3. More French Leave

Camilla was sitting in an armchair in front of the log-fire blazing way in the huge farmhouse inglenook, her nose deep in a thick hardback book. Baz, who had just come inside from his tour of the orchard, clapped his arms to his shoulders for warmth and removed his red Gloucester hat with its enormous bobble – the biggest ever seen at Kingsholm. Maxime was standing next to him, beaming, her face still bright from the cold. “Zis is fantastic news.” She gave Baz a big kiss on the cheek. “Camille, Baz is my ‘ero. ‘E is such a wonderful man. You are so lucky to work for ‘im!”

Camilla didn’t bother to look up from her book.  “What’s he done now?”

“’E ‘as restored our water supply to ze cistern, so we will now ‘ave ze best cider apples in Normandy and ‘e ‘is going to pay for ze repairs on ze farm.”

Baz blushed. “It’s nothing, really.”

“Pah” replied Maxime. “Baz’s ‘eart… it is bigger zan Ryan Walkinshaw’s Scalextric set. And ‘e ‘as asked Tom Oliver, ze maker of ze world’s greatest ciders, to come and ‘elp us.”

Embarrassed, Baz tried to change the subject. “So, what you reading Cam?”

“Oh this? Just my great-uncle Algie’s memoirs. Camilla lifted the cover to show them the title. It was picked in out in gold script beneath a photograph of a red-faced man in a Gurkha officer’s uniform – ‘They Don’t Like it Up ‘Em by Lt. Col. Algernon “Bonkers” Doran-Jones.’

Camilla pointed to the paragraph she had been reading.  “Do you know that in 1957, when he was fighting the Communists in the jungle in Malaya, he stubbled across a Japanese soldier wielding a bayonet, who refused to believe the Second World War was over? Even once they had disarmed him and explained everything he still couldn’t accept that the Emperor was not a god!”

Baz scoffed, “Sounds a bit like Stephen Jones.”

Baz took from his pocket a folded copy of that morning’s Le Figaro which he had picked up in the Village.  “On the subject of newspapers, I’m afraid reports from Toulouse aren’t great. It seems water-cannon and tear-gas have been deployed against rioting Gloucester fans outside The Melting Pot in the Boulevard de Strasbourg. Apparently, they’d sold out of absinthe.”

Camilla closed her book. “So what are we going to do? We going?”

Baz shook his head. “The trains are still buggered, so I think there’s little chance of us getting there in time anyway. Maxime has offered to drive us to St. Malo so we can get the ferry from there and get back to Fumblings in time to watch it on the telly.”

Camilla’s face took on a troubled expression . “Can we just leave this place that easily? What about Mutée and La Sirène, how do we know they won’t get up to their old tricks?”

Baz grinned. “No sweat. I’ve bought them out and I’m adding their property to Maxime’s farm so they can expand the cider business.” Baz looked out of the window towards the ramshackle buildings of the neighbouring farm at the top of the nearby hill.

“Such was the terrible state of that place I was able to get it for a song. It was much cheaper than hiring lawyers to take out injunctions and stuff. It will take some sorting out though. The poor animals were living in appalling conditions, forced to lie round in their own ordure, scavaging whatever they could find by way of food.  There were even signs that some dangerous inbreeding had been taking place over the years.”

Camilla looked horrified. “Should we call the French RSPCA?”

Baz shook his head. “Fortunately the livestock seems to have been quite well looked after.” He threw the newspaper on to the fire. “Look we should start pack if we are going to catch the evening ferry.”

* * *

The Toulouse pack ploughed through the Gloucester pack for the umpteenth time. Cherry and White bodies were strewn across the pitch as Toulouse ran in their fifth try “Bugger!” Baz flicked the “off” button on the remote. He would have kicked Hamilton in frustration, but knew that he might live to regret it. Instead he hurled epithets at the sleeping hound, who was sprawled over the precious D’Apice rug, blocking all the heat from the fire

“Great, lumbering, useless hairy beast!”

Hamilton didn’t stir. He appeared to be oblivious to Baz’s curses, continuing to make slobbering noises as he dreamed of chasing rabbits across the Fumblings parkland (or it may have been OG  – Hamilton wasn’t choosy). Then Baz’s nose suddenly twitched as it was assailed by a particularly pungent doggie fart. Gasping, Baz fled from the study and out into the entrance hall, opened the main door and drew in a deep gulp of fresh air.

At that moment, Stephanie was slinking down the main staircase in her brand new Fuimaono-Sapolu mini-dress above knee-length boots, fashioned for her by Colazzo of Milan. When she saw Baz coughing helplessly by the main door, she ran over to him. “Baz, what’s the matter? You’ve gone all red.”

Baz caught his breath and spluttered. “I reckon the boys in Toulouse got off pretty lightly with the tear-gas.” He took his beautiful employee by her slender shoulders. “Look Steph, I need to do something positive, otherwise with our pack the way it is I think I am going to go out of my mind. I think it’s time we finished our Twickenham business. Maybe that will also help to distract Shedweb from our injury list. I’m sure it will cheer everybody up – even GB83.”

Sitting at the long dining table with his fourth glass of Chateau Bastareaud ’83, Baz was feeling emboldened. Camilla was sitting next to Stephanie, the three of them huddled arounf Baz’s Sonofsamsung Graphene laptop.

Camilla, in contrast to her employer, looked worried. “Baz, Smirkey said that if this got out, then it could have devastating effects on the UK economy.”

Baz scoffed. “We’ve seen the numbers for ourselves, they are not anything like the those  the old rascal was quoting. I think that the PRL might have got to him – or Sarries for that matter – I’m still struggling to work out who is the bigger villain in all this. Sarries are as guilty as hell of course and they deserve to go right down to the bottom of South West Three, but unless the report gets out somehow, there will always be idiots saying that they were stitched up by the other clubs.”

Camilla shrugged. “Okay then. I suppose we had better do it.”

Baz turned and looked at Stephanie expectantly.  “So, have you got the Fannyscanner?”

Stephanie extended her fingers to reveal the tiny device in the palm of her hand. She She placed it carefully in front of her on the polished mahogany table. “Are we going to post it to them?”

Baz shook his head. “No, that might smell fishy. We’ll send it to them via this server.”

Baz typed ftp.skynews.net into the address bar in his browser. He took the Fannyscanner delicately between his thumb and forefinger. “Now all we need to do is download this little beauty…”







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