Picture credit –  Hannah Tobin.

Tales from the Strangled Ferret Season 2. Episode 5.

Colin is getting better at taking the pith from the lemon slicing machine. George has been practicing hard on the violin that Jack bought cheap at an auction while looking at the painting of sunflowers that came in the same lot. Jack is happier because he seems to have sorted out most of the regular’s problems. Henry, Janet’s brother is as happy as a pig in muck working on George’s farm while she is looking forward to redesigning Lame’s ideas for modernising their cottage. George has a surprise for Jack.

*****

‘Where’s George?’ asked Jack as he walked into the 3B.

Colin looked up from the automatic lemon slicer where he was carefully taking the pith from between the tungsten tipped blades. ‘I haven’t seen him yet this evening, he’s probably playing his new Van Gogh violin while admiring the picture of the Stradivarius sunflowers hanging on his wall.’

Jack chuckled at the thought. He was a lot happier now that he seemed to have sorted out most of the Strangled Ferret’s customer’s problems. George had a working violin and more time to complete his PRINZ 2 project qualification now that Henry, Janet’s brother had taken over most of the work on George’s farm. Henry was loving the work, he hadn’t realised how much he would miss the farm work after he retired.

‘What about you, Colin? Are you still having problems with the French Dwile Flonkers?’

‘No, it’s going well now thanks Jack, especially since you sorted out a French name for the sport. Jeter de la Balai sounds just right and I have sent them a copy of the rules that you translated for me. There have been a couple of queries about the scoring system – what is the difference between a “wanton” a “morther” and a “ripper” for example, they lose a little in translation but we seem to have got it sorted out now. We have set the date and they are sending a full team with a couple of reserves. We have agreed that we will only use ‘Old Mouldy’ beer and their official taster is arriving tomorrow to check it and he is bringing some samples of their local bier in exchange for us to sample.’

‘What’s their local bier called?’ asked, Jack.

‘It’s called ‘Ancien Moisi’ but I haven’t yet worked out what that means.’

‘I think you’ve done very well Colin. Just let me know if you need any help.’

‘I’m OK at the moment, thanks Jack, but I’ll be sure to call on you if I get any problems. I’ve also arranged for the Flying Colours circus to set up on the common for the weekend that the french people are here.

‘That’s a great idea, Colin. I’m sure you will call on me, but just make sure you keep on taking the pith, out of that machine I mean. It cost us quite a bit of money. I don’t begrudge it after what happened to Ben but we need to care for it. Oh, here’s George. Hallo Maestro, how’s the fiddle playing coming along?’

‘You can laugh, but i think I am getting the hang of it and the timbre of the instrument is wonderful. I think that Van Gogh was pretty good at making violins, he certainly had a good ear.’

‘Yes, but only one I think?’ said Jack

‘What do you mean?’ asked George.

‘Vincent Willem van Gogh spent years of frustration trying to make a violin that sounded wonderful. He got into such a rage with himself over his inability to improve his violins that one day he sliced half his left ear off with a razor. Strangely enough, after that his violins got better and better. His frustration then was that he couldn’t sell them because he was now better known as a painter. But, never mind all that,’  said Jack. ‘More importantly, what are those four men in armour doing outside the pub with sketch pads and pencils?’

‘Haven’t you seen the date?’ asked George. ‘Last week was the Summer Solstice so now the knights are drawing Inn.’

‘I didn’t realise that, I’ve been so busy with other people’s problems.’

‘Yes, we know said George, ‘we really are grateful for all that you have done for us that we now call you “Jack of all trades.”

Thank you, but you forgot the second line, “Master of none”.’

‘That’s just not true, Jack, we know that whatever you do for us, you will do it to the best of your ability or find someone else who can do it better.’

‘Anyway, more importantly, how is all your practising with your violin coming on.?

‘Well that’s my big news. I’ve just come back from an audition for the Ferret Magna symphony orchestra.’

‘Wow, I didn’t even know you were going to try for that. What did you play and did you get a job?’ asked an astonished Jack.

‘I decided that, as the violin was sounding so good, I would be daring and play some Bach. I played the Chaconne in D minor from his second violin partita.’

‘What did they say?’

‘They said it was the best interpretation of the work they had ever heard. The leader said it was even better than the recital given by Itzhack Perlman in his famous performance at St John’s Smith Square London in 1978. They couldn’t believe the quality of the sound from the instrument. They demanded to know if it was made by Antonio Stradivari and where I got it from.’

‘ What did you tell them?’ asked Jack.

‘I told them the truth, that a friend gave it to me,’ said George. ‘They also said I should make sure it is kept in secure storage and insure it for two million pounds. I laughed at them and said I would be sure to look after it. They gave me a job, by the way. I start in August as their fourth violin with guaranteed fast track promotion if I carry on playing like that.’

‘Well, that’s fantastic George. I think that deserves a drink on the house all round, don’t you Colin?’

‘Well, err…’ Colin didn’t like to hear those dreadful words – on the house. I suppose it is a special occasion,’ he said grudgingly as he started pulling pints from the Old Mouldy pump.

Lame and Janet walked in just in time to get a free pint. They asked what all the fuss was about and Janet made George blush by giving him a congratulatory kiss. ‘What are you going to do about the farm and your PRINZ  2 course, George, now that a whole new career is opening up for you?’

‘Well, I intend to complete my PRINZ 2 project course as I only have four weeks to go. I need to talk to you two about finding a new project manager – I think it will take you at least six months to agree on the overall design so that is no real problem’

‘No, that’s not true, George,’ protested Janet. ‘I can swing Lame round to my way of thinking in less than two weeks.’

‘Good luck with that. I think Jack will be happy to take on the role of Project Manager – if you want him, that is. He will have plenty of free time now that he has sorted out everyone else’s problems. That leaves Henry working on my farm. How long do you think he will be happy working there?’

‘Until he drops, I think. I can’t see him making the mistake of retiring again.  Farming is his life.’

‘Well, there you are,’ said George. ‘By the time they want me to start with the orchestra, I will be as free as a bird.’

*****

‘We had a strange thing happen earlier on today Jack,’ confided Colin to Jack.

‘What was that then,’ asked Jack

‘One of the white horses belong to those knights outside wandered in the bar and asked for a pint. I was shocked as I’d not heard of a horse drinking beer before so, to make conversation, I said that we had some whisky on the shelf named after him.

‘You mean you had a talking horse in here and all you were worried about was the fact that he asked for a pint of beer?’ asked Jack incredulously.

‘Well no, He looked a bit sad so I asked him,”why the long face? Do you know what he said after I told him about the whisky?’

‘Course I don’t you idiot, I haven’t come across many talking horses.’

‘He said, ‘You’ve got some whisky here called Kevin?’

“I almost believe you Colin,’ grinned Jack.

‘I’ve been thinking about the Bean Race we’re organising for when our French colleagues come over.’ said Colin.

‘What’s the problem now?’ sighed Jack

‘No problem. Don’t worry Jack. I’m just sorting out the races in my head. So far I have got the Marathon  – Haricot à rames,  Half Marathon – Haricots cuits, 10K – Harriers and Children’s race – Frijoles saltarines. This would be followed by the Tournement Jeter de la Balai of course.’

‘All sounds good to me,’ grinned Jack. He wandered over to see George before he got dragged into more problems.

‘What do you think of the election, George?’ he asked

‘Seems like it was a waste of money for not much difference. I’m glad that Labour got in though – it should mean my pension is safe now.’

‘What do you mean? The Conservatives are the largest party and so they can have a go at forming a government.’

‘Really? Corbyn has been telling everyone that he won.’ said George. ‘Does that mean if I come second in a singles darts match, I can claim I won?’

‘I don’t think so George. You can try if you want to but I think you’ll end up buying the beer – talking of which…’

‘I bought the beer last week,’ protested George’

‘Yes, but that was last week, said Jack.’I think it’s your turn again.’

‘I wanted to talk to you about something,’ said George, desperate to change the subject.

‘Thirsty work talking you know George, I think I may be getting dehydrated’

‘Ok, I give in. Two pints of Old Mouldy please Colin, if you aren’t too busy taking the pith that is?’ called George across the bar.’

‘Coming up,’ said Colin. ’I’m done with pith taking for today.’ Jack walked over to the bar to collect the two pints and brought them back to George, who was sitting in his usual place by the, cold, fireplace.

‘Now then George,’ said Jack after a deep pull on his pint,’ what seems to be the problem?’

‘No problem, said George.’It’s just an idea I had and I wondered what you’d think of it.’

‘Go on then,’ encouraged Jack.’

‘I was thinking as how you were kind enough to get the van Gogh violin for me and how well that has turned out. I’m really grateful so I was thinking of donating that picture you got me of the sunflowers, by Stradivari, to the pub. I don’t really care for it but some people might like it if it was up on the wall here, with perhaps a small spotlight on it to show it off like. What do you think?’

‘I think it’s a great idea, George. Why don’t we put it up on the wall in here during the first International meeting of the Strangled Ferret Association. It could be part of the celebrations and be a marker for the occasion. It would be fine in here and we wouldn’t have to insure it because it’s worth almost nothing.’

‘OK, I’ll brush the dust off it and bring it in. It shouldn’t be difficult to knock up a bracket and get a spot lined up on it.’

‘Great. Thanks George.’ said Jack as he dropped the level of ale in his jar.

© Richard Kefford    2017                                                                             Eorðdraca

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