Milk, Horses and Girdles

Sunday evenings at The Crippled Bee are charged with the spirit of competition. Who can whip from within their sleeve the most intriguing, entertaining and informative anecdote of the day? To which man or woman will fall the honour of having held, for the longest period of time, the rapt attention of our mildly rowdy, highly literate crowd?

Each of us, armed with a pint of the amber stuff, try our hand. One by one we attempt to outdo the other, concocting tales of ever-increasing chaos. It’s wit against wit, charm against charm: one inebriate flight of fancy against another drunken yarn.

I’ll confess it now: I was on bad form last night. The clouds of melancholy had been hanging around my head all weekend and I wasn’t in the mood to spin a mighty story. Instead I trotted out a variation on an old tale; retelling, with misguided brio, the infamous incident involving Johannes Speyer, the daughter of the German countess and the large glass of vanilla milk. It was poorly received – even by those who had never heard it before, in any form. I retired to the shadows, to be joined, shortly, by J-P Sertin, whose tedious chronicling of a dream he had in which a horse with no face attacked his brother fell on similarly unforgiving ears.

No matter. Even if I had rolled out one of the great fables of the age, I doubt it would have gone down quite as well as the series of anecdotes recounted by the man-whose-name-I-always-forget-but-whose-moustache-never-fails-to-fascinate-my-wife. He’s been a regular at The Crippled Bee for a couple of months now and rarely fails to fling out a story or two of unparreled perfection. It probably helps that he spent several years working as a coroner – a job that tends to generate a better class of narrative than that of a literary editor. Still, he tells them well, you can’t deny it. Oh yes indeed. It’ll be a long, long time before I forget that one about the two men trying to get a dead woman out of a girdle. A long, long time…

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