Alfie, Alfie my son, what a lot of grief you've caused me in this past day or so. One minute I'm fast asleep snoring off a dram of aquaviti (well, we can call that a couple of drams to be honest) and dreaming about that saucy lassie with the ale pots down at Sandy's tavern, and next minute that snooty old bat from up Aviemore way is welting me around the ears with her riding crop and telling me to have a few words in your ears. The old baggage says you're overstaying your welcome in among the live ones. First you say your departing, then you hang around bragging about your book - hymnal is it ? Praises to the Lord of good drams or something?
Not a problem with me Alfie my son - always willing to sneak out from under the abbot's nose and empty a jar with a fellow tippler over a good bit of crack. We'll call in the kitchens and collect the aquaviti from Brother Thomas first. He owes me one for tipping him off about Sister Agnes - sporty little goer is that one when the Mother Superior is out of town visiting the abbess. Then we'll settle down behind that copse of rowans at the back of the necessarium and I'll tell you a few tales. Never mind what she says about the habit, nice and clean it is - only been wearing it a couple of months. I was on my way back from the maltsters with a boll or two on the cart when I sees this mendicant brother out in the river poaching salmon. Left his tunic on the bank, he had, so I nicked it. Clean as a fish wife's pinny it was, and hardly a louse to be seen. Teach him to go a thieving what's not his. Well, there's some pig shit down one side where I slipped in the sty when pinching a few neeps out of the trough, but you can sit on the other side.
Here's a song to cheer us along Alfie:
"There was an old friar, so I've been told
Sing fal deral diddle aye day
Who courted a maiden just sixteen years old
Sing fal deral diddle aye day"
The brothers love singing that one when they're in their cups down the back of the cellars with a few goblets of the abbot's sack and some drams under their hair shirts. Right, now, you'll know the old teaser about "what does a nun wear under her habit?". Well Brother Fergus let me in on the secret last week. Mad as meat axe is Ferg, but a crafty old sod too. It was that time those nuns from over the water some place came to sing some hymns and sequences in honour of Saint Hildegard. Feathers on the breath of God ? You can tickle my goose with one or two of those downy bits any day.
"He came to the maid as she lay on her bed,
and swore he would have her maidenhead.
To me fair oh lair oh liddle
Sing twice to me lanky down derry oh !"
Anyway, the abbot let them use the oratory to change their robes. Now Ferg came up here from Jedburgh and Kelso, and in those parts when the rievers came roaring down the laws hell bent on rape and pillage, a man had to know how to disappear smartly, and Fergie could vanish into a pile of wood like a cockroach with a carter's clog coming down on him fast. He knows every nook and cranny in the abbey and what the abbot doesn't know is the oratory walls are hollow and with peepholes just wide enough to loose a crossbow bolt. Well, Fergie sneaks along there…
Don't want to know Alfie ? Oh well, let's talk about this here bad book you're going to write for these live ones. Not much into writing myself, heaving bolls for the cellarer and tending his apparatus is more my thing, but I can illuminate with the best of them after the first aquaviti of the day has steadied my hand, and before the tenth has blurred the eyes a mite. So you ready your quill and I'll tell the tales. We'll start with the one I call "Sister Agnes and the Drunken Donkey". Tell you what, her ladyship would be after me with the fire tongs if she heard this one. Ready now Alfie….?