Whittaker’s Diary: Oar and Peace
Posted on July 05 2018
With summer playing its magic across the country, the Abbey continues to seduce mind, body and soul, as if the architect mixed warmth and happiness into its bricks and mortar. However, behind the scenes, dark forces were stirring.
You see, whilst this time of year plays host to the Henley Regatta, in our own quiet corner of England, another event takes pride of place – namely the yearly boat race between Bluebell Abbey and the neighbouring stately home, Morningdew House. Conceived in the local pub by our very own Lord Archibald and the master of Morningdew House, Sir Brian, on the very same night they stole a vintage steam roller and drove it into the vicarage, the Bluebell Abbey invitational has now become an event I take very seriously - mainly as it allows me to pit my wits against my own personal nemesis, Sir Brian’s butler, Chesterfield.
As well as having a soul darker than the finest liquorice, Chesterfield it seems will do anything to win, up to and including secreting a rabid badger in the Abbey’s boat, though where he found one remains a mystery. However, after weeks of practice, the Abbeys team, consisting of myself, Mr Crumple the gardener, Felix the driver and Mr Rumfiend the Gamekeeper, rounded out by the indomitable figure of Mrs Badwater the cook, were ready.
Arriving at the river I immediately spotted Chesterfield and in that moment we communicated wordlessly across the water. His slow nod told me that he considered me a worthy opponent, whilst my single raised eyebrow hopefully conveyed that there was a small reptile in Borneo that consumes its own young that was still morally superior to him. With that, battle was joined, however whilst we waited patiently for the bells of the local church to announce the start, Chesterfield had no such compunctions and his team quickly streaked ahead.
Powered by outrage and Mrs Badwater’s piston-like arms, we followed suit and soon began to catch up - and indeed things were looking good, until we crested the first bend and saw that either a colony of beavers had infested the river, or Chesterfield had been working late. Either way, our entire lane was now completely covered with a makeshift dam. Fortunately I had drilled the Abbey’s team to expect just this kind of underhand behaviour and pulling hard to the side, we fell in behind our rivals. Safely around the dam, we moved back into the correct lane, hampered by several hard slaps of oar on oar and Chesterfield shooting what appeared to be a compact fire extinguisher at us.
Emerging from the blitzkrieg looking like powdery ghosts, we found ourselves just two boat lengths behind as we entered the final stretch. It was then I launched my own master plan, shouting to Felix to activate arguably his greatest invention, the Rowathon 3000 – an ingenious combination of industrial strength garden strimmer and the fan liberated from Chesterfield’s beloved Fiat 300. Passing the Morningdew boat with ease, we streaked across the finish line, with both Sir Brian and Lord Archibald failing to notice our fifty-knot speed thanks to the medicinal properties of good British gin.
With victory in hand, there was nothing left to do but retire to the Abbey for a well earned ale and a relaxing bath, followed by a good read in bed – in this case Hemingway’s wonderful Across the River and Into the Trees. However I couldn’t escape the sensation that somewhere out in the darkness, Chesterfield was already plotting his revenge.
For beautiful books and literary presents, head to the Bluebell Abbey shop and see our lovely range of quirky British made products and classic novels.