Whittaker's diary : mother's day and the nearly fatal scones

Posted on March 03 2018

As Mothering Sunday dawned here at the Abbey, the rising sun threw the grand sandstone façade into warm and dramatic relief, sparkling off the first of this year’s daffodils. Not that anyone inside noticed however, as all eyes had turned to the dear lady of the house – a mother to us all. And there they might have remained, had her daughter Lucinda not announced plans to prepare a celebratory afternoon tea.

This news quickly spread fear and terror to every corner of the Abbey, as to say Lucinda couldn’t cook would be something of an understatement. Indeed I think we all remember the case of localised dysentery that coincided with the end of the Great British Bake Off. To this day I can’t look at Mary Berry without feeling a sharp pain in my sigmoid colon. To make matters worse, Lucinda is also hugely short-sighted and seemingly blessed with no sense of smell or taste whatsoever.

Unfortunately a detailed examination of the kitchen prior to the commencement of hostilities revealed no discreet place from which Mrs Badwater the cook and I could monitor events and intervene if necessary. It was then that Timothy, Mrs Badwater’s seven-year-old, duck hating, sociopath of a son arrived on the scene. One small box of Devon fudge later and we had a deal; Timothy would hide in a cupboard and report back his findings, aided greatly in this endeavour by the Observatron 3000, an ingenious combination of crash helmet, opera glasses, baby monitor and two medium sizes holes drilled into the mahogany door, created by Felix, her ladyship’s driver, and exceedingly part-time inventor.

Then, with Timothy successfully hidden Lucinda entered and battle was joined. “I don’t think that’s jam?” Timothy whispered, almost immediately.

 Moving fast, I engaged the first of my carefully contrived distractions - namely prodding a confused looking Mr Crumple the gardener to do some hastily arranged calisthenics outside the kitchen window. This sight was guaranteed to attract Lucinda’s attention due to her long-standing and unspoken love for a man she claimed looked like a young Ralph Fiennes. Personally, I felt this did an enormous disservice to Mr Fiennes and his body of work, particularly as Mr Crumple was in his mid-fifties, however it did allow me the vital seconds needed to replace the Vaseline for what we in England more conventionally spread on our scones  - lovely, sweet strawberry jam.

Two sets of star jumps and some rather half-hearted burpees later, and three further attempts at culinary terrorism had been successfully averted. Then Timothy said in considerable alarm, “I’m pretty sure that’s rat poison and not raisins.”

Aghast at this latest homicidal take on traditional British cuisine, I steeled myself to intercede once more. Unfortunately the asthmatic Mr Crumple was now pre-occupied drawing on his inhaler, leaving no choice but for me to approach arguably the smartest mind in the house - Lady Annabel’s Great Dane, Maximus.

Finding this king amongst dogs in his usual spot in the library window, I quickly explained the situation and the dire threat it posed to his beloved mistress. Then, pausing only to collect his leash in his mouth, Maximus proceeded to the kitchen door and let out a commanding ruff.

What followed in the arch pastry-poisoners absence was a dervish of activity as the redoubtable Mrs Badwater quickly undid the damage by whipping up a batch of her famous scones, and I’m delighted to say that in the end Lucinda’s afternoon tea was quite the success.

Now as the house becomes quiet for the night I can finally enjoy a well-deserved brandy in the company of a good book - appropriately Hemingway’s incomparable masterpiece, A Moveable Feast.

Want to avoid your own Scone-apocalypse?

This complete kit from the English Cream Tea Company features a baking tin, authentic British scone mix, strawberry and elderflower jam, afternoon tea bags with a hint of citrus, and red and white sugar hearts - plus a full guide on how to make the perfect afternoon tea and an English manners tip booklet.

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