At Aunty Stella’s House
Ferdinand Desai was having tea with Strawberry. It was a long time since he had been home and they were out in the garden, even though it was turning a little chilly. In the kitchen they could still hear Aunty Stella preparing cream scones. She seemed to have been at it for hours despite the best efforts of Mouse to lend assistance. The tubby little cat had been mixing the ingredients with a relatively clean paw and her tabby coat was hidden under a fine covering of greyish flour.
The rest was doing Ferdy good – sure, he still had that distracting tick below his left eye, and his stubby wing shook when he tried to handle the large stoneware teapot, but he was a lot better than when he first arrived. For three days all the pent up tension that he had kept suppressed, nurtured to enhance his combat awareness, came out and all but paralysed him. The days had been hell and the nights far worse. Now he was on the mend. He had been recounting some of his reasonably exciting, yet not too lurid Coleywar adventures and was getting some funny looks from his old friend.
“…and now Larry seems to think we’re going to sort out this mess in Antarctica. Do you know how far it is to Antarctica?”
They agreed that they did not.
“Well it’s a long way.”
Ginsbergbear joined them on the patio. He was wearing a loose fitting and stylishly shabby corduroy suit and was lighting a compact vulcanised meerschaum Peterson pipe. Aunty Stella and mouse followed him carrying trays with the first batch of warm scones.
“Are they going to join us?” Aunty Stella nodded towards the slumped figures of Boz and Phoebles, stretched out on recliners by the pool. “Tea’s up, you two.”
There was a stampede for the food and Phoebles had cream all over his nose before the others could get the top off the jam pot.
“Save some for me.” A tall figure slunk from the shadows by the wheelie-bins, the mole-grey fedora shadowing a face hidden behind a Lone Ranger mask and the wide striped zoot-suit instantly recognisable to the assembled company. The yellow MacDuck tartan pashmina scarf was new.
Ginsbergbear was the first to address him. “Slasher McGoogs as I live and breathe, and what brings you to leafy Surrey?”
“You do, your gang and Larry and this whole bloody mess you’ve got yourselves into. Stir things up a bit I says, and you start a war.
“I’ve been up north of the wall, amongst the Reivers, gathering intel. And nothing I’ve heard so far is good.
“Boz, you’re going to have to get hold of Larry and dissuade him from all that Antarctic rubbish. We need to defuse this powder keg in the Autonomous Northern Territories before there’s the biggest bang since Krakatau. And we may have to curb the Kittens of Chaos. They appear to have directed their undoubted if random enthusiasm towards some freelance offensive of their own devising.”
“Me? Why don’t you go and see him?” Boz was not in the mood to be taking orders, “I have to admit though, Blackpool does sound more attractive than some snow swept continent in the middle of the Southern Ocean.”
“Larry and I don’t meet. You can’t exactly be the shadowy antihero one mi nute and lunch with the Acting Prime Minister the next. And it’s not exactly going to be Blackpool, old pal. I want to introduce you to the Gilnockie of Gilnockie. See if we can’t get the Reivers back to cattle thieving, rape and vendetta amongst themselves, on their own patch – and something similar for the Corsairs. There’s a time factor though – rumour has it Les Chats Souterrains are moving a Vril-1 Jäger Class Foo Fighter up there and if any one gang gets their hands on that there’ll be all hell let loose.”
“No pressure then? As usual.” chipped in Ferdy, who was developing a disturbing glint to his eyes, “And the Kittens are raising Cain up there too. Walk in the park.”
“The Kittens,” said McGoogs ominously, “are laying siege to Berwick-upon-Tweed.”
Sea Dog Bamse
As the Lord Ancaster was hailed from the submarine, Bamse the Norwegian St Bernard, had concealed himself in the foc’sle paint locker and managed to remain undetected.
After two days at sea the Lord Ancaster arrived at a small, ice free whaling harbour in Neuschwabenland and the Acting Kommänder of the prize crew, wishing to demonstrate his seamanship and impress onlookers, steamed his charge at her top speed of ten knots towards the quay. It had been his intention to ring Full Astern and spin the wheel at a precisely judged moment so that the Ancaster turned sharply, lost momentum and drifted alongside the jetty in a single and elegant manoeuvre. Sadly, he was unused to the quirky character of his newfound command, and to the unreliability of the ship’s telegraph. The command Full Astern never reached the engine room, in fact the pretty brass handle of the telegraph came away in his hand and the trawler charged full pelt into the quayside, destroying the wooden jetty, rupturing the bow water tank and scattering paint pots around Bamse’s hidey-hole. Stevedores on the quayside were showered in drinking water, which froze instantly, and a rainbow coloured St Bernard appeared briefly on deck before bounding ashore and disappearing into the shadows.
At the same time as Oberleutnant Wilhelm Cremer was contemplating the fickleness of fate and his suddenly diminished chance of commanding so much as a turd in a piss-pot any time soon, Bamse had slipped into the ratings’ changing rooms. Rubbing in a liberal coating of Swarfega and following up with a hot soapy shower he had managed to remove the worst of the paint. He emerged cautiously from the shower and walked straight into a New Swabian seaman.
“Gott im himmel! Einen Hund. Was machst du hier?”
Bamse ducked back into the shower and pulled the curtain across while the sailor screamed, “Alarm!”
The changing room’s steel watertight door banged and a muscular figure in singlet and shorts, hard blue eyes below a severe blonde crew cut, burst in.
“What’s all this racket?”
“Oberbootsmann, there is a dog in the shower.”
“Do not be ridiculous Herman, there are no dogs on the base. There have been no dogs here since the last sled husky died in 1956. See.”
He threw back the curtain to reveal Bamse, with the expression of a startled owl and holding a towel in front of his body to preserve his modesty. The petty officer ignored him.“It would be impossible for a dog to be here without me knowing it. Now report to sick bay and get this hysteria nipped in the bud.”
“But…” Herman twitched his head towards Bamse.
“Aye aye, Oberbootsmann.” And, switching off the light as they departed, the pair left a stunned Bamse to contemplate his newfound fortune in the dark. There were no dogs in Neuschwabenland. Bamse was a dog. Therefore Bamse could not be at the whaling station. He defied logic and so he did not exist. He was invisible to everyone on the base… well, everyone not on the verge of a nervous breakdown anyway. He headed straight for the canteen, piled high a bowl with as many Bratwurst sausages as it would hold, made himself comfortable at an unoccupied table and tucked in. He was not acknowledged by any of his fellow diners. There was Ampelpudding for desert so Bamse had two generous helpings washed down with a stein of Bockbier. More than adequately nourished, Bamse took a turn round the harbour. The Ancaster was tied up on the quayside, in darkness and apparently deserted. Across the water the old sea dog recognised the auxiliary cruiser Pinguin, which must have docked while he was eating and was moored over on the mole. Originally named the Kandelfels, she still looked like the harmless freighter that she had once been – she was converted into a commercial raider during the winter of 1939/40 in Bremen. He knew that she had two six-cylinder diesel engines delivering 7,000 hp, half a dozen 150 mm L/45 C/13 guns taken from the obsolete battleship Schlesien and discretely concealed behind her bulwarks along with a 75 mm cannon, one twin 37 mm and four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, and two single 53.3 cm torpedo tubes. She could also carry two Heinkel He 114A-2 seaplanes, all of which made her a lot more formidable than she appeared and the most successful of the Axis raiders. What was she doing down here? No one had seen anything of her for decades and she had been presumed lost at sea. No matter, Bamse left off musing and turned to locate the radio transmitting station. Whilst the Oberfunkmeister was at supper he would have to get a message off to Larry back in London.