Next morning, which was a cold, frosty one, I was up at the crack of dawn kindling the log fire in the Snug – which burns most of the year round, except in very hot weather. Then I polished the oak floor and, donning my green baize apron, helped Ben put a lustrous shine on the many brass ornaments which adorned the walls.
As we worked, Ben explained how the bar was stocked, and the wide range of beverages on offer. Half a dozen pumps along the bar provided a variety of esteemed local brews, and a vintage draught cider. Rows of spirits and liqueur bottles lined the glass shelves behind the bar. Some were rare and hard to obtain – a special brand of pure Finnish vodka being canoed in at dead of night by Zola, the Naked Kayaker, Judge Anticant resembling his 18th century predecessors such as Parson Woodforde in not hesitating to turn a blind eye to the odd cask of contraband stored in the Burrow cellars beneath the courtroom.
Our labours were interrupted by a loud imperious rootle-tootle as a cream-coloured, gold-plated Rolls-Royce swept into the courtyard and from it emerged a vision swathed in shocking pink and ostrich feathers demanding to see Judge Anticant at once if not sooner. When he appeared, somewhat bleary-eyed, he recognised Dame Barbara Cartland, who announced that she had selected the Burrow as the ideal hideaway in which to concoct her umpteenth bodice-ripper, and demanded the four-poster state room for herself and more humble accommodation for her maid and chauffeur until further notice.
When the Dame had been escorted to her chamber, she at length emerged and was settled into the Day Parlour adjoining the Snug with a copious supply of pink gins. She proceeded to extract a large notebook and several coloured pens from her reticule, and commenced inscribing the title of her new opus. Looking over her shoulder, I perceived that it was All Passion Spent. I presumptuously asked Dame Barbara where the passion was spent and she replied “mostly at the races and on pink gins”. She added that she was mulling over yet another blockbuster, The Petulant Princess, whose heroine would be based upon her wayward step-granddaughter, the Princess of Wails, but she was hesitant to commit it to paper for fear of falling foul of her prized royal connections.
Meanwhile, some of the Snug regulars had started to arrive. First was a pair of Trousers with no visible superstructure above the waistline, although Ben assured me that this did not prevent him – if it was a him – imbibing copious draughts of Burrow Brew. Next came a leather-clad Merkin, wearing a strange sort of wig upon his bald head which, he announced, he had purloined from
Finally, an elegant lady with long, flowing Lady Godiva-like auburn hair entered bearing an artist’s easel and paintbox. This was Miss Lavenderblue, the Burrow’s artist-in-residence By Appointment. Judge Anticant was installed in his favourite high-backed chair in the ingle nook, and a typical Burrow soirée was about to commence. All that was lacking was the elusive Zola, but my sharp ears discerned splashing noises of rapid paddling upstream…..