Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Whipper-in

Verbena Sprowte was one of Bunty Pargeter's longest standing liveries. Her hunter, Trixie, had occupied the corner stable next to Patsy Pottle’s mare for more than a decade now.

Despite her longevity, Verbena, or "Vee" as she was known to the other liveries, was never at the centre of things at the yard. Her only real claim to fame arose from her keen membership of the Vale of Vaysey Hunt, where she was one of the few lady whippers-in.

Otherwise, her profile was low. She never joined in coffee and character assassination in the common room, chatted over chips in the tack room or found time for a quick drink in the snug of the Trugg & Gussett.

Verbena led a quiet life. Since the death of her parents, she shared a thatched cottage next to the general stores in the pretty
village of Daisy Vaysey with her bachelor twin, Chutneigh.

The siblings were comfortable enough. Chutneigh taught piano whilst his sister was Senior Wayleaves Officer with the Vale of Vaysey Gas Board.

Verbena marvelled at having risen to such a lofty position in what she called "the high-powered world of easements", but somehow coped with all the pressures.

It was at a Wayleaves Conference that Verbena met her mild-mannered boyfriend, Melvin Simpkins. They had known each other for twelve years now and shared regular rambles and trips to the picture palace in nearby Snood Parva, but their relationship had never really "developed."

Verbena had thought something was afoot when Melvin’s hand touched the front of her cardigan over supper at an Aberdeen Steakhouse after a matinee of "Cats" in 1997, but he had just been reaching for the ketchup.

Notwithstanding such disappointments, Verbena’s life appeared busy, if a little staid. It was an orderly mixture of easements and keeping house for herself and Chutneigh, enlivened by hunting on Trixie and occasional chaste outings with Melvin.

You may imagine the surprise of Patsy Pottle and the other liveries to learn from the front page of their Sunday newspaper that a senior cabinet minister had been exposed. He had been, they read, an enthusiastic guest at "weekly S & M parties hosted by whip-wielding, rubber-clad dominatrix, Verbena Sprowte, 53."

The dungeon "in the cellar of her rural retreat in Daisy Vaysey" was reported to be "fully-equipped, yet cosy".

For once, silence fell upon the common room as the liveries absorbed the picture of a smiling Verbena, whip in hand in fishnets and basque.

She was, they eventually agreed, "a very dark horse."

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