THIS ISLAND LIFE LOOK, I’m not the sort of person who panics easily but the pair of them have been missing for four days now — and they never go anywhere without their Rennies and an assortment of Tena products.
This worrying tale began on Monday evening, when the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the penthouse were in full flow.
Grumpy Greening had brought his usual crate of home-made turnip wine and Malc Lawrence’s tray of wombat testicles sauteed in Guinness and grapefruit juice (he got the idea from watching I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here) were sizzling in the oven.
He had also splashed out on a CD of Renee and Renato’s Greatest Hit and, though it consisted of the same song 12 times, it didn’t seem to matter after a while.
We were well into the fourth bottle of Greening Grand Cru, when the grumpy one held his finger to his lips.
"Listen," he said, "what’s that I can hear?"
"Nothing," said Lawrence from the kitchen, where he was busy preparing a beetroot and vanilla jus.
"Precisely," said Greening, "and it’s simply not good enough on New Year’s Eve. Come Lawrence, we have a duty to perform."
Without further ado, the two of them decided to go downstairs to La Hofton’s basement flat to complain about the lack of noise.
Well, that was their excuse. To be perfectly honest, Lawrence had been itching to get down there all evening.
She had upset him enormously with her column a couple of weeks ago, in which she suggested his glowing red nose was battery-powered, when all his friends knew it to be an entirely natural phenomenon.
At the bottom of the steps, he tried to knock on her door and missed, so Greening did the honours.
"Oh, hello Brian," I heard her say, in that husky, slightly seductive way she has when addressing a kindred spirit.
"I must say, in a certain half-light you bear an uncanny resemblance to the lovely Will Self, a gentleman for whom I have always carried a small torch.
"Do you fancy a cup of free trade, low-caffeine, additive-free, lactose-tolerant, homogenized coffee."
"Go on then," said Greening, ever the smooth talker.
He stepped over Lawrence before entering the flat, at which point I returned to the penthouse to enjoy my treasured video recording of The Best of Hogmanay 1965, starring Andy Stewart and Moira Anderson.
The next thing I knew, I awoke the following morning to find the penthouse filled with the stench of charred gonads — but of my friends there was no sign.
I rushed downstairs to discover the door of the basement flat wide open and was almost overcome by the distinctive effluvium of lavender oil and joss sticks emanating from within.
A crocheted bonnet lay half finished on the living-room table, with an opened copy of The Collected Limericks of Karl Marx and a voodoo doll of David Pugh.
More significant, however, was the Wightlink timetable, on which an early-morning crossing had been circled.
I rang all La Hofton’s friends — but neither of them knew where she was.
A call to the Fishbourne terminal revealed that a woman resembling the cellar-dweller had been seen aboard the 7am crossing.
"However," said the helpful chap on the other end, "it didn’t leave until 8.11 because of operational difficulties."
He confirmed her front-seat passenger was a tonsorially-challenged gentleman of cantankerous disposition, while another chap with a red nose was sprawled across the back seat snoring gently.
My only contact since has been an e-mail from the pair of them, signed 'Charlotte’s Friends, somewhere in England’.
Anyone with any information whatsoever about their possible whereabouts, is urged to keep it to themselves.
Nanny knows best
I HAVE no wish to be distasteful but it’s time for a bit of plain speaking. The Island has been hit by another bout of the dreaded norovirus (aka the winter vomiting bug) and people seem genuinely surprised.
Why? With the appalling standard of personal hygiene regularly witnessed in public toilets these days, I’m surprised half the Island’s not retching into the nearest gutter.
Some people seem to believe that, having completed their business, wafting their finger-tips in the general direction of a dripping tap is a suitable form of ablutionary safeguard.
Automatic taps and soap dispensers have been a welcome development but they are few and far between.
At least one of my friends takes a couple of doggy-do bags with him on every outing to pub or club — and he’s never had a canine companion in his life.
He uses them to cover his hands before operating any lever or handle in the general vicinity of a public latrine.
But it would help if we all went back to basics and remembered the precautions we were taught as children.
Here endeth the lesson from Nanny Newbery.