No white smoke from Dunoon, but a tale of five chimneys - or rather, five Victorian chimney pots, the organist, and the organist's wife.
Yesterday, as the candidates for the post of Rector here were shown round the church and rectory, we noticed that the builders working on the roof had removed the massive chimney pots and set them in a row in the back garden. Now, it is a fact that these pots are much prized around these parts - indeed, the one that survived from our own chimney now stands in my garden with a small thyme bush growing in the top of it, and very ornamental it is too. It is a sadder fact that such objects left untended around these parts will be nicked - especially if no-one seems to be around.
It was decided, therefore, that the pots should be moved into what was once the coal-hole at the rear of the rectory. Now, for reasons I'm not going into, it came about that Mr B was unable to meet one of the three able-bodied men in the congregation at the hour appointed for this bit of heavy lifting, and rather than leave them out for another night he and I decided we would do the deed ourselves. As the light faded this afternoon, we headed for the back of the rectory - the very place where those entrusted with choosing our new incumbent were still closeted with the Dean. We crept inconspicuously up the slimy bank. The pots sat there, dauntingly large, at the top of the back green. We laid hands on the first one. The top of it turned out to be in two parts, the outer of which moved disconcertingly. Our hands were already covered in a noxious mix of soot and green slime, but we began to manhandle the brute towards the door, rotating it over the soggy grass.
I can't keep it up, this blow-by-blow account, but must hasten to the good bit that didn't quite happen. By the third pot I had hit on the brilliant idea of letting it topple onto its side and rolling it down the slight incline to just beside the step of the coal-hole. By the fourth, I was feeling bolder: the pots really moved quite rapidly if you helped them with a shove. But I have to tell you, Best Beloved, that the fourth pot almost got away. And if it had, it'd have careered down the bank and into the unfamiliar green car that presumably belonged to the Dean. So picture, if you will, the organist and his lady wife, doubled up in mirth, diving to restrain a slimy Victorian chimney pot while smothering hoots of laughter like a pair of naughty weans.
I have to report that a coffee-seeking church official saw us and opened the door, and that the chimney pots are now safely locked away with the dwindling supply of parish booze. But where, pray, will the white smoke come from?