Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Crusty Cuts Claudia Shaver's Ribbon.

One shuddered recently when one entered one’s private office to consult the daily appointments in one’s diary.

The day in question was to be free and filled with fun and frivolity, save for one appointment. Despite knowing full well one has no particular fondness for her, Chu Me had pencilled one in for an opening and ribbon cutting at a new business venture on the outskirts of the village. The venture was being set up by aging former village beauty queen, Claudia Shaver.

Claudia was a svelte creature in her younger days. She received many opportunities to model in such popular 70s publications as Cogs & Wheels Monthly, Electric Bulbs & Filaments and Bunty. Yet, Father Time had sadly not been kind, and that, combined with gravity, proved too much for her frame to bear.

In the early days she attempted to mimic one’s own elegant sashay, in a cunning plot to take international fashion runways by storm. However, owing to an unpleasant incident with a Qualcast lawn mower and an over indulgence of Strawberry Rose 20/20s, she was unable to achieve success … even when she wedged a folded odour eater into the heel of her right shoe.

As her figure plummeted towards earth, so did the number of offers for work. Her marriage to her husband, Klaus Shaver – which had been the envy of many in the village for some time – ended suddenly, when Klaus developed a love of gingham and ran off with his personal assistant, Tristan, to open a florist shop in the Yumbo Centro on Gran Canaria.

Anyhoo … Claudia seems to have spent the majority of money she had from the marriage break up and had taken the decision to open a model agency – something she knew about - in order to maintain a suitable income … and one supposes one must commend her for her initiative.

So, the time came to leave; Chu Me brought GUSSET 1 to the front of Crusty Hall and once settled in the back seat, one poured a small tumbler of gin, took a quick snifter and waved one hand so Chu Me could begin to pull off slowly.

Driving down the narrow country lanes, one certainly wasn’t expecting wonders from the occasion; one knew that Claudia was putting everything together on a very tight budget, so one focused on being utterly enchanting throughout … as always.

As the Bentley pulled up outside, there was a small crowd assembled – none of whom one would expect to see anywhere near a model agency - and even the vicar and his wife had turned up to bless the endeavour. Mr. Peppercorn the butcher too - rather strangely - could be seen at the back of the gathered mass, eager to get involved.

After the cutting of the ribbon and a ripple of applause from the onlookers, Claudia invited us all inside to mingle and christen the new offices. She came over, immediately, as one was scanning the buffet table.

“Champagne, Crusty? I don’t have any Cava.” She asked.

“Champagne would be splendid, Claudia dear.”

Filling one’s flute, she put the bottle down on the table beside us and turned to welcome a villager. Taking a small sip of the liquid, one’s face contorted as if one had just sucked an overly juicy lemon. Looking down to check the bottle, one was horrified to discover one was, in actual fact, drinking Babycham! One immediately, poured the contents of one’s glass back into the neck of the bottle.

Turning in one’s direction, Claudia asked, “So … is Kitty coming?”

“Goodness no, dear! She has far more important things to do with the day.”

”Ah! Well … at least you’re here.” She said smiling.

“In body, if not in spirit, dear: in body, if not in spirit.”

Her eyes caught the empty flute one was holding and she picked up the bottle to refill it.

“How are you finding the champagne?” She said, pouring carefully.

“It seems to be finding me, dear and one can’t get it down the neck quick enough. It’s like nothing one has tasted before.”

“I know! I got it from the cellar at the Badger’s Snatch. Willy let me have it for a very reasonable price. The bottles are 30 years old you know?” (The taste certainly suggested as much).

She seemed impressed with how long the bottles lasted, not knowing that every time she filled one’s glass and turned around one simply kept pouring it back in.

Anyhoo … one survived the rest of the soirée, though one didn’t feel up to indulging in anything from the buffet. Her prawn ring looked as if it had seen better days; reports were filtering back to warn her cheesy wotsits had been left out too long and had gone soft and one certainly didn’t want to chance the vol au vents after she told me her eczema had flared up again after her big opening had stressed her out.

It was all such a shame. For, though the food was well presented, the problem, one feels, was that nothing was fresh and one would not have been at all surprised if the supermarket had seen a peak in turnover the day before when the entire selection had been grabbed from the freezer section and purchased with the Nectar points she had accumulated at Christmas.

Or at least, that is what one thought, until one got chatting to Mr. Peppercorn. Pointing to Claudia’s brown baps in the corner, he whispered he’d proved the saviour of the day when he’d snuck round earlier to give her some tongue.

One turned to him and gazed upon him adoringly, “The village would be lost without you, dear! The epitome of kindness, you truly are.”

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