Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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5 April, 1996

Ah, April! The month that Persephone herself returns to the shivering earth. Where she treads, the grasses turn green and verdant. Where she spreads her arms, flowers bloom. Where she combs her hair, trees blossom. One cannot express with strong enough words to one's readers (so numerous that were they each to drop a penny in the ocean--a good English pence, mind you, not the diminutive foreign sort--the rising displaced waters would alarm even Noah himself) the sensations one felt as the first day of April dawned. For not only is it the first day of the most glorious month in Britain, but it was one's favorite holiday: the day of April Fools.

"But hist!" one hears one's readers cry. (And here one pauses gently to request that they do not attempt the experiment with the pence in the ocean. One is not anxious to have Fishampton become a 'beach front town' and go the proletarian way of Skegness.) "Surely you, Sir Charles, do not engage in juvenile jolly japes upon the first of April!" To which one replies, of course one does. Indeed, while the commoners might be satisfied with their 'Whippie Cushions' and their 'Cans o' Nuts' stuffed with spring-loaded serpents, the best practical jokes are those played by those who have the leisure to dream them up, and the means to carry them out.

It was thus, upon this last Monday, that after one's appetite for the cheaper pranks had been satisfied by no small number of squibs lit in the air ducts of the kitchen and snapping turtles beneath the pillows to greet the chambermaids as they refreshed the linens, that one eagerly anticipated the arrival of one's grande pranque du jour. For soon a formidable number of government scientists (supplied by one's old school chum, 'Figgy' Figgiston, Subminister of Agriculture) arrived in their menacing white lorries, clad in their charmingly modern germ-proof head-to-foot yellow suits with bubble helmets, accompanied by the constabulary. Together the family watched with horror from the front parlour windows as the hermetically-clad workers roped off the mansion and began to erect a mighty dome of plastic about it, several stories high.

With alarm, the Lady Felicia turned to one. "Husband!" she cried. "What could it be! Is it the revolution? Tell me not that it is the revolution!" One could scarcely restrain one's masculine tittering. "Papa!" cried young Penelope Windsor-Smythe in the thrilling lilt of one who is seventieth in line for the throne of the British Empire. "You haven't been arrested again, have you?" A single flash of one's scowl was all that was needed to silence that line of questioning. Augusta Windover-Midden, the Lady Felicia's step-mother, snorted. "Forgotten to pay the mortgage, more like," she harumphed.

With a massive pounding, the front doors of Blandsdown fell into the great hall, and in rushed the men and women in their yellow suits and bubble helmets. "Halt!" one cried firmly and manfully, giving the leader a small wink that went unseen by the rest of the family. "What business have you here, sirrah?!"

"Sir Charles Grandiose," bowed the scientist. "We have had report that the foul plague sweeping our great land--our England--originates from your home. I refer, sir, to Mad Cow Disease."

One nodded gravely. "One is afraid you have found us out, sir," one said. "And there! There stands the mother of all raving bovines herself! The maddest of the mad cows, Augusta Windover-Midden!" One's finger flew out in an accusatory pose at a very surprised mother-in-law. 'Gusty' promptly fell with shock into a nearby spittoon. (Merely decorative, more's the pity.)

My, the chuckles the Grandiose family has had in the succeeding days, recalling how the scientists trundled up Gusty in 'bubble wrap' and trucked her many miles away to the Devonshire Quarantine Camp for Diseased Dairy Animals. One suspects, however, that she will eventually convince the farmers there to allow her to telephone home, and then there will be all hell to pay. Unless, that is, we order our number changed....

Most struck by inspiration, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Queued Up writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

When using public toilets, is it polite to jump the queue and use the handicapped stall if the need is great enough?

Queued up in Kew

Sir Charles replies:

Unredeemable One,

Does the correspondent really think (and one must here admit that one was tempted to end one's response upon this note, for it fully expresses one's sentiments on this distasteful matter. But one has a duty to educate and to bring light to the dark seething masses, and one shall carry it out) that one has actually ever entered a public loo? Indeed, one has not. The correspondent might as well inquire of one whether the phrase 'Finger Lickin' Good' is intended to be taken as instructive guidance. And it is not. Most revolting, the entire concept. One intends never to be 'lickin' anything, much less one's digits. The entire idea makes one slightly nauseous.

One has completely, by this point, forgotten the original question. Such a pity.

Curtly, one remains,
Sir Charles

Picture: Best Tomatos and Potted Ham

Chatsy writes:

My dearest Lord,

I am ever so happy that you have finally returned from your fortnight's trip to London! You could not, my Lord, possibly understand what a trying time it has been for me, knowing that you were far, far away . . . The solitude has near to driven me mad!

Perhaps this may explain my mindless action on the night that your wife chose to honour me with her presence (My Lord, I must wonder once again, having met her "Ladyship" in person, how such a gentle man of such Noble ancestry could possibly have been beguiled into marrying such a harridan!) The Lady Felicia had decided (for some unfathomable reason) to forego with tradition and pay a call upon me in the midst of the night . . . (I find I must also question her mental stability my Lord, since she chose to make this visit dressed in black men's britches and a black shirt of the most unflattering cut . . . did she not know this would make her already deathly pallor appear even more prominent?) . . .

Fortunately, in my despondence over your absence, I was unable to sleep, and so was found playing with a new toy my dearest cousin Alexis had sent me from Texas--some large state in the America's inhabited by the most interesting people who call themselves cowboys! Unfortunately for your "Lady" Felicia, I was so startled upon her unannounced entrance into my little cottage that the cunning little cat-o-nine's (or whip as Texan's call it) slipped . . . slashing Lady Felicia across her cheek!! I was, of course, immediately contrite and offered first aid to stop the bleeding but Lady Felicia was too hysterical to accept my generous offer.

I must tell you my Lord, she did yell the most unlady-like obscenities as that roguish Lord Frost spirited her away. This my lord, occurred last Wednesday night . . . I have since that time heard rumors that your Lady has taken to wearing a veil whenever she ventures outside . . . and I fear that I have accidentally caused her some horrid disfigurement (as if age had not seen quite adequately to that!) . . . I did discreetly inquire of her health from the darling constable of our village and he assured me that she was fine...save for some slight mishap that another pound or two of the paste she wears for makeup would not fail to disguise!

I hope, my Lord, you will be understanding of this little matter, and not chose to distance yourself from me . . . that as you know, would leave me quite quite distraught!! I tremble now, just thinking of the desolation that would bring to my life. Please my Lord, I beg of you to come soon with your gentle way of consolation . . . As I'm sure your secretary, Mr. Briceland, will verify, I have taken to my poor lonely bed in solitude, too distressed by the idea of your desertion to even attempt to rise and dress . . .

As always,
Your ferverently adoring,
Chatsy LaFleur

Sir Charles replies:

Wanton One,

How merrily one laughed at the correspondent's April Fool's letter! For, it is certain, there is much evidence that indisputably proves that the events of the letter could not have occurred:

1) The Lady Felicia does not own a pair of black britches nor a black shirt. The only inhabitant of Blandsdown with such garments would be oneself. And the Lady Felicia informs one that the garments in question were burgled from one's wardrobe during one's incarcer--that is, one's recent holiday in London. So you see, my girl, the Lady Felicia could not have been your visitor.

Picture: A Sensitivity for World Hunger2) The rumours that the Lady Felicia has taken to wearing a veil from horrific disfigurement are without foundation. Abominably without foundation, one repeats! The Lady Felicia informs one that in point of fact, the veil of impenetrable black muslin she adopted during one's holiday in London is in protest of the starving children of the world. How such a chippie as this 'Chatsy' could pervert such a noble, truly sensitive awareness of world hunger to suit her own wild fantasies . . .well, one can only speculate.

In short, one suggests that in the future, the correspondent send such notes to Hyacinth Jane Conestoga, author of such 'popular' fanciful novels as Tumbleweed Prairie, Tumbleweed Passion and Albuquerque Abandon. Their fanciful insubstantiveness would no doubt provide a wealth of fodder for a whole series of novels, no doubt titled with titles such as Baronetess With A Whip or . . . one finds one has no talent for this sort of thing. The discovery is rather a relief.

Brusquely, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Postscript: The correspondent's vague allusions to a state of continual undress were duly noted and--oh, believe one--appreciated.

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