Whither And Why: St George and the Puffin
From the desk of Gerald Honk, esq.
“Honk, old boy!” was the sound that interrupted my otherwise agreeable Sunday morning perusing the central pages of the latest Ambler. It was a sound, however, accompanied by a large gasping breath after each word, and all made by my friend, springtime sorcerer and wintertime wizard, Sir Hilary Harrison-Nairn.
“HH, whatever’s the matter?” I asked. “Why the puffing and panting?”
“Ha! Puffing and panting, yes! Must put that in the… in the… in the act!”
“Act? What act?”
My friend fought his fatigue and went on to explain we had been asked to enact a short showpiece at this year’s Amble Puffin Festival, a two week summer event full of exhibitions, water sports and live music.
He seemed enthusiastic. Too much so, I thought, as I reflected on the last time we had performed in public, on St George’s Day, several years before…..
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the inconvenience, the show will resume in a moment. Technical difficulties such as these are quite common in theatre production…”
“SIT!” commanded my friend, draped head to foot in bed linen, curtain tie-backs and an irregular turban-come-peacock head dress. He would have looked positively Byronic were it not for the addition of the glaringly anachronous cricket helmet. He was attempting to “slay” the Dragon of the piece, in this instance played to chronic imperfection by his ludicrous hound, Bismarck. Bismarck, decked out in a red cable-knit sou’wester to give the effect of scales, had decided being a rampaging Dragon was a lot of fun and threw himself heartily about the stage. He really gave old HH something to think about when it came to the confrontations, my friend’s cardboard sword was bent terribly.
“Sit, Bismarck, PLEASE? I can’t slay you if you won’t stay still!”
“Phtoooo-up!” came the beast’s riposte for my friend had thought it prudent to equip a roll-out party horn to give Bismark the appearance of a lizard’s flickering tongue. Instead he looked like what he was, a dog in a jumper, celebrating with nearly every breath.
“Good Patrons” I began again “please allow some licences in our humble play, the tearing of the back cloths is representative of the..um…fear our dreaded Dragon…”
“…instils in the hearts of men…”
“LOOK! If you let me slay you, I’ll give you a biscuit?”
“…the knocked over lantern denotes The Dark Ages? Yes, yes and the fair…ish maiden, the innocence of oh…something.”
I was referring to Mrs Clutterbutt who had remained in perfect repose throughout. She wore a rich purple silken gown and one of those pointy cone hats that damsels of this type are forever ensconcing their noggins in. She was unmoved by the events and waiting patiently to deliver her one, perfectly rehearsed line.
“For the love of all things Shakespeare! BISMARCK SIT DOW…!! oh crumbs..” were the last words seen to escape the mouth of the, by now, hoarse and weary St George. The beast had had enough and bolted upstage catching the torn back cloth in his collar and bringing it down over our participants. The silence from the severely unimpressed punters was profound. A muffled utterance was heard from underneath the heavy cloth. Mrs. Clutterbutt had delivered her line.
No, I considered as HH began to unveil his already-meticulous plans for the Puffin Festival, surely this could not be a repeat of such a disaster?
“So Bismarck will be dressed as a giant puffin – don’t worry about his legs, we’ll teach him to stand on two – and – ”
Oh well, I mused to myself. At least it will be a Puffin Festival to remember.
Amble Puffin Festival takes place between 18th May and 1st June. HH and Honk’s performnce may yet be replaced by something far superior. St George’s Day takes place on April 23rd, but HH and Honk urge you to also remember it is the birthday of Mr William Shakespeare. Happy Bard-thday!