Postscript to 12 Days of Christmas.

As requested by someone who wanted to know what was planned for all the 12 days.

The lads’ biographer, Mrs. Cochrane, has asked me to clarify the plan I devised for – and with – Dr Coppersmith.

Day 1 – a chocolate partridge to be placed in the pear tree. Unfortunately, he could only obtain a chicken, left over from last Easter – but I understand it did the trick.

Day 2 – a picture of the two of them together. It was fortuitous that he found one whereby turtle doves had already been alluded to or else Dr Stewart, bright as he is, might just have missed the point.

Day 3 – such fights we had over this. I suggested three nice pullets for lunch but Mrs Ward had already laid in half a cow so we had to bring the pate de fois gras forward. Much rearranging for day 6 ensued although it turned out not to be needed.

Day 4 – there were ructions over this, too. Were they colly birds or calling birds or what? No two books seemed to agree, so we settled for the choirboys and I understand they would have brought a tear even to the eye of Genghis Khan, who was said to be a stern old bird.

Day 5 – Dr H already had that gold watch chain hidden away, ready to bear the hunter he had purchased to give his friend on Christmas Day. He’s a daft old thing at times.

Day 6 – those geese! Such a fuss they caused; Dr Panesar had called at the lodge to borrow a microscope eyepiece from Lemuel and he came in on our deliberations. He’d come across, in the past, some marvellous rockets that made a noise when set off like a skein of geese and Dr H got very excited about the possibilities but then dear Maurice couldn’t remember where he’d seen them or how they could be obtained. So he then suggested goose barnacles – preserved in alcohol from down in the department – and he and Dr H nearly came to blows. Lemuel, bless him, saved the day by suggesting a nice new copy of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which contains the Blue Carbuncle tale.

Day 7 – Lemuel also suggested – as swans always make Dr Stewart think of Stratford – that something concerning the Bard would be appropriate, but Dr H was in such a bad mood at this point that he refused to listen. He wanted something nice made from goose down and I suspect a quilt would have been in order had things proceeded that far.

Day 8 – I must make a small confession here. I had already purchased the clotted cream, which was stored away in our larder, and the college kitchens were geared up ready to produce eight scones – four sweet for Dr K and four savoury for Dr H – so we had to have the things made and Lemuel and I rather pigged ourselves.

Day 9 – nine ladies dancing. My poor Dr C had just calmed down from the geese and the swan,s and the prospect of women had to come along and make things difficult for him. We left it that if matters got this far he might get Jonty either one of those sets of butterflies, pinned behind glass – although I find them rather gruesome – or perhaps a nice print of a Degas picture. Tickets for the ballet would not have worked; Dr H always falls asleep, I’m told and that would hardly fan love’s flames, would it? Thank goodness for Morris men, which made…

Day 10 – quite easy to sort out. The local team would have turned out as long as we provided a keg of beer and as many sausages as they could stuff their faces with. Shame we didn’t use them, but it might make a nice treat for Lemuel’s birthday, later in the Lent term.

Day 11 – Drake’s drum. Well not the drum itself, obviously but the story of the same (I do wish some enterprising soul would make a poem about it). We were going to ask Professor Jacobi to come down from St John’s and tell Dr S the tale – he does speak so very well and would make the recitation of the bill from Waites for Lemuel’s socks and handkerchiefs interesting.

Day 12 – Dr Coppersmith was convinced that if all his previous efforts failed then this would be bound to succeed, the skirl of the pipes always rendering Dr Stewart all of a divvy doo-dah. He’d been in touch with Mrs Stewart who was ready and willing to produce a dozen pipers at the drop of a hat. (I suspect she conjures them up out of said hat like the other unlikely things she can seemingly manufacture from thin air.)

And so you have it – a poor thing but our own and it had the desired effect. I do hope the silly boy doesn’t need to use the stratagem again. Tickets for a talk on difference engines indeed; I despair of him.

Ariadne

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