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