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!