The Adventures Of Hubert Handlebar
It has been said that you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes, so this man was either an idiot, colour blind or had got dressed in the dark or some combination of these things. It struck Hubert as rather an odd thing, the man before him looked impeccable from head to almost toe, in fact as long as you viewed the man in this manor he would make the most pleasing impression. If however you had a thing for shoes and went from base to apex or perhaps suffered from scoliosis rendering an upward gaze too painful, you would see this man as a buffoon, a buffoon with nice socks and weak ankles, but ultimately a buffoon. The man stood in these shoes was hard to give an age to, his long bony fingers looked old and wrinkled and his face appeared to have spent most of its time out of the sun, a pallid grey hue to it that looked almost lifeless. This was in stark contrast to his other features, his long golden hair was lush and appeared to almost breathe in and out as he moved, his eyes shone bright, fiercely, almost pulsing with energy as he repeated once again “What do you think Hubert? Hubert? What do you think? Should we do it? Hubert, what do you think?” He was bobbing from side to side as he said the words punctuating the the sentence with a hop from his left foot, in a dusty tan brogue and his right, in well polished black and cream spectator. “Eh?” Hubert snapped his stare away from the shoes, he hadn’t been listening at all, uncharacteristically mesmerised by the rhythmic tick-tocking of the man before him, he had no idea what was going on, he realised it didn’t matter to him what the man was saying at that point, he was in need of refreshment “Come dear fellow and join me for a drink, it all sounds rather good to me, shall we sit here?” He gestured with his right arm towards the high back oxblood leather chairs while using his left hand behind the gentleman in the odd shoes steering him into the seat across the table. Signalling to the barman for “two” he settled himself into the seat nearest the door which gave out a little sigh as the leather squeaked to accommodate Hubert’s frame which filled the generous chair easily. His counterparts slight proportions had very little impact on the seat as he flopped into it, he seemed rigid and clunky compared to Hubert’s soft and gentle almost graceful movements. The two men looked at each other for just about as long as it is acceptable to stare at another man, the gaze broken as the barman brought over two identical glasses of Bowmore 12yr scotch and placed them on the highly polished wooden table. Hubert leaned in slightly and took the glass in his right hand, the burn scars of which he never tried to hide were deep but his hand worked fine, holding the glass to to his nose he inhaled the scent of rich peat and hints of lemon and honey, satisfied he took a sip and eyed the amber nectar as if looking for an answer before he placed it quietly on the table and carefully preening his light brown magnificent moustache back from his lips “So Blackett, tell me about the shoes”
The Barman’s gaze was drawn back to the 3 day old newspaper left on the bar as he walked back from the table, he wasn’t sure how long it had been there or who might have left it, but something was nagging at him. The man in the article was clearly the man sat across the table from Blackett, it was clearly Hubert Handlebar Demontfort Doombar III, yet there was something different about the man. The man he could see looked at a loss, a melancholy somber look, as though he yearned for something but did not yet know what that lost thing was. The barman took up a cloth and started to polish the wine glasses, his eyes drawn once more to the newspaper, the photo. What is it about the photo? He read on all the while polishing the same glass.
Moustache Saves a Life
The newspaper reads…..
“It was a relatively clear morning when we set off, our jaunt to crest the hill seemed a jolly jape and I was certain it would be dramatic” said Hubert Handlebar DeMontfort-Doombar III, the man had a plan to take his fiance Bibby Lumbarfunk “Jolly, just jolly” to the summit of Bowman’s Mount that rose magnificently from Reily’s gorge. Handlebar was a confident climber and was keen to share the glorious vistas to drink in at the pinnacle. Bibby, who knew her man to be gallant and brave, followed dutifully even though she had improper footwear and had not before seen the magnificence of Mount Bowman was “delighted, just delighted” by the whole experience. After a spot of tea at noon they headed upwards to cross the revered steps of Bailey and it was here that they came a cropper. The steps of Bailey, a series of blackened stones that twist and wind their way to the pinnacle of Bowman, are often wet from the waters that cascade down the east face of Bowman known as O’Connor’s escarpment, very slippery and treacherous and where many a climber’s attempts to summit were thwarted. Ceefor the dog was quick to scamper up the steps but in rushing past Bibby he affected her equilibrium and due to her poor footwear she slipped, her arms flailed wildly and it was here that Handlebar upheld his gentleman’s standard. His glorious moustache normally dancing so beautifully in the breeze found its way towards the desperate reach of Bibby who was now airborne. Her dainty fingers that were moments before plucking at thin air, found themselves gripped firm on the manly bristles that sprouted from her beloved Handlebar’s upper lip and she knew in that instant she was saved. Handlebar stood there with Bibby dangling from his face defiant and true “it was ghastly, just ghastly!” she later said. Handlebar said of the affair “It’s what any man wearing a moustache would do, excellent grooming and a startling sense of style will inevitably save lives. I’m pleased that Bibby is safe, she is a good egg. As for Ceefor Dog I must have stern words with him, tea anyone?”
Hubert had replayed this over and over in his head and this should have been an event that affirmed his love for Bibby but something felt wrong, he just didn’t know what had happened between them, but he had not heard from her since that day. He gazed out onto the club lawns and his mind wandered once more…..
For Bibby the whole thing had been too much, for a long time she had known that Hubert was not the man she thought he was, in fact it seemed he was not the man he thought he was. It all started one dreary evening when after a pleasant picnic they headed back to the lakeside lodge and sat beside the fire together. They had opened a bottle of her Uncle’s Elderflower wine which they had found tucked at the back of the larder, nestled between jars of pickles and chutneys, jams and relishes. Her Uncle had always kept himself busy when staying at the lodge utilising the offerings from the rich gardens and the local woodlands and hills, these would often become gifts at Christmas and birthdays and were always happily received. Since his ill health though the production had almost ceased meaning that the various products now had some value and to consume them required some justification. According to the carefully hand written label the wine was decanted into clear glass bottle and sealed with a swing top stopper the previous year. The seal had made a reassuring pop when Hubert opened it, it startled him and he leapt to the sink expecting the contents to erupt all over the floor, even Ceefor a usually calm and indifferent dog raised an eye brow before snuffling back to sleep. “Crikey! I thought we were going to loose the whole lot! I still say your Uncle Harry has an amazing gift with this stuff, whenever I try to make something its too gassy and I end up showering in the stuff unintentionally.” Bibby smiled at him but the smile was to hide the sadness in her voice, “Uncle Harry is such a lovely man, its awful, just awful that the arthritis in his hands has crippled him so much, grab some glasses Monty and we’ll drink to Uncle Harry and to a lovely day” Hubert went to the hand made cabinet and fetched the first two glasses he saw, there was little point in looking for a matching pair as every glass was different, it was a quirk that he found comforting but unable to explain. Walking across the cold tiled floor of the kitchen over to the snug area in front of the fireplace, Hubert placed the glasses on the small table and moved to light the fire. “There really is nothing like a good fire at the end of the day, its so relaxing, I’ll have this lit in a jiffy” Carefully Hubert built the first stage of his fire, it was a ritual he held dearly, something his mother had taught him as a child and it brought him comfort to remember her. Some paper placed in the centre of the grate formed the base, he then used bark stripped from the logs and small dry kindling placed gently to form a small pyramid shape. Hubert could hear his mother’s voice “Its like a little WigWam Hubert, but don’t worry, No Indians will be burnt today!” He then placed a few smaller logs near the grate and selected a good wedge shape log for when the fire took hold. He inspected his work, it looked perfect, “No Indians will be burnt today” he said with affection and lit a match. The fire slowly took hold, the paper crinkling as the flames rolled over, the bark began to scorch and a few glowing embers could be seen forming on the thinner sticks. Hubert on his hands and knees began feed the flames with his breath just as his mother taught him. Slowly at first and then as the heat built he blew harder giving life to the flames, he turned his head away between breaths not just to prevent inhaling smoke but also to preen his moustache out of the way, “Dont want to loose the face now do we?” he said, “that would be tragic, just tragic Hubert” Bibby replied taking a sip of her wine. “Come, sit with me Hubert” The fire was almost ready now, Hubert had placed the smaller logs carefully to ensure that air could circulate and laid the larger log across the back of the fire so that heat would be thrown out into the room. Rather than sit with Bibby he stayed there on his knees transfixed by the amber tongued flames licking upwards, he watched the smoke swirl, race and chase embers up the chimney. “Hubert? Everything ok?” Still he didn’t move, in a trance like state he seemed to flicker as the light of the flames gave the appearance of him growing larger then shrinking, a man to a boy and back again, Bibby watched him, he looked lost. “Hubert, what on earth is wrong” she looked on as he curled himself into a ball muttering “No Indians will be burned today, no Indians will be burned today…..”
And so it begins…..again
Blackett had never been a lover of whisky, in fact he wasn’t a fan of alcohol in general and believed it only appropriate as a toast but he humored his oldest and dearest friend and took a drink. In his haste to impress Hubert and in order to get to the reason for him calling the meeting he imbibed a touch too much and nearly choked, fighting very hard not to wince as the fiery liquid seared his throat and ignited in his belly. “A lovely smooth drop eh Blackett?” Hubert smirked, taking a big swig and emptying the glass. He signalled to the barman once again for two more, partly to see the panic on Blackett’s face but also to distract the barman from polishing the same glass. Blackett did indeed panic, there was no way he could drink another, he flailed, turning in his chair trying to signal for just one. However the high backed chair and his stiff muscles meant that all the barman saw was some sort of furniture based skirmish in which the chair was clearly the victor. He brought over the three whiskies that the gentlemen had asked for and left confused by the reaction of the smaller man and the merriment of Hubert. As he made his way back to the bar he was stopped “Just a sec my good fellow. I understand that some believe cleanliness is next to godliness and all that, but you have been polishing that same glass for an age, so either you expect to be visited by a thirsty deity or perhaps there is something I could assist you with? Your gaze was upon me a good number of times” The barman didn’t quite know how to react but in an attempt to buy time he collected the empty glass and cleared the spilled whisky from in front of Blackett. “Its erm, its nothing really, nothing like that. I mean I have no issue with you sir, in fact I was admiring the picture in the newspaper, that was some feat of heroism, nothing untoward I assure you” as he was saying this he found himself retreating towards the safety of the bar. He tried to look away from Hubert who did not utter a word, he didn’t need too, the look in his eyes was one that relayed the message that no more words be spoken. “Hubert!! Hubert!!” Blackett who was now recovered from his chair wrestling, whisky choking episode tried to interrupt the stare, “The shoes” he said tapping the table, “you will love this.” Hubert sat back in his chair and delicately thumbed his moustache back, he retrieved a small comb from his inside pocket and parted his centre hairs, he nodded to Blackett indicating he was ready to listen. Blackett leaned in excitedly the fire in his eyes even brighter, Hubert knew this was going to be entertaining if not good news. As Blackett began to speak he tapped the table in a rhythmic manner, to an observer he would look nervous but it was the only way he could communicate effectively for he suffered with a stutter that was so crippling if he sat still he tripped up on almost every word. Strangley though the rhthmic movement seemed to occupy the part of his mind that stuttered and he could speak fluently only having issue if he was interupted. Hubert barely noticed the constant movements, the soundtrack to any converstaion with Blackett he had learned to filter out, the galloping fingers, the tapping feet, the swaying stance.
They first met in the orchard of a large estate, scrumping was the past time of many young chaps in the summer months, and that scorching summer was no different. Hubert landed on the rock hard dusty ground having made the scramble up and over the wall in no time and with very little effort. He sat crouched for a while and took stock of the orchard, he listened keenly for any tell tale signs of activity from the workers and the estate manager and more importantly the estate managers dogs. Nothing, the twitter of birds and the wash of the wind through the leaves of the numerous and bountiful fruit trees. Taking cover behind an old tree stump always alert to any changes in the noise levels he then dashed to the nearest pear tree. Looking up and in an instant seeing a quick path up to the cradle of boughs he grabbed pulled and then swang a leg up and over the nearest branch and hauled himself into position, he had no interest in the fruit however because his eyes picked out something alarming. From this vantage point he could see directly into the nearest out building and it was in there that he saw a weak looking pale young man laying on the floor. The building was in a state of dilapidation. The dark grey walls and failing roof were ominous in the blazing sunshine, yet the rays had found a way in through holes in the roof and the open door, bathing the young man in glorious dazzling light like a beacon. Hubert sat transfixed unable to move unsure of how this scene could have come about. He needn’t wait too long as a young burly youth sauntered up to the outbuilding carrying a length of rope over his shoulder. Instinctively Hubert swung down as the youth entered the building knowing that something awful was about to happen, he glided quickly and ghost-like across the sun baked ground barely making a sound, he got to the wall and crouched near the the open doorway. Eith his back to the hot brick wall he calmed his breathing, his heart thumping in his chest obscuring anything audible from within. Closing his eyes Hubert gathered his senses, for the sake of the youngster he needed his wits about him. He listened straining his ear towards the sounds that appeared to be coming from the other end of the defunct shell of a building. Hubert made a snap decision and took a chance in looking around the door, before he knew it he was inside and moving towards the opposite side of the room. Leaning with his back against a rotting barrel in a darkened corner he could sense the young man was in a dire situation. The yobbish youth was taking great pleasure in taunting the frail young man who was so frightened he was unable to answer, mumbling and stuttering, terrified. Unable to watch any longer Hubert moved closer using the cover of the youths constant questioning and hounding “This’ll be the last time you try this again, I’m tellin ya now” his prisoner visibly shaking now had lost control of his bladder “You want these apples badly, open your mouth” meekly his mouth opened and his captor thumped him hard with an apple. The resultant thwack and thud of the thief’s head against the wooden post behind was all the distraction Hubert needed. Flying across the grime covered floor he launched at the larger man jumping into the air as he got near and landed both his knees perfectly at the nape of the brutish louts neck, who knew nothing of it, unconscious before he even hit the floor, unaware of his silent assailants tuck and roll and perfect recovery and movement coming to a stop on one knee next to the floored weaker pale youngster. He lifted his head off the floor, the boy came too struggling to focus “Th th th…mmm mmm, th th t t t t t mmmnnngg” unable to coherently talk to his valiant rescuer he slumped again. “Can you stand?” Hubert said helping him up, a nod was the only reply. “Come on lets get out of here before the bloomin dogs are on to us” and with that Hubert led the man from the darkness into the blazing sun.