The greatest pleasure in Bartholomew Hoppinlilypond the frog’s life was entertaining guests. He liked absolutely nothing better than to lay on a magnificent spread for all his friends and to watch their eyes bulging with delight as they walked in the door and saw his huge table laid out with the most magnificent food. Bartholomew always liked to make out a list of guests and there would be usually about five or six names on it to begin with. As he was making the list he would keep thinking of another friend that he couldn’t possible think of not inviting and so the list would grow and grow, until it reached about twenty. Even then, generous Bartholomew would not be satisfied, but he had to stop somewhere. Now Bartholomew certainly was a very kind and gentle frog with an exquisitely polite manner when speaking to guests. He also had, unfortunately, a very short temper.
“Now let me see …” he said, as he held his yellow pencil up and licked it with his gluey pink tongue.
“There’s Harry the hedgehog and Michael the pig, Christy the crab and his sister Jacinta … that’s four. Ehhh Martin the mackerel, Boris the bat, Pascal the pigeon and his cousin Sintyahh … or something like that … oh and he has eight brothers. Eh Bart the bulldog … hope he has a bath this time … the smell, God! Sasquatch the sugar glider from Australia, Johnny the gerbil, Robby the rat … annnnd, oh yeah Edwin the octopus … greedy sod that fella!” he chuckled.
Bartholomew stood up and brushed the dust specks from his crisp clean green jacket, then he looked in the mirror and combed his smooth hair. He felt good, he looked good and he was looking forward immensely to the evening ahead. He went into the kitchen to continue with his preparations. He made a mental note of what had to be done. He still had the onions to peel and chop (he kept putting it off) the hard boiled eggs had to be cracked open and chopped and he had to get a huge bucket of pickled silverskin onions from the basement. All of the cakes, of which there were many, had already been set out on the table.
There were currant cake, sultana cake, madeira cake, almond cake, oxford lunch, chocolate cake, cream cake, ice-cream cake, raspberry cake, blueberry cake, apple cake, orange cake, lemon cake, banana cake, pineapple-upside-down cake, pineapple-right-side-up cake, cherry cake and cheese cake. There was twenty five different types of biscuits all piled up high on huge plates, raspberry tarts, mince pies, bowls of yellow, pink and red custard, seven bowls of purple, orange, pink, yellow, green, black and blue jelly, an enormous block of ice-cream in the fridge with red and green streaks running through it. There were turkey sandwiches, ham sandwiches, beef sandwiches, salad sandwiches, cheese sandwiches with pickles and bacon sandwiches. Finally there were four great bowls filled with plump tomatoes, spotted bananas, golden salted smokey bacon flavoured crisps and one with twenty varieties of chocolate and toffee sweets. And this was one of Bartholomew’s weekly parties. His monthly ones were much more extravagant. There was one thing which was of course essential to the success of the party and that was the tea. Everybody (even Johnny the pigeon who ate very little and was always moaning) loved the tea.
So when Bartholomew had finally finished with the eggs and onions and had hauled the bucket of pickled onions up from the basement (without too much loss of temper) he set to making the tea. He filled the huge kettle up and plugged it in, looking doubtfully at the fray in the long yellow and black flex on it. He had borrowed the kettle from his friend Packy the bull, who had gone on holidays. It was a massive metal, silver coloured kettle made in the same shape as a normal kettle, only it was about six times the size of one. It had been tailor made for Packy by his friend Mouser the chicken hawk, who was a tinsmith. Bartholomew sat down and hummed a few bars of a song, as he listened to the gentle humming of the kettle, which was beginning to heat the water. He jumped up and took the lid off, seeing the swirling of the water and the tiny bubbles that were rising to the surface.
“Don’t take too long now!” he said to the kettle “the guests will be arriving soon”. Bartholomew sat down again. He began to tap his left foot nervously. He drummed his green fingers off the arm of the chair. The kettle hummed away, a tiny bit louder. “Come on now!” he said, adding his right foot to the tapping on the floor. Over his head a spider skimmed down his silken web after an unlucky fly.
Bartholomew began to rock back and forth in the chair. The kettle hummed. “God it’s taking forever to boil” he complained. He stood up and started to pace the floor. He stood at the kitchen door and counted to ten. He watched the spider retreat up its web. He whisked around and listened and looked at the kettle. It was humming … louder, but not loud enough for Bartholomew. He stared at the kettle. It looked so unconcerned, just sitting there humming away, taking it’s time, without the least bit of consideration for Bartholomew and his guests. He began to get very annoyed with it.
“Hurry up … Hurry up” he said, glaring at the kettle. He plopped his hand on the table and a glass fell over and smashed.
“Now look what you made me do …” shouted Bartholomew at the kettle.
“Look … boil” he shouted. “Boil will ye … boil”. The kettle hummed louder still, but it was still far from boiling.
“Okay … okay …” said Bartholomew. “Don’t boil then … see if I care”. He sat back in his chair and twiddled his thumbs, staring at the ceiling. The kettle hummed louder and louder and the noise crept up through him and irritated him beyond belief. He clenched his green fists and scrunched up his face. He leapt up from the chair. He wished he didn’t care whether the stupid kettle boiled or not, but he cared, he cared more than he could believe possible. The kettle was beating him. It didn’t care and it wouldn’t boil and this was making him so mad, he thought he was going to explode.
He closed his bulging green eyes tightly and imagined he was sitting by the lake with his old girlfriend Penelope the warty toad. He reached over mentally to kiss her hand.
“My wonderful petal” she said “you remind me of a kettle …”
Bartholomew jerked open his eyes in fury. He listened. At least the kettle would be boiling by now. It wasn’t.
“Right … right” he roared. “I’m gonna give you one more chance … I’m gonna count to three, and if you haven’t boiled by then … ONE … TWO … THREE …”
“Right … that’s it, you’ve had it. I’m gonna melt you down … how would you like that … Haw! … I’m going out now to the garage to get the blow torch!” He marched angrily towards the garage door, looking back half-hopefully over his shoulder. It wasn’t boiling. He raced back in a terrible rage.
“BOIL … BOIL … BOIL … BOILLLLLL” he screamed. “BOIL … YOU SILLY … LAZY … PEA-BRAINED … DAFT … UGLY … SLOW …. KETTLE YE! I’ll have the law on you for this … I’ll drag you through all the courts … you’ll never heat a single drop of water again”. At this stage he began to fire things at the kettle. Anything he could get his hands on, which was mostly apples and oranges and a few hard-boiled eggs, some of which hadn’t hard-boiled properly and they dribbled and slithered down the kettle. He ran to the back and got the hose out and started spraying the kettle with it. He made the worst possible faces he could manage at it. He spat at it. He belched at it. He jumped up and down in front of it and called out a list of the worst names he could think of for five whole minutes. “RIDICULOUS … HORRID … UNSIGHTLY … DISAGREEABLE … MEAN … NASTY … COWARD … come out and fight!” he screamed.
“Do you realise who you’re dealing with … do you know who I am … if you did I’m telling ye …” he finished, as he fell back on the floor exhausted. The kettle still hadn’t boiled. In the final throes of his raging temper, Bartholomew jumped up and raced into his dining room where his lovely table was laid out. He picked up the currant cake and the ice-cream cake and fired them at the walls. He jumped up on the table and stamped all over the madeira, almond and chocolate cake. He opened the hatch and threw the pineapple-upside-down cake at the kettle (which still hadn’t boiled by the way!). He kicked the three bowls of custard onto the floor, he took seven bowls of jelly and fired them one by one out the window, then he went back into the kitchen and got the hose. He turned the tap on full and rushed back in, spraying the table all over, completely ruining any morsel of food that was left.
Then Bartholomew charged out of the house, knocking over Harry the hedgehog who was just arriving. Bartholomew raced to his mother’s house which was nearby. He banged at the door, ranting and raving and yelling and screaming and crying and roaring and weeping. His mother answered the door and when she finally calmed him down and got the story out of him, she leaned back calmly against the wall and said “Didn’t you know … A watched kettle never boils!”
Back at the house, the kettle was boiling steadily.