“It’s quite out of the question, Potts,” she had said that morning. “I’m sure you understand.”
Mrs Potts, their irreplaceable cook and housekeeper, had requested the evening off. Her son had been posted overseas suddenly. She had just this one night to say goodbye.
But the Bensons were coming for dinner, and the Oordes; prominent members of the community and not to be put off with some cold collation. Mrs Makepeace was adamant.
That evening, about ten minutes after the consommé, Colonel Makepeace found himself charging through the French windows towards his rhododendrons, Mrs Oorde having wedged her fat self in the downstairs convenience and his wife having commandeered the upstairs bathroom.
Mrs Benson had given up begging Mrs Oorde to evacuate quickly (in every sense) and had scrambled frantically into the herb garden. Colonel Makepeace could see the moon glinting on her diamond earrings, amongst rosemary and thyme. She appeared to be thrashing her head from side to side.
Above his own imprecations, he heard Commander Benson and Sir Reginald Oorde, ensconced in the gardenias nearest the house, exhorting the Almighty in their extremis.
Deirdre Makepeace held on to the toilet seat for dear life. Realising her current discomfort was nothing to the social ostracism that awaited her, her groans echoed about the upstairs landing.
Mrs Potts hummed a little tune as she cycled down the lane, towards her son’s farewell do in the King’s Head. She’d left the rest of the meal on hotplates on the sideboard. They’d just have to fend for themselves.