The Ambler

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High Tea With The Honks, or, How My Wife Became An Edinburgh Festival Favourite

HH-and-HonkFrom the desk of Gerald Honk, esq.

After finally having awoken from a fortnight of slumber, I feel sufficiently rested, and finally able to put pen to processor regarding what may have been the most eventful summer in Honk history. I found myself caught up in a whirlwind of activity, guided by nothing but the whims of Destiny, an oversized boarhound, and the new spouse of my friend, the comedic cad and beatifiable bounder, Sir Hilary Harrison-Nairn.

It began at the conclusion of July, and it began, as most things do in the Honk household, with tea. Specifically, high tea, hosted by myself and Lillian to welcome HH and Mrs back from their honeymoon. I was eager to discover from the HHorse’s mouth what had occurred abroad (NB: see our previous entry for details); Lillian had resigned herself to the fact, and I felt the chaise longue contract with tension as we discovered that Nairn and Samantha had misplaced their holiday photos.

“I’d told Hilly to tag them on Facebook,” Sam began, “and while the act of watching him attach luggage labels to his schnozz will never cease to be funny, I thought I’d better do it myself. But then the laptop… crashed,”

“I defenestrated it,” said my friend proudly.

“Yes, I forgot Hilly doesn’t much like computers,” continued his wife. “But when it comes back from repairs, I’ll have it in its own separate wing, and we’ll be able to show you all our snaps. But, since you did ask us to tell you everything,” and here my dear Lil became as tense as bamboo in the presence of a panda, “we’ll just have to act it all out, darlings! Up you get, Hilly!”

And so began a long afternoon of monologues, interpretive dance and physical theatre representing the act of sightseeing. Lillian put up with pretending to be the Parthenon with good grace, while I myself felt I played a splendid safari lodge, and our group re-enactment of Rembrandt’s Night Watch deserved a larger audience than the cushions and tea set that were our only companions – a tea set, incidentally, given to us by my cousin in Holland, a member of the van Hjunck dynasty in Amsterdam.

Eventually, after a real-time recreation of the journey home, in which HH played the part of the plane and Samantha recited the in-flight film, we sat and resumed our tea. “And what are your plans for the summer, Honks?” Samantha asked us, but my friend answered on our behalf.

“Ho ho, no, Honk doesn’t holiday, my little red skittle, not since the incident, with the…” and he began to chuckle. “And the – do you remember, Honk, old boy…” and I began to chuckle with him. Soon we were in fits of laughter, clutching each other between guffaws. Wiping away the tears, I noticed our wives sharing a look, and I knew then that they had become the firmest of friends and allies.

“Actually,” Lillian replied once the hysteria had receded, “we thought we might travel up to Edinburgh for the day and take in the sights.”

“THE ARTWORK FOR MY PROGRAMMES!” yelled HH, and he sprinted out of the room without explanation.

There was a long silence, broken only by the gastric rumblings of Bismarck, who, unbeknownst to us, had managed to infiltrate a plate of macaroons that had accompanied the tea. After a minute or two, Samantha spoke.

“I have a one woman show in Edinburgh this year, and Hilly is producing the publicity material on my behalf.”

“Ah,” we said in unison.

“My agent assures me it will be a sell-out.”

“Mm,” we agreed.

“However,” she added, delicately turning her mug around in her hand, “this is dependent on a team of high-quality distributors…”

An indeterminate amount of time later HH and I found myself ensconced halfway up the Royal Mile, Bismarck doing his best Greyfriars Bobby impression beside me, with us not only ‘flyering’ (as they call it) with gusto, but somehow attracting crowds wherever we stood, who seemed to believe us an impromptu piece of street theatre. HH did nothing to discourage this matter, his natural showmanship coming through as he attempted to convince Bismarck to jump through a packet of Hula Hoops. This we did each day of August, for more hours than my pocket-watch cared to count, hence my lengthy period of fatigue prior to the penning of these paragraphs.

And Lillian? She quickly grew tired of our promotional antics, and each day at the same time, along with Mrs Clutterbutt, who had been brought along under mild distress, wandered off into the nearest aesthetically-pleasing building for a look round. Come the end of the month, they were somehow the talk of the Festival, winning praise and awards from all corners of the critical spectrum. Lillian swears she and Mrs C were completely oblivious to the fact that they appeared to be considered performers by the venue in question, and any acclaim was entirely unintentional, but this appears not to have gone down well with Samantha, who considers her Edinburgh thunder to have been stolen. That firm friendship and alliance I spoke of earlier has disintegrated quite rapidly. My friend and I shall soon be meeting to discuss how we are to mend fences; I expect we shall talk about getting our wives to speak to each other again, too.

The Edinburgh International Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, and is absolutely terrific. If you find yourself with a spare day next August, do go along. HH and Honk assure you it is most unlikely that you will be mistaken for performers.

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