By Rupert Dreadlock–Farrington Village Historian.
Good day villagers and would-be villagers.
My name is Rupert Dreadlock-Farrington and I am the official historian and record keeper for the village and I have been asked by the Editor of this revered, digitalised publication to reveal to you the full and detailed extent of the tale of Kipling Oates the man of mystery who was a resident of this village for the entire period of 1913 to 1964. I can reveal to you at the outset that the true identity of this man has been proved by myself, through extensive and painstaking research to be none other than Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates, the Antarctic explorer who accompanied Robert Falcon Scott on his doomed mission to the South Pole and was believed to have sacrificed himself by stepping out of the tent and to his death.
Let us travel back in time to that fateful day on the 16thMarch 1912 as Oates, Scott, Bowers and Wilson awoke and popular legend has it that Oates recognising the need to sacrifice himself in order to give the others a chance of survival, put his boots on, and walked out of the tent into a blizzard and −40 °F temperatures to his death. Scott wrote that Oates said to them; “I am just going outside and may be some time ‘Scott also wrote in his diary, “We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.
I can reveal to you that what Oates actually said was ‘I am going outside to look for some Thyme’ The previous day he had noticed a patch of the culinary herb growing remarkably on a patch of ice in the Antarctic wasteland and thought he would try and recover some as he had a particularly good recipe for penguin hoosh that would go well with a sprig of the fresh herb.Scott misheard Oates and his diary entry was recorded incorrectly forever.
Oates left the tent on his culinary quest only to walk into a raging blizzard and completely lose his bearings. Although he managed to find the object of his mission and grabbed handfuls of the herbaceous flavouring plant he could not find his way back to the tent. On and on he walked into the blizzard, sustained only by drinking snow melt and eating handfuls of the delicious plant. He began to hallucinate, making up recipes in his head, consisting of just herbs and spices with no meat or other ingredients and also dreamt that Amundsen had discovered a new herb just days before the British could identify it. On and on he walked in his fevered state and covered over 400 miles in 30 days. He suffered terrible effects, his stools became loose and gave off a terrible herbaceous aroma and his skin became a pale green colour. Eventually stumbling across Amundsen’s base at Framheim where he was mortified to discover plentiful supplies of mixed herbs, chilli powder, Rosemary, Bay leaves and worst of all caraway seeds he was rescued.
Details of Oates return to England are unclear but he made his way back via shipping routes in 1913 using the help of the returning Norwegian party who took pity on him, and helped him to overcome his obsession with the use of cloves and fennel seeds in his cuisine.
On returning to England Oates took up residence in our village and changed his identity as he felt embarrassed and ashamed at leaving the tent and also because he was starting to feel that he would like to use nutmeg in his future cooking requirements. You may ask how this tale can be proved and how I know this all to be true and you are right to ask so I have listed hear for you the evidence which I feel is compelling and incontrovertible.
1. Kipling was nervous when weather conditions deteriorated in the village and would stay indoors during snowy weather.
2. Kipling visited the fishmongers in the village and was overhead on occasions asking if a consignment of seal meat would be arriving soon.
3. Stocks of Star Anise and Oregano were often low in the village shop.
4. Kipling always wore shoes possibly disguising his damaged frostbitten toes.
5. Kipling enjoyed talking to and feeding the village’s favourite horse Geronimo in his later years and as we know Oates primary role in Antarctica was to look after the ponies in his care.
6. The incredible coincidence of identical surnames.
So there we have it gentle reader. The most iconic and symbolic figure of the British stiff upper lip, lived in our village as a recluse spurning the attention that he deserved and continued to work quietly on the discovery and blending of new herbs and spices such as fenugreek and Marjoram until his death in 1963 where he was buried in the village churchyard. Lest any of you still doubt my word let me reprint for you below the inscription on his grave;
‘Hereabouts lies a very gallant gentleman, Kipling Oates,of this village. In his life he walked willingly to his death to try and secure herbs and spices for those beset by hardships’
Kipling Oates 1880 to 1963
Look out for my next article on Ernest Shackleton who was proprietor of the sweetshop in the village for 2 years after returning from his epic journey in an open boat from Elephant Island to South Georgia.