chapter 8 - tea and St Doris

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There was nothing more to be done. 

Nellie cleaned Lionel's wound and bandaged it up as best she could, then she insisted on making them both tea before they left. Lionel felt hopeless and tired beyond endurance and would rather have gone straight home to sleep, but consideration for Nellie made him stay. 

"Well," she said, pouring, "I was young once and I know what it's like." She turned to Captain Kipper. "You'll have a little whisky in yours too, Captain? Earl Grey and Bruichladdich. Nothing better in an emergency," she went on. 

"Aye," said the Captain, smelling the mixture of peat and smoky tea with satisfaction. 

Despite the Earl Grey tea with its strong hint of Hebridean mystery, Lionel's face was suffused with despair. "Breath in the vapour!" Nellie commanded, "It will give you strength."

"Strength for what?" Lionel muttered, his shoulders hunched in defeat. He coughed a little as the heady aroma of transformed Islay water went up one nostril and down the other.

"For whatever comes next, of course," said Nellie. 

"It's all so worrying," Lionel said. But the warming effect of the tea was already extending into his chest on its way to his fingers and toes.

"Worrying?" Nellie said brightly. "No sense in worrying! As Saint Doris says, there are only two kinds of problem: ones you can do something about, and ones you can't. The ones you can't there's no point in worrying about. The ones you can do something about, you go and do it."

"Saint Doris?" the Captain raised a quizzical eyebrow.

"And you a seafaring man!" exclaimed Nellie. "Patron saint of sea slugs..."

"Arr, slimy things!" 

"...And anyone in danger in or near or of the sea in and around the Celtic fringes of the British Isles in all cases not already covered by St Brendan. St Brendan can't be doing everything now, can he? And I'll have you know sea slugs are very pretty creatures indeed!"

At this Nellie walked over to what looked like a very shallow wooden wall cupboard with double doors, on the outside of which were painted an anchor and a mermaid in blue and white. Reverentially she opened the doors to reveal a painting in deep medieval colours showing a lady with a mysterious smile riding the waves on a scallop shell, drawn by the most brilliantly patterned sea slugs imaginable. The lady had a halo, and under the picture in gold half-uncials was written, 's. doris pengoggly.'

Lionel was not a believer in the paranormal nor in obscure Celtic saints but curiously this cheered him a little. Nevertheless it was with heavy hearts that he and Captain Kipper finally crept out into the darkness. The barking of the dogs had stopped and all was silence. Around the corner the trusty brown Morris Minor (with a bit of rust in the wings just behind the headlights) waited for them.

By a little pushing with the door open and deft steering Lionel managed to turn the car around in neutral without switching the engine on, and only when they were rolling downhill and well out of sight of the police station did they jump in and turn on the ignition and the headlamps. Almost at once they saw a shadowy figure in what looked in the darkness like a tattered naval uniform walking by the side of the road. 

The figure turned and put out a hand to wave Lionel down.


A note from the author

Dear Egregious[1] Echinoderms[2],

I am figuring out who the old sailor is, and then I have to write about Castle Drog, Lola "Hot Stuff" Tabasco, and a sinister pub.

How can I be expected to make tea when all this is going on and the story is all but out of control? Really! And often Myfanwy will keep a running commentary while making the tea, about whether the milk should go in the cup before or after pouring and the finer points of broken orange pekoe, lapsang souchong and assam tips.

A good secretary should just make the tea quietly and put it  without comment where I can reach it.


Merlin Monkfish


A footnote from Professor Neville Twistytrouser

[1] egregious |iˈgrējəs|


1 outstandingly bad; shocking : egregious abuses of copyright.

2 archaic remarkably good.

[Oxford English Dictionary]

(take your pick)

[2] Echinodermata |iˌkīnəˈdərmətə; ˌekənə-| Zoology

a phylum of marine invertebrates that includes starfishes, sea urchins, brittlestars, crinoids, and sea cucumbers. They have fivefold radial symmetry, a calcareous skeleton, and tube feet operated by fluid pressure.

echinoderm |iˈkīnəˌdərm; ˈekənəˌdərm| noun

ORIGIN modern Latin (plural), from Greek ekhinos 'hedgehog, sea urchin' + derma 'skin.'

[Oxford English Dictionary]


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