Charlie Cochrane

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the tenth – a consideration of scoundrels and traitors

28 June 2013

Now, when I say scoundrels and traitors, we all immediately think of Leach, that vile lump of horse droppings, ones not fit to manure my roses. But he’s not the only wen to have sprung up, pus-bearing, on the face of the Lords of Aether club. Back in the days of Good Queen Bess (and I don’t mean by that Lord Anthony’s predecessor as head of the organisation, who had a worrying predilection for whalebone corsets and lavender organdie), we were infected by a gentleman (Pfft!) who’d have made Christopher Marlowe look like a choirboy.

Imagine the scene. Old Willie Shakespeare is standing at the club bar, weeping into his pint of sack, bewailing the fact that his lovely boy’s being less than forthcoming with the old legover (plus ca change round here), when there’s the sound of a tucket, and Her Majesty appears, shaking her wig and all of a tizzy because some swine’s selling all her secrets to Jonny Spaniard.

Stopping only to wipe the froth off his beard with a convenient pair of hose (nothing changes here in terms of stray items of clothing, either), Will leaps up and says, “Bess, I’m your man.”

“Shakeshaft, you silly sod,” quoth she (sounding remarkably like my Poll when she’s acting posh), “what can a pen wielder do when my fine soldiers have failed to apprehend the scallywag? I was hoping one of the Lords of Spume,” (as they were called back in those benighted times), “would be here to oblige.”

“Sorry, old gal, they’ve all gone to the bareknuckle event. Like to see a bit of flesh get pounded. There’s just me here, being Jacques-all-alone with my pint, and…” at which point he makes a flourish with his cloak and sends sack flying everywhere, “I may be a poor thing but I am thine own to command.”

Bess sighs and shakes her pearls. “All right, old cock. Sort the blighter out and I’ll hire your company for a play. Fat knights getting into scrapes or some such rot.”

Well, our Will’s delighted. It’s only when he’s finished his drink he realises he’s in a bit of a hole. He’s told Her Majesty he’ll ferret the traitor into the light and if he don’t he’ll be losing his head. Literally. At which point fate takes a hand, deus ex machina like, as my Poll would say. Marlowe himself appears, large as life, and twice as lewd. Right at home with the Lords of Spume, given his penchant for shift lifting and rapier thrusting.

“I heard you promise the old gal you’d do the business,” he said, twirling his codpiece. “Want a hand?”

Now, old Will had a soft spot for Kit, so he says, “Abso-blooming-lutely old cock. Got a trail for us to follow?”

“Oh yes,” says himself with a sly grin. (I know it was a sly grin because old Will wrote all this up and left it in the vaults.) “Come with me to the Mermaid Tavern. And bring your sword. This is one occasion when your quill won’t be mightier than your steel.”

To be continued…

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the ninth

31 May 2013
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My thanks go to Poll for holding the fort again. She’s a fine gal, even if she seems a sight too fond of clasping young Farrell to her bosom in a way she insists is just maternal. Poor lad – I’m never sure he’s able to breathe in there.

Summer is a-coming in, loudly sing Cuckoo and all that. I’ve previously alluded to the sap rising, but when summer bursts into full bloom it’s more a case of fully risen and getting sunburned round here. They get out on that roof garden without even a small picture of Her Majesty to cover their modesty and the next thing you’d know it’s roasted meat, seared veg and the crown jewels more like crown of lamb.

I accept that you’d think from reading my accounts that my gentlemen (those breeches ripping, thigh poking lumps of harumphrodites I work for) never do anything that can be seen in broad daylight, but maybe I’ve not presented an entirely rounded picture (even though there’s many an entirely rounded thing up on that roof garden). Summer also means cricket. You can imagine that my gentlemen get all excited at the thoughts of donning their flannels and college ties (usually in place of a belt, which is healthier than what they sometimes use them for) and flouncing around the field trying to look attractive.

Lord Anthony plays to win, of course. He’s a dashing bat, wily spin bowler and a nimble hand in the slips. Jack Starr, when he bothers, is the fastest bowler I’ve seen since Spofforth (but then he’s a fast piece of work at everything.) Nash, on the other hand is more interested in the sweet sound of leather on flesh than leather on willow. A real “smote them hip and thigh” sort of cove. Spence and Alexi are no mean hands in the middle order, fours and sixes flashing everywhere (which makes a change from what they usually flash).

You can imagine that they form a successful team and winning has become a habit. I’d wouldn’t say winning at any cost: they might be totally unprincipled in the service of Her Majesty (and in the service of getting their ends away) but when it comes to cricket they play scrupulously fair. No itching powder in the opposition’s boxes or pins in their pads. Never an LBW appeal unless it’s plumb in line and no trying to hit them in the wedding tackle. (I suspect the latter is motivated less by fair play than by the chances of inveigling some comely batsmen into bed with them after the post match pint of “Old and filthy”.)

And don’t think it’s all tea and scones. One of the ways they first knew that Victor was a scurrilous piece of herring poo was his shouting for a catch behind when the ball had clearly only come off the batsman’s pad. That and trying to bribe an umpire with promises of untold riches if he’d swing the decisions in his favour. Any man who could stoop so low needs must be a rogue.

Now, I must away as Poll says she’s going to help young Farrell break in his pads for the new season and I feel the need to supervise proceedings.

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, another digression

29 March 2013
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Hello, my old cock sparrows. Poll here. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I have to say that the daft old sod Beare isn’t three sheets to the wind again. He and Spence have gone off on some secret mission, one they couldn’t even tell me about. “Lips sealed, old girl,” he said, as he donned his steel lined bowler and whipped his sword stick under his arm. Must be serious stuff.

Of course, those of us who are left behind need to make the best of things, not sit fretting, and there’s always work to be done. An opportunity to get behind Beare’s desk and give it a good dusting, for one. And if anyone’s fretting, it’s the silly old tart himself. He hates leaving the running of the club to anyone, especially when the “anyone” is young Farrell. He’s a good lad, with extremely pinchable cheeks at both ends if you get my drift, and Beare’s been teaching him the ropes this last year. He’s proved himself capable, but there’s always the worry that such a comely young piece will make himself a target for Victor, who could never resist a pert behind nor a twinkling young eye.

I promised I’d keep an eye on the young sprat—a nasty job but someone has to do it—and ensure his virtue is kept intact. I’ll keep the same wary eye on the club’s safe, wine cellar and collection of unusual postcards. You never know where introgressive specimens like Victor will try to strike next. When I see him, I can see where Darwin got his ideas from. More monkey than man. Anyway, I’ve got the keys to all three on my ring and anybody who wants to go poking around will have to apply to me.

Talking of poking around, spring’s in the offing, although with this flipping cold she’s a long time showing her hull on the horizon. In April the sap rises and so does many another thing round here, and when I say that spring and beds feature in many a man’s imagination I don’t mean the season and flowers. The squeaking and creaking that goes on here all hours of the day and night takes some believing.

“What’s that noise, Poll?” Farrell asked me, this time last year when thoughts had turned to oats and the spreading of them. “Have we got mice?”

“We have not,” I replied, irate at the implication.

“Oh. Maybe I should go and investigate.”

“Don’t you dare. I promised your mother when you brought her here for Mothering Sunday that I’d preserve your innocence and preserve it I will if I have to put bromine in their brandy and take a pair of pliers to their nethers.” I shook my feather duster at him. “When the springs are creaking, don’t go peeking.”


“But me no buts. You’ll see things you won’t understand.”

“Ah,” he said, as if light had dawned. “It’s to do with serving Her Majesty, isn’t it? Secret business.”

“It’s to do with queens indeed,” I said, wishing to tell him no lies. “And the affairs that only they understand.”

Bless him. Maybe I’d better go and pinch his cheeks right now…

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the eighth – a robbery!

28 February 2013

Alas and rue the day when calamity hit the club and I, Savage Beare, defender of the scurrilous catamites, keeper of the key chain and general factotum, was unable to stem it. Last Candlemas, some villain gained access to the premises—probably by one of the large sash windows which had been opened after I had secured it for the night—and raided some of the private correspondence and papers kept here.

The first name which sprang to everyone’s mind, as they flapped about in their dressing gowns, looking at the mess the villain had left, was Leach. He’s just the sort of arse-pinching, muck raking, lickspittle pile of horse dung who hates the Lords of Aether so much he’d do anything to see them ruined. We had visions of him selling the material to the News of the World or some other equally disreputable rag, good for nothing but to wrap your pie and chips in. Her Majesty’s arm isn’t so long nor so omnipotent as to afford my gentlemen (I use that term with my tongue in my cheek) protection if all the goings on that go on here were to be detailed. Lord Anthony may have served his country nobly over the years but he’s also serviced more than a few chaps along his way and if even one tenth of those stories were revealed not only would it fill a whole edition, it would have middle England choking on its kippers. Even the naughtiest vicar, one who secretly burns with desire for his curate and holds a passion for the bishop, would be shocked at what his Lordship has held in his day.

But my Poll wouldn’t entertain that notion. Some of the most scurrilous material—just the sort of stuff Leach would have gleefully stuck down his corset and escaped with—was left behind. As was the club’s silver and a quantity of cash, so ordinary thieves were out of the question, too.

“Beats me, old girl,” I said to her, as we cleared up the mess and helped Lord Anthony get the papers back into order. “If you eliminate both a common burglar and old lardy-pants then what have you left?”

Poll looked at me, looked at Lord Anthony, rolled her eyes in that way she has that makes me think of goose-feather beds and her in them, and said, “Just as well the burglars weren’t looking for brains because they’d never have found any in your head, would they?”

I looked at Poll, looked at Lord Anthony, he smirked in that way he has that makes me think of him in a goose feather bed and doing who knows what and me being at least five hundred yards away at the time, and said, “I may not be the shiniest knob on the brass bedstead, but what, prithee, is it I am not aware of?”

“Savage, old fruit,” Poll replied, addressing me as though I were only seven and a half and couldn’t get to grips with my four times table, “what exactly is missing? Is it Spence’s scientific patents? Is it Shelley’s private diaries that his lordship purloined last year? Is it anything of importance or is it the blithering sea serpent stuff?”

“Sea serpent? Mr. Silsbury’s thesis?” I shuddered in recollection. Two whole weeks we’d had him going on about nothing else but the thing he’d seen off Dungeness, how it was the great primeval monster from the deep, a living dinosaur or some such. In the end, we had him dispatched off to Lyme Regis, ostensibly to look for fossils but really in hope that he’d be buried under a landslip. “Who’d want to steal that load of old twaddle? Someone running short of toilet paper, I suppose.”

“He has a rival.” Lord Anthony neatened a pile of papers and filed them away again. He has a deft hand, his lordship. Doesn’t bear to think what he does with it. “Chap called Dawson. Wants to usurp his discovery and get him elected to the Royal Society.”

“He wouldn’t get voted to the Royal Cambridge Music Hall with that load of old cr…crud. Plagiaristic, speculative nonsense.” I had a sudden pang of remorse. They may be a load of britches ripping mollies, but the  members of the club are my britches ripping mollies and nobody’s allowed to vex them. Except me. “What will he do when he discovers his loss?”

“Go and steal it back again, you old custard head. Just the sort of jape he’d want to get involved with. Look—his lordship’s gasping at the thought of the fun.”

I didn’t look. You never know what Lord Anthony’s gasping with. “Poll,” I said, weakly, “put the kettle on, will you, my dear? It’s all been too much.”

“Of course, old cock.” She said, smiling. “And I’ll find a bit of Dundee cake. Men need sustenance at times like this.” At which she winked…and I hoped that sustenance would keep me going through to bedtime.

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the seventh – a new year begins and at last the pig’s bladder gets off the ground!

31 January 2013
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We’ve rung in the new, rung out the old, wrung out the dirty linen and brung in the cat. The year of our Lord eighteen hundred and ninety seven is upon us and it’s all change here. For one thing, they’ve actually got that overinflated pig’s bladder of a craft off the ground, defying both the laws of physics and good taste. I’ve never seen so much brass, gold leaf and gingerbread work on what’s supposed to be a fighting vessel. More like a tart’s four poster bed.

Not that I approve of these airships. I said to Poll, “If God had intended us to fly He’d have given us wings.”

To which she replied, “If God had intended you to be clever He’d have given you a brain. Seeing as he hasn’t we must assume it’s the Divine wisdom for you to be a numbskull.”

Poll loves that airship. Themselves (by which I mean the pox ridden, two faced, lascivious bunch of soused herrings I work for) gave her a guided tour of the thing when it was newly built. She didn’t stop talking about it for weeks. The walnut veneers, the polished metalwork, the hammocks. (I don’t want to think about what might go on in those hammocks. And what might hang out while it’s going on.) Given half a chance she’d have been up there on it with them, but she turns a bit peculiar with heights. She was dizzy when we scaled The Monument and gets seasick on the Rotherhithe ferry.

I suppose we must count our blessings, though. If the buggers (I use that term literally) are up there they can’t be down here getting under my feet and causing trouble. They’ve tried to launch before, of course. And a right mess it turned out. Sabotage, they said, probably of Victor’s origin, but he was in Reading Gaol at the time, doing a bit of bird for importuning unfortunate young telegraph boys, so I suspect the old git was innocent. For once.

Still the contraption wouldn’t get off the ground, no matter how much they stoked up the engine or wound the elastic or whatever it is they do to these things. Lord Anthony was turning the air blue(I learned some words that even my Poll couldn’t put a meaning on) and Spence was pulling out what little hair he has.

My theory? In a word, Jack. They will let him tinker about (in fact he tinkers with a sight too many things in a sight too many places – I have to have the mattresses replaced, so I should know). I suspect he tinkered a bit too far and caused an unresolved dislocation of turbine resonance leading to magnetospheric turbulence and lack of escape inertia. Or, in layman’s terms, he pushed the button that says, “Caution. Do not push this button.” Either way the airship sat on the ground like a big pair of deflated knickers tied to a washing basket and going nowhere. Eventually they sorted it. Not through Spence’s calculations, reams of paper though they took up. Not through Lord Anthony’s efforts with screwdriver and spanner. What’s the solution when all else fails?


Poll took a monkey wrench and belted the engine one. Now it’s up and away, with all the old queens tossed up in the proverbial blanket heading off to serve Her Majesty in the air as they do on land. Rule Britannia!

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, tales of yuletide

28 December 2012
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My Poll will tell you that I’m a big softy when it comes to Christmas. Light the Yule log, bring in the goose, deck the house with holly and ivy and get ready to play snapdragon. She says I’m like a little boy – and if my best present from her is a bit of slap and tickle, who am I to complain?

It’s a time of festivity up at that den of smut, debauchery and innuendo (literally) where I earn my daily bread, the Lords of Aether club. You should see the decorations – like a tart’s boudoir, ribbons and bows and glitter and bells everywhere. And when I say everywhere… I’ve seen Lord Anthony, in all his glory, with two baubles hanging off his ears and a bit of tinsel tied around – well, all I’ll say is that it was a place that reminded me of the Yule log.

And the provisions would make your eyes jump out, turn circles and go back in again. Hams the size of the rhinoceros in the Zoo, turkeys like ostriches, and a hailstorm of sprouts. Wine flowing like the Thames, too – and some of it probably just as nasty to drink, especially if that swine Leach has been tampering with it again, as he’s wont to do. I once caught the ugly bugger wandering around the club one Christmas Eve with a carboy of paraffin, a funnel, a long length of tubing and a nasty grin. I don’t know what he was intending to do with them but by the time I’d fetched Jack and he and Anthony had their revenge, he saw more of the water closet than I daresay he’d intended. Rumour has it he didn’t emerge until just this side of Twelfth Night!

Being around the Lords of Aether at the festive season brings a whole other meaning to getting your Christmas meat and two veg. You can imagine what my “gentlemen” (if that’s what you can legitimately call the raddled load of spavined hedonists) get up to when the wine’s been a-flowing and the trouser buttons get loosened. Kissing beneath the mistletoe is a fine tradition, but not where the mistletoe gets hung on Spence. And we haven’t let them attend the midnight mass since Shelley tried to dance down the aisle with the verger and two of the acolytes. Better to let them eat, drink, be merry and get pie-eyed/laid/themselves shot, behind their own closed doors.

Poll and I raise a glass to any and all of you who read my account of the club members’ doings! Happy Christmas.


The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, another diversion

26 October 2012

In my job you get to hear many a thing you sometimes wish you hadn’t. Not that I hold with Poll’s opinion that those who listen at keyholes only hear ill of themselves. For a start, I don’t stoop so low as to listen at doors (my dodgy back wouldn’t let me, even if my conscience would!) But sometimes I find myself having to deal with the gripper rods for the carpet and naturally will be on my knees by the door frame. Or I may be passing a window and notice the curtains are not drawn to my satisfaction. If I happen to pause to adjust them opposite a slightly open door, such is life.

And I have never overheard ill of myself, just things which intrigue me. You can imagine that cries along the lines of, “If you must put that there, please could you warm it first,” are fairly common on club premises and nary and eyebrow gets raised at them. But how is a man to sleep without his mind boiling over at the meaning of, “I’ll only do that if you put the porcupine down and butter both the crumpets”? Especially when it’s heard from Lord Anthony’s room at three in the morning.

I’ve heard many a secret spoken, too, particularly when my gentlemen (gentlemen? My elbow. Gang of dumpling munching, swagger stick clasping lubricators!) are in the midst of a commission from Her Majesty. That’s when my discretion and loyalty to Queen(s) and country comes in.

Anyway, Poll has said to me many a time that my big ears (slurry boats, she calls them, going round picking up all the filth) would get me into trouble one day. Of course, she was right, as I found out yesterday. I was passing Spence’s room, when I heard Poll – my Poll! – saying, in a breathless voice, “Spence, take off my shawl.”

Can you blame me for breaking my rule, stopping and listening some more? Can you blame me for being horrified when I then heard her say, “Spence, take off my dress”?

I was quite winded, rooted to the spot and unable to determine a suitable course of action when I heard, “Spence, take off my corset.”

That propelled me into battle. I was about to burst through the door and challenge the cad to a duel for seducing my fine gal, when Poll herself came storming out. Face red, eyes blazing, a pile of garments in her arms, fully dressed, and saying over her shoulder, “And if I catch you wearing my clothes again, Spence, there’ll be hell to pay and no pitch hot!”

As I hid behind the door. in case I should be unjustly accused of snooping, my heart soared in relief. What a woman…

The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the sixth

28 September 2012

I return after the small hiatus occasioned by my having come down with a touch of something – maybe the croup or colic or some other inconvenience which rendered me too ill to fulfil my usual duty of providing reflection on the club’s history.

Poll, as is her wont, stepped into the breach with aplomb, but it might be as well to note that her understanding, and therefore her account, of the true situation may not have been accurate. I hesitate to say she was communicating an untruth (my hesitation being based not least on the presumption that she’d brain me with her rolling pin) but I believe she may simply have misinterpreted certain things.

Now, to proper business. I have to digress a moment from my pen portraits of the foppish, trouser chasing milksops this club has for members, to relate the tale of a very special visit bestowed upon us this last week. A certain lady whom we all revere and serve graced us with her presence at luncheon this last Wednesday, and she ended up staying until very nearly midnight. Was she amused? I should say so.

Maybe it was the sight of all my “gentlemen” (I use the term loosely, as loose as their britches), done up like dogs’ dinners. Lord Anthony and young Spence were even sporting kilts, sgian-dubhs and all! My Poll says she reckons they were trying to impress the old girl, Her Majesty having had such a thing for John Brown. It certainly brought a flush to the royal cheek, to see them swirl along.

Poll had been in to set up the food and she’d been quite taken with the sight of two such pairs of muscular legs. Afraid for Her Majesty’s dignity if the breeze got up, qhoth she, “Lord Anthony, is anything worn below your kilt?”

To which he replied, “No, Poll, it’s all in working order.” Luckily for us Wednesday proved calm, and all sails hung down over the mainmast.

“I don’t know why you worried, Beare, you silly old sod,” my Poll said to me affectionately. “She’s seen it all before. Look at the houseful of children she’s got!”

“She may have seen it all before, my love,” I rejoindered, mustering my dignity, “but not my gents’ she hasn’t!”

“Don’t fool yourself,” she replied and flounced off with a wink over her shoulder.

I’ve been wondering what she meant by that ever since. Sometimes my Poll seems to know more than is good for her…


The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, an apology

31 August 2012

I have been requested to convey Savage Beare’s sincere apologies that he is unable to fulfil his monthly obligation here but he’s “having a touch of the old trouble”, as he puts it. Touch of the old trouble, my Aunt Fanny! The silly old sod was performing his steward’s role at the club’s annual celebratory dinner last night (of which more anon) and came home in what he would describe as a tired an emotional state.

Tired and emotional, my aspidistra…

“Poll, old girl,” quoth he, as he headed for the po for the umpteenth time, “I fear I have drunk my half glass of wine from a glass which was dirty.”

Dirty glass, my astrakhan collar! Half a gallon of wine and all the rest to chase it down with. Serves him right if he’s poleaxed on the bed. And woe betide him if he makes a mess.

What a night! I was helping to prepare the buffet, wrapping pigs in their blankets, stuffing the chicken parcels and keeping Jacob’s hands off the sausages. I saw the dray arrive with the wine and beer and wondered if we were entertaining the entire battalion of guards. Not that the guards aren’t frequent visitors to the club. There’s an honourable tradition of the boys in uniform eking out their income by “obliging” gentlemen and a fair amount of that obliging’s been done on those very premises.

I’ve seen things that would make your eyes pop out and do somersaults.

Anyway, the quantity of drink made my mind boggle.

“Well, Poll, when we celebrate, we do it in style!” says Lord Anthony, as he cracked open the champagne. “Will you take a glass with me and wet the evening’s head?”

I couldn’t refuse, could I? Nor the second or third. I’m not sure who was more pickled, me or the onions! Being a true gentleman, his Lordship paid for me to take a cab home. I wish he’d paid for Beare to go and stay somewhere and not come home banging on the door at bugger it o’clock saying he feared he had misplaced his keys. Misplaced them, my Woolwich Arsenal! Dropped them down the lavvy, most likely, the great hairy pillock.

And now I have to hasten away to help clear up the club. Saint Sebastian alone knows what state it’ll be in, but at least I’ve been promised a handsome inducement by his Lordship. One guinea for putting the place in order, two if no questions asked. Looks like I’ll be keeping mum like I did last time.

It’s frustrating, though. Ever since last year’s equivalent knees-up I’ve been wondering about things. What did they use those handcuffs for? Why were there three feather boas that looked like they’d been dragged through the streets? And who was the wiry looking bloke with the odd marks on his arms, wearing nothing but a deerstalker hat and a smile…?


The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the fifth

27 July 2012

Poll says that I have been remiss in my duties. Not in terms of those of the marital bed, for which she can have no complaints, but in my narrative here. “Beare, you daft sod,” quoth she, “you witter on and on about all sorts of old tripe, but do you ever tell those good folks anything about the men themselves who pay your beer, tripe and porter bill?” It is therefore behoven upon me to tell you a little of them or Poll will lump me with the frying pan, like she did when I came home tired and emotional last Candlemas.

I’d better start with Lord Anthony and, as sure as growers of roses follow horses with a shovel and a bucket, if we start with Lord Anthony, we’ll have Jack Starrington following on behind. Those two have been inside each other’s beds – and trousers – since Noah was a boy. My Poll thinks it’s romantic, really, the pair of them running away to sea when they were barely out of their nappies. I had to say, “Poll, old gal, there’s nothing glamorous about being blown onto a lee shore off the Scillies with a sou’westerly blowing a gale and the bosun three sheets to the wind. Never mind the captain more interested in the cabin boy than in his course.”

Poll always has to have the last word, mind. More than once if she can. “But they were in love, Beare, you daft old bugger. When you’re young and besotted it’d take a lot more than six at the gratings and a dirty old captain to make you think life’s bad. It’s when your heart gets broken it all falls apart.” She speaks the truth, that girl, even if she does say a lot of it. Lord Anthony has never been the same since those days. Many a time he’s been in his cups and poured it all out to me, how they’d come back from sea and gone up to the University only for Jack to decamp and leave his best pal right in the lurch. He went off spying, of course, serving Her Majesty, but I think that’s an excuse.

Why not take his Lordship with him? There’s more to that story than meets the eye and if a shapely bottom isn’t at the root of it, my name’s not Savage Beare.

There’s been nobody to fill the gap for Lord Anthony since; not one of that long stream of limp wristed, toffee nosed, lapdogs he’s dallied with have meant as much to him and none of them will. Poll wants to try to get them back together but I say there’s more chance of sticking the arms back on the Venus de Milo. Parted brass rags and that’s an end to it.

As for Jack, he’s as bad, although at least he doesn’t come over all slobbery and blubbing when he’s had one too many. Plays it all close to his chest, which is probably half the problem or so my Poll – shoulder to cry on for half of London – reckons. He’s a decent enough bloke, and I’d take my hat off to him about the way he’s stuck by Commander Sutherland (or I would do if I trusted the members here not to do something unspeakable to it – last time they encouraged a pigeon to lay an egg in it and the time before, an armadillo…well, least said about that the better).

Poll says we should get the two silly sods in a room together and make them thrash it out – though I suspect they’d be thrashing other things first, sooner than mending their relationship. Still, there’s a part of me that wants to knock their silly heads together and keep doing it until they see a bit of sense. Still, in a world where men seemed to be ruled by the contents of their britches rather than their brains, we can’t expect logic to play a part.

As my Poll – who’s having the last word again – would say, “If it’s choice between making a sensible decision and getting their ends away, your gentlemen always think with their wedding tackle.”

Bless her. Such brains. She should have been up at the University.

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