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The annotated Drink Up Thy Zider, part ye second - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The annotated Drink Up Thy Zider, part ye second


Sir Bennett Goldstein, his 9.15 Shabbat morning service obligation duly performed, was sharing a simple Sabbath meal with his household. All: household, meal, and house itself: all was modest, simple, and tasteful, as Sir Bennett preferred. He disdained and distrusted the trappings of outward wealth.[1]

Take the young Malfoy, by way of example. He had been surprised to find that Draco Malfoy, chastened by war and by still rawer and more recent losses, had been well on his way – when he came over from the Ministry – to becoming a decent human being. He had been gratified to see that, once given his head, licensed to ferret,[2] to prod and pry, Malfoy had directed his energies towards giving the best possible service to their clients. He had been relieved to see that, despite his being a late entrant, older far than his peers, the Malfoy lad was shaping to be a very high flyer indeed. What was more, he had not misdirected his curiosity: the nominee trusts that he handled, and even the Weasley joke shop’s investment account, he had treated with respect, and if Malfoy privately winced at increasing the Weasleys’ wealth, he had been at pains not to reveal the fact.

Over the past months, however, Malfoy had seemed to revert to type. His decisions were almost invariably wrong: it had been better had they been invariably wrong, as he might then have been used as a means of divination, on the principle that if Malfoy suggested putting money in a deal, one was well advised instead to short the position and expect a collapse. His accounts and records were unintelligibly imbrangled. And his Occlumency had become so poorly maintained that Sir Bennett had directed that he not be allowed in the canteen, lest beefy youths with gaudy braces and braying voices, who worked on the Other Side of the bank, should glean information they were not to have.

Something very odd was going on. Sir Bennett had agreed the Ministry’s – and the Goblins’ – proposal for dealing with it. Neither Ministry nor Goblins had noted that he had agreed the proposal on such terms as left him a bankerly out.


Cottage at Glebe Road

The ‘rustic little place’ to which Blaise had referred slept in the South Devon sun. Sheltered by tor, moor, and beacon, that anciently shield the South Hams and give the area its name (for ‘hamme’ means an enclosed and sheltered place), Evelake Pomeroy and Evelake Tout Saints with Cleave St Urith lazed in the afternoon’s gilding. The hedgerows and the heather basked; the almost-Roman gravitas of the Ermesford Viaduct was lightened by the flood of sunshine. Gleaming silver in the sun-dapple, cool and green as marble in the shade, the infant River Avelyn, moorland-born and newly doubled by the confluent waters of the Pome Brook, looped ’round the village, north, east, and south, doubling back westwards towards its union with the River Erme. The church looked down contentedly upon its village, from Glebe Road, Rectory Lane, and Quarry Hill, down Revelcombe Lane, Bramble Lane, Cottaford Lane, and School Lane; to the frayed hem of the open country and the several ancient woods beyond Sodom End and Applescrump Lane, and the long, winding, sunken road, walled by hedgerows and roofed with boughs of trees, that led at the last to the larger village of Avilland and thence to the market town and the world beyond. Beneath the long shadow cast by the three-staged tower of St Margaret ante Porcos,[1] whose lozenge-shaped clock was just far enough out of true to prey upon the subconscious, the Rectory stood confident and foursquare, blandly assertive of the here-unchanging establishment of the C of E.

Within its coolth, most of the persons of principal consequence in the district were perforce gathered. Dr Helen Troyland,[2] the pretty, efficient, and hopelessly modern-minded GP, to whom the immemorial backwards-lookingness of village life was a daily penance (not that she believed in any such outmoded notion, religion being, after all, an atavistic survival of human psychology that should surely be cured in another generation or so),[3] exchanged a longsuffering look with Lady Duckworth. It were impossible for the fête committee not to put the Rector and Sir Lewis Duckworth[4] in the same room from time to time, but it did break the most closely-observed rule in the village, which was to keep them apart at all costs.

The usual argument was blazing merrily before the cold fireplace, against the affronted backdrop of an icy, chaste, fastidious chimneypiece. Broad, ruddy, tweedy, full-girthed, beefy, and louder than Brian Blessed in full spate, the most downright and combative character in the village had backed its meekest denizen – clad in his customary dove-grey and mantled in milk-and-water mildness – into a literal and metaphorical corner.[5]

‘Damn me,’ roared the rampageous, not to say bloody-minded, gentleman in tweeds, ‘what you want is a short course in muscular Christianity – or any Christianity at all, come to that! This bloody meek-and-mild shilly-shallying is simply selling the pass! The whole country goes about gelded! Weak as water, you lot – what we want is another Margaret Thatcher, and the Thatcher spirit with it – and sod bloody Europe!’

Sir Lewis Duckworth was, courtesy of an ancestor in the reign of the first James who had been possessed of few compunctions and a pert arse, a baronet; to his own credit, DSO and MVO, having served with distinction in Iraq; and by his own efforts, a former member (for one month, between a by-election and a general election) of the House of Commons. (It had been the uncontested judgement of all concerned, from Sir Lewis and Lady Duckworth, to the constituency, to the highest reaches of his party, that he should never again stand for parliament, as much for his sake as for that of the House.) He was a noted benefactor to his fellows, he was one of the two primary persons of consequence in the district, and he had been an avid cricketer in his youth, although now reduced to organising and cheering-on the village XI. His present – and eternal – opponent, the Revd Dr Simon ACK Vickers DD and DPhil (Oxon), whose bye-names, by reason of his unfortunate initials, were legion,[6] was a former chaplain RN, QCVS, and a noted translator of and commenter upon ante-Nicene patristics.

Fortunately for both men, their latest row – if something so one-sided could be called a row – was swiftly ended by the entry and intervention of by far the primary person of consequence in the country ’round.

He had clearly come across through the gardens, not bothering with front-doors and fuss, and stood now back-lit, a mere dark outline, against the brightness and glory behind him. They knew him at once, simply from his stance and form: a spare, trim, fit, well-preserved (if a trifle undersized) figure, with the self-defensive composure of a widower at whom most of the women and not a few of the young men of the village were forever making a dead set. As he stepped into the drawing-room, and their eyes adjusted, they saw what they expected to see, as the well-known silhouette resolved itself, like a picture within a frame. A brown, keen face without whiskers. A grave, lean face, with a twinkle in its brilliant green eyes. Small, neat ears, and thick, sable, unruly hair, in which only the closest inspection would find the merest touch of silver. It was Sir Harry.[7]

‘Lewis, you know you must stand up to the bugger when he bellows at you; Padre, stop bullying Duckworth, he can’t help being a Lib Dem. Hullo, you lot, sorry I’m late, but as you ought really to have known when you chose this date for a meeting, it’s the Ashes, and my children will be older than I am before they stop insisting we all go to the match.’

The Rector, still flushed with battle, shot the incomer a meaningful look. ‘You must have abso-bloody-lutely flown to be here at all.’

‘I did, quite literally.’ This was greeted with the usual chuckles. His neighbours were by now quite familiar with their most prominent local scion of the County – although not at all as clued-in as was the Rector – and they had long since ceased to be surprised by his regular use of a private helicopter when he was in a hurry: or that he piloted it himself. (Only Dr Vickers was aware that it was, in fact, beneath the glamours, a racing broom.) In fact, the good Muggles of Evelake Pomeroy and Evelake Tout Saints with Cleave St Urith had ceased surprisingly early to delve any further into what they knew – and did not know – of their neighbour. From the handkerchief in his sleeve to his well-polished Jno Lobb brogues, he was quite clearly what he was: a retired officer (Int Corps,[8] it was generally remembered, which also explained his having attained seniority so young), a widower with three children (two lads and a lass), a thoroughgoing gentleman, a cadet of the Crockerns[9] (for all that his branch of that very old family were seated away in foreign parts: Somerset and Wilts, mostly), the intimate of various Ministers of State, and a damned good farmer.

He’d lost his wife in a terror attack, when Jamie, Albie, and Lily had been quite young, before they’d all removed to ETS, and evidently had had a hand in bringing it home to those responsible, who had never launched another such attack; that, it was generally felt, was sufficient reason for his gongs and his K.[10] He was always impeccably turned out, in a gentlemanly and rustic way – nothing of the bandbox about him – and from the aforementioned handkerchief in his sleeve to those well-polished boots, the only possible term for his attire and indeed his manner was Retired-Officer-in-Mufti. He hadn’t a bit of side; he was of surprisingly equable temperament, although terrifying when crossed; and it was positively unfair that so senior a figure (although, mind you, Int Corps wallahs were always shockingly young for rank) should have preserved so enviably youthful a look: he was rising forty-five, and from a few yards away looked twenty years younger – until one saw the cracks in the glaze, and the weariness in the depths of those green eyes. The fact that Sir Harry was discreetly and serially bisexual disturbed no one: he didn’t cause scandal, he’d clearly only twigged to it himself after his wife had been killed, he broke no hearts, all of those he’d been involved with had parted with him on very friendly terms indeed, his vast extended family who descended upon the village at regular intervals certainly didn’t mind, and it takes all sorts, doesn’t it. Even the Rector, a man, as it may have been suggested, of pronounced views, clearly didn’t object.

All things considered, the Muggle-Worthy Excuses lot had done a textbook job in dealing with the villagers of ETS.

Then again, it hadn’t been that stiff a task. Evelake Pomeroy and Evelake Tout Saints – ETS – and for that matter, Cleave St Urith, was rather an odd district. Take the incumbency of the combined benefice: when the bishop and the dean thought of the place at all, which was oddly infrequently, it was commonly to send them a new rector upon the news that the last had died or retired. (For some reason, the incumbents of St Margaret’s ETS were never, never, promoted, booted into a bishopric, or otherwise translated.) Inevitably, it would occur to the Bishop of Exeter to appoint to the living yet another ex-service, and usually an ex-Senior Service,[11] cleric, whose school and antecedents before university simply never came up. Dr Vickers, the current rector, was the seventeenth Old Hufflepuff in succession (and by no means the most forthrightly disputatious: the common image of Hufflepuff is a dangerous delusion) to hold the living – if one discounts the intruding Puritan divine, and Old Slytherin, who lasted all of three days in 1657. Dartmoor, Old Dart-y-moor, was none so far away, after all, and the spirit of Old Crockern brooded even over these fat South Devon lands.

Or, again, take the bees. It was a common sight in the district – and for some reason, never remarked or wondered at – to see Sir Harry striding along or hacking about with a golden nimbus at his elbow or hovering over his shoulder, of contented, golden bees, buzzing happily, tame as spaniels. The wild yeasts in his orchards were never harmful, and his cider was always of the best. Even the weather was more nearly perfect in the district than even in the rest of the South Hams, famously shielded from extremes of climate though they be.

No, the Muggle-Worthy Excuses lot hadn’t really had too steep a task in any case.

Within the Rectory, the still-ramping Rector and the much-relieved, if yet shaken, Sir Lewis, that douce man, had subsided, sternly watched, into seats at the opposite corners of the table, at the head of which, inevitably, sat one Harry Potter as chairman. ‘Right, then, you lot. The fête.’


[1] Margaritas ante porcos: pearls before swine, casting, not to do. Mat. 7.6.

[2] Whose face launch’d a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium (Marlowe).

[3] Now that I come to think of it, Sir Julian Freke, of Whose Body? infamy, had a West Country surname.

[4] It is hopeless to explain this to persons who are not cricket enthusiasts. http://static.cricinfo.com/db/ABOUT_CRICKET/RAIN_RULES/DL_FAQ.html.

[5] Overseas readers want to realise that the stereotype would be that the mild and liberal-minded person in clerical dove-grey should be the clergyman, and the roaring Tory in tweeds, the squire. Not so in ETS.

[6] In addition to the broad comedy of naming the Rector, Vickers (vicar), the surname also refers to the arms manufacturer; ack-ack (Simon ACK Vickers) is of course of military provenance also: anti-aircraft systems.

[7] Or, alternately, the Water Rat, upon first meeting Mole.

[8] The Intelligence Corps, also known as the Green Slime.

[10] Knighthood.

[11] Senior Service: the Royal Navy; also a marque (‘brand’) of cigarette (see below).

[1] Like Sir Reuben Levy, rather, in Whose Body?

[2] I couldn’t resist.

[3] Anyone familiar with the website or publications of Common Ground / England in Particular will recognize the style in which I have done these illustrations, in homage.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
azurelunatic From: azurelunatic Date: June 20th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
The mental image of Harry in a cloud of friendly bees delights.

There appears to be a slight irregularity in the footnotes -- it seems that the bottom section of footnotes corresponds to the top bit of fic, and vice versa.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 20th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

Sadly, I've no idea how to settle the notes.
2 comments or Leave a comment