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Open Features: Party Of The First Part

So who was this George Formby who came charging out of the party into the rainy night?

Derek McQueen tells another intriguing tale.

For more of Derek's stories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Derek+McQueen

The man came hurtling down the drive and almost knocked me over. It was dark and large overhanging shrubs dripped with rain, making it hard to see. Yellow reflections, in the wet paving and moving shadows at the two downstairs windows, told me the party was in full swing. I was late.

“What the devil are you doing?” I said. “Nearly bloody well knocked me over. Didn’t you see me coming?”

“No sorry, I’m really sorry. I just didn’t see you coming, what with the rain and you being all in black and everything.”

“All in black! All in black! Of course I’m all in black. It’s a so and so dress code party. Strangely, it didn’t occur to me to put on a fluorescent jacket to avoid being killed on the Kinsey’s bloody drive. Anyway, leaving the party already are you after fifteen minutes? Is it that bad?”

He was wearing a grey suit. Pinstripe I think but I couldn’t be sure; it was hard to see.

“I’m sorry,” pin stripe said for the umpteenth time. It was time to let the matter drop. After all, I was only a little damp. I could have been flat on my back and sludged up to the eyeballs in the rose bushes.

“No, I’m not leaving exactly,” pinstripe said. “That’s to say, yes I am leaving but then I’m coming back as soon as I can. I felt so stupid standing in the hall in this brown suit.”

“Brown is it? It looks grey to me. Must be the drizzle.”

“Mrs Kinsey looked at me as though I’d crawled from under a wet log,” Pinstripe went on. “I just pushed the bottle of Lambrusco at her and ran. I was just dashing off to change when we met.”

“Met! Met! That’s a good one. I like that met. Head on collision more like.”

Lambrusco and a brown suit to a Kinsey dress party, unbelievable.
With any luck my gift of 30 yellow roses and the magnum of Veuve Clicquot would fair better with Liz. Liz Kinsey that is. She’s a real snob. One of the worst in the Godalming set and that’s saying something. Fair bridge player mind you.

“Hadn’t you best be going home to change then,” I said to brown suit.
"No point in getting any wetter.”

“For God's sake stop calling me bloody pinstripe and brown suit.
George is my name, George Formby. And no! I don’t play the ukulele. And no I haven’t got my little stick of Blackpool rock.”

With that George shot past me down the drive and I made my way to the magnificent red front door of the Kinsey’s place. The Veuve Clicquot had cost a fortune but Liz would be very appreciative I knew.

“Good evening Sir. May I take your coat and gifts? If you would like to make your way to the drawing room, Mrs Kinsey is showing a film of her charity work in Nepal. A champagne buffet will be served, when the presentation is over, at approximately ten o’ clock. Frightful weather Sir,” he went on. “I have just the vase for the roses. I’ll put them in water immediately.”

His manner was unctuous going on slimy.

“Could you put my coat somewhere dry please. Er – sorry I didn’t catch the name.”

“Call me Jeebes sir. Mrs Kinsey likes to call me Jeebes.”

Jeebes took the soggy coat, just the faintest trace of a sneer on his florid round face.

‘What kind of a bloody name is that, Jeebes?’ I thought as he made as if to move away.

“Point me at a drink before you go Jeebes, there’s a good man.”

Two can play at this game I thought.

“Large gin and tonic with ice, please Jeebes.”

“We have a bar through here sir, if you would like to follow me.”

To the left of the impressive sweeping staircase, the large, panelled, study had been set out as a bar. This was more like it.

“Critton is managing the bar for Mrs Kinsey tonight, sir. A large gin and tonic with ice for this gentleman Critton.”

With that Jeebes slid oleaginously out of sight.

That’s when I saw the bottle of Lambrusco. It was perched on the bar away from all the other bottles. It had half the pink wrapping still clinging to it. George Formby’s gift. For some reason I was hoping he had found a dress suit and was coming back.

“The other guests are watching the film sir,” Critton said. ”Would you like me to take you through?”

“Thank you Critton,” I said. “This is an excellent G & T. Have another ready for me when the film is over.”

*

Liz Kinsey was delighted with the yellow roses and we shared the Veuve Clicquot a month later, when Ernest, her husband, was away in South Africa on business.

I asked about him but strangely, no one had heard of George Formby. He didn’t make it back to the party. The Lambrusco was on the study window sill the last time I looked.

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