The Great Cirencester Cheese Mystery

--- The Obscure Penguin ---

The Obscure Penguin
You may not believe this story but it is absolutely true. If you are so minded you can attribute it to coincidence but I can assure you, considering how the pieces fell together, coincidence had nothing to do with it. Without knowing how to describe the workings of things beyond the material, I can only refer to it as a mystery, especially since it involves nothing more than a wedge of cheese.
Now, it’s important to describe the known before I jump into the unknown. While my wife, Sylvia and I lived in Cirencester, England in the eighties, we were two Americans coming to terms with the subtle and not so subtle differences between people who allegedly spoke the same language. In those days the town had just opened a relatively large Tesco supermarket, which was quite a change because the village was made up of dozens of small shops. Some folks here think it’s funny I go to the store practically every day but it’s a habit I picked up over there. You would get that night’s dinner every day, going to the butcher, the baker, the vegetable shop, etc. Everything was fresh. In fact, pig and fowl carcasses would sometimes hang outside the butcher’s. Milk was delivered to your door every morning in glass bottles. If you wanted “fast food”, you could get fish and chips, breaded fresh halibut or cod and fries wrapped in newspaper and drowned in malt vinegar, but that’s as “fast” as it got. Furthermore all the shops kept regular hours, closing at five or six promptly.
My mother, Vivis, came to visit us and as it so happened we were going to Christen our daughter, Brittany, in the Anglican Church while she was there. Mom is a superior cook.  She even had a catering business in Amarillo, Texas, specializing in French cuisine. We had already shopped for dinner that day. Mom had planned to make a quiche. I told my buddy, Andy Wright, all about the quiche and he was excited to try it. But while shopping I had forgotten to get farmer’s cheese. So Andy and I decided to give Mom a walking Cirencester tour and we would pick up the cheese before returning home. 
Cirencester was a village but there was a lot to see, the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater, the Bathurst Estate, with grounds open to the public and the Parish Church of St. John The Baptist, which had a river nearby occupied with ducks, geese and swan. It also had a tower and we climbed to the top of it and took photos of the view.  That's the photo you see above and in the distance is the Bathurst Estate.  Unfortunately, all of this took a little more time than we anticipated and we forgot we needed to get cheese and the shops had closed.
Now, you can’t make a quiche without cheese. We walked around the shops, looking for one that might be open but we were out of luck. Yes, we could have had something else for dinner. We could have gone to a restaurant. We could even have had fish and chips or pub food, but the three of us were in agreement that we wanted quiche most of all. I’m telling you, Mom is an extraordinary cook.
It was dismal. We fretted about what to do as we wandered the streets in search of cheese. Mom suggested we go to a restaurant and ask them if we could buy some of their cheese. Andy was mortified. In England there are certain things one does not do, and apparently that was one of them. Looking back, I realize he put up with a lot of barbarity on our part as we were uncultured Yanks with no sense of propriety.
It was at the moment we resigned ourselves to defeat when the oddest thing happened. We were passing a shop that sold cheese. It was closed. But a man walked toward us and past us and then unlocked the shop. We were surprised to say the least and explained our situation. We needed farmer’s cheese. He said he had closed shop and got halfway home when he felt as if he should return, as if he had forgotten something. But he couldn’t remember what he had forgotten. We asked him so long as he was there if there was any way he could sell us some cheese and he agreed. When we entered the shop he realized when he had closed he had been distracted and had forgotten to put away a single wedge of cheese, a single wedge of farmer’s cheese.

One thought on “The Great Cirencester Cheese Mystery

Comments are closed.