It was 1924, the year when, inspired by my good friends Mallory and Herbert Scott, I attempted the first ascent of Everest in a canoe. While I will concede that this feat of adventure did not end successfully, it was still better than my brother’s attempt to cross the Atlantic in a climbing harness without refuelling.
It was a Tuesday, and we had just received an invitation from Lady Frittington to attend one of her garden parties. Or, at least, we had assumed that we had just received an invitation from Lady Frittington to attend one of her garden parties. You see, the spidery writing was almost indecipherable.
I would, here, like to point out that I have not made a lazy choice of metaphor, but a rather accurate one; the text was actually composed of spiders, specially trained to stand on the paper in formation, spindly limbs forming spindly letters. This was an ostentatious show of wealth on the part of Lady Frittington, who never tired of showing people that she could not only afford to keep four spider wranglers in her employ, but also specially padded envelopes so that the messengers weren’t crushed on the journey.
It was also precision of phrase when I said that the writing was ‘almost indecipherable’. For, you see, if one attained sufficient speed and viewed the missive from the corner of one’s eye, one could just about make out the words. And so it was that we tacked the letter to the wall of the hopping parlour and had the manservant, Slatterly, run along the corridor with my wife on his shoulders, her eyes almost closed. I had originally asked Slatterly to attempt the task alone, but with his eyes half shut he kept knocking himself out on the wall at the end of the corridor.
They had just worked out that the dress code was ‘black tie’ when the chimes of the doorbell rung.