Friday, 29 June 2012
1936 had been a year of gains and losses.
Benjamin Mapp-Flint had regained his first love, the Maharani, only to lose her almost immediately.
He gained and lost a son who was a war hero and located his grave in France and then found a beautiful and talented grand-daughter.
Courtesy of the late Maharani, he gained a small fortune from her rare stamp, only to lose it to a massive tax bill well before the year was out.
All this had eventually became too much for the Major who made a desperate attempt to fake his own death and went AWOL until found in a grimy backstreet bed and breakfast in Seaport.
Like the rest of the country and indeed the Empire, Tilling remained in shock for some weeks following the Abdication, but took huge comfort in the accession of his brother with his charming Queen and the delightful young Princesses.
After such a disturbing event and challenging year, the Christmas season came as a welcome relief. It offered a chance to rejoice and be optimistic and to enjoy and affirm family values.
Tilling saw its usual round of festive seasonal gatherings during Advent including the last meeting of the Ladies' Luncheon Club, which was then to be disbanded following the shocking behaviour of the Twistevant sisters.
At the turn of the year, nothing had been heard from Florence and Nellie after being called away on "urgent family business" - nor was any contact expected.
Arson was still suspected as the cause of the fire which destroyed the Crystal Palace and the police file remained open pending the completion of further inquiries.
As ever, the social highlight of the Christmas season had been the dinner party held at "Mallards House"hosted by Georgie and Lucia Pillson.
All their circle of intimes was invited, including the Wyses, Mapp-Flints, Bartletts, Diva Plaistow and Irene Coles.
Major Benjy had returned from his "rest-cure" in Maidstone with his vegan, Plymouth Brethren in-laws a changed and tee-total man who now frequented the reading room at the Public Library rather than the Saloon Bar of the Traders Arms.
A truly splendid dinner featuring the legendary Lobster a la Riseholme had been accompanied by copious quantities of the finest wines and had reached a magical conclusion with a po di musica after dinner.
As everyone present had hoped, the distinguished guest of honour, the famed prima donna Olga Bracely had been persuaded to perform a choice selection from her repertoire by candlelight in the Garden Room to her own simple piano accompaniment.
Olga's exquisite performance silhouetted against the window overlooking the street, thrilled her audience and brought many - notably Georgie Pillson - to tears.
The morning after the gathering, Inspector Morrison called upon Lucia Pillson.
"What can I do for you this morning, Inspector?" asked Lucia, "Do you have some warrants for my signature?"
"No, Mrs Pillson, we are quite quiet just now, but I have two matters to mention."
"Pray continue, Inspector," said Lucia.
"First, I felt I should mention, there was what might be described as an 'incident' in Tilling after your dinner party last night."
"Really, Inspector?" asked Lucia, intrigued.
"I'm afraid that Major Mapp-Flint has fallen back into his old ways. Last night after leaving 'Mallards House' he again decided that he should direct the traffic in the High Street."
"Oh dear," sighed Lucia, "I did notice that he consumed a surprising amount of hock, white burgundy and claret for a tee-totaller. But one cannot deny hospitality to one's guests."
" He then took to stopping and interviewing all the drivers passing under the Landgate. He asked several of them whether - and, if you will forgive me, I quote - 'You have met Mrs Pillson? She's the bee's knees - Mayor, Chief Beak and everything round here - and a damn fine looking woman. He then performed a lengthy and loud version of "The Indian Love Call."
"Oh, no. Benjy is certainly no Nelson Eddy and Elizabeth is about as far as you can get from Jeanette MacDonald,"said Lucia, "Whatever will Elizabeth say? And where was she when all this was going on?"
"She had called in to Mrs Plaistow's on the way back home and 'lost ' the Major - which is when he took the opportunity to run amok."
"So what happened then Inspector?"
"Fortunately my Sergeant knows the Major quite well from the Golf Club and the Masons. He took him back to his wife and let him go with a caution, provided he went straight home."
"Please commend your Sergeant for his tact, Inspector. I am most grateful as I am sure are the Mapp-Flints. Now Inspector, what was the second matter?"
"I wondered if you had also received a confidential official communication from Whitehall this morning, Mrs Pillson?"
"Indeed I did, Inspector," replied Lucia, "It is rather a relief to be able to admit this to someone completely trustworthy. The dire warnings about 'strictest confidentiality' on the letter are quite intimidating, don't you think?"
"I do, Ma'am," replied the Inspector, "Perhaps the easiest thing would be to swap letters?"
"Absolutely, Inspector, "said Lucia, removing a letter from a manila envelope and passing it to him.
The Inspector reciprocated and both read the other's letter in silence.
"May I be the first to offer you my congratulations upon your Dame-hood, Mrs Pillson," said the Inspector, "For services to the Borough of Tilling, I see."
"Thank you, Inspector,"replied Lucia, "And may I congratulate you upon your knighthood - for services to Tilling Police. Thoroughly deserved."
"I'm obliged, Mrs Pillson. I understand from the Metropolitan Commissioner that both honours actually stem from our part in ensuring that the correspondence between Mrs Simpson and the King did not fall into mischievous hands."
"I was led to believe the same by the Lord Lieutenant of the County," replied Lucia, continuing "I am so looking forward to telling Georgie about it."
"I know what you mean, Mrs Pillson, my Bunty and our twins will be thrilled."
"I think that concludes our business for today, Inspector Morrison. I assume you will be bringing some warrants and summonses for me to sign tomorrow?"
"I will call shortly after ten 'o clock, if that is in order, Dame Emmeline?
"Indeed it is. How you work me, Sir Herbert!"
Copyright Deryck Solomon 2016. All Rights Reserved