Surrey Steampunk Convivial IV - at The Royal Oak, New Malden on Sunday 22nd February, 11:30am.]
Little could they have known, as our protagonists were collected two by two in Sir Grenville Lushthorpe’s belching steam coach, the sheer scale of the imminent disaster they were about to inflict upon an unsuspecting metropolis that very night.
First to be embarked were Philby the callow, cheap-suited journalist and Ellen Hall the fearless explorer ravishing in black leather jacket and khaki jodhpurs.
‘Some wheeze eh?’ she remarked leaping aboard, Philby did not reply, brushing his hair sheepishly from his eyes as he clambered after her notebook and pencil clamped in sweaty hands. The charabanc lurched on with an unseemly belch of acrid grey smoke; the city’s streets dimly lit by flickering ochre gas lamps, and an early evening mist settling in every gutter and back alley.
Onwards, onwards to Bankside, where the river was at full swell, foaming angrily at the sides of the embankment. Here they halted again to collect First Lord of the Admiralty Cuthbert and his good lady wife Eliza, in high spirits following a belly-filling luncheon at the Conway Club.
‘Well, well, well,’ he muttered, doffing his hat to Ellen as he squeezed his well-proportioned frame through the ornate door of the iron coach. He nodded, without really looking, at Philby and sat himself in the front most seat. ‘A right escapade and no mistake.’ Eliza was barely seated before the coach jerked on its way to collect the final witnesses of that fateful, fearful night.
Eyebrows were raised (not for the last time) across the motley crew as the last rendezvous turned out to be the ‘Minster itself, as the PM, no less, accompanied only by his Special Branch man (scandalously the scrupulously god-fearing politician had no wife) stood impatiently under the nominated lamppost.
‘What devilry do you think Lushthorpe has in store for us tonight, eh?’ ventured the PM (somewhat nervously) to no one in particular as each acknowledged the other and the final leg of their night’s adventure, some would say misadventure, began. By this time the mists were gathering into fog, but the coach had a good many modern arc lights and the pilot knew his business. Thankfully for the backsides of all in the jalopy the clanking, steaming drive to Sir Lushthorpe’s east end laboratory was made in good time and Cuthbert snored only the once.
Copyright Daren Callow 2015