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Dinner With The Baron

Walt C. Snedeker

Only through a weird set of circumstances would it have come to pass. Fortunately (I think), my life's circumstances are frequently as weird as a fishes underwear. Therefore, when I found out that the nice receptionist to whom I had been expending my carefully hoarded charm had a daddy who was an honest-to-Agincourt baron, I glibly informed her that the Fabled PC and Your Humble Obedient &tc were soon to go to The Continent.
"Ooh! You've gotta look up Daddy at his castle!" she gushed.
"Where does your father live? I mean, where is his... castle?" I wasn't buying this right away, you see. The nice girl-lady to whom I was speaking was a pure California-type. You know the kind -- they have to wear padded shoulders so they don't hurt their heads when they talk.
"Daddy's castle is in Arbroath. On the coast of Scotland. He is the Baron of Kelly. When you look out any one of the windows on top, the North Sea is right there. In Scotland," she finished erratically, eyes shining proudly.
"Your father is a baron?"
"You betcha my betcha against your betcha, and I betcha my betcha wins, I betcha." She was on a roll, now. Just as I approached certainty that all of the kookies were not in the jar, she reached into her receptionist-thingy desk to pull out an impressive certificate signed by the Exchequer to the Queen and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Sir Lord Lyon King of Arms, Royal Big Shot and Nobody to Be Sniffed At, or somebody.
It was a list of the bonafides that swore through the listed genealogy and historical records attested to ad nauseam that one Mr. Gerald Hubert Colson (aka "Daddy") was, in truth and fact, the Baron of Kelly. And here was his coat of arms, his baronial coronet, his baronial motto, and my God -- even his bloody flag.
"Give Daddy a call -- he'd love to have you stay over. He'll probably put you in the Blue Room at the Castle."
You could hear the capital letter.
So I wandered home, thinking that my maladjusted charm had really gotten me into a deep etiquette stew this time. The Fabled PC thought it was cute, and that I ought to give the guy a phone call the next night, just to say hello if we happen to be in the area.
Brrrrrnnggg. Brrrrnnnggg.
"Kelly Castle."
"Duhh. This is Walt Snedeker... Ah, um... I, umm," I opened brilliantly.
"But of course, you must be that great humor writer from that wonderful Parklander magazine that my daughter told me about. How kind of you to call. I was ever so hoping you'd get in touch."
And they wonder why we raw colonials dearly love a lord.
"Well, Baron, er, Your Highness, sir, I..."
"Oh, you must call me Jerry."
"Your daughter told us to look you up when we got to Scotland."
"Yes. She mentioned that to me. When will you be here?"
I told him we'd be there in about two weeks, and then asked if he knew of any good Bed-and-Breakfasts in the area.
"Nonsense." A crisp command -- a touch of the Colonel, here. "You'll stay at the Castle."
He used capital letters, too.
"Oh, that's very kind, but we don't want to impose..."
"Nothing of the sort. Let me know when you are going to arrive, and I will send a car down to the station to meet you."
Did he say: 'send a bloody car down to the cotton-pickin' station'??? The Fabled PC and I exchanged looks.
"(*gasp*) Uh, thanks, Your Royal, um, Jerry."
"Cheer-o, then."
Oh, my.
Scene cut to two or so weeks later. The Fabled PC and Your Humble &tc. are at the station in Arbroath.
There is no car.
We dial up the Castle. We are now using capitals. No answer. Uh-oh. But wait. We can leave a message.
"Hi, uh, Your Jerryship, sir. This is Walt and PC. We're at the station. We'll just get a cab and hop over to the Castle."
So we did. The cab drove through the clean, sleepy, modest little town with its tiny postage-stamp lawns, each house touching its neighbor. Beautiful, quaint little place.
Then we turned up a drive. Holly, rhododendron in bloom, dogwood, giant flowering things lining the shaded drive. A huge pasture full of cows... NO!! Wait a minute!!
"PC! Lookit! Lookit! Those are DEER!"
"But they're too big, aren't they?"
Astute lass. The deer were more the size of elk. But they just sat there looking at us. And they were deer. Humongous, utterly tame deer. I had the cab stop and got out. Arnie Schwartzenbambi just calmly gazed at me. Unreal. The Baron's private herd.
The Baron was not in.
One of the staff informed us that he was being given a joyride by a warship of the German Navy, and would be back tomorrow. (What is this world coming to?)
So we stayed in a Bed and Breakfast. It was lovely.
The Baron was all contrite in the morning, having gotten his calendar awry, and could he come and pick us up now?
We knew the car was from the Castle instantly. Everybody else had, well, cars. The thing coming down the road was probably launched as a special favor to the Baron by the Rolls Royce company.
The Baron had pale gold-grey hair, an immaculate mustache, and a blazer with the baronial crest. The Castle was begun to be built in the 12th century. We nearly got lost by the time our very special tour was over.
I say "special tour" because the Baron (giggling in a refined peer-ish sort of way) showed us something others never saw: he pulled on a book in a bookshelf, to be rewarded with an enormous click! Hooboy! A genuine secret panel opened up, revealing a steel door that would not have been out of place at Brink's. We went through it, with me clicking away with my camera, and found ourselves in a private office.
The Baroness announced dinner. We segued/sashayed/stumbled into the main dining room. The table would only seat forty or so, but the Fabled PC and I figured we could squeeze and make do. Along the wall opposite where I was seated was a leather tapestry akin to the Bayeux job which features the Battle of Hastings. I remarked on it, and the Baron was delighted.
"Yes, I am very pleased to own that. Christi's came in and appraised it, then insured it for two hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds."
That's a half-million bones in American, folks. But it wasn't the end by any means. The table we were seated at (if you chucked in the chairs and sideboard) was picked up by ole Jerry at Sotheby's for another trifling half mil.
Jiminy. We hadn't even gotten out of the dining room, and the furniture cost more than a million dollars.
Eventually, we took our leave, the Baron being gracious to the end, insisting that we stay the night in the Blue Room (the one with the suit of armor standing in the corner).
When we got back to Florida, we looked at the pictures. The Fabled PC was doing a lot of sighing.
Uh-oh. I could see it coming.
"I want to redecorate."

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