Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Bit of a brouhahaha

Apologies for getting distracted again and what-not, but Havildar Prakash has got himself into a spot of trouble with the law - chap came home as pleased as punch the other night, as the local women's institute had invited him to give a Nepalese kukri demonstration.

He spent half the night sharpening the blade to combat-readiness and making sure everything was ready, and then only minutes after sallying forth into the lionesses' den (so to speak) found his collar being felt by the constabulary.

Apparently the silly bints had meant 'Nepalese cookery', and were shocked to find a blade-wielding dhobi-wallah in their midst.

No serious injuries beyond the odd flesh-wound, Doc Linstead assures me, but he vouchsafed I would be thought well of in the village if I offered to replace the women's institute minute book, floral arrangement and church hall table, each of which were sliced clean in two.

Donations to the bail fund gratefully received, at the usual address.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Bouzkashi game at Kandahar

After McDuff's closed down, it was of course understood that I would try for one of the colonial forces, but at the time was still a little too young. My father then arranged for me to go on attachment as a volunteer with my elder brother Belvedere's regiment, the Shikhari Mounted Rifles, which at that time was guarding the Northwest Frontier from its inhabitants.

While I was with the Shikhari Mounted Rifles, we received a challenge from the Barking Mad Fakir of Ipi's younger brother Derek (Winchester, Balliol College Oxford and the Al-Jihad Madrasah, Peshawar) to a game of Bouzkashi. As any afficianado of the ways of the wily Pathan, moon-faced Sart or pointy-headed Turcoman can tell you, bouzkashi is basically a game without rules played by two teams of murderous nomads on ponies, using a goat as a ball.

Clearly the honour of the Indian Army was at stake, so we sent our acceptance off in a high-frequency cleft-stick pronto and scraped together a regimental team. Capt O.D "What" Canther-Matterby, Lt Douglas "Dark Satanic" Mills, Dacca Deakin, Belvedere and I were the only white officers involved, the rest of the team consisting of Havildar Prakash, Corporals Singh and Singh, and troopers Singh, Singh, Patel and Singh. The third trooper Singh, I should point out, was the Trooper Singh later decorated for bravery in Iraq, not the Trooper Singh who was court-martialed and scrattled for the incident in Quetta involving the theft of Mrs Blower-Bentley's unmentionables from a cantonment washing-line. Or was that the second Trooper Singh? Old men forget. The first Trooper Singh, of course, later became bandmaster and was noted for his performances of "The Surprise Symphony", for which he became known, inevitably, as the Haydn Sikh.

Where was I?

Oh yes - the Bouzkashi game.
The spectators - clearly partial to the local Pathan team, began by taunting us with a chant of
اور ایک بکرا بھی اگر آپ کو لگتا ہے کہ تم کافی محنت کر رہے ہیں

We were soon hard at it, and wreathed in dust. The confusion was indescribable, except as indescribable confusion. An hour passed without a point being scored on either side. I thought it was all going rather well, actually, and Trooper Patel and I succeeded in making a good run right up to the Pathans' five-yard line, when one of them let out an anguished shout of 
وہ ایک بکری نہیں ہے. یہ میری ماں ہے.

Well, that certainly gave us a momentary pause for thought. But was it merely a ruse? As Trooper Patel responded with a quick-witted cry of "તમને કેવી રીતે કહી શકે?" I succeeded in "landing the goat" - not in the Welch sense, obviously - and the day was ours. The largely Pathan crowd did not see this as a desirable outcome, starting a chant of
تم کم از کم دو ایمبولینسوں میں گھر جا رہے ہیں

and as Matterby grabbed the trophy and put spurs to horse we followed in headlong cavalcade with Pathan musketry zipping past our accoutrements. Nightfall saw us well clear and settling around a campfire to eat goat curry.

At least, I hope it was goat curry.

Looking up at the myriad stars visible in the wilderness, away from the bright lights of civilisation, I recalled the words of the great Persian poet:
هر کسی که اذیت به ترجمه این به بزرگی یک احمق به عنوان مردی که آن را نوشتم

Bloody fool.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Citizenship Test - a much-needed correction

Prakash raised an interesting point the other day. Chap showed me a test on the interwebbing thingummy which contained a "Citizenship Test" the bally government are insisting anyone coming into Britain should take before we hand them a passport.

For those without interwebbing access, the test questions cover downright odd subjects such as when women gained the legal right to divorce their husbands (surely the correct response is "Why on earth would they want to?") rather than sensible matters of English culture and manners. With this in mind, I have devised a more suitable test for prospective migrants, as follows:

1. Do you love or hate Marmite?
A Love it
B Hate it
C What's marmite?
D One prefers gentleman/s relish

2. At a crowded station, someody has just put down their unreasonably large suitcase full of bricks on your foot. You respond:
C Shove the case off your foot and punch the owner
D "I'm terribly sorry, but could you possibly move your case so I can remove my foot, if it's not too much trouble?"

3. Apart from bowled, caught, run out, stumped, hit wicket, LBW and timed out, a batsman can be given out in which three ways?
A Died of boredom, gave up, fell asleep
B Used an illegal bat, punched the umpire, abused the wicket-keeper
C Handled the ball, obstructed the field, hit the ball twice
D Stole the ball, set fire to the wicket, ravaged Bill Frindle

4. Which of the following is the correct order of precedence for the aristocracy?
A Duke, Viscount, Marquess, Earl
B Duke, Earl, Marquess, Viscount
C Earl, Viscount, Marquess, Duke
D Viscount, Duke, Earl, Marquess

5. On Minden Day, officers of The Fusiliers are required to eat -
A Marmite
B An unreasonably large suitcase full of bricks
C A rose
D A Frenchman. Raw.

6. What should one do with one's half-smoked cigar during the loyal toast?
A Place it safely in the nearest Welchman's eye
B Hold it discreetly in the left hand while raising one's glass with the right
C I don't smoke
D Lighting up before the loyal toast? Are you a colonial?

7. The Welch live...
A Underground
B In Wales
C In Whales
D Until we've reloaded

8. In what year did the Scotch gain the right to enter York after dark without being shot?
A 1232
B 1603
C 1707
D It hasn't happened yet

9. Do you hunt?
A Yes
B No
C Yes. With a gun.
D I'm against all blood sports

10. How much of the genuine Citizenship Test is total and utter poppycock?
A 52%
B 58%
C 62%
D 93%

Monday, 10 October 2011

"An eye for an eye"

A lovely sermon yesterday. The "Corpus" Christie preached on Deuteronomy 19:21:

"And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."

I have always followed my father's simple, uncomplicated faith in these matters.

"Hands and feet are relatively simple to lop off in a couple of blows" I remember him telling me over dinner at home once, "But the trick of eye-removal lies in the right choice of spoon - a slender and somewhat pointed teaspoon, preferably the kind with a serrated edge for the consumption of grapefruit is needed for your Oriental type, whereas your African chap is better dealt with using a more rounded soup-spoon.

Wise words, and compassionate, too.

Where was I?

Oh yes - the Revd Knutter. Hugely enjoyed the drag hunt last Friday. Chap was unable to speak when we loaded him onto the ambulances, but when he recovers enough to hold a pen I'm sure he'll send the customary letter of thanks. It's his own fault for not practising horsemanship more - as I said to him at the time "If you'd stopped whimpering and opened your eyes you'd have seen the branch and bally well ducked."

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rum goings-on in Much-Felching-on-the-Wold

The pleasant Gloucestershire village in which I have spent most of my retirement is unusual in a number of respects. It is, for example, the only parish in England which technically belongs to the Church of Balubaland (which is basically a branch of the Church of England, but with less flower arranging and the regular inclusion of a number of services sadly dropped by the current C3 mob of bishops in synod, such as the Grendling of the Sick, the Burial of the Nearly Dead and Sung Comminations with Live Ammunition).

The reason for this unusual state of affairs is that as local squire, I have the parish within my gift and chose to appoint my old chum the Revd Algernon "Corpus" Christie, last regimental chaplain of the Royal Wugga-Wugga Rifles and Suffragan Bishop of Balubalubaland. Unfortunately, Christie was denied further preferment within the Church of England proper following The Unfortunate Incident on Lake Nyasa, during which the steamer on which he was doing his episcopal rounds was attacked by local pirates.

Like any English gentleman, he stoutly defended the vessel with his hunting rifle, potting several of the pirates in the process. This would have gone unnoticed in Lambeth Palace but for the letter he subsequently wrote to The Times praising his gunsmiths (Messrs Bolton, Piper and Shariatmadari of Caversham, Ladysmith and Isphahan) for their fine workmanship, which came to the attention of the then Archbishop of the Smaller African Colonies, the Rt Revd Horsa "Hunter" Stamp MA. Christie was duly censured mildly for un-episcopal conduct but told firmly to confine his ministry to His Britannic Majesty's darker-skinned subjects from then on.

Where was I?

Oh yes - the parish. It has come to the attention of the new bishop that goings-on "which impact negatively on the current managerial and diversity targets of the diocese" have been noticed at St Dymphna's, and a young curate - named Athanasius Knutter of all things - has been sent to inspect the parish's affairs.

Chap arrived in a small foreign car, and had the general look of something that lives under a stone. Always prepared to start on the right foot no matter what, I greeted him with "Welcome to Much-Felching-on-the-Wold! D'ye hunt?"

"Er, thank you" he replied, looking rather nervous. "Actually, in line with the church's current HR policy, you're not allowed to ask me a question like that."

"Is that so?" I replied, mildly disconcerted. "Well in that case - who d'ye hunt with?"

"Nobody, actually" he simpered, starting to sweat.

"Well we have to put that right for a start! Next Friday, you must come drag hunting with us" I said, misjudging the necessary force to slap him on the back in a suitably manly fashion and sending him ricocheting teeth first off a buttress.
He paled, and let out a small whimpering noise.

However, he did have the pluck - not to mention common decency - to accept the invitation, apparently thinking that drag hunting involves pursuing a scent laid harmlessly across the fields. Our local version involves taking the hounds to "The Hair Stylist's Arms" on cabaret night and chasing down cross-dressers. But sportingly - they get a five-minute head start and a chance to remove their high heels first.

Here's how!

Sunday, 25 September 2011


When I was seven, my parents packed me off to Shuggie McDuff's Caledonian Academy for Pale Youths, widely known at the time as an expensive private boys' school and much favoured among gentlemen looking for a guaranteed source of expensive private boys. The school itself was a curious place - McDuff himself was the Laird of Annan but had fallen on hard times after ill-advised speculation in a company making steam-powered personal grooming devices. On setting up as a dominy, he had wanted the school building to bear his family crest of the Annan Eagle, but unfortunately gave the instruction verbally to a stonemason who was somewhat hard of hearing and so the school ended up with a bust of Anna Neagle, which in shame he shrouded with a cloth of McDuff tartan (except on founder's day, when it was the focus of a local variant on the Eton wall game, played with a well-oiled haggis by well-oiled masters).

The aim of the academy was to produce decent chaps, pure of unnecessary book-learning and inured to hardship, and thus ready to take up the White Man's Burden wherever it had been carelessly left lying around. The day commenced at 6am with a cross-country run and a swim in the frigid waters of Loch Enlode, followed by a breakfast of salty porridge. The rest of the syllabus consisted of outdoor team games, survival training, parade-ground drill, the history and geography of the Empire and shooting, and Oriental and African languages - a McDuff boy should be able to order pink gin, shout commands to a company of native troops and requisition daughters in fourteen different tongues; or fifteen, if you count English.

Bonds of friendship that would last a lifetime were forged at that school, except of course in the case of The Hon. Rufus "Sausage" Rolles, whom we cooked and ate during a particulary hard winter. Among fellow pupils who would feature in my later career were young Scott "Scottie" Scott, a boy with a mechanical bent of mind and an unhealthy interest in mauve daguerrotypes, and A.U. "Get Off" McLeod, who courted popularity by setting up an illicit still under his bed. Scott was later to join - and be dishonourably discharged from - the Royal African Engineers a record 17 times. McLeod - to everyone's surprise, including his own - joined the Church of Scotland by mistake and ended up as garrison chaplain in Tanjung Kot in the Federated Malay States.

When I was 13, the academy shut its doors for the final time after McDuff - a man long given to marinading himself from the inside with sherry - was found in his bed, gibbering softly, and having smothered himself with custard. A local doctor was summoned, who diagnosed him as "a trifle mad", shortly before being struck off by the British Medical Association's Punchline Committee.

Happy days.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Clarity prevails in the East Indies, if not in Croydon

Pardon my departure from the purported topic and what-not, but Prakash has just drawn my attention to a newsreel item from Bali, concerning riotous goings-on among the melon-headed monkeymen.

For those without access to the interwebbing, permit me to quote:

Denpasar. Bali Police confirmed on Monday that the sole fatality in Saturday’s intervillage clash was a result of riot police firing into the crowd but insisted it was not a breach of protocol...
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, the island’s former police chief, agreed that the police had followed procedure and said that quelling a clash of that scale required tough action to prevent it getting worse.
“If the police didn’t take a hard line, the violence would have gotten out of hand,” he said.
“Both sides were armed. Dozens could have died, not just been wounded.”
He also denounced the clash as a “primitive and uncultured” act not in keeping with Bali’s reputation as an idyllic resort island.
“The man who died because of it, will he be a hero? Will his family get an allowance for his death? No way,” Pastika said. “The same goes for those who were injured.”
“If they require medical treatment, they won’t be covered by any health insurance. They’re hurt because they went looking for it.”

See? Even the bally Nesians - Polly, Melon, Micro (who can only be seen with a magnifying glass) and Indo (shot for 'Indolent', I'm credibly informed) alike can understand the simple principle that rioters need to be dealt with firmly.

Would that such firmness been shown in London and the Provinces this last summer.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

My father

I believe that in memoirs it is considered the done thing to provide a little background concerning one's ancestors, or at least those of them who left a name and address. My father - Maj Willoughby Radagast "Stranger" Adthy-Gates - was best known as the conqueror of Balubalubaland, having won it at a hard-fought game of "Whoops Mrs Prendergast" against the last hereditary chieftain of the Wugga-Wugga tribe, the Hon Zaidi Bunduki (Harrow, Cambridge and Wormwood Scrubs) in 1898.

The tribe's witch doctor, Njia Yakijani, objected to this praiseworthy development and challenged my father to a duel with magic. Realising that the Wugga-Wugga had never seen a Maxim gun before, my father withdrew his from his trouser pocket - he was a tall man, with an eccentric but accomodating tailor - and claimed it was his own magic wand.

Yakijani then shouted the traditional Wugga-Wugga challenge of "Wewe ni kwenda nyumbani kwa idadi ya magari ya wagonjwa", which my father swiftly rejoindered with a cry of "Tafadhali acha anuani yako ya juu ya mwili wako hivyo wanaweza kutuma juu ya kichwa yako!" before firing a warning burst between his ears.

He would go on to have me christened Njia Marmaduke Ethelred - after I was born, obviously - partly in honour of the man my father described admiringly in his own memoirs (Unpublished, Quetta, 1927) as "The first African I ever killed - plucky, but certainly not bullet-proof".

This feat - one of the last great moves in the well-known "Scramble for Africa" - was all the more remarkable for the fact that he was not supposed to be in Africa at all, being absent without leave from the Malay Constabulary at the time.
At the subsequent court of inquiry my father used his customary defence of "Didn't otterer dunnit, but did it anyway. Let hist'ry be m'judge." The court handed down a well-nuanced and closely-reasoned verdict of "Can't be helped, I suppose. Next!" That plea, and indeed that verdict, would go on to echo down his career and - later - my own on many occasions. As he himself put it "Sailin' close ter the wind is the best way ter meck progress when the wind changes. Any sailor'll tell you that." He was well-known for seizing an opportunity with both hands or indeed - after the incident with the crocodile - his one remaining hand.

I still have before me on the leather-topped desk as I write the smoking pipe which he later had fashioned from Bunduki's thigh-bone.

His live thigh-bone.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Reasons for starting this web blogging thingummy

This is - credit where credit's due and all that - my manservant Prakash's idea. After I received yet another rejection letter from a publisher for my memoirs - "out of step with the times and frankly unbelievable" as the young whipper-snapper put it, Prakash suggested that I could enlighten the multitude and provide a justification for my frequently misunderstood actions by posting it chapter by chapter on the interwebbing. Which strikes me as a jolly splendid idea.

Over the coming weeks and months, therefore, I shall be "posting" - as I believe today's youngsters have it - some rousing anecdotes of adventure, skullduggery and personal enrichment in assorted corners of the British Empire, along with reminiscences of my long and interesting life and some observations about what is wrong with England today, a subject which - were I to do it justice - would end up swamping the whole bally thing.

I mean, you only have to look: When the country is overrun with divorcees - some of them sitting in parliament, no less - Anglican priests are permitted to grow beards and the second-in-line to the throne marries someone whose parents are in trade, one may well ask what chance is there of Britannia regaining her empire and again dominating the world like a thingummy? Names escapes me. Tall chap. 

Where was I? 

Oh yes - memoirs. I have had an adventurous life dealing - firmly but fairly - with the world's unwashed, and see it as a public duty to provide a stirring example to today's slack-trousered adolescents and what-not in order to inspire, enlighten and entertain. 

Colossus. That's the fellow. Carry on!