Spring. The season of new life. Slowly, the earth unfolds after the interminable season of cold and dark. Buds burst forth on trees, bright flowers appears as if from nowhere, and wizened, crumpled creatures stir from their long winter hibernation.
And go down the pub.
The Mudshark family were throwing off the torpor of winter in the time honoured fashion – reasserting their territorial rights in The Fin, when Harriet Mudshark rushed in, in rather more of a lather than mere eagerness to quaff might suggest.
"Have you heard…..?" she gasped breathlessly
"The first cuckoo of spring?" ventured Florentina
"No – the news. I heard it announced by public herald while in the cart as I was arriving."
The Clan’s collective ears pricked, almost imperceptibly, knowing from experience that when Harriet preceded any announcement with the words "..have you heard.." that world-shattering events were about to unfold, and this time was to prove no exception.
"Beer is to go up in the budget!!" Harriet informed them solemnly. A groan Mexican-waved around the table.
"There’s worse – Oxford won the boat race, Gustav’s horse came in at 9 to 1 and pork belly futures are looking vulnerable"
"Dear God, is there no end to the horrors of this world" choked Eleanor (although it has to be said that Gustav looked rather more cheerful)
Alexi looked up from his newspaper, in which he had been engrossed for some time.
"Queen Mother’s dead." he remarked. "…another round?"
Next day, hangovers having been duly attended to, Florentina picked up the hefty tome of newssheets delivered to The Towers by a reluctant and every-changing postperson.
QUEEN MOTHER STILL DEAD
Nagged the headline.
"Tsk" tsked Flo tetchily. "This is an inconvenience, to be sure. The Wizard has never been the same since Dead Di Day. It’s no good. We’re going to have to leave the country to avoid the unseemly mess."
"A splendid idea, my little spring cabbage," enthused her spouse, Monty, whose predeliction for leaving the country (preferably without Flo in tow) was well known, "..but where shall we go?"
As luck would have it, at that moment Gregori Mudshark stumbled in. Gregori was a scion of an exotic Bohemian branch of The Family, and this heritage weighed heavily upon him. Many was the occasion when he had endeavoured to educate the rest of The Family in his own traditions, and some Family members had even actually come to enjoy drinking embalming fluid in the course of time. Now, upon hearing of Flo and Monty’s plans to travel, his longing for the Old Country could be contained no more and he cried:
"Let us visit the ancient heartland of my youth, and the etymological home of Mudshark behaviour in general. Let us go to Bohemia!"
"Hmmmm," purred Lady Ecaterina, delicately bending a rather lethal-looking nail-file "… and what might be found there, Gregori? Is there sun, and sea and sand, where a Fine Lady Mudshark might bask to her heart’s content?"
"…Bohemia…" read out Monty from the vast, leather-covered atlas and encyclopedia which he carried always about his person, just in case.
"…."cold place, about as far from the sea as you can get."."
Lady Ecaterina grimaced, in the sweet yet menacing way that only she could.
"So what is there to amuse us?" she demanded.
Gregori played his trump card.
As if by magic, bags were suddenly packed and carts began arriving. Lady Ecaterina stood at the door, still unconvinced. As her husband, Lord Roberto, squeezed into the last cart, he shouted back at her one last word.
Within seconds, Mudshark Towers was silent – and empty.
Much time later, the arduous journey was completed, and the Mudshark tribe found themselves in strange parts, discussing their experiences.
"..you have to realise, Monty" lectured Le.. Cholmondoley, "..that due to the current global unrest re the uncertainty of pork bellies, security has been tightened for the travelling."
"Perhaps," Monty conceded dolefully, "..but how am I going to cut my toenails now?
"It was," (explained Flo, regarding the confiscated item over which Monty was lamenting ) "… his very favourite scimitar"
"Looked harmless enough to me," sniffed Monty
"Of course it was, dear", sympathised Flo. "Far less lethal than your toenails anyway."
"Now, forget all our woes, O Mudsharks – here we are at last in ancient Bohemia – home of Gregori’s ancestors. What say you, Gregori, about this fine place?"
"Pivo" said Gregori
Le.. Cholmondoley took it upon himself to explain:
"In order to fully commune with the spirit of his ancestors, Gregori has taken a vow that he will speak only the ancient tongue of this land."
"Well, that’s very nice," said Flo, "but how are we….. oh, I say, thank you… as I was saying, how are we going to order beer if Gregori is going to go around saying things like "Pivo". Oh, I say! Thanks again…"
Flo’s gratitude was engendered by the sudden and mysterious arrival of not one, but two large receptacles of foaming ale in front of her, and all the other Mudshark’s present. The Mudshark family motto being "Never Refuse A Drink*", they set to with a sense of duty to empty the glasses.(* a rather loose translation from the Latin, the full and original version containing additional injuctions to perform unusual acts with chopsticks and carnations)
"Pivo," explained Le.. Cholmondoley, "is a Word Of Power. Oh – thanks again. You see, when used correctly, it enables the speaker to gain his heart’s desire, whatever that may be"
"So what you’re saying, Chumly, is that if we can correctly master the use of the ancient command "Pivo", then we will – too kind, thank you – in time be able to use it to conjour forth beer?"
"Indeed. It is encumbent upon all Mudsharks present to learn the application of "Pivo" so we may overcome – much obliged – the awful possibility of dryness which looms before us.
"Fascinating," observed Lord Roberto. "Who would have thought that a simple grimoire such as "Pivo" could have – yes, just put it there, thanks – such power"
The Mudshark family, being an philosophical lot, continued their discussion of the word "Pivo" (over here, thanks) for several hours, at the end of which time, exhausted by such intellectual concentration, many of them repaired to bed to rest their brains for the night ahead. (all except Sylvia, who was rather put out to discover that she had been lodged in the dungeon along with a variety of unwanted articles, and who spent the time instead reconnoitering places where the Mudsharks might practice using the Word Of Power)