• Ben Hardyment

The Chariot Sellere of Parson's Greene

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

A few years ago, I was asked to be Best Man at my brother’s wedding in the Cotswolds. It’s not actually relevant that it was in the Cotswolds but I thought I’d mention that as for me it conjured up images of Arcadian splendour and huge marquees thronging with masses of bright people wanting to be entertained by a hilarious speech at the end of a memorable day.

Well, this left me quite frankly, terrifed, so Annabel (my wife & muse) wracked our brains for the right premise and finally after weeks of therapy and brainstorming it hit us:

Tom had actually met Camilla through renting her a room in his Fulham house, and somehow an image came to mind of my olde-worlde culinarily talented brother (some 19 stone and 2 meteres tall of him) answering the door, having been interrupted whilst making one of his then favourites “Roast Nest of Three Birds” and dropping the giblets at the shock of the Scandinavian splendour of his soon-to-be princess.

As I’d studied English at University, and always enjoyed reading Chaucer out loud, the memory of “The Cook’s Tale” sprung to mind, and that idea, coupled with the fact that verse makes things funnier than they actually are sometimes, gave me the impetus to take a few days off in rural isolation to craft a “lost Cantebury Tale” which mirrored Tom’s life as a character from the Middle Ages on a desperate quest for a Viking Princess.

The Tale of the Chariot Sellere of Parsones Greene

“Whan goode Kinge Harolde ruled in Ancyent Dayes,  (A kinge that every Briton loves to prayse). The Vikinges, ran amucke in oure fyne lande, So ofte ther boots landed on English sande.

Amongste alle thys stryfe ther lived a couple yonge,  Peter and Pamme of Cambridge — ther bond was stronge.  So muche so they hastillie begat a sone. Pamme seyde “In my ovene is a sysable bunne!”

Swiche delyt — and respyt! — was ther upon his birthe,

Peter cryed “Herkneth, a giant wol walk upon erthe!  Thomas of the clan Hardyment he is to be named. For booth bodye and mynde wol he be famed.”

So posesed wer they with ther mountaynous chylde, That whan another was born they scarsly smyled. Now, to herke thys reaction, I knowe, is distressinge  But remember in wartyme — a huge chylde is a blessinge.

And his brother Benbow semed spindly and useles,  Good for Thomas to kikke, til his mouth was toothles.  Eek one deye a halfe moone shere at Ben was swunge.  Yonge Thomass knewe wel he koud do no wronge.

It clefte flesh from the hede of his defensles broder,  What a betynge ensued… first fader. Then mooder.  But conflicte was rare, moost times the boys wer kinde  Pullen bits from frogs until legles and blind.

Whan pleyynge god with animales imaked hem bored, Thomas loved to heer tales of the brave Vikinge Horde.  His Grandpa was a Vikinge, of whiche Peter was proude.  Grandma kepte it a secrete which was never spoke loude…

They preyed the nors men wolde in war conquer Britayne But that is noght the weye our hystorie was writen. At the Bataille of Stamforde Brigge Harolde was victorious.  And Thomas knewe then that to be a warrior was nat glorious.

Tom seyde “For the love of Crist that for us dyde,  I wol praktyse namoore the arte homicyde. I have feelynges that i can no longere suppresse.  That one day I wol have my owene Viking Pryncess!”

Shamed by his son’s weakness and shyness from bataille,  Peter paked up Tom’s tronke, fild it with his chatels.  Banished to Boreding Schole! Yet he stayed in good cheere - The lure of his queste got hym through alle the fear.

He lay on his straw bedde, leking roofe up above.  Dreamed of skills neded to atract Nordic love.  And so bifel it that he joyned the scole choir,  Surely nors maydens sweete songes wolde desire?

I wolde swer it be trewe, but thys tale is all tangled.  He made noyse like a chicken whose nekke was strangled!  But herke whan peers cruel laughed and they moked, How Tom’s huge fystes ther faces he noked.

Despeiren for love, he tryed thespian leanings, Geant Tom, oonly twelve, dide giv Prospero newe menings,  But in Windelsham’s halle oonly parentes wer ther, His theatricel struts ended up as thinne air.

He rayled at the hevens, cursed at god in his rage, And used alle his strengthe to smash proppes up bakstayge.  Thys queste was noght ment to be brutal and bloody, So he sette focus on bokes and clasical study.

Homer, Euripides, Plato and Aeschylus, Virgil, Ovid, Horace, and Lucretius. Surely his lerninge of poetes of oolde, Wold seduce the affections which still lay so cold?

Rewardes didee come from his serche for oolde knowledge.  He wonne a scholarship to Marlborough College. In gold at his preppe scole was thys fete etched in prynte,  Ful welcome was thys newees as his fader was skynte.

The scole, it was bilt for the sonnes of clergy,  Surely heer they wold aprecyate Greke dramaturgy?  But no! Alle was ribaudye and teenayge dronkes,  Smooking in feeldes and fytinge on bunks.

Ryotous freedome, disdayn for auctoritee, Wheer scolarle aptytude impresed a mynoritee. A corrupting atmosfer sette his mynde fre, Thomas steered alle he koude to become celebritee.

Of the Marburian Magazine he was in charge, And moost of the pages his ego enlarged. Tom heer, Tom ther, Tom’s face everywheer. But from the scoles maydens? Noght soo muchee as a stere.

Dedication to sporte hadde limitede successe, Hockey, cricket and tennis nede dextrous finesse. But a stoute proppe forward he bakame on the rugby feelde. I forget how many poore midgets his stampings hadde killed.

To the darke arte of scyence he madde steps exploratory,  He once madde explosyves in the chemiste laboratory,  They blewe out the windowes, and burned alle his heer,  And the bombe squadde wer callede, what a sorry affaire.

Stille the maydens ignored hym — a social carbuncle!  So he started a minstrel-band called “Men from UNCLE”  Tom’s freshe brooken voice blasted out “Echo Beach”,  But amongste the crowd he koude heer no Viking screech.

Bacchanalyan urges then tooke his preference. Tom dumped his dulle bookes, and gave them scant reference.  To Cambridge his teechers hadde hoped he’d ingress. Swyche untapped potential his brayne dide possess.

Quoth Tom “Am too poshe to get in to Kinges. They give places to coal miners — never offsprings.  Marke my wordes, far too muche worke wolde it require.  And besydes, Scandinavian maydens are alle I desyre”

He chose Copenhagen, Stockholm and Roskilde But the clerks that rede his approach wer nat thriled  “You speke Frenche, Latine, Rusian and useles oolde Greke.  They are poyntles adendums unles Viking yow speke”

But in the land of King Haralde swiche language was baned  So at Busines Scole in Londoun he tryde his large hand.  And ther fyne skilles of commerce he was accruing, Whan he was not in the 151 taverne, on the floor, canoeing.

It was ther in the Kinges Roode that destinee called He saw chariots and fyne horses that had maydens enthralled!  Alle the cool bachelers of the tyme would parayde, Up and doun Chelsea with fyne steedes alle arayed.

So thenne he determined to build a newe trade.  “The Stable on the Greene” — an equine arcade.  And from it solde steeds of mageste and wonder.  So the felouns floked in with moneie to launder.

Whan at playe he’d sop mede in his pub, The Whit Hors,  With chums talkinge tactics to pullen maydenes Nors. He wold cruse the Kinges Rood drawne by two of his stedes.  First coltish Ferrari, lithe Lamborghini would lede.

To the foode halle at Harrods, leering maydenes en route,  Thenne clopping hom lonelee, mete and chese in the boote.  One sadde weekende whil he madde som game pies, An idea dide strok hym bitwene tere-streuen eies.

He koude se that his bodie was noght getynge yonge,  Desperate he graunted he koude noght wayte muche longe.  He placed an adverte in the Fulhame Gazette. The classifyde section would lure hir to his nette!

“Big double room for rente in poshe Fulham dwellinge.  Come view it in personne, heede nat my tellinge. Suit lovere of goode etinge, from heringes to venesoun,  Furniture Arne Jacobsen, Cutlery Georg Jenesoun”

Swiche crafte! So deviouse! Such pleasurely konnynge,  Sooth viking maydenes wolde seurli comme renninge?  Two weekes passed, and Tom was in a depe slump. Ech aplicante Britishe, uglye, and plumpe.

Hymself he consoled by cookinge roste nest of thre-birds.  Then, whil pullen out giblets the dorbel he herde. He answered it briskly, cros at having to stoppe. But stood ther strok domb, the giblets he dropped!

Ther was his princesse, graceful and magestik! What she thoght of cook Tom, a blody visioun domestik, I kan nat seyn, but he was as if hitte by lightning, And his silent ogling must have semed kind of frightening.

But Camilla was of goode stocke, of the Thornberg Vikings.  Eek with the Slavicke Drenovs an amalgam moost striking.  She tooke the grym syght in hir stride and seyde directly.  “Thys is the wrong house, I have rung incorrectly”

The reste is hystory suffyse to seye that she stayed,  Tom worked his charme from the offe and it payed. He impresed hir with every recipe hir herte kold desyre,  He cooked in a frenesie — thys kold noght bakfyre!

Thys wouing of his, the lengthe of time was astoundynge,  Countless meles, trippes abrode, then victorie resoundynge.  Eleven yores it tooke of desperate pledinge, And finalli Camilla agrede to have a fyne weddinge!

And so it bifel that the familees wer unyted, Swiche joye and celebration, everichon was delyted. Fyn wyn was dronke, stomachs ful of eche delicacy. Swiche a fittinge way for Tom to end 41 yeers of celibacy!

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