Alfie, Alfie – you're up and about again, and I thought you'd hidden away to twirl your beard in solitude behind a waterfall like one of those blasphemous taghairmists. Not that I like cats all that much myself, but they do keep the rats out of the malt bins, and roasting them live just to raise the devil is perverse wouldn't you say?
Well come on then, time to pour some aqua viti into the beakers and chew some fat together. So what is it you are pestering the lives ones about this time eh? Thongs and vessels is it? Well now, if they are not subjects dear to my Christian heart whatever could be.
But I confess I'm baffled by the words of that live one Iain. Thongs as a drinking vessel he says. Now everyone knows that rawhide soaks up the water, and chewing wet leather on a hot evening can help a brother bide his time till the next cask of aqua viti is broached, but thongs as a drinking vessel? Even Brother Bede would have found that too hard. What a crafty old codger he was, he kept his bulging tummy inside his habit with a rope so long it dangled around his ankles. I remember that time at the well when a novice crept up and tied the end to the bucket and freed the windlass. Poor old Bede was dragged over the wall and perched over the drop like he'd been caught short on the way to the privvy. But when the wine was poured into the vat to be blessed by the Abbott, Bede would always be there, and careless as ever, his rope would dangle in the wine. He sees me frowning, and with a wink says, come and watch this Johnny boy, and we snook around the wall where he gently squeezes the rope into his beaker. A full cup we shared. Water into wine was the work of the lord, and horse hair into wine was Bede's magic, bless his soul, but hardly a drop could you squeeze from a thong, even when soaked with blood as often they were.
Not among our order you'll understand Alfie, but those Jesuits were fearsome with the thongs on the bare flesh. Flagellation they call it, and the stories of armies of bare-backed monks whipping themselves to a bloody pulp with knotted thongs to keep the Black Death at bay are terrifying to hear. Even at the back of the cellar in our cups we all fall quiet when Brother Joseph tells about the sights he has seen, and we know he's not beyond a bit of flagellation himself. Nearer my God to thee he says, but I know it's nearer to Sister Agnes that he's thinking about. My word she can whirl the thongs when she's in a mood to chastise a brother for his sinful ways. A smart crack of leather across the bare buttocks, and Aggie crying Hallelujah, eyes wide as saucers, and…...
Hang about Alfie, no need to rush away as though you were an innocent lamb. Dearie me, the things those people of your days got up to when they weren't hanging petticoats around the table legs.
And what about this Marcin the Miller then? Merrily so merrily, his stones go click clack…what ho Alfie, I'll sing you the Miller's song another day, but doesn't this one sound to be an honourable member of that tribe of dusty lechers eh? A man with an esteemed organ says Iain, and himself drinking aqua viti wearing nought but a cutty sark probably knows it for true. We must get Marcin the Miller to tell us a tale of his long thongs – wonder if he knows Sister Agnes, and…....come back Alfie then, the night is hardly begun