The Kidlington Pie

by Stilly

The greengrocer muttered, then tuttered, then uttered,
"A half dozen turkey eggs, a pumpkin degutted,
Rhubarb, and damson jam, some fresh elderberries,
Cinnamon splinters, and wild sweetheart cherries,
Rose water, spelt flour, five cardamon roots,
Strawbinis and goat curd, a ripe ginger breadfruit,
And one jar of organic sweet chestnut honey."
Then he looked up and laughed (as he totted the money)
At the not-hidden ladies behind his tin cans,
Who whispered and scribbled their ill-gotten plans;
Desperate to learn what went into the recipe,
Every ingredient, every necessity,
Known only to Mrs Claire Manly-Brightthighes,
The world's only maker of Kidlington Pies.

As she paid and collected the recipe order
Mrs Manly-Brightthighes saw the Mayor's youngest daughter
Who was hiding her face in this months 'Country Life',
With Edna O'Grady the pub landlord's wife;
Miss Worth and Miss Birch (the equestrian team),
She greeted them each with an all-knowing gleam
And reminded them all of the upcoming fete,
The Pet Show, Tombola, Hook-a-duck, Guess the Weight,
And the bakery auction, most important indeed,
All proceeds to raise funds for Badgers in Need.
This year she was baking her Kidlington Pie,
The recipe passed on by her forebears gone by.
With a smile and a nod she made her departures
And home just in time to tune in to "The Archers".

Oh That Kidlington Pie! Oh that Kidlington Pie!
The envy and toast of the W.I.
A fragrance your nose simply ached to invite in,
And sweet spicy fruit for your tongue to delight in.
A crust, oh, so light that it barely felt swallowed.
A crispy cooked base so firm and marshmallowed.
With cream or with custard or just eaten alone,
Instructions so secret, that the curtains were drawn.
For five days of steeping and peeling and chilling,
Claire set to work on the pastry and filling.
Everything weighed out and measured so perfectly.
No room for error or actions unfurtively.
'Til out of the oven all steaming and brown
She rested the Kidlington Pie to cool down.

When just at that moment the doorbell went ringing
Claire’s initial hunch was a suspicious feeling.
For spies had their methods by lens and wiretap
And even pushed periscopes through the cat flap.
Pious house callers with Watchtowers to sell
Could really be buggers — cordon bleu infidels!
With curtains, blinds, cat flap and all locks assured
Claire answered the front door with both latch chains secured,
But somehow completely forgot about Daniel
Her constantly greedy and daft Cocker Spaniel,
Who smelled a pie smell and became overcome
And fancied a change from his Pedigree Chum.
By the time Claire was back in the kitchen again
She found Daniel was covered in warm pie and shame.

With a barely hid cry she cleaned up the kitchen
And calmly went over her options remaining.
To make a new pie for the twelve o’clock deadline
Would now be impossible due to her canine.
Not to enter the auction would leave her bereft.
The fruit filling had gone, but some pastry was left.
In fact, just enough to make a top crust
And thus keeping the secretive contents in trust.
Which now would be swapped with … what could fill the hole?
Claire thought for a moment and then chose toilet roll.
Whilst cooking she thought as the seconds ticked by
No way could she let someone buy this fake pie!
But must buy it herself and then remove the proof.
She needed some form of disguise, in all truth.

The pie looked quite normal, the crust wasn’t soggy,
So Claire boxed it up and muzzled her doggy,
And placed both of them in different ends of her car;
The fancy dress shop and the bank weren’t too far,
Yet the traffic was bad so as Claire neared the fete
A moments delay would have made her too late.
Her pie though was labelled, and placed centrestage,
And somewhat predictably caused quite a rage.
Would be Mary Berry’s and hopeful Nigellas
All craved to view these bakery treasures,
Especially the one labelled Kidlington Pie.
Claire gave her excuses and said she must fly.
Then after she left there appeared from the masses
A stout bearded pirate wearing sunglasses.

Who this poor man’s John Silver was, none seemed to care,
As the bidding began for Miss Gwent’s fudge éclair.
Five pounds was the final for Susan Kent’s sponge,
And eight for Miss Hathanott’s butterscotch gunge,
Fifteen for the biscuits which were made by the guides,
And the same for the tart made by Lady Cheapsides.
The Kidlington Pie was the last in the auction
And it seemed that no one was bidding with caution.
Prices started at fifty and went to a hundred.
The auctioneer spluttered but onward he thundered
This pie would raise more than the last village funday
And looked at eclipsing the Salvatore Mundi!
When all of a sudden a voice rang out loud,
“Five hundred and fifty!” And that stopped the crowd.

Pirate Claire began sweating in her pretend beard.
If she bid any more she’d be bankrupt she feared.
But down went the gavel and up went a cheer
As the pie was passed over the past-out auctioneer,
To a well-to-do lady who none recognised
But seemed very set on accepting her prize,
And carried it off with a determined touch,
Followed by a pirate (who’d mislaid his crutch);
A desperate pirate, so much so in fact,
In a moment of madness tried a sabotage act;
But mistimed his violence and misplaced his push
And wound up impaled on a mulberry bush.
Poor Claire Manly-Brightthighs what now can you try
To save both your honour and that Kidlington Pie?

Covered with thorns and remains of fake beard,
Claire started her engine and carefully steered
Following the car with the fake pie inside it
She chased and thought how she might drive beside it,
And somehow throw Daniel through the passenger window
And let his pie greediness thrive and continue,
But composed herself before such animal cruelty,
And decided instead it was her culinary duty
To own up and compensate this mystery buyer
Before she revealed its contents so dire,
And refund the cash, and then bake a replacement,
The best way to stop her ancestral displacement.
Just swallow her pride and retire a failure,
Before anyone swallowed some cooked toilet paper.

The chase went on longer than she had expected,
With Claire slowly feeling more low and dejected;
But just as her petrol gauge pointer was twitching
The car stopped and the pie was took into the kitchen
Of a very posh house with grounds leafy and verdant
Which Daniel leapt into and swiftly unburdened
Himself of the recently embezzled pie;
For the second time Claire gave a barely-hid cry.
And ten minutes later, now covered in mud
Claire scooped up her pooch and fast as she could
Went to the front door where a sign clearly said,
“Please do join the party in the salon ahead.”
An invite which Claire then responded to readily,
Calming her heart rate and breathing quite steadily.

The balloons and banners declared that the party
Was in aid of the birthday for someone called Marty.
As slowly and quietly she peered in the room
Claire saw the revelers break out into tune;
“Happy Birthday to Marty” sung from every angle,
And there being carried beneath a bright candle
Was the Kidlington Pie on central display
To everyone’s joy but Claire’s utter dismay;
Then with her heart pounding she prepared to confess
But stopped at the pie winning lady’s address.
“To my darling husband on his special day!
Let him blow out his candle and wish what he may!
Let us all raise our glasses and drink to his health,
And share his birthday pie, which I cooked myself!”

As the candle was blown and the first slice was cut
Claire slowly withdrew and clicked the door shut.
Then got into her car, and drove away beaming
Away from the sounds of the crying and screaming.
And thought about all of the money she’d raised,
And how many poor stricken badgers she’d saved.
How lucky she’d been with her misbehaved hound
And how close it had come to her shame being found.
Claire made her way home and she ran a hot bath
Had a cold glass of wine and an indulgent laugh,
Ordered a pizza and could not have felt better
And for her pudding — had a Wall’s Viennetta.

Stilly is a local poet and illustrator originally from Yorkshire. He has been writing, drawing and performing in and around Oxford for several years. Stilly says, "I carry a heavy projector and screen to local venues brave enough to endure my brand of powerpoint poetry. They are growing in number."

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