Bagenders – And The Sign Said: Center Parcs

Season 1, Episode 9

By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent

Disclaimer: JRR Tolkien owns the Fellowship. Debt to ‘Father Ted’ in the characterisation of Gandalf. General situation debt to the ‘Young Ones’, and our own family holidays. Characters in string vests should be returned to ‘Rab C. Nesbitt’ c/o the BBC. The Chuckle Brothers belong to themselves, not that we really want them anyway.
Rating: R (comedic violence; flatmate strife; Language; gratuitous hobbit swimming trunks and much knicker elastic)
Reviews: yes please, please or else it means we have to work.
Story notes: For non-Brits: Alan Titchmarsh = Short-arse TV gardener. Charlie Dimmock = his female sidekick, who hasn’t discovered bras yet. Rounders = pansy-assed baseball for kids. Center Parcs = posh very European holiday village with lots of outdoorsy activities and a big swimming pool. This is for all of you who said Pippin was incomprehensible before. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

************************

“Aaaaaaaaaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!! Nonononononono! Not the other one, not the other one! NO- aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghargharghowowowowowowow!! Nonononono! Just leave it it’ll fall off on it’s aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooweoeoeoeoew!”

Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli burst into the Hobbits’ room to fend off their attacker armed with a hockey stick, a carpet beater and a distinctly over-endowed fertility statue, which was being held by its most inappropriate appendage. However, all they saw were the four Hobbits, looking at them in first horror, then confusion, moving swiftly to amusement when they realised exactly what Legolas was holding and where he was holding it. Legolas seemed unaware of this.

“Who’s attacking you? What’s going on?”

“We’re not being attacked”

“Then what are you screaming for?”

“We’re going to Center Parcs, right? And they have a swimming pool, right? Well, people are going to think it’s a bit strange if a group of people, who, to the human eye at least look about nine, and as far as the people we’re paying the money to are concerned, are actually nine years old, it would look a little odd if we had really hairy feet.” Sam looked pleased with this well thought out reasoning.

Legolas, however, had problems with it. “But waxing your legs is soo painful.You should have got that cream stuff for dissolving the hair.” At the same time he made extravagant hand gestures with the fertility statue, causing the other members of the group to wince.

“Tried that. It didn’t work, Hobbit foot hair seems to be resistant to it.” Said Frodo. Then he realised what Legolas had just said. “Anyway, how do you know how much waxing hurts?”

“Yeah, I was married to an elf for thousands of years, and I see you get undressed for bed almost every night, I know you’re not supposed to be so…smooth naturally.”

The rest of the room attempted not to laugh at the suggestiveness of this comment

“Yeah, Ah’ve seen Arwen’s legs, she’s like a yeti, Ah don’t know how you put up with it.”

Aragorn narrowed his eyes. “Pippin, how the hell do you know what Arwen’s legs look like, you haven’t seen her since the 18th century and back then women dressed from neck to ankle.”

“Well, she wis getting oot of her carriage and her dress got caught in the door, and then the horses got spooked and it drove away and took most o’her dress wi’it. She doesnae shave her armpits either.” Pippin?s eyes took on that faraway look associated with nostalgia. “First time Ah laughed til Ah wis sick.”

“You laughed until you were sick at Arwen?s body hair?”

“No, he bloody well didn’t he were laughin at me.”

“Why was he laughing at you?”

“Well, I were trying to get an ornamental peacock feather, for, you know, how’s-yer-father, an’ the bugger comes back and tries to attack me an that?s what spooked the horses. An then these three other peacocks bloody well join in. Vicious buggers an’ all, they are. That’s why he laughed til he were sick.”

The rest of the Fellowship looked at Merry with even less respect than usual.

“Och, look at the window, I’m soooo scared. It’s a pigeon nooooo, not a pigeon!” said Gimli, trying for sarcasm and failing really quite badly.

“Legolas, could you put the fertility statue down please,” said Sam, sitting ever so slightly hunched over. “It’s just that I feel a little threatened when you hold it like that, especially when you swing it round.”

Legolas, who had been absent-mindedly hefting the statue, threw it so that it spun and caught it again in the same place, to the horrified fascination of the rest of the room.

“Oh, sorry.”

*****************

The last few days, which should have been spent constructively packing and trying to crowbar Gandalf out of his chair, were actually spent trying to prevent various members of the household from killing each other. This in itself was nothing unusual, what was strange was who was having homicidal thoughts, and about who.

It had all started on Thursday evening when Frodo had been hiding in the sideboard because Legolas had decided that the group needed a little more culture and had tried to make them watch a film version of Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’, which in retrospect had probably been a bad idea – next time he would just go for something less controversial, like ‘The Magic Flute’, although he could imagine the kind of comments that Merry and Pippin could come up with if someone mentioned any kind of vaguely suggestive musical instrument (and this being Merry and Pippin this included everything up to and including the xylophone).

Frodo had been in the sideboard for almost half an hour when Sam had finally tried to start coaxing him out again, but Frodo had not been entirely ready (perhaps because Gandalf was sitting next to it humming the same four bars of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ over and over) and when Sam had opened the door, kicked him so hard that it was a damn good job he wasn’t married any more. Merry and Pippin tried the pro-active method of grabbing Frodo’s legs and dragging him out of the door at the other end, but Sam, still being protective of Frodo, did not like to see him manhandled and tried to make Merry and Pippin let go of him. The upshot of this was that the three Hobbits outside of the sideboard had turned into three angry, hairy, balls of flailing fists, hitting everything and everyone within reach and wrongly blaming most of the damage sustained to themselves and the house on the other two. The upshot of this was that none of the three of them were talking to each other, or talking to Frodo, because it was all his fault for being insane and hiding in the sideboard in the first place. Frodo, the eldest of the Hobbits, had reacted to this in the most childish way possible by deciding that if they weren?t talking to him, he wasn?t talking to them either, and that the sideboard incidents were not his fault.

The Hobbits didn?t fall out very often, only once a decade or so, but when they did. They did it with style, or, a complete lack thereof.

***********************

The Fellowship managed to arrive at Center Parcs with an uncharacteristic lack of trauma. This was mainly because Gandalf switched everyone’s travel sickness pill for sleeping pills and as the Hobbits, Gimli and himself had taken them, spent the whole journey in blissful unconsciousness. His initial intention, however had been to switch them for aphrodisiac pills, but Legolas had caught him in the act and threatened to make him pay for the suspension in the car to be fixed and to have the upholstery cleaned if he carried it through, so there had been a last minute change of plan.

This had left Legolas and Aragorn to have a peaceful journey. Or at least as peaceful as can actually be achieved when the journey involves a driver and a navigator and no third party to mediate, with certain Middle Earth touches.

“You?re an Elf, you’re supposed to have a sense of direction.”

“I do have a sense of direction, it’s just that you’re ignoring all the directions given by the only one of us with a sense of direction.”

“Look, it should be that way, I’m part elf!”

“Which part? Arse or elbow?”

But they finally got there, having only gone round Wakefield town centre seven times looking for the M1, and then, with no inconsiderable effort, persuaded all the other occupants of the car to wake up.

Legolas looked at the small chalet they would be living in for the next week with a sense of impending doom. He remembered what had happened when they had all gone to Butlins in the late 50s. Merry and Pippin had drugged Gandalf and entered him into the glamorous granny competition, and with the aid of a lot of make-up and a rather interesting dress, he had come third. At least it would probably be better than Pippin’s suggestion that they all go to Ibiza, but only probably and not that much better. At least Pippin wouldn?t be coming back with any interesting diseases; he seemed to have been collecting them over the years.

The plan had been for the four Hobbits to share a room, but the way things were going, it seemed that that would be a little difficult. They were all still making a great show of the fact that they were ignoring each other, while actually paying as much attention to each other as possible in small and nasty ways, such as tripping each other up when they walked past, or, in extreme cases, dipping all of each other?s underwear in water and putting it in the freezer overnight. The other members of the Fellowship were left in the disturbing knowledge that all four Hobbits were ‘going commando’ and it had taken them long enough to persuade them to start wearing pants in the first place and they could see the work of decades unravelling right in front of their eyes.

All four Hobbits took their rucksacks into their bedroom and attempted to unpack while pretending to be the only other person in the room and avoid bumping into the other three at the same time.

Since none of the Hobbits were able to cooperate for long enough to cook a meal and they were too small to cook in the human-sized kitchen on their own, the rest of the Fellowship had to take the unusual step of trying to fend for themselves and failing miserably. Dinner was the classic “Fromage sur toast” garnished delicately with big black burnt bits. Gandalf, of course, was taking no part in this and had settled himself in front of the TV.

At this point the Hobbits decided, or at least made the unconscious decision to attach themselves to other members of the Fellowship in an attempt to show the others that their friendship was not the most important thing and that they could manage without them. Sam made the first move, attaching himself to Legolas, as the only member of the fellowship having his own level of common sense and a perception of reality shared with most of the rest of the world. There was then a domino effect of the other hobbits not wanting to be left on their own; however, the desperation led to some strange bedfellows (minds out of gutters, this is a clean episode). Merry, attempting to prove his personal butchness had attached himself to Aragorn; Pippin, since the idea of doing no work and being nasty to people appealed, attached himself to Gandalf, and Frodo, since there was no-one else left, attached himself to Gimli.

Gandalf warmed quickly to the idea of having an acolyte. He used his wizardly powers to re-create ?his? chair, and another hobbit sized version of ?his? chair, in front of the TV (which to his delight had cable, but to his dismay did not have the Playboy channel). They both acquired cans of Tennants from an unknown, mystic source (Aragorn?s supply in the loft that he thought no-one knew about). After dinner they were all settled in front of TV.

Sam was checking the TV times. “Can we watch the Alan Titchmarsh season?”

Pippin, now wearing a string vest for no good reason, said to the world in general, “Tha’ala’ti’mrsh’weebasser.”

There was a moment of complete confusion.

“What did he say? Was that English?” asked Legolas.

“Glaswegian. Haven’t you heard the story?”

“Ah’m’invennnorglasweginansoaham.”

“Yeeees…” said Aragorn, “He’s not exactly the inventor. Perpetrator possibly. Centuries ago he tried to teach the old South Farthing dialect to some guys in a pub in south west Scotland…”

“That’s nothing like South Farthing dialect.” Argued Sam.

“I did say this was in the pub. And it has had a life of it’s own since then.”

“Ah’wasbluddy’steamin’thenso’ahwis.”

They all looked at Pippin.

“Whut? Ye’vegota PROBLEM wi’thatPAL?”

While they were unsure of the actual words the sense of ‘death threat’ got itself across quite clearly. Gandalf seemed to have been thinking about something. “Alan Titchmarsh… Charlie Dimmock?”

Aragron tried to appear casual, “Oh, really, well if she’s on we?d better watch. For the gardening.” He added hurriedly.

“And not in any way because she doesn’t wear a bra?” said Legolas.

“Seetha’dimmock’naebrawhaaaaaaaaaeeeyyy. Whitasmasher!” Pippin seemed to think this was a good thing.

Sam sighed. If the only way to get to watch his favourite programme was to let the rest of the Fellowship lech over the person he considered to be his dream woman, then so be it. They settled down to watch. Sam then realised that there was something being whispered, sotto voce by the whole Fellowship, and that was ‘rain, rain’.

“Do you know you’re doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Trying to get it to rain on her. It’s a recorded programme anyway.”

“Rain. See-through. No bra. Hehehehehehehehehe.” Gandalf had gone into a little world of his own.

***********************

The next morning Aragorn and Legolas were having doubts as to being ‘adopted’ by the hobbits and were trying unsubtly to get rid of them so they could go pony trekking together. Sam had easily agreed to be left behind, muttering something about going for a walk to have some time to himself, but Merry was proving harder to shake off. This called for some drastic action.

“And what?s your name?”

Merry was so angry he thought he might explode, but in the name of all those confronted by a really patronising childminder said “‘s Merry.”

“And how old are you Merry?”

“37”

“Come on then, no lying young man. You were left here by your daddy, and, and,” she sought desperately for a word to describe Legolas, and decided to go for the politically correct route, “his friend, and we know you’re 10. Why don’t you introduce yourself to all the other children.”

Someone was going to suffer for this. However, he was going to have to wash the face paints off first.

Frodo and Gimli had decided to indulge in the age-old holiday pastime of cheating at crazy golf.

“Seven!”

“No way is that seven, Gimli, you’re up to twelve at least.”

“But I’m using the old dwarf counting system.”

“Yes, the same one they use when they owe you money?”

“Look, it’s seven!”

“Alright, seven it is. Can we get on to the second hole now?”

They moved round the course to the next hole, which was already occupied by a family of four. Gimli smiled at them in an encouraging way and they decided that they would really much rather go canoeing.

Each of the holes on the crazy golf course was designed to look like a famous monument from a country around the world and the second hole was representing France with a fibreglass Arc de Triomphe which had a small, but also disproportionately large, model of General De Gaulle which circled round it, attempting to knock the ball off course.

Gimli started to make a long, complicated joke requiring a lot of background knowledge about entry into the European Union, but Frodo looked at him and he shut up. Frodo placed his ball on the starting point and teed off.

“Yes! Hole in one!” He took out his pen to fill in the scorecard. “And that takes my score up to two.” He said with uncharacteristic triumphalism.

Gimli teed off. General De Gaulle and the ball connected and the ball shot off onto the footpath. Gimli gritted his teeth. It was going to be a long game.

**********************

Legolas and Aragorn arrived back at the pony trekking centre to find that they were entirely alone.

“Not exactly what I’d call a trek for advanced riders. I mean they couldn’t keep up after we started galloping along the track, and the first half wasn’t that twisty.”

“Yeah, I mean any fool can canter through thick woodland.”

One of the horsey looking women appeared.

“What happened to the rest of your group? And what did you do to the horses?” They looked down at their horses, which were steaming quietly.

“I have given this horse a proper run. He hasn’t done this in goodness knows how long. And he likes it, don’t you?” Legolas patted the horse’s flank affectionately.

“Who do you think you are, the bloody horse whisperer?”

“No, if you whisper they can’t hear you properly.”

“And I suppose it’d follow you to hell and back now?”

Legolas looked at the horse. The horse looked at Legolas. They seemed to reach an agreement. “Well, if we were both definitely going to come back from Hell, then yes.”

“This does not answer the question of where the rest of the group have gone.”

“I don’t think they could keep up in the foresty bit.”

“What do you mean ‘they couldn’t keep up in the foresty bit’? It’s so thickly wooded you can’t go much faster than a walk.”

Aragorn and Legolas looked at each other. Legolas tried to raise one eyebrow at the horsey woman, Roger Moore style and Aragorn tried not to laugh. The horsey woman finally lost her temper. “Fine! If you think you can canter through the sodding woods, then you just canter back through the woods and find them again.”

As they trotted off, Aragorn turned to Legolas. “That woman didn’t half look like Eowyn. Got the same evil temper as well.”

*************************

Later, back in the house Aragorn realised that there was something missing.

“I’m pretty sure we didn’t leave any of them behind in the forest.” Said Legolas.

“No, it’s not that. It’s something else, something…smaller.”

Pippin looked over from his miniature throne of power. “Yislef’ma’stupitbassard’ufacosin’innacrechewi’theweans”

“What did he say?”

“Pippin, could you repeat that, only more slowly.”

“M’cousin. Stupitbassard. Eatslotsanissadrunkenbam.”

“Hang on, I think I got some of that. His cousin.” Realisation dawned over Legolas’ face, like sunrise at the sewage works. “Ohmigod! We left Merry in the cre`che.”

“Don’t worry, the cre`che doesn’t shut for another hour and a half, we can leave him there a while longer.”

As if summoned by some divine force, there was a knock at the door. When Aragorn and Legolas opened it, they were greeted by an efficient looking young woman holding Merry by the scruff of the neck, who was accompanied by a man who could only answer to the description of ‘bouncer’. Or possibly ‘hitman’.

“Is there anything wrong?” asked Legolas, attempting to slip into the role of completely ineffective parent.

“Well, now that you mention it, there is. Or more accurately, there are. He has taught every child in the cre`che more swearwords than even I know.”

Legolas thought about coming back with a witty riposte about how she looked like the kind of woman who didn’t know many swearwords to begin with. Or at least none worse than ‘knickers’.

“I dint mean to teach ’em the swearwords, I just got me finger caught in t’cupboard door and it really hurt.”

“Yes, and you swore solidly for five whole minutes.” She turned her attention back to Aragorn and Legolas. “And then he broke Tristan’s nose in the rounders tournament.”

“It were an accident, and anyway, he was cheating. I were going to get a rounder and he was deliberately blocking me. ‘Snot fair.”

“There was not reason for you to physically run over him and stand on his face.”

Merry at least had the decency to look slightly ashamed at this allegation and shuffled his feet.

“Just like there was no reason for him to cut of one of Chloe?s pigtails.”

“She said she wanted a haircut, and when she decided she dint like it I tried to make it better.”

“By sticking the pigtail back on again with PVA glue.”

Pippin was looking dangerously close to the ‘laughing until he was sick’ stage and Frodo, who was quite perceptive in these matters, went for a bucket and positioned it next to his chair. Managing to do all of this while still making a great show of ignoring Pippin was quite an achievement. “Then of course, we come to the catapult. I suppose it was naiNve of me to start talking about knights in shining armour, because Merry here seems to know all about knights in shining armour. He tried to demonstrate using a small catapult made out of Lucinda’s knicker elastic to fire pencils.”

“Lucinda dint mind, she got extra goes on the catapult cos it were her knicker elastic.”

“Yes, but Lucinda’s parents minded. They’re thinking of taking legal action. And we haven’t even got on to the miniature siege engine.”

“‘S called a trebuchet. An’ it worked an’ all.”

“Yes, we know it worked. That’s why the cre`che doesn’t have any windows any more, isn?t it?”

“Oh dear, we’re so terribly sorry. He’s never like this at home.” Lying came easily to Aragorn after centuries of practise of lying to Arwen (“No dear, I haven’t been on Crusade…I’ve been inspecting the outlying farms. The suntan? No, that’s just dirt, it’ll wash off when I have my bath next month”).

“Well, all I can say is that he’s never, ever coming back to the cre`che. And if Lucinda’s or Tristan’s parents decide to sue, I’ll pass on your contact details.” She tried to sweep out of the chalet as dramatically as her sensible shoes would allow and slammed the door, but not too loudly.

Merry sat down in front of the TV looking suspiciously pleased with himself. Getting himself banned from the cre`che had been quite fun and eventually worth it for the look on Aragorn and Legolas’ faces. And at least they couldn?t send him back again.

“Where’s Pippin gone?” Aragorn looked at Frodo. “Has he laughed himself sick again?”

“Nah. Laughed till he wet himself.”

*******************

It had come to the time that occurs in every holiday, much like the ‘crisis’ of any serious illness, when it is decided that We Will Do Something As A Group or in this case As A Fellowship. Since it was easiest, it was decided that they were all going to go swimming. All of them. At the same time.

The hobbits looked reasonable normal. Well, reasonably normal stood next to the others. They were all wearing very long, very baggy swimming trunks, with ill advised designs on them, so they all looked like very, very small surf dudes, or at least they thought they did. The effect was somewhat spoiled by Pippin still wearing the string vest, and Sam wearing a pair of water wings. And holding a polystyrene float under each arm. And wearing what looked suspiciously like a navy surplus life jacket which came to his knees. However, next to Gandalf this was normal.

Gandalf was sporting a most fetching and fashionable ‘bathing costume’, straight out of the couture catalogues of 1891 (or more accurately straight out of the back of Messers Smith and Watson Clothing Suppliers at 3am in the morning). Thankfully for the rest of humanity it covered him from neck to knee, but even Gandalf’s shins were fairly worrying. This had horizontal stripes, which gave him the appearance of an elderly, evil version of the Michelin man. He had a waterproof pointy hat on his head, and was wearing an inflatable ring which had a holder for his can of Tenants.

Gimli could not be persuaded to forgo the helmet, and in deference to his dwarvish heritage his swimming trunks were made of chain mail and leather. Gimli was probably the local fetish supply store’s biggest customer, but not for the normal reasons. Legolas and Aragorn were getting a lot of attention because they were both wearing very, very small speedos. Ok, so maybe some of the attention had the undertone of ‘poof’, but more of it had the undertone of frustrated middle-aged mother. The attention given to Legolas increased as the group approached the pool and Legolas put on a pink swimming cap. The Fellowship stopped and looked at him disapprovingly.

“What? Just because I actually care what chlorine does to my hair…”

They gave in. There was no point arguing with an elf that felt it’s hair was under threat, but they had great trouble at suppressing their giggles at the way his pointy ears stuck out round it. Gandalf waded out to the centre of the pool, and bobbed about leering at anything over the age of 18 in a swimming costume, even the woman who looked like a clone of Ann Widdecombe. Frodo dived in and started splashing about, doing handstands under the water and so on. Aragorn went into butch mode, i.e. doing the butterfly and manfully half drowning the rest of the swimming pool. Legolas swam in old woman style, doing the breaststroke very slowly with his head lifted as far out of the water as possible. Gimli and Sam remained sat on the side of the pool together, dipping their feet in the water and nothing more. Merry and Pippin headed straight for the water slides, trying to avoid each other while doing exactly the same things. This even included when the inertia of Merry’s greater bulk meant that he caught up with Pippin half way down the water slide them ignoring each other.

Frodo splashed over to Sam. “Come on Sam, get in the water. It slopes really gently, just try coming in up to your knees.”

“Thought you weren’t talking to me.”

“Fine!” said Frodo and swam off again.

*********************

After the swim, they went to lunch, at the Pancake House. A muttered suggestive comment was made by Merry about Dutch Pancakes, an in-joke with Pippin who tried to ignore it.

“Achshutyerface!”

Merry attempted to give Pippin the finger, but Legolas grabbed his arms and put him in an arm lock. He didn’t know what Tristan’s parents looked like, but he could see a family across the room with a boy with a bandaged nose giving them very dirty looks.

It was only later in the evening that the full effects of the pancakes, or rather the bizarre pancake Frodo had ordered.

“Don’ feel well,” said Frodo, going green, and running for the bathroom, followed by the sound of copious vomiting. Sam, completely forgetting they weren’t talking to each other, rushed after him.

“I think he meant it about not feeling well. Anyone else feeling nauseous?”

“If Gandalf keeps all his clothes on, I’m fine,” said Merry.

“Ah’m OK”

“Pippin?”

“Tha’s me.”

“Are you being comprehensible again?”

“Whut d’ye mean agin? Ah’m aywis comprehe – comprehenenen – understandable.”

“You weren’t before.” Said Merry, with feeling.

“Was.”

“Were not.”

“Was.”

“So you’re talking to me now?”

“Looks like it.”

“Why weren’t we talking the first place?”

“Search me. Why weren’t ye talkin’ tae me?”

“Cos you weren’t talkin’ to me, y’great long dollop.”

They hugged to make up, then decided that this was going beyond the bounds of manly affection and sprang apart.

The sounds of intermittent illness were still coming from the bathroom. Aragorn decided to investigate, if only because any one person spending a large amount of time in a bathroom shared between 8 people is not going to make themselves popular. He found Frodo hugging the toilet bowl, and muttering that there was no way he’d eaten as much food as he’d thrown up. Aragorn could think of many ripostes concerning the food capacity of the average hobbit, but suppressed them. If this was going to go on for a long time then it called for action.

A few moments later the rest of the fellowship was treated to the sight of Aragorn running to the kitchen sink with Frodo under one arm, and impressively managing to make it before Frodo threw up again. Being that Frodo was a Hobbit and could not stand in front of the sink to throw up in it in the approved hungover fashion of students everywhere, the draining board was cleared and Frodo was plonked on there, where he proceeded to curl up and start feeling sorry for himself.

After spending the entire night on the draining board Frodo reckoned that he must have got rid of everything that was causing him to be sick and, feeling a little better, decided to have some breakfast.

********************

Gandalf was not happy. He had lost his acolyte to that knotty-pated puttock of a Hobbit Meriadoc. This place was infested with, he shuddered, children. He was really coming to believe in the sentiment that they weren?t children, they were monsters and the Hobbits were in league with them.

Gandalf was getting paranoid. A more naiNve reader may assume that this was because of some flaw in his character, but it was actually because Gandalf had broken the primary rule of drinking. He’d drunk something that even the makers weren’t sure what it was, ignoring the clear labelling of the substance as ‘vadko’. Ethnic spellings such as ‘wodka’ are acceptable, although they may not have the same attitude to ‘percentage proof’ as the rest of us, but ‘vadko’, is generally a way of saying goodbye to both brain cells and stomach lining.

The upshot of this was that Gandalf had to get out. This being Center Parcs, the car was parked a long way from the chalet to force them to walk or cycle everywhere. He decided to take the bicycle as there was a chance it might get him out of there faster.

The Fellowship were having lunch on the small patch of grass in front of the chalet, and as per usual being viewed as legitimate entertainment by all those around them. They were all a little confused by the grey blur on wheels that passed them, narrowly missing their spare plate of sandwiches.

“That was Gandalf wasn’t it?”

“Yes…”

“What was that tune he was humming, it sounded familiar.”

“It sounded like the theme tune from the Great Escape, only speeded up.”

“Gandalf wouldn’t try and do a Steve McQueen on a bicycle would he?”

“This is Gandalf, remember.”

They jumped to their feet with random cries of ‘Alaaaarm!’ and ‘man the bicycles!’ and as one being of assorted species leapt on to the bikes and began the pursuit. Having youth, or at least eternally preserved youth, on their side it should have been easy to catch him up, but as Gandalf had the rampaging paranoia the odds had been evened somewhat.

Supplying such a ‘diverse’ group as the fellowship with bicycles had been something of a challenge. Three BMXs had been provided for the Hobbits, but since there was nothing else appropriately sized for the fourth Hobbit, Pippin, who had drawn the short straw, had been stuck with a pink girl’s bike with training wheels so rusted on that Aragorn’s attempts to remove them had been useless. Gimli, since he lacked the sense of balance for a bike was on a tricycle and as for Aragorn and Legolas, well their mode of transport was a strange and complex beast. We could describe it as being like the vehicle the Chuckle Brothers drive, but since they don’t exist outside of Britain and most people wouldn’t admit to knowing who they were in the first place it would be pointless.

It seemed to consist of two benches, the one behind designed for two adults and the one at the front for as many small children as can be squeezed on to it. Two bicycle mechanisms were attached underneath and could be reached through the complete absence of floor. Neither of the two bicycles mechanisms had such useful things as gears, which was making keeping up with the others rather challenging. The fact that steering had to be done by committee didn’t help either.

“Legolas, we’ve got to slow Gandalf down! You’re the archer, why don’t you do something?”

“If it may have escaped your notice, but I don’t have a bow and arrow.”

“Improvise!”

Legolas made a grab for Aragorn’s waistband.

“This is neither the time nor the place for that!”

“It’s nothing like that, my goodness, humans have such one-track minds. I need the elastic out of your underpants.”

“What?”

“To make a catapult, you idiot. I think Merry’s given me some ideas, you lot are really starting to get to me.”

Aragorn found out that it is nigh-on impossible to steer a four-wheeled bicycle when someone is trying to remove the elastic from your underwear. Families sitting around quietly, enjoying the afternoon sunshine, eating lunch outside of their chalets were treated to the somewhat…unusual sight. An elderly gentleman with long, flowing hair and beard, wearing a grey dress was riding a bike at high speed, pursued by four children and a short, bearded gentleman on a tricycle. A few moments later they were followed by a four-wheeled bicycle, weaving erratically and occupied by two gentlemen in a most compromising position who appeared to be in the midst of an argument in Welsh. Something for the photo album.

“Got it!” Legolas waved Aragorn’s underpant elastic triumphantly. “Now we need ammunition.” He leaned out of the side and grabbed some pinecones off the ground. He then teetered precariously, holding on to the side and leaning out of the bicycle and firing the pinecones at Gandalf in approved ‘mobster-in-car’ fashion.

“Can’t you steer a bit straighter, some of us are trying to aim here!”

“I would, but some fool just took my underpant elastic and now I have to use one hand to hold them up!”

**********************

Half an hour and many small injuries later, Gandalf had been captured and forcibly restrained in the chalet.

“What’s got into him?”

Frodo picked up a bottle. “More like what’s he put into him…”

“Oh no, not the ‘vadko’ again. Honestly, I’ll have to talk to the newsagent about stopping selling this stuff.”

Legolas looked worried. “You know what happens when he drinks this stuff. We have to get him home where he feels safe.”

“Yes, but how are we going to cope with him in the car all the way home, it takes three hours at least.”

Pippin looked thoughtful. “Weel, he doesnae have tae be *in* the car.”

The rest of the Fellowship looked at Pippin as they slowly realised what he was suggesting.

***********************

Legolas sighed contentedly. “It’s so nice without Gandalf in the car. It’s easier to split the Hobbits up and it doesn’t smell.” There was a muffled thump from above. “Although I think we’ll probably have to hose out the roofbox when we get back.”

Author note: Pippin IS understandable in this one. Say it out loud; we swear he?s comprehensible, we haven?t made him very Glaswegian at all.