Spindle and the vampiric tortoise

The new challenge in our lives now seems to be how to entertain ourselves without leaving the comfortable confines of our homes. This is certainly true for the merry band of lounge lizards at Spindle Towers.

Many suggestions had been floated around the kitchen table as we breakfasted one morning. We immediately discounted the ironing, on account that a global pandemic still wasn’t a good enough reason to approach the huge and overflowing basket that was locked away in a cupboard. We were all in agreement. All housework and DIY pursuits were put on hold, as we felt it was our duty not to succumb to a hideous broom or hammer inspired accident and unnecessarily burden the NHS. 

More tea was poured, more bacon sarnies were scoffed. More ideas were pinged back and forth between us.

We eventually decided that it would be a jolly diversion to have a virtual evening of terrifying ghost stories, where we could gather together the friends of Spindle Towers, and mistily remember when we used to go out and actually meet each other in person. We were surprised at how much we missed people as we had always thought ourselves as being naturally hermitally inclined. We were instead very grateful that modern technical wizardry allowed us to meet up, via the laser display board, or rather phone or computer screen.

Preparations were made, invitations were issued, snacks were assembled and a surprising number of alcoholically inclined bottles were conjured from a secret hiding place (inside the back of Hector’s sewing cupboard).

Once we were all virtually gathered, the first stumbling block was deciding on the story. We jointly agreed we were not ready for “Things that go hump in the night” which was suggested by our dear friend Sister Josephine (who was attending via video link with Mother Nonna Assumpta, from their disreputable club, The Velvet Marmoset). Interestingly, we had just discovered that Sister Josephine was the sister of the infamous Isobel, known occasionally to make love upon national monuments. There was a respectful silence as we all thought about this. 

We also had in attendance, Lady Hester and Miss Harriet Arbuthnot, who were appearing from the ancestral home of Lady H. Their Spring wedding had been sadly postponed, however they were facing this with their usual show of determination and fortitude, decreeing that as they were in love they were already entwined by the universal ring of dedication and devotion, and therefore already accepted by any Gods and Goddesses who were worth worrying about. They would happily wait for the big party as long as they were together. I suspected that the heady heights of marital cohabitation were slightly different from the reality of being quarantined together for weeks on end, but I knew that Lady Hester had a secret cigar smoking and Martini quaffing bunker for such emergencies. 

The first issue was that Nelson had refused to come out of the camper van as he had had another undisclosed waxing crisis, so we had to set up a speaking tube fed through the window (a discarded bit of vacuum cleaner hosing) as he had taken it upon himself to be the tellee of the tale, and was unprepared to relinquish this tenuous and fleeting grasp on power.

Eventually, after some muffled, high pitched shrieking (Nelson) the rustling of crisp packets (Hector) the laboured and predictable joke about unexpected ghoulies (Tiny Terror) and finally the sound of a vegetable being lovingly polished (Sister Josephine – and not a euphemism on this occasion, she is inordinately fond of aubergines), we began.

And then Brian Cant joined us. Last week, the ghost of the great Brian Cant (much loved children television box presenter) had reached an agreement with the TinyTerror. Yes, he could continue to manifest himself at Spindle Towers, but on the proviso that it was between the hours of 8pm and 6am, therefore not disturbing her as she worked during the day. 

As it turns out Lady Hester has a certain sensitivity for these sorts of things and picked up on him immediately. She was delighted and asked if he could perhaps persuade Terry Wogan to also join us. Sadly, Brian explained that Terry was currently on a celestial golfing trip, but he would be sure to pass on her best regards on his return. 

We eventually settled down, ready for Nelson to thrill us with his terrifying tale of doom and despair…and he began to read the front page of the Daily Mail. This was unexpected, but we all agreed by the time he had finished we were suitably drained of hope and humanity.

All was not lost though as he then tooted a little fanfare (we shall gloss over this tooting, as it was not intentional) and then he began in a strange, strangled voice to recount to us the Tale of the Vampiric Tortoise. 

After he had finished, there was a stunned silence, then a thud. The thud was the aubergine as it rolled off Sister J’s trembling lap. Harriet was sobbing and had to be led away by Lady H and even Brian Cant had wafted off in a state of shock.

My dear pals, it took an hour for everyone to regain their sense of gentle reality and unburden themselves from the mental images that Nelson had evoked. Our evenings entertainment had been cut short due to everybody feeling quite upset and unnerved by the tale of a multi dimensional, part time seamster, blood sucking tortoise, brought to life so vividly by Nelson. Nelson swore that he could introduce us to Vlad the Tailor if we wished, as he had run up a few tweed gentleman pouches for him in the past. We declined and reached for the single malt, it had been a long evening. It had been a long few weeks in lockdown.

It was decided that next time we would chance “Things that go hump in the night’.

Sweet dreams my dear pals, keep safe.


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