you for bearing with me ladies, gentleman, and children, and sharing my passion for the Naughty Step at Shurrup. In closing, I'd just like to say that I am a volunteer and receive no financial remuneration for informing people of the fascinating history of the Naughty Step. Of course, any considerations would be gratefully accepted..."
"Considerations?" - a voice from the crowd.
"Ten pound," Alan announces. "Each. That's the average."
"You can bugger off!" the Major snorts. Then he sets off, cane in hand, to catch up with Mrs Percy.
Who is taking a keen interest in one particular stall, which specialises in potted local preserves (jams) and a variety of jarred pickles (pickles).
The Major and Mrs Percy retreat to a bench seat and drink some Monte Puta coffee from the thermos, and eat cucumber sandwiches.
"Best get a move on old girl," the Major says, as he studies his wristwatch. "We're due back at the charabanc in four minutes sharp."
"Where are we stopping next dear?" Mrs Percy enquires.
"Some falls or other, sounds like a waterfall."
"I do hope it doesn't become yet another let down," Mrs Percy sighs...
To be continued...