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It was supposed to be a sedate affair at the Barten Village Women's Crochet Club Christmas Luncheon, Doris Henty's Sherry Trifle had other ideas.

Submitted: December 27, 2015

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Submitted: December 27, 2015








It was obvious that someone had put too much sherry in the trifle for the Barten Village Women’s Crochet Club Christmas luncheon at Barten Parish Hall. That someone was Doris Henty, who was renowned for imbibing her favourite Spanish fortified wine San Cecilio, whilst preparing food. It was most likely that Doris had gotten the sherry dosage wrong once, twice, or maybe three times. Definitely, the jelly didn’t appear to be set, this was clear to see as the properly set custard, with fresh cream piping, swam about like an old omelette on the ocean as it was carried without majesty to the 75 year old wooden trestle table. The old trestle table had seen countless Sunday School, Brownie, Girl Guide, Cub and Boy Scout parties. The trestle table had heard countless giggling and rude jokes from excited little girls and boys, it had also been vomited on too many times by overexcited, overindulgent children, all wanting that little bit more jelly and ice cream without realising that their little tummies had already had enough. Fortunately, the clean robin and holly-patterned tablecloth hid the history of anti-peristalsis well ingrained in the wood, as a legacy of Barten Parish Hall parties. Considering the twenty-three strong crochet club, Doris prepared the trifle in an 8.5 litre punch bowl, so all could share.


The luncheon commenced as usual, very relaxed and friendly, with all attendees chatting about topics involving the village and its events that year. There was also gossip about people in the village, not present at the luncheon.

“I won’t say who, but the man who lives over the road from me in the cottage festooned with ivy, is a peeping Tom. One evening when I was undressing for bed, I could see him watching me through his binoculars. Well, I shrieked and immediately drew the curtains, then called out to my husband Peter!” said Penny Walters to her friend Irene Clark.

“What did your husband say?” asked Irene.

“He said he was busy and couldn’t come at that moment!” said Penny.

Busy her husband was indeed, he was too busy in the spare bedroom, watching another woman undressing on the opposite side of the road, single-handedly through a telescope, which he had bought under the pretence of an interest in astronomy. Sensible women in the village of course, drew their curtains before disrobing.


There was a limited choice of menu for the courses. However, the main cooked meal promised to be good, as the crochet club had hired catering staff from the local Hoof and Trotter Hotel. Volunteers of the crochet club provided the deserts; hence, the ominous trifle.

The luncheon starter was a choice of French onion soup with a crusty roll, or a half grapefruit with a glacé cherry and angelica jelly-leaf garnish. Only the very brave and stupid opted for the soup, those with respect for their bowels and their spouses went for the grapefruit; after all, there was the inevitable challenge of the  sprouts to contend with, The sprouts, appreciated at one end, not so appreciated by some at the other.


With most of the French onion soup poured down the sink, which incidentally made a wonderful drain and plughole cleaner, the traditional main course of turkey, pigs in blankets, roasted potatoes, chestnut stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, peas, roasted parsnips, carrots sprouts and homemade gravy began.

“Cranberry Sauce anyone?” offered Brenda Rice-Smythe.

“No thank you!” said three women politely in unison.

“Oh alright then, if anyone does fancy some cranberry sauce, please help yourselves, I made it myself!” said a very disappointed Brenda.

That was the point; anyone who had been the victim of Brenda’s jams and preserves in the past, will have experienced unidentified bits of often-inedible foreign matter suspended in the pectin gel. An ambulance rushed poor Mrs Hargreaves to hospital after choking on something horrible in Brenda’s homemade Seville Orange Marmalade. The preserve earned the nickname ‘severe marmalade’ after that calamity.

“Oh well, more cranberry sauce for me.” Said Brenda with a feigned ‘not a care in the world’ expression.

Not wishing to let anything go to waste, Brenda Rice-Smythe poured a liberal dollop of her homemade cranberry sauce on her festive platter. With a good forkful of cranberry sauce drowned turkey, Brenda chewed enthusiastically on the white dry meat, and with a huge gulp, swallowed the lot. The next mouthful was a sprout, only identified by its shape, smothered in that confounded cranberry slop. Sitting next to Brenda was Celia Telgarth, who had spotted a large and very dead house spider suspended in Brenda’s crimson slurry.

“Brenda, there’s a sp…” Celia said too late, as Brenda’s next fork of stuffing and cranberry sauce, complete with spider disappeared into her mouth.

Brenda chewed well before asking Celia what she was trying tell her.

“Oh, I was going to say that there’s a sp…special treat for us all after the luncheon, the children from the Barten Infant School are coming to sing carols to us, it should be very sweet.”

“I would say torture more than treat my dear, show me a child who can hold a note, and I will show you a child who isn’t a child!” said Brenda with venom.

“Well I’m looking forward to it anyway Brenda.” said Celia.

Old Mrs Hawkins, with arthritic fingers, too old to crochet, too young to miss out on a slap-up do, liberally dusted her sprouts with white pepper.

“YACHOOO!” she sneezed, losing contact with the top plate of her dentures as they flew across the table, landing wonderfully into Doris Henty’s Christmas dinner.

“Well I’m sorry ladies, I appear to have lost my appetite, really I have. I shall sit this one out until desert!” said a very upset Doris, not sure whether to cry, or be sick.

Old Mrs Hawkins leant across the table to retrieve her dentures from Doris Henty’s dinner plate, taking advantage of the generous helping of chestnut stuffing the false teeth scooped up on the retrieve.

Old Mrs Hawkins plopped the stuffing onto her own plate, and reinserted her dentures.

“Sorry dear, I’m most dreadfully sorry, I really must buy some of that denture fixative they have been advertising on the television!” said Old Mrs Hawkins.

It is uncertain whether the denture fixative would have been of any use. More likely, self-tapping screws driven into the top jaw would have been more successful. Old Mrs Hawkins gums had shrunken with age; her visits to the dentist were less frequent, nay, non-existent. A new top plate at least would remedy this embarrassing situation, if not for Old Mrs Hawkins, her friends at least.


Later than expected, Tina Butterworth, recently divorced and gagging for love, arrived with her usual ‘Look at me making me my grande entrée, I’m very important you know!’

“Oh darlings, I’m so sorry I’m late, mwah, mwah, mwah!’ said Tina as she kissed the air, nowhere near the recipients’ faces.

“Why dear, why are you so late for our special Christmas luncheon?” asked Brenda Rice-Smythe with disapproval.

“Oh, it’s that blessed George Clooney telephoning me again. Ever since my ex-husband and I met him on holiday in Bora Bora, he’s been calling me far too regularly recently, he really is the limit.”

Those in the know thought ‘I wouldn’t complain if it were me!’ Those not in the know, thought ‘Who’s George Clooney?’

Tina Butterworth’s tale of course, was complete fabrication; most of her tales were. This trait for fibbing was the reason behind her divorce with ex-husband Tim. Tina constantly told him stories about celebrities she had met and had clandestine relationships with; he never once thought Tina to be unfaithful. He just grew tired of her telling him a complete pack of lies about her liaisons with the stars of the screen. It was the Bora Bora fib, which drew the last straw; they had never even been to Bora Bora, let alone meet George Clooney. Alarm bells began to ring very early on in their marriage, when Tina had just popped into a public loo to powder her nose. Tina returned from the public convenience, claiming that she had just bumped into Cary Grant. Apart from the definite fact that Cary Grant was no longer alive, even if he were a ghost, it is most unlikely that he would be haunting a ladies toilet.

“Oh, I see I am too late for the main course. Never mind, I’ll just sit here and have a glass of wine until desert is served.” said Tina as she sat in the seat reserved for her.

Celia Telgarth offered to pour the wine for Tina.

“Thank you dear, not too much…more…more…more please Celia? Thank you.” said Tina with a 250ml glass brimming with Chardonnay.

Doris, still quite sober for the time of day, decided to join Tina by pouring out a large glass of Merlot.


As the wine took a beating from all that enjoyed a bit of a booze up, all that is except the epitome of temperance, Myrtle Minton, the naughtiness of the women’s crochet club began to surface.  It all started with the Christmas cracker jokes.

“What is the difference between a polar bear and a post box?” asked the reader of the joke to a listener.

“I don’t know. What is the difference bolar pear and bost pox?” replied the slightly addled listener.

“I won’t ever ask you to post my letters, ha, ha!” said the server of the punch line.

How that joke developed into some of the filth that came from their mouths that afternoon, one can only guess.

As if the afternoon hadn’t become debauched enough, it was time for the sherry trifle.

As Doris Henty made it, it was her privilege and duty to serve the trifle to all who dared. The trifle was difficult to serve due to the over generous dosing of sherry; but with Doris’s marvellous innovative ingenuity, she stirred the whole lot up and ladled the boozy slop into prawn cocktail glasses. Everyone was delighted with Doris’s accidental culinary pizzazz, so delighted, that they all went up for seconds, and thirds. There was plenty of Doris’s brandy soaked Christmas cake to look forward to as well. Like the trifle, there was a heavy accent of alcohol in the cake, so much alcohol in fact, that the cake oozed brandy when cut. The brandy of course was administered after the cake was cooked, to preserve the 40% volume of alcohol.


At three of the clock that afternoon, the children of Barten infant school arrived to sing carols for the women. There were two many Marys and Josephs and not enough wise men, on the account that everyone wanted have the starring roles. One little rotund boy insisted on being baby Jesus and became jammed in the manger. Teachers would later have to dismantle the manger to get the little boy out. A little girl wanted to be the Star in the East, West, North, South, or wherever she wandered. The star, constructed from a cross, made from slats of wood and covered with baking foil, was strapped to the little girls back. How sweet she looked as she clonked the top of doorframes and sent teachers flying as she charged about the hall.

Old Mrs Hawkins, a regular churchgoer and devout Baptist was not impressed, and considered the little girl’s star a blasphemy, which confused the birth and the crucifixion of Christ. She also disapproved of Christmas cards that said ‘Happy Xmas’ for the same reason. Apart from it being a lazy way of writing ‘Christmas’ the X in Xmas is derived form a Greek word which translates into English as ‘Christ’. The last bit ‘mas’ is from the Latin, which means ‘mass’. The X is not anything to do with a crucifix; if it were, criminals would have been nailed with their legs akimbo, and that’s not as economical with nails.

The opening carol was ‘Away in a Manger’, which was met with boos and jeers from the inebriated crochet club members. The very upset teachers and children put a lot of effort into the concert, and a little bit of kindness from the audience, if feigned, would have been appreciated. They did sound terrible though! It didn’t help that little Jennifer Wiston, overcome with nerves for her solo bit ‘The star in the bright sky…’ was sick all over her angel costume. Mind you, if Jennifer hadn’t eaten three Curly Wurlys from the selection boxes of other children, she may have faired better. It was hard lesson learned, and one that put Jennifer off those vile chocolate coated, elongated toffee pretzels for life.

After the awful concert was over, a round of slow applause, usually known as contempt, and a mop and bucket of disinfectant in hot water to wash away Jennifer Wiston’s Curly Wurly dilemma, it was time for Champagne and more disgusting jokes.  There was also the visit from Reverend Fitzpatrick to look forward to. Reverend Colin Fitzpatrick, 41 years of age and ‘man of the cloth’, although it was uncertain which cloth he was cut from at times, was a slow and gently spoken man with a dialect from Donegal, which could melt the heart of any woman. He was a very good-looking man too, with a look of Pierce Brosnan, which would prove to be a great disadvantage when he arrived that afternoon to tell his Christmas story, greeted by a gaggle, and cackle of drunken women. Of course, with the knowledge, that Reverend Fitzpatrick’s visit was imminent, the bawdiness turned its attention to topics of desire regarding the Reverend, things that cannot and should not be mentioned here, even from Old Mrs Hawkins' mouth of ill-fitting dentures.

The raucous giggling and shouting reached a deafening crescendo when Penny Walters, standing on the trestle table, began a striptease to the tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing playing from a portable CD player. Considering Penny had been emotionally disturbed by recent peeping Tom activity, you wouldn’t have known it. Thank goodness the removal of the brassier was halted by the Reverend Fitzpatrick arriving with a loud bang, as he tripped and hit his head on the door he was about open. Penny jumped down from the trestle, gathering her skirt, blouse and stockings to put them back on under the privacy of the table.

There was a loud, sustained gasp from the women as his Holy gorgeousness entered the room; Old Mrs Hawkins top plate shot out again, landing this time into Doris Henty’s prawn cocktail glass with a ting and clatter. Then the stunned silence as the Reverend began to speak. The women of the crochet club bathed in the soothing lake of his soft voice.

“Good afternoon ladies, I see you have all been enjoying your Christmas luncheon, and I look forward to sharing cup of tea and a mince pie with you later. But first, my Christmas story…” said the Reverend Fitzpatrick.

22 minutes and 33 seconds, copious snores and bleary eyes later, the Reverend Fitzpatrick finished his story.

“…and so, the greatest gift that anyone can give or receive at Christmas, is the gift of love!”

Tina Butterworth understood and reciprocated the sentiment in the story, and pursued the Reverend Fitzpatrick at every opportunity during the tea and chat that afternoon.

“Oh Reverend Colin! Is it okay if I call you Colin? Do have another mince pie, there are more in the ladies cloakroom!” said Tina as she bustled the hapless clergyman into a very dark room to take advantage of him.

15 minutes later, Tina and the Reverend Fitzpatrick emerged from the darkness of the cloakroom; Tina flushed with afterglow pink, and the Reverend Fitzpatrick dazed, lipstick scarred and hair all over the place. Hard work that mince pie eating isn’t it!

No one noticed them gone; there were more important things to concentrate on, particularly as Alfie Wood, the proprietor of the Hoof and Trotter Hotel, brought along bottles of spirits and liqueurs as a contribution to the crochet club luncheon.

Alfie was hoping to bump into Tina Butterworth that afternoon; he had been having the hots for Tina all year, and couldn’t get her out of his mind.

Tina and Reverend Fitzpatrick had disappeared again, for an extra helping of mince pies in the ladies cloakroom.

After asking a number of crochet club members the whereabouts of Tina, Alfie became aware of grunts, squeals and whimpers, normally associated with truffle hunting, emanating from the ladies cloakroom. Alfie opened the door and switched on the light to discover Tina and Reverend Fitzpatrick in a clinch. The Reverend pulled away from Tina with a panicked “In the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost!”

“Don’t give me that clergy blarney! You’re taking advantage of that young woman, you’re all the same you spud bashers!” shouted Alfie.

Enraged, hurt and completely jealous, Alfie lurched at the Reverend with a primed, clenched fist. This was followed by ‘biff, bash, ouch and oof!’ with Tina shouting, “Stop it, both of you!”, as she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of grown men fighting over her like boys.

A sudden loud crash and yell preceded Alfie staggering out from the cloakroom, with cut lip, black eyes, seeing stars and little birds tweeting and flying around his head. It wasn’t common knowledge that Reverend Fitzpatrick was a master pugilist and was completely at ease with breaking the Queensbury rules, and the noses of opponents.

Alfie dusted himself off, and walked unsteadily towards the exit of the hall, dusting his palms together as though to say ‘That’s fixed him!’ Unfortunately, Alfie didn’t manage to get to the exit without passing out and falling over. When Alfie came to from his stupor, he was met with the vision of a pair of pink, white lace embellished bloomers, worn by Old Mrs Hawkins, who was completely unaware of Alfie’s mass lying on the floor.

Needless to say, the afternoon merged into evening, and with still more drink flowing, things got worse. A concerned neighbour, named Alfie Wood, upset by the racket coming from Barten Parish Hall, telephoned the local constabulary. A police riot van arrived, with police arresting most of the crochet club, including the epitome of temperance Myrtle Minton who became very rowdy after eating too much of Doris Henty’s Christmas cake. The Reverend Fitzgerald was also taken away for a night in cells, along with Tina Butterworth, who somehow managed to persuade the police into letting her share the same cell as her new boyfriend Reverend Colin. The only drawback was there were no mince pies!


© John Saunders 2015







© Copyright 2019 Vernham Chronicles. All rights reserved.

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