Umbridge – episode seven

March 22, 2018

Here is the final episode as promised.  Many thanks to all of you who have submitted comments.  Some have enjoyed the story others haven’t.  It has proved to be a useful exercise and I have learnt a lot about the limitations of my writing.

Keith Jahans (aka Jack Lindsey)

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  Both the prize Boar, Quinton, and his Father, Loon E Farmer have contracted Triple X Lemonade Disease.  This is caused by a rare virus which renders the victim unable to partake of Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter.  In fact the sufferer will not eat or drink anything except lemonade.  The only known cure is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.  Quinton is shot by the Ministry of Agriculture under the Triple X Lemonade Eradication Scheme.  Then a few days later at tea time, a fire breaks out in the pig-sty and John tells Grace, the fifteen vicar’s daughter, to enter the sty and try to save the new boar, Quinton the Second, while he and his father try to put out the fire.

Now read on:-

It was three days later and Tom Mellors, gamekeeper to Lord and Lady Chasterly, was leaning against the bar of the ‘Chick Inn’ talking to the land lord, Jack Door.  Tom’s faithful ferret, Gip, was sitting beside him on a bar-stool, eating a beef burger.  The door opened and in walked John Farmer, carrying his rucksack.  He approached them, opened his rucksack, took out some empty beer and lemonade bottles and set them down on the bar.  “I wish to return these, Jack,” he said.

     “Aye, Lad,” Jack replied taking up the bottles.  “I’ll get you yer change.”

     “‘Ow do, John, said Tom, “I was sorry to ‘ear ’bout the tragedy at Rookfield Farm.”

     “Yes,” replied John, “Grace was all right but Quinton the Second died.”

     “Aye, poor Quinton the Second,” remarked Jack gravely as he handed John his change, “roasted before ‘is time.”

     “Yes,” said John nodding his head sadly, “and without apple sauce too.”

     “Aye,” agreed Tom, “but I ‘eard tell that Lord Chasterly ‘as let yer ‘ave another boar ooh also ‘appens to be an offspring of the original Quinton.”

     “That’s right, “John replied, “it was very kind of him.  We’re going to call him Quinton the Third.”

     “Are you sure that Quinton be a proper name for a hog,” remarked Jack, “it don’t appear to ‘ave brought yer much luck.”

     “We like it,” replied John.  He pocketed his change,  “Well, I must be off now,” he said.  “Grace is taking part in a mud wrestling contest over in Doomsbury this afternoon and I promised to watch her.”

     “Aye, cheerio Lad, said Tom.

     They watched John take up his empty rucksack and leave, closing the door behind him.  Once he had gone Jack remarked, “I ‘eard that ‘e an’ young Grace Ourchurch were going steady.”

     “Aye,” Tom replied, “‘E be a bright boy, that Grace be worth three tractors an’ fifteen cart ‘orses put together.”

     “I ‘eard on the radio this morning that the Ministry of Agriculture ‘ave completely eradicated Triple X Lemonade Disease,” said Jack.

     “Aye,” Tom remarked, “they be clever people that work for the Ministry of Agriculture.”

     At that moment the door opened and in walked Loon E Farmer.  He approached the bar where the two men were looking at him in astonishment.  “A pint of Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter please, Jack!” he announced loudly.

     “Certainly, Loon!” Jack exclaimed and quickly filled a glass from one of the pumps behind the bar and then handed it to Loon.

     Loon gripped the glass in his hand, blew the froth off the top of the beer and drained the glass in one gulp.  Then he put the glass down on the bar, smiled and said loudly, “Same again please, Jack!”

     “Loon!” exclaimed Tom, “you be well again!”

     “Aye,” said Loon as he watched the golden brown liquid issue from the pump into his glass, “all be well that ends well!”

     Suddenly, the door flew open and in rushed Mrs Farmer.  “Loon come quickly!” she cried.  “It’s Maggie, our best Jersey Milker.  She thinks she’s a teapot!”

THE END

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Umbridge – episode five

March 8, 2018

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  Both the prize Boar, Quinton, and his Father, Loon E Farmer, are unwell and will not touch Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter.  In fact neither will eat nor drink anything except lemonade.  The cause has been identified by MAFF Scientists as being due to a rare virus known as Triple X Lemonade Disease.  The only known cure is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.  John obtains a supply of Old Bart’s and Lemonade from the ‘Chick Inn’.  Unfortunately however, Quinton is shot by the Ministry of Agriculture under the Triple X Lemonade Eradication Scheme.

Now read on:-

It was a week later and John was leaning against a pen at a large market near the village of Umbridge.  He was surveying an enormous pig.  His rucksack stood on the ground by his feet.

     “Yoo Hoo, John!”  The cry came from behind him and he turned.  It was Grace Ourchurch, the fifteen stone vicar’s daughter.  She strode up to him.  “Hello, John,” she said.  “I heard about Quinton.  I’m very sorry.”

     “Yes,” replied John, “it was very sad.  Mother was very upset.  What are you doing here?”

     “Oh just looking.  I like animals.  What are you doing here?”

     “I’m thinking of buying a new pig to place Quinton,” he replied.  “In fact that one there looks a likely specimen.”

     “It’s certainly a fine pig,” agreed Grace.

     “However, I must make sure first,” said John.  He stooped, opened his rucksack and took out a bottle of lemonade.  He opened the bottle, leaned over the pen and offered the contents to the pig.  The animal gave a shriek and rushed to the far end of the pen where it cowered in the corner.  John replaced the cap, opened the rucksack and replaced the bottle.  Next he took out a bottle of Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter, opened the bottle and again offered it to the pig.  This time the animal gave a grunt of pleasure, rushed over and began drinking it avidly.

     “Good,” said John, “this pig certainly hasn’t got Triple X Lemonade Disease.”

     “Oh, John,” said Grace in admiration.  “You are clever.”

     “Yes, I know,” he agreed and added, “Oh, Grace, I do love to hear you say that.”

     “Well, you are clever, John.”

     “I know,” he said smugly.

     Later that day, John was returning to the pig-sty at Rookfield Farm and making his way towards the house when he saw his Father coming towards him across the yard.  He had a glass of shandy in his hand.

     “Father!” exclaimed John in surprise.  “You’re up!”

     “Aye, Lad,” replied Loon.  “Doctor says that wi’ any luck, I could be drinking lemon tops by next week.”

     “That’s good news,” said John and then added excitedly.  “Father, I’ve bought a new replacement for Quinton.”

     “‘Ave yer now.  “I’d best take a look at ‘im.”

     John followed his father to the pig-sty.  “Careful, don’t get too near we don’t want him catching anything.”

     Loon leaned over the wall of the sty and surveyed the pig with a professional eye.  Suddenly his face went bright red.  “You dim **** !!!!”  He exploded angrily.  “I thought you was to buy a boar.  That there’s a sow!”

     “What’s the difference, Father?” asked John.

Can it really be true that, despite a University education, John does not know the facts of life?  Will this affect his relationship with Grace?  Have we heard the last of Triple X Lemonade Disease?  Find out next month in the next exciting instalment of Umbridge.

 


Umbridge – episode four

March 1, 2018

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Brookfield Farm.  Both the prize Boar, Quinton, and his Father, Loon E Farmer, are unwell and will not touch Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter. In fact neither will eat nor drink anything except lemonade.  The cause has been identified by MAFF Scientists as being due to a rare virus known as Triple X Lemonade Disease.  The only known cure is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.  After obtaining a supply of Old Bart’s and Lemonade from the ‘Chick Inn’, John arrives home to be told by his mother that there is a Triple X Lemonade Eradication Scheme and that the Ministry of Agriculture are going to shoot Quinton.

Now read on:-

Bang!

     John and his mother were standing in the yard at Rookfield Farm when the sound of a shot rang out.  John’s mother buried her head in his shoulder and cried.  John put his arm around her in comfort.  “There, there, Mother,” he murmured gently.  You know it’s for the best.  You wouldn’t want Quinton to suffer.  You know that he could never be happy without his daily ration of Old Bat’s Triple X.”

     “I know, John,” sobbed his Mother, “but it’s so cruel.”

     Presently they saw two figures coming towards them from the direction of the pigsty.  It was Mr Marriot, the local veterinary surgeon, and with him was a man from the Ministry of Agriculture who was carrying a smoking shotgun under his arm.  “Well I’m certainly glad that’s over with,” said Mr Marriot as he reached them. “It’s a very unpleasant business.  I was going to feature Quinton in my latest novel* but now that’s out.  My readers would not be able to take it and I’ve got the film and television rights to consider.”

     The man from the Ministry cleared his throat.  “Now then,” he said, “is there anything else on this Farm with Triple X Lemonade Disease?”

     John’s Mother stopped crying.  “There’s my husband, Loon,” she said.  “He’s up stairs in bed – I’ll show you the way.”

     “I’m sorry, Mrs Marriot,” said the Man, “but we’re not allowed to shoot people.”

     “Oh,” sighed John’s Mother in disappointment.

     John broke in hurriedly.  “Tell me?” he asked the man from the Ministry, “What is the significance of the numbers, double O seven and seven eighths, which are emblazoned on the top pocket of your plastic mack?”

     “Oh, that’s my Ministry Staff number,” replied the man.  “The double O prefix means that I’m licensed to eradicate and sign requisition forms.”

     “Well, I’m afraid I must be off now,” said Mr Marriot, “I’ve got another couple of chapters to write before tea time.”

     “Well I must be off too,” said the Man from the Ministry.

     John and his Mother watched them walk to their respective cars and drive away.  John’s Mother began once more to cry.  “Poor Quinton,” she said as she sobbed into her handkerchief.  “Do you remember how he use to roll over in the muck when you tickled his tummy?”

     “Now don’t go upsetting yourself again,” said John patting her gently.  As soon as I can I’ll go to the market and buy a new pig with the compensation money.”

     “Oh, John,” sobbed his Mother, “what ever shall we do?”

Will the Farmers survive this tragedy?  Will Loon ever rise from his sick bed?  Will Triple X Lemonade Disease be eradicated?  Find out in the next exciting instalment of Umbridge.

*Readers might like to know that the two block busting novels by Jess Marriot MRCVS, ‘All Creatures Big and Smelly’ and ‘It Shouldn’t happen to a Pig’ will soon be available on the World Wide Web.


Umbridge – episode three

February 22, 2018


An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  Both the prize Boar, Quinton, and his Father, Loon E Farmer, are unwell and will not touch Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter. In fact neither will eat nor drink anything except lemonade.  The cause has been identified by MAFF Scientists as being due to a rare virus known as Triple X Lemonade Disease.  The only known cure is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.  Meanwhile, after obtaining a supply of Old Bart’s and Lemonade, John meets Grace Ourchurch, the fifteen stone vicar’s daughter on her new bicycle outside the ‘Chick Inn’.

Now read on:-

“Well, John,” said Grace, “What was it you wanted to ask me?”

     “It’s really rather embarrassing,” replied John uncertainly.

     “Go on, John, you can tell me,” she insisted.

     “Well,” said John taking a deep breath, “I wonder if I could have a go on your new bike.”

     “Oh,” said Grace in disappointment.  “Well, all right.  Don’t go too fast.”  She dismounted.

     John set down his rucksack, which contained the bottles of beer and lemonade, mounted the bicycle and rode off.  He rode three times around the village green before he returned to where he had left Grace.

     “How was it?” she asked.

     “Not bad,” he replied, “though I don’t think the saddle springs will last very long.”  With that he dismounted, took up his rucksack, bade farewell to Grace and then continued his journey home.

     He had only walked a quarter of a mile when,  “Bang!”  He felt a sudden gust of wind as something passed through his hair, close to his scalp, and embedded itself in the branch of a large oak, which broke off and crashed to earth.  Terrified, he threw himself to the ground.

     “Well, if it baint young John Farmer!  Sorry, John I thought you was vermin.”

     John lifted his face from the earth.  It was Tom Mellors, head gamekeeper to Lord and Lady Chasterly.  In his hand he held a smoking shotgun.  At his side was his faithful ferret, Gip, who when not chasing rabbits, was fed on a diet of beefburgers and crips.

     “It’s a good job you’re a bad shot, Tom,” said John getting to his feet and brushing the dirt from his clothes.

     “Sorry,” repeated Tom, “but you gotta keep on yer toes in this job.  Why only t’other day I comes across a group of men breaking eggs  into saucepans o’ boiling water.”

     “Gosh, why were they doing that?”

     “They was poachers.  Down Gip!”  He gestured sternly to the  ferret.  “You must ‘scuse Gip,” he said.  “We’ve just cleared out a band of migrant rabbits over on Watership Down an’ E’s a bit excitable.  Well I must be off now.  I got an appointment wi’ ‘er Ladyship in the potting shed.  ‘Ere, Gip!” With that the ferret leapt nimbly into his trouser pocket and the two of them set off through the woods.

     John checked that none of his bottles were broken and then continued on his way.  He had just reached the gate to Rookfield Farm when he saw his mother running towards him.

     “John!” she cried.  “It’s the Ministry of Agriculture.  Apparently there’s a Triple X Lemonade Disease Eradication Scheme.  They’re going to shoot Quinton!”

Can Quinton be saved?  If so, will Triple X Lemonade Disease spread throughout the country, leaving terror and empty lemonade bottles in its wake?  What will become of Loon?  Find out in the next exciting instalment of Umbridge.

 


Umbridge – episode two

February 15, 2018

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

Episode Two

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  The prize boar Quinton, is unwell and will not touch its daily ration of Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter.  In fact, the pig will not eat or drink anything except lemonade.  Later that day, in the public bar of the ‘Chick Inn’, John is horrified to find that his father, Loon E Farmer, is unable to drink his pint of Old Bart’s beer and instead asks for a glass of lemonade.

Now read on:-

It was three days later and Jack Door, the landlord of ‘The Chick Inn’, was back behind the pumps when John Farmer entered the public bar carrying a large empty rucksack on his shoulder that he set down on the bar.

            “Good morning, Jack,” he said.  “Could I have four pints of Old Bart’s and four bottles of lemonade to take away please?”

            “Certainly, lad.  And ‘ow be things at Rookfield Farm?”

            “Oh, things are a lot better.  We’ve heard from the Lab and they’ve found out what’s wrong with Quinton.  Apparently what he’s got is caused by a very rare virus called Triple X Lemonade Disease.  Mr Marriot says that the only way to cure it is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.”

            Jack scratched his head.  “Aye, they be clever people those scientists at that Lab.  And ‘ow’s yer Dad?”

            “Oh, he’s at home in bed.  Mother says that once we’ve cured Quinton we can then start treating Father.”

            Jack nodded in agreement.  “That be very wise.  It would be a shame to loose a fine hog like Quinton.  Is that beer and lemonade for ‘im?”

            “That’s right could you put it in the rucksack for me?”

            John left the pub with the laden rucksack on his back and started along the road towards Rookfield Farm.

            “John!”  The cry came from behind him and he turned.  It was Grace, the fifteen stone daughter of the Reverent Philip Ourchurch, on her new bicycle.  She rode up to him and stopped.  “Hello, John,” she said.  “I heard you were home.  I thought you didn’t recognise me.”  John stood and stared.  She smiled and said, “I was a little girl when you left home.  Now I’ve grown up.”

            John swallowed hard.  “You certainly look amazing, Grace,” he remarked.

            “Do you like my new bicycle?” she asked.

            “It looks very nice.”  He paused and seemed uncertain.  “Actually, Grace, I wonder if I dare ask you something?”

            “Certainly, John.  What is it?”

            “It’s rather embarrassing really.”

            “Go on, John,” said Grace.  “You can tell me.”

What does John want to ask Grace?  Is there romance in the air or does he simply want a go on her new bike?  Will Quinton and Loon survive the dreaded Triple X Lemonade Disease.  Find out in the next exciting installment of UMBRIDGE.


Umbridge – the birth of a literary career

February 8, 2018

In the early 1980s, I and a colleague started a workplace newsletter at the then MAFF Central Veterinary Laboratory where we both worked.  The CVL changed its name in the 1990s, MAFF has become part Defra and the CVL is now a UK Government Agency.  To fill the scant newsletter content and to assure readers that the newsletter would be published each month, I started a quiz and a regular comic serial.  The serial had a veterinary agriculture theme and was inspired by the long running BBC radio soap, The Archers.

The serial developed a cult following among some of its readers and some years later I published it on various writing websites under the penname of Jack Lindsey.  Later it inspired the publication of my first novel, Cogrill’s Mill.  Followers of my blog and those of you who have bought and enjoyed Cogrill’s Mill might like to read the work that inspired my first forays into publishing so I have posted Umbridge’s first episode below.  If it proves popular, I propose to post the remaining six future episodes each week over the next six weeks.

Keith Jahans


Umbridge – episode one

February 8, 2018


An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

It was a bright sunny day and the birds were singing.  Young John Farmer got off the bus at the gate to Rookfield Farm and made his way across the muck-filled yard, a suitecase in either hand.  Little did he know what lay in store for him.

            The farm-house door was opened by Mrs Stitis the daily-help.  “Why, Master John!” she exclaimed joyously.

            “Hello, Ma,” said John.  “I’m home from university.  Is Mother home?”

            “She be out back strangling the chickens.  Come in !”

            Meanwhile, down at the pig-sty, John’s father, Loon E Farmer, was examining his prize boar Quinton, with the local veterinary surgeon.  “It be like this, Mr Marriot,” he was saying, “‘E’s off ‘is food an’ won’t perform wi’ the gilts.  Not only that – ‘E won’t touch ‘is daily ration of Old Bart’s Special Bitter.  ‘E won’t drink nothing but lemonade.”

            “I don’t understand it,” said the vet scratching his head, “but I’ve taken a couple of samples and will send them off to MAFF.  If anyone knows what’s wrong they will!”

            “I s’pose it could be worse.  ‘E could be drinkin’ larger.”

Marriot left in his car, whistling the tune to ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, and Loon Farmer made his way to the farmhouse.  When he entered he was greeted by his wife and son.   “Look, Loon,” beamed his wife, “our John is home!”

            “Hello, Father.  I’ve got a first-class degree in Agriculture with distinction.  I can be a great help to you on the farm!”

            “Aye lad, tomorrow you can scrap the muck off the yard and then you can feed the pigs.  Come!  Let’s be down to the pub while your mother gets the dinner.”

            A little while later, Jack Door the landlord of the ‘Chick Inn’, was pouring both father and son two pints of Old Bart’s Tripple X Special Bitter.  Loon gripped one of the glasses in his hand, blew the froth off the top of the beer and took a sip.

            Suddenly, his face went white and his hand shook as he put the glass back down on the bar,

            “Are you all right, Father?” asked John with concern.

Loon could scarcely speak and when he did his voice was very faint.  “Jack,” he said, “could I have a glass of lemonade?”

            “My God!”  exclaimed Jack in horror.  “Loon!  What be wrong?”

Yes, what is wrong?  Will MAFF find the answer?  Does anyone realise the full significance of Ma Stitis on Rookfield Farm.  Find out next month in the next exciting episode of Umbridge!