Pact And Retort

Between the Gubbinses and the Bevellings there has been, since time immemorial, a blood feud. But only just. In English law, time immemorial is defined as any date before the third of September 1189, and the incident which prompted the blood feud happened on the evening of the second of September in that tempestuous year. It was, we are told, an altercation, next to a pond, and involved a Gubbins, a Bevelling, and a cormorant, or possibly two cormorants. Blood was shed, but to this day arguments persist about whether the blood was that of the Gubbins or of the Bevelling, or both, or of the cormorant, or cormorants.

Nigh on a thousand years is not a particularly long time for a properly constituted vendetta. By definition, intergenerational hatred and vengeance takes many generations to take root. By some accounts, it was only in the fourteenth century that members of both the Gubbins and Bevelling clans first spoke of their enmity in terms of a blood feud. Before then, it was seen as a bit of a spat, or whatever word people of those distant times used for a spat. By then, of course, cormorants were no longer the casus belli. It was simply that, if you were born a Gubbins, you hated the Bevellings, and vice versa.

Any members of Bournemouth Council who are reading this piece, and are offended by my use of Latin in the last two sentences, can go and boil their own heads.

The boiling of heads, incidentally, was a favoured tactic of both parties in the blood feud, as was the slicing off of limbs, the evisceration of infants, and the impalement upon iron spikes of any Gubbins wandering absent-mindedly into Bevelling territory, or, again, vice versa. Those were gore-splattered times to be sure.

Indeed, so blood-drenched had the feud become by the sixteenth century that certain figures in both clans, of a modernist and civilizing cast of mind, decided to strike a pact. Such an initiative was unpopular with the mass of their clansfolk, for whom the feud was a mere fact of nature, like a beating heart or a hooting owl or a drooling pauper. But the modernisers dismissed their protests, as modernisers always do, from that day to this, in all walks of life, and proceeded to sneak about in the gloom, working away to seal the pact.

Now at this time, the Gubbinses were, like the Parkinson family in H G Wells’s 1933 novel The Bulpington Of Blup, a sandwich-inventing clan, while the Bevellings were, like Theodore Bulpington’s Aunt Amanda, the life and soul of a bandage-making organisation in the Town Hall. I hasten to add that it was not Bournemouth Town Hall, which has today become a Latin-free bastion of ignorance. Actually, I am not sure which Town Hall it was, for both the Gubbinses and the Bevellings had fanned out across the land in the centuries since their vendetta began, next to a pond, on that September evening in 1189. The modernisers on both sides sensed that if they could find a commonality of purpose in the inventing of sandwiches and the making of bandages, they could convincingly press the case for the pact they dreamed of.

But is there any demonstrable connection between sandwiches and bandages? They must have discovered something, because the pact was eventually struck, with a nod to historical resonance, on the evening of the second of September 1589.

It met immediately with a retort, from a disgruntled Gubbins and an enraged Bevelling. The modernisers from both clans were rounded up, and bound with chains, and drowned in the very pond where once a cormorant, or cormorants, had sparked the vendetta in the first place. And ever since, the blood feud has continued and deepened and intensified, and it is likely that it would have overwhelmed the entire land by now, were it not that both the Gubbinses and the Bevellings were such insular clans that they were riddled with inbreeding, leading to an ever-shrinking gene pool, and they have almost died out, save for a few halfwit survivors, many of whom can be found sitting in the council chambers of our seaside resorts, dribbling.

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