Whittaker’s Diary: The Barbarous Backhand Strikes Again

Posted on June 15 2018

Whittaker’s Diary: The Barbarous Backhand Strikes Again

Summer continues to lay a carpet of shimmering gold across the fields of wheat and wildflowers that surround the Abbey; which can only mean one thing – Wimbledon is near.

For many, this would be cause for celebration, but not so in the Abbey, which again felt an all too familiar terror. You see, Lady Annabel loves tennis, and despite being in the graceful autumn of her years, continues to possess a backhand so swift and deadly that it once killed a squirrel whose only crime was choosing to watch her practice from the branches of a nearby tree. This in itself might not have been a problem, were she not so determined to showcase her formidable prowess on the court every year at around this time.


Fortunately, our local GP, Doctor Goodfever had recently prescribed her with a new medication for her sciatica, a side-effect of which had temporarily left her with all the tolerance for sunlight of an albino vampire - and for once we might have escaped crippling injury, had Mr Crumple the gardener not mentioned in passing that the Abbey’s library was practically the same size as your average tennis court.

After prising Mrs Badwater’s steely fingers from Mr Crumple’s throat, I was left with no choice but to oversee the emptying of the furniture from the library and the stringing of a makeshift net between its ancient shelves. Then, with great reluctance, we drew lots to decide who would enter the lion’s den first. In a rare moment of karmic justice, Mr Crumple drew the short straw and was quickly ushered through the double doors, whilst the rest of us held them closed to prevent him escaping.

Intending to use my remaining time wisely, I hustled away from the library to the sound of Mr Crumple’s strangled screams, and made my way to the garage, where I found Felix, her ladyship’s driver and aspiring inventor, cowering behind the Bentley. After explaining what I wanted and undertaking a solemn vow not to mention his location to her ladyship, Felix got to work creating a set of armour so strong and dense that not even her ladyship’s crosscourt volley could dent it.

Arriving back just as her ladyship’s daughter, Lucinda, was taken away in the ambulance I clanked slowly into the Library, now wearing an ingenious combination of a musty cricket box, the helmet Lord Archibald’s ancestor wore at Agincourt, and a chest plate made from the doors of a petite armoire, pausing only to wipe the leftover blood from the baseline.

For her part Lady Annabel didn’t seem to notice my attire, though I was immediately thankful for it when her first serve knocked me five feet backwards, the rebound ravaging a perfectly innocent copy of Lorna Doone. Her second shot didn’t lack for power either, ricocheting off my helmet as I dived for the ground, taking out one of the library’s arched windows and spraying a lethal cone of shrapnel halfway to the garden maze.

Just as I began to fear for my life, Mrs Badwater entered the arena, sporting a black eye and carrying a refreshing cup of best-quality Darjeeling. To my surprise, upon drinking it, her ladyship fell into a deep sleep on the doubles tramline. When asked what exactly was in her ladyship’s cup, Mrs Badwater would only say, ‘insurance.’

So with tennis over for another year, I can now finally ease my bruised body into bed for a spot of reading - in this case Agatha Christie’s aptly named Appointment with Death.

Father’s day is nearly here. Head to the Bluebell Abbey shop for gift ideas and quirky suggestions, including pampering products, real ale and our enormous range of vintage books.

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