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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Great Mysteries of the World: Part XV

Of course it was a bad idea. All of Dame Angela Lansbury's ideas are bad ones.

"Where can we go on holiday?" was her latest question, which had immediately been prefixed by "I can't get a decent drink here, shall we go to Brian Blessed's club?" The problem being that Bodom's was purely a male-only club, a leather chaired Bastille against the changing times outside. To put it simply, no woman had set foot in there since the grand opening around the time Stephenson was perfecting his Rocket, and so there was a bit of a to-do getting Aggie in. Cher was simple - she just put herself into 'Sleep' mode and we carried her in saying she was a mannequin. Aggie, whereas, huffed up the stairs, punched the doorman on the arm and shouted "I ain't no lady!" when challenged and swooped past with a wake of pipe-smoke causing the winded concierge gasping for air. Clearly the staff didn't know what to do about this at present; the only women they could relate to were their mothers, so they'd taken to slinking away from her after making very generous martinis. Naturally she was fine with this.

"And feel free to skimp on the ice," she said to Ernest, the head barman as he hovered nearby wringing his towel.

I'd only ever been in Boden's once before, and that was in the middle of the night on the coat-tails of some elderly actor who'd taken a shine to me. I barely remembered anything about that night bar the overwhelming smell of wood polish and pipe-smoke, and some vicious cocktails that I never had to pay for. I woke the following morning with a mouth like Gandhi's flip-flop and a pounding head. I was grateful to find I was fully clothed; it was only when I hailed a hackney carriage did I discover that yes, I was clothed, but they were on backwards.

"Go on. We could get out of London for the summer. How do you fancy it?" said Aggie, rummaging around in her voluminous handbag for a tissue. It's always a tissue - heaven for fend she ever pay for a round. To my dying day, I'll never know where Aggie gets all her cash as those stage appearances of hers can only just about keep her in cat food. There's rumours of her taking in washing; there's rumours of her taking in sailors - either way, she's always got enough for a bottle of champagne as a nightcap each evening.

I coughed at her question, keeping my eyes low; going away with Aggie is always an experience - though not necessarily one you'd wish to repeat. Cher, installed in her high backed chair, chose to sidestep the issue by saying, "but you hate to travel. You don't even go south of the river without your passport."

"I've been south of the river," she said indignantly, pulling her shawl around her.

"On a stretcher shouldn't really count," Cher countered.

Aggie harrumphed: "The only way to travel is looking at the stars. Besides, we went to Spain last year. That was fun. The sun, the sand..."

"We had to bail you out for 3000 pesetas meaning we had to move to a cheaper hotel with no wi-fi," stated Cher, crossing her legs with a barely perceptible creak.

I rolled my eyes. "Yes and there was that hideous man who used to knock us up at 7.30 each morning to clean the rooms. The hour was as ungodly as his personal hygiene."

"That large man with the hirsute backside and the arms like hams?" opined Cher.

"The one who could stun a donkey with his halitosis." I confirmed.

I looked over to Aggie to see she was biting the rim of her gin glass. "Oh yes, I remember him," she said. "'Knocked up' was about right."

"Oh you didn't!" I exclaimed, my affected monocle dropping into my drink in an alarmed comedy manner.

"I tells you, by the end of the holiday, if the police needed to get any fingerprints they'd just have to dust somewhere private!"

"PRIVATE?!" shouted Brian Blessed from the other room, startling one snoozing occupant in his wing-back chair into loosing his toupee.

"You, shut up. You, stop judging me. And you, bring me another," she said, pointing at Brian, myself and a functionary in turn. Brian harrumphed over in his chair; he used the club mainly to sleep the afternoon away after one or two or seventeen ports, like most of the dozing denizen about us. Of course, even with people in the throws of slumber about her, Aggie still had her voice turned up to eleven but thankfully her drink was brought over with due expedience by Ernest, the functionary who seemed the least scared of her. I smiled an apologetic smile at him as he started to set down the drinks. Unfortunately an expressive arm of Aggie caught the tray just as it was being lowered and a little splashed over his trousers. He dabbed as discretely as he could.

"Why Ernest, are you touching yourself?" gasped Aggie. She added slyly, "I do hope it's inappropriate."

"Madam, I shall always touch myself in your presence. Though it's usually the sign of the cross."

Aggie cackled like a witch, slapped him on the back with a bangled hand and caused him to trip over the rug, empties flying. She didn't notice; she was already telling us about her wonderful time she had in St. Tropes after the War, dating it only by saying it was around the time she could get her leg over her head, meaning it could have been anything from the Gulf to the War of the Roses.

"'Ere," she said, getting out her pocket book. "I made a list of places I liked the sound of. How do you fancy... The Sea of Fecundity?"

"It's on the moon," said Cher in a flat tone.

"Oh. Right. Uh, how about the Islets of Langerhans?"

"They're in your pancreas."

"Oh. What about, um... Narnia?"

I rolled my eyes; Cher was giving me an imploring look. I said, "Basically we have to find somewhere where they'll let you in. Most of the Southern hemisphere's out of the question after... you know."

Aggie suddenly seemed very interested in a spot on her glass. "Still, moving on."

"Well, we could always go and visit my friends in Minneapolis, Minnesota," I said before thinking.

Cher leaned forward and there was the sound of a modem connecting to the internet. "I can book tickets now for us if you want..." she said.

Aggie clapped her hands, clanging bangles back and forth, clearly very happy with the idea.

"All you have to do is spell it for me, and I'll get us a plane reservation."

"Er," I said. "Er. On second thoughts, they live in 'Ohio'..."


Inexplicable DeVice said...

Oh, fabulous as always!

Do you know, I was wondering just the other day when the next installment of Aggie & Co would pop up, and you've produced the goods. Marvellous!

My most favourite line: 'Cher leaned forward and there was the sound of a modem connecting to the internet. "I can book tickets now for us if you want..." she said.'


Peach said...

Just brilliant.


Mamluke said...

never in my wildest did I expect my little burb to get a mention within these pages - by all means Aggie & Co would be welcomed with open arms and liquor cabinets :)