To the tune of: Vivian Stanshall – Sir Henry At Rawlinson End
The story so far.
The hapless and unusual Hubert, having unhappily chanced upon Sir Henry reliving the bombing of Dresden, has received a terrific thrashing and a crippling kick in the fork. He is now in disgrace condemned to his room.
The body of Doris Hazard’s pekinese, unwittingly asphyxiated under her husband’s bottom, after a ritual two weeks in the Rawlinson refrigerator, has been given over to Old Scrotum for indecent burial under a giant marrow. This marrow is Sir Henry’s pride and on his instructions the vegetable is daily drip fed with a powerful laxative so that “if some rascal runs off with it and eats the blessed thing it’ll give ‘em the runs for weeks”.
Long before his death in a flaming house-boat, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band Vivian Stanshell’s errant star was waning, as the spirit of the era that sustained him also waned; he was both product and producer of that re-renaissance that accompanied the hedonistic liberation of the sixties and seventies, but he also drew on a traditional aristocratic demeanour that lovingly informed his work. He had the variety of aberrant behaviours that we tend to call quintessentially English and that made him stand aside from his era, in the way that Noel Coward stood away from his; by ‘quintessentially English’ we mean posh, strange, post-colonial men who spoke in long rambling light sentences where one has to hack away the lush verbiage to stand a chance of finding often-absent meaning.
‘Sir Henry At Rawlinson End’ is the masterpiece of this , a louche cocktail of Ripping Yarns, The Archers and some monstrous bastard of Brideshead Revanant. It could be portrayed as a one man show, with Stanshall’s character at the heart of it, playing every part, singing every song, and linking the narrative. Except Stanshall is dead, so a brave Mike Livesley stepped into that void. Where stanshall was Elfin, he is Dwarfish; where Stanshall was pale, he is ruddy; where Stanshall was effete, he is boorish.
Alone again Florrie’s eyes focused on the copper gleam of the coal scuttle, clouded, and in seconds had surrendered to Erewhon. Peacefully on tip-toe through the grey spheres where shade had substance, whispers walked, and Maya reigned. Wistful and lovely are walls with wisteria, clematis clambers on time pocked walls white. Stranger than larkspur or lupin, hydrangea many headed bright nosegay tongue-tied, fancy flight.
There was a face jumping competition at the Fool and Bladder. This ancient amusement involved leaping on to volunteer’s heads, lightly touching, and then springing off. To draw blood or squash a nose meant instant disqualification, and this was the skill of it. The normally phlegmatic Seth Onetooth was unquestioned champion of this unusual sport and he stood huge dark and work stained outside the old pub explaining the rules and recalling past triumphs to Reg Smeeton, the village newsagent and self-styled human encyclopaedia.
A large red faced farm worker, stripped to the waist, paced out an enormous run-up before turning to thunder down on his grinning partner lying on the grass. “Eeh, he’s got no chance” said Seth smugly, “silly buggers wearing spiked running shoes”.
“Aar, waste of good drinkin’ time. I had to go up again and see if the old girl had finished her bloomin’ breakfast” huffed Scrotum crossly.
The old girl was Sir Henry’s mother, once a great beauty but now, unknown to Florrie, bedridden in a remote chamber at Rawlinson End.
“Well er, ‘ad she then, finished it like?” asked Seth.
“Course not. Nice bit of smoked haddock been there by the side of the bed getting cold for the last three years” said Scrotum taking a large slurp.
“By heck, three years. Does she do owt?” said Seth.
“Course not, she’m just lying there never saying nothing wi’ er gob wide open, catching flies and playing with the rats. Sir Henry says she’m not getting no more grub ‘til she’s eaten the last lot”.
Reg Smeeton, smelling strongly of newsprint, patted down the back of his wig.
“Did you know there is no proper name for the back of the knees”.
Next time Mrs E the housekeeper has one of her nasty turns and believes herself to be a chicken, but Henry refuses to have her treated saying
“Well, it’s always good to have a supply of fresh eggs”.