In case you are wondering...no, the double 'Constable' at the beginning of that quote is most definitely not a hiccup in my typing. Blow Up the Castle is simply a very whimsical sort of book. The candle maker is Mr Wick, the taxi driver is Mr Fast, the surgeon is Mr Lance and the sheep farmer is Mr Lamb. It's all good fun if you are in the mood for something light, silly, and completely charming.
Right off the bat this story ticked off several of my favourite literary boxes...1930s England, country village, quirky (well sometimes I like quirky), housekeepers, and eccentric reverends. There's something very 'Barbara Pym' about this story but wait for it...the author is Canadian! This tidbit is only significant to those who know me as someone who almost never reads anything outside of an anglophile nature whether it be setting or author. Margaret Moffatt's bio at the end of the book states that she was a war bride so if she is still alive she is a grand age and apparently living in British Columbia.
The hijinks of Reverends Peacock, Peabody, and Peasly made me laugh from the very beginning. Thinking he could increase the income of his church Reverend Peabody decides to hold seances, of all things. Needing one of the ceilings repaired before his guests arrive, his caretaker shows up armed with tools and dressed in a lovely kilt. Angus also appears to be bearing a hip flask, for when he is checked on later it appears he has passed out in a wheelbarrow full of plaster. The reverend, needing to clear the room before his guests arrive, parks the repairman off behind some voluminous green velvet curtains. While channeling spirits there is a hint of a moan and...you guessed it, a figure covered in white stumbles out from its hiding place. Very good, or very bad, timing depending on how you look at it.
The Reverend Peacock is asked to mind a parrot named Joey. Raised by pirates he's known to shout out 'Blow up the castle!' which is where the title comes from. Mistaking the fact that the local vet is allergic to feathers instead of ferrets, the reverend has an outfit made for the bird. Although Marigold isn't happy about designing any more parrot couture...
'Her refusal meant the reverend had to purchase outfits for Joey's gratification, in order to enjoy a peaceful household, as he had tried everything to appease the feathered pest. With Joey on his shoulder, he boarded a bus to Bushyheath, where shops sold clothes of all sizes. It was a short ride and a very long walk, for Joey, feeling uneasy in his damp dress, swore continually. The bus driver shouted to the reverend a few of his own wicked words, stopped the bus, and told him to leave.'
The housekeeper Marie finds a beautiful solitaire engagement ring in one of the reverend's drawers and is beside herself with joy thinking that she will soon be asked for her hand. Nothing could be further from the truth but the misunderstanding is all part of the fun. It's all very Noel Coward and would be hilarious as a stage play.
While I was chuckling my way through this book I thought it would make excellent bedtime reading. Better still, the sort you can pay hotel staff to lull you to sleep with. It's all very silly but lovely too.
'The Three Vicars' Red Umbrella Paintings
Liz Hess Gallery