When it comes to a no-nonsense accompaniment to tea, halfway between a cake and a biscuit, it’s a scone you’re after. There are scones, and there are scones, but no-one makes scones like an Anglican, because an Anglican scone is a timeless scone, steadfast, trustworthy and British. In case you are unfamiliar, Anglicans are baby boomers for whom the Sixties were too noisy, and they live in a kind, optimistic world of raffle tickets, tea cosies and Rich Tea biscuits. Young Anglicans usually have the traditional old testament names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, George and Ringo. They drink squash and colour things in until they stop being seven and, overnight, become seventy three, using phrases such as ‘…pardon my French’ to excuse Anglican swearwords like ‘blast’ and ‘damn’, and ‘…it’s gone a bit dark over Bill’s mother’s’ to warn of oncoming rain. Anglicans have a particular way of buying scones, biscuits and tea from each other in places such as Itteringham parish hall, where I met my old dear yesterday. It involves saying things like ‘…and four makes twelve’, ‘…I’ve got the seventeen’, and ‘…eighty three, ninety three, ninety eight and two’s a pound’ when counting change, and is curiously civilised. All in all, Anglicanism is like a Masonic code, if the purpose of Freemasonry was to make sure that everyone had a nice sit down of an afternoon. They are a lovely bunch.
These are exciting times for my old dear. For a start, there is a royal wedding to get her teeth into. We are both delighted with the Markle girl, who seems a good sort and has a name that rhymes with Sparkle, like a real princess. I imagine we’ll watch the ceremony on her sofa with a union jack across our knees, as is customary on such occasions. She has also been asked to lead the choir at her local church, which represents something of a coup because when she first arrived in East Anglia, two years after me, her proposals for streamlining the Wednesday morning Prayer ‘n’ Praise marked her out as ‘something of a flying cannon’. It is a progressive church, ‘with all the equipment for Catholics’, and she is fond of it. She lives in one of the small and remote villages on the north Norfolk coast, closer to the King’s Lynn end than the small and remote village where I live, which is so small and remote that they were still burning Catholics on public holidays until 2004, equipment or not. She is, if anything, even more suspicious of the countryside than I am, attributing the death of her cat, who I hated, to the ‘change of air’. Renal failure at nineteen was no more than veterinary superstition – Norfolk is so guilty it might as well cackle about the place in a mask and cape. Slough, her former home, is so maligned that I once carried off a joke about it during a funeral eulogy in the town’s crematorium, but my old dear actively misses it. The death of the cat was traumatic – certainly more traumatic than that of her husband, which she announced to me over the phone with an astonished ‘You’ll never guess what – your father’s dropped dead’, although as it was his eulogy I carried off the Slough joke in, I can hardly claim to be a paragon of sensitivity, myself.
Anyway. After several scones, each on a doily on a saucer, we were scone drunk, so Joe picked us up, stopping for a final quick round of scones before taking us to Runton. Upon arrival, he parked next to the Screaming Car, from which Becka emerged looking blissful, having been pounding her fists on the steering wheel for, by the look of things, about fourteen minutes. In far off days, I would treat my old dear to shandy at the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1, and Vinny the Landlord would ban swearing among the villainy therein for the duration of her visit. At Runton, Graham echoed this tradition by keeping his children in their caravan until she went home. This says something about my old dear’s overall bearing, a mix of charming old lady and forgotten Kray sister, rather than her as someone fazed by unruliness – indeed, she once demonstrated a disdain for authority by punching someone to the floor, even though he was a fireman, in a fireman’s uniform. Nonetheless, ‘Anton’ respectfully stopped listening to Piss Whores In Training when she came to inspect the Old Servant’s Quarters, where he has all but finished the rewiring. This marks the culmination of an impressive eight months of work, especially considering he was only a qualified electrician for the last three weeks of it, and means that in addition to Flat Earthers and so forth, we might one day be able to have people who believe in normal things staying there. Imagine that.
‘Anton’ and my old dear have always got on well, with her referring to him as ‘a bit like a black Tom Jones’ even though I’m not entirely certain you can say things like that anymore. I called Joe and ‘Becka’ up to the Old Servant’s Quarters to bask in ‘Anton’s’ achievement, and the afternoon was spent reminiscing about the markets, my old dear having worked on my grandfather’s Petticoat Lane curtain material emporium as a teenager with a bouffant bob. The bonhomie diminished only when my dog crept in and ate four mini sausage rolls and some crisps from ‘Anton’s lunch. I pointed out that he’ll think he’s at a wedding reception and that we should probably open some cava and put You Can’t Hurry Love on, whereupon ‘Anton’ told me to fuck off, immediately apologising to my old dear, who said that she rather fancied some cava now I’d mentioned it. ‘Anton’ drove to Saxthorpe, bought cava, fish and chips for everyone, and a lovely afternoon turned into a lovely evening with a bit of a sing song at the end. And that, you see, is how the Runton Estate won my old dear’s approval, which is not an easy thing to win.
Main – Joe in an anorak by a white board with a balloon and a master plan.
Inset top – the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1. Stanton (left) and Chrissy boy. I forget the context, but Stanton seems to be about to produce pictorial evidence of what happened to the last person who didn’t agree with them.
Inset middle – my dog, with an injury to his front driver’s side leg caused, again, by a deer from the petting zoo.
Inset lower – two of our beautiful donkeys having a lovely time outside a Norfolk cathedral. Very strokey faces.