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."