Fiskerton’s Follies

en years or so ago, Fiskerton made his first appearance on Facebook. Now,it is a truth universally acknowledged that a gentleman, living alone, must be in need of a valet-cum-butler, so I invented one for myself. Fiskerton was canny, diligent and discreet and I would have him mix me a Pimm’s, lay out my dinner suit, or chauffeur me to the pub. A cast of characters grew up around him, all with the names of Lincolnshire villages. Those feisty girls, Cherry Willingham and Mavis Enderby are genuine places as is the fabulous Claxby Pluckacre.

Not that I’m from Lincolnshire, you understand. I’m a proud Lancastrian. However, this is my adopted county and the place names are just too wonderfully improbable. My characters began to emerge from Google Maps. Two of my favourites are Sir Hubert Grange de Lings and Colonel Swinethorpe, Lord Lindum’s drinking cronies.

These vignettes appeared from time to time over the years and kind friends, who found them funny, suggested I turn them into a little book. I didn’t really see how that would work until, during  the 2019 Christmas period, I posted a number of festive squibs. They were a little longer than usual and they also introduced a more appropriate employer for Fiskerton: Aubyn Xerxes Arbuthnot Evelyn De’Ath, 4th Baron Lindum.

The Baron is a monster of a man, drunken, violent, selfish and autocratic. The comedy comes about because nothing he does can faze Fiskerton whose loyalty in the face of his master’s abuse is quite insane. You know how, in Tom and Jerry, no matter how often the mouse outwits the cat – setting fire to his tail, dropping ton weights on him, chopping him into bits – the cat always comes back for more, fully restored. Well, it’s a bit like that.

‘Lindum’ is Latin for Lincoln, by the way, fitting my whimsical rule about place names.

I make no great claim to originality. Master-servant comedy goes back to classical times. It’s there in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, in Fielding and Sterne in the Eighteenth Century, and you might be reminded of Jeeves and Wooster, although the laughter in my book is coarser-grained and more akin to slapstick. It was partially inspired perhaps by a column in The Daily Telegraph in the 70’s called Squire Haggard’s Journal.

What finally prompted me turn his lordship’s wildly dysfunctional household into a book was the coronavirus. The progress of the disease and the fight against it offered me a structure – a review of the annus horribilis we have all lived through and the reader might derive some grim pleasure in noting some of the milestones of 2020. Incidentally, the ‘mistake’ in the Latin of the title is not wholly inappropriate since his lordship, like William Wordsworth, is afflicted by piles.

At £4.30 the book would make an excellent stocking filler or you could treat yourself to the ebook for a mere £2.50. Both are available from Amazon.

‘I did not have sex with that woman,’ Lord Lindum said in court today. ‘She was an ugly old trollop with ghastly dress sense and a squint and that is why I evicted her.’
The Lindum Mercury

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Absolutely love this book and have read it twice already. I also loved the Facebook snippets too and I nagged and pestered for them to be in a book. I wasn’t disappointed. I might just feel the need to nag and pester for a sequel for next Christmas !! Highly recommended and a great stocking filler.

It’s wonderful when characters have lives independent of their books. Faulkner, the old fraud, used to bait graduate students and critics by making up stories about characters.
Once he was accused of the inconsistency of one character’s actions, to which he replied, “You must remember, his father was a bit that way, too. He ran off to join the circus as a lad.”
The student went back and read through the oeuvre and . . . no father, no circus.
Serves him right for asking fatuous questions that are of no benefit to the author.

Mr Reidy
His lordship bids me thank you for your comment. However, on learning that you are of American extraction, he went into a rage, stabbing Scopwick in the netherlands with a toasting fork. This was unfortunate because the boy (who has recently been dry-cleaned) was being employed as a footstool at the time and presented a target which could not have been missed even by a man with the palsy. His lordship requires me to inform you of his undying personal loathing and vows that ‘American abominations’ such as tea, coffee and chocolate shall never grace his table again and that he will devote himself instead to London gin and mead. When I informed him that tea had its origins in the orient he called me an ‘incontinent liar’ and ‘reminded’ me that had not Sir Walter Raleigh exported the Lincolnshire potato to the Americas there would be no transatlantic colonies at all. There is no arguing with him in this humour.
I would advise you to keep a low profile.
I am so sorry to have to write to you like this.

Is it surreal, metaphysical or existential to be put in one’s place by a fictitious character? Perhaps, Fiskerton, old bean, you should remind his lordship that duels may be carried out while observing social distancing.

Better still, check the wine cellar to ensure the hard Brexit doesn’t leave his lordship without adequate supplies. Check the truffle stocks, too.

“American abominations”? Just wait until you see what the next four years bring. It’s not going to be peanut butter!

Mr Reidy
With the greatest respect, I take instruction only from his lordship and I have to say that whenever I attempt to ‘remind’ his Lordship of anything I put my livelihood, not to mention my person, in the gravest jeopardy.
I would also advise you not to challenge his lordship to a duel. Entre nous, he has no conception of fair play. On the last occasion, in 1998, in a dispute over some doxy from Grimsby, he quite blew away Rear-Admiral Skegness’s left leg. The fact that it was a prosthetic leg is neither here nor there. A splinter from the said wooden leg entered the left eyeball of his second, the Hon. Clement ‘Custardy’ Cleethorpes, and left him half-blind for life. Viscount Mablethorpe, the referee, expired on the spot from a cardiac arrest, possibly because Skegness had specified the navy issue cutlass as the weapon of choice and no-one had expected his lordship to deploy a pistol. The only person unscathed after the whole sorry episode was myself, even though I had been obliged to act as his lordship’s second. You see, I learned long ago that the safest place to stand on such occasions is directly in front of his lordship.
Rest assured that his lordship’s great-great grandfather laid down enough fine old wine from St Estephe, Pauillac, St, Julien, the Cantenac plateau of Margaux, the plateau of Pomerol and the limestone plateau of St. Emilion to outlast even his lordship’s appetite and certainly beyond the next four years. I will add that his lordship once bought a case of Californian wine and after barely rinsing his glass with it, he found it so sweet he immediately gave the entire case away to an orphanage.
Mrs Washingborough buys truffles from Australia. She tells me she has no idea what peanuts are but sometimes she deploys groundnuts from Tanganyika in her recipes.
I am, sir,
Your humble servant,

While this appendix to a wonderful book is greatly welcomed, I have to say that I – even one who believes in the essential equality of all men – am far more used to speaking the organ grinder than to his monkey.

As you have demonstrated, the monkey lives in fear, and though you are not my monkey, I confess that some of his lordship’s impulses are rubbing off on me.

I am delighted to hear that his lordship’s supplies are holding up well. Indeed, the Margaux Brio Cantenac Brown is a particular favourite of mine. May I suggest that he also look into the rather fine – if rustic – Buzet, Baron d’Ardeuil.

(How could I possibly interrupt this excellent exchange between two such eloquent authors! However, let me say that I am excited to read Lord Lindum’s follies. The wit will undoubtedly be tremendous!)

Aw, Julie! You could have given one of my books a plug, even though Fiskerton would have been apoplectic.

Time reading Anus Horribilis is time well spent.

Pall Mall can’t spall.

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