By Robbie Broughton (with apologies to PG Wodehouse)
The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun. Monty had found this out one weekend on the estate of Major Wilfred “Plug” Basham, when he’d had his rear end puckered by shot when he was hiding from Aunt Agatha up a tree.
So it was that that the pair of us took up the new fangled pastime of riding a bicycle. Same kit required: plus fours, shooting jacket and a tie. I’d asked Jeeves if a tie mattered to be told in no uncertain terms: “There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.”
“And trousers, Jeeves. Do I have to wear these tweed breeches?”
“The mood will pass, sir.”
In any case, Monty and I turned up full of beans, in our finest Harris tweed and bang on time, I might add, at that fine establishment of Bourne and Hollingsworth for this year’s Tweed Run. We were just admiring each other’s finery when it came to our attention that the entire square was devoid of bicycles, people and tweed save for the finery the pair of us were sporting.
I rather fancy it's Shakespeare who says that it's always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping.
Monty, of course, has just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wants something to eat, but certainly no more. It’s been said that his IQ is 7 points below that of a not so agile jelly fish. Apparently he’d failed to check where the rendez-vous had been planned. On enquiring on the whereabouts of our fellow velocipede riders we were informed that we were supposed to be at the Imperial War Museum.
Eventually I found speech. Not much of it, but some.
'Eh?' I said.
Feeling like a pair of right chumps, we had to hot-foot it to the other side of London, and south of the river, no less. Would you believe?
Of course, on arrival, it immediately became obvious that the whole chabang had upped and left. Not a hamper in sight. But, racing up to Russell Square, we soon caught up with tail end of the caravan. There was Bingo, swaying like a jellyfish in high wind.
“What ho!" I said.
"What ho!" said Bingo.
"What ho! What ho!"
"What ho! What ho! What ho!"
After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.
Tea in Russell Square would have been fine if it hadn’t been for the arrival of Aunt Agatha. Aunt Agatha is like an elephant—not so much to look at, for in appearance she resembles more a well-bred vulture in the Gobi Desert, but because she never forgets. She regaled me for my absence, a year ago, from her luncheon at Market Blandings. It’s one of those sleepy hamlets which modern progress has failed to touch. The church is Norman, and the intelligence of the majority of the natives palaeozoic.
Aunt Agatha gave me the sort of look she would have given a leper she wasn’t fond of. Cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit when conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is widely rumoured to do, her attitude towards me has always been that of an austere governess, causing me to feel as if I were six years old and she had just caught me stealing jam from the jam cupboard.
Luckily I caught sight of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe. I once got engaged to his daughter Honoria, a ghastly dynamic exhibit who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rockbound coast, but he was better company than Aunt Agatha.
We were joined by the Duc de Pommfrit. Sir Gregory gave the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French, at which point I caught sight of Marmaduke Chuffy Chuffnell and made my excuses.
Lunch was scheduled at a curious spot. One of those ghastly, modern urban regeneration thingies, where a patch of grass making a pretence of a lawn cowered under the steel skeleton girders of an old gas works. What the location lacked the picnic made up for. It wasn’t long before Bingo was looking a little worse for wear: pale face shining like the seat of a bus-driver’s trousers, eyes glassy, his hair disordered. Meanwhile his moustache was rising and falling like seaweed on an ebb-tide. He looked like the poet Shelley after a big night out with Lord Byron.
Luckily it was only a short hop back to where we had started all those hours ago at the good old Bourne and Hollingsworth. We revived Bingo with the liquid refreshment on offer and spent the remainder of the evening catching the last rays of spring sunshine with that sort of end-of-a-perfect-day feeling. Damned fine outing, the Tweed Run.