Tuesday, May 26, 2009


continued from Forty-Four
The man who had warned Robert about the traffic warden came to the door, hesitated long enough to assess company available and bounced his zimmer frame towards the chair Camellia had vacated.

"Glen Millar," he said, sitting down heavily. "Who are you?"

"Hugh," said Hugh. "You will have passed my wife in the hall."

"You're the people who arrived when Alice was leaving."

"Alice was . . . ."

"Dead," Glen Millar finished for him. "Mrs Bendicks takes it personally, as if the food's to blame."

"How long till lunch?" asked Queen Victoria.

"A long time yet," said Gladstone, pulling a watch from his pocket. "Yes." And he put it back.

"How long till Bingo?" asked Hugh.

Gladstone almost answered but Professor Blake got in first. "It's at three. Surely you're not looking forward to it?"

"No," agreed Hugh. "I'm going to the National Portrait Gallery with Camellia. She wants to see photos."

"Wrong place," said Duke Ellington. "But it's worth a visit, none the less."

"Prince Charles in front of a fence," Ghandi shouted. Then she re-closed her eyes.

"I'm not sure . . . ,"

"Oh, go there anyway," said Professor Blake. "It's a good place and better than Bingo."

"Mrs Bendicks won't like it," said Glen Millar, placing his hands flat on the wooden arms of his chair, as if making ready for a quick gettaway. "She likes everyone here."

Hugh ignored him. "Would anyone like to come with us?"

"If my legs were better," said Gladstone. "I'd like to. But two short walks a day does for me."

"I think you see my difficulty," said Professor Blake. "Otherwise . . . ,"

"She won't like it," Glen Millar insisted, anxious and cross.

"I would," said Queen Victoria. "I wouldn't like the Gallery but I'd like to annoy Mrs Bendicks."

"What for?"

"Because I pay to be here," said Queen Victoria irritably. "If she paid me to play Bingo, it might be different, but she's not offered yet."

Appreciation rippled through the group.

"I like Bingo," said Ghandi firmly, her eyes still shut.

"Professor Blake, how bad are your legs?" Hugh asked.

"I can walk, just a bit. A couple of steps. Maybe three. Out of my chair, into bed, that kind of thing."

"Would you be able to get up onto a coach?"

"I'd need a lot of help."

"If someone pushed and someone else pulled?"

Professor Blake laughed. "Not quite like that, but I could do it if I had to."

"Meet me in the hall here at ten-to-three then," said Hugh. "You too, Ghandi. My treat. Proper Bingo for those who want. Art for those who don't. My wife won't mind."

"And me?" asked Scotty, suddenly serious and hopeful.

"Bingo in a proper Bingo Hall?"

"Why not?"

"Why not indeed? There'll be room for everyone. Two coaches."

"No-one's believing you," said Queen Victoria. She was cabling and didn't look up - and her voice was little, as if some great hopefulness had turned down the volume.

"Believe it," Hugh said, standing. "Believe it and be ready."

"It's like a campaign," Gladstone suggested.

"It is."

"I'd prefer the National Gallery," said Glen Millar.

"Well," said Hugh. "It's only next door. We're leaving at three. I'd better tell Camellia."

Everyone grinned.

"Good luck," said Duke Ellington.

"Oh, she won't mind," said Hugh. "In fact, she'll be glad. We haven't had company for years and sometimes I think she's lonely. Is there anyone prepared to discuss . . . Bill Brandt is it?"

"No photos."

"Never mind. She'll manage. Ten-to-three.!"

He began to walk to the door, then turned. "I wasn't looking forward to being here. I have cattle and . . . but I'm beginning to enjoy it. So pleased to meet you all!"

Then he went to tell Camellia.

For the next post - Forty-Six
For the post before this one - Forty-Four