Jolly Days of Steam
AKA THE VIKING
Sudgedon filleted his kipper reverently placing the bones on the side of his plate with the care of a museum curator re-siting a priceless fossil. Sudgedon deftly sliced off a strip of kipper with a sharpened pocket-knife he used in preference to a blunt fish knife, considering the utensils to be an example of laziness on the part of manufacturers.
Rolling a strip of kipper into a roll with a two pronged fork, he also carried upon his person, he delicately popped the morsel in his mouth chomping steadily with the circular motions of a camel eating figs, I’d witnessed this fascinating inclination when visiting Whipsnade Zoo as a youth.
Thomas had found Sudgedon’s meticulous preparations before eating so absorbing, he’d lowered his own cutlery to the side of his breakfast plate and sat watching like a man absorbed by a ‘What The Butler Saw’ attraction on Blackpool pier.
But life is full of reverses and Sudgedon experienced one of his when his horse like molars chose to harass one side his tongue instead of his kipper. He stopped chewing instantaneously giving Thomas and I the impression he was about to burst into a comic song; but did something else entirely.
He dropped his knife and fork and throwing both pudgy hands to his jaw, made a stifled noise like a lion having its pelvis removed without anaesthetic.
Not wishing to let his eggs and bacon go cold, Thomas took up his culinary weaponry and was just about to peg away when Sudgedon opened one corner of his mouth saying something like, ‘Bik my bress-ed tong.’ His eyes in accordance with his suffering had enlarged and his moustache had sagged in the afflicted area only outdone by his shoulder rising a few inches as if pressing for a rehearsal of, the ’Quasimodo,’ pantomime we were to present before our college broke up for Christmas.
A waiter stealthily appeared, but thinking Sudgedon was in the middle of exhibiting how to mime, smiled pleasantly and slid off to clear plates from the next table.
Slowly Sudgedon returned to normal, and tucking into what remained of his kipper, he said again, ‘Bit my blessed tongue, I did, and you two bally idiots just sat gazing at me like apes full up with bananas. Fat lot of help, you were,’
Thomas said, ‘But you seemed to have everything under control, Sudgedon, old lad, what would everybody have thought if we prised your jaws open with a steak knife? Why, they would have called the police; what do you say, Snackerbridge?’
I said, ‘I agree with Thomas, Sudgedon, you wouldn’t like people pointing at you afterwards thinking you were a ninny, would you? Apart from that, you had the rest of your kipper to finish, and I wouldn’t have parted you from that work of art for worlds.’
Saying ,’Humph,’ Sudgedon polished off his kipper, and said no more about it.
‘Oh look, you can see Southend Pier from here, it has flags and bunting flying from it,’ said a small boy chewing upon a toffee apple. Everyone rushed to the starboard side of the ‘Marion; a paddle steamer on which we were journeying on a brief holiday from Brighton to Essex. As is the way of paddle steamers, if one paddle wheel is lifted from the water, the other digs deeper and swings the vessel around in a circle. And this is exactly what happened. The skipper, waving clenched fists at us from the bridge, pulled hard on the fog-horn lever and the crew rushed about urging the mass of trippers to resume their seats for the sake of equilibrium. Slowly the Marion righted herself, and was just making headway when the small boy pointing at Sudgedon, squealed, ‘He started it, if he hadn’t been mucking about at the breakfast table pulling faces we could have got on with our breakfast and I wouldn’t have seen Southend Pier and the ship wouldn’t have gone wonky.’
There was a brief silence before the boy’s words stirred the souls of troublemakers seeking to be troubled, and already finding the sea too choppy. They descended upon on Sudgedon like a rugby scrum.
‘Blinkin’ idiot,’ said one, and a particularly wizened lady dressed in black, said, ‘Where were you in 1914 when me Ernie got his manhood shot off fighting against the Kaiser? I bet you was living’ the life of Reilly weren’t you?’ To add emphasis to her vitriolic claim, she dotted Sudgedon on the head with her walking stick, which falling from her grasp, tripped up the waiter still clearing the breakfast tables. He fell awkwardly, forcing a crockery trolley into the path of old lady’s bath-chair that span around like an outraged horse and bolted to the exit door leading to the main deck. At a speed never envisaged for the comfort of the elderly, the old lady was catapulted into a deck-chair in which she went to sleep.
The weather changed for the better giving the Marion every advantage to reach Southend Pier on time. Passengers shook hands when disembarking and Sudgedon in what was seen as a forgiving gesture, repeatedly patted the small boy’s head with a fish-knife wrapped in The Times.
About the Author
Jim had four short stories and two articles published after completing a correspondence course in 2009. The pseudonym, The Viking came about after both little fingers curled into the palms. I was told the Vikings brought it over. He has now been published by Bridge House Publishing and is an active member of a writing group in Essex.
Published November 10 2015