Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Et tu, Daily Telegraph?

Choked on m'kedgeree the other day at a front page headline in The Daily Telegraph, announcing that 'experts' (presumably the sort with pale complexions, clammy hands and long gaberdine overcoats) have said that, and I quote, 'not all porn is bad', and that Britannia's sons and daughters should be exposed to cinematographs of 'Continental goings-on' as part of their education.

After my feelings of dread horror receded, the thought struck me - as thoughts occasionally do - that were the government to ban all pornography except educational films made by the Daily Telegraph, important life-lessons could be blended in with the naughtiness to the benefit of all. I then sat down to pen a draft script for such a work. As the editors have yet to respond, thought it best to place it as a work-in-progress directly before the public.

[Scene 1: A bright sunny day at Lustington Manor, home of Lord Lustington-Cantaloupe in the pleasant Wiltshire village of Bell End (telegraphic address: Lusty Melons, Bell End Wilts). There is a crisp knock at the door and his Lordship's daughter, the Hon Petronella Lustington-Cantaloupe sashays down the hall in a fetching tweed twin-set to open it herself, servants being so difficult to retain these days. Outside is a tall, muscular man carrying a tool-grip.]
"Good morning m'lady. My name is Algernon Shagby-Foxwell. I've come to restore the Rembrandt."
"Well in that case I think you had better use the tradesmen's entrance."
"I mean the side door, you oik!" [She shuts the door firmly in his face]

[Scene 2 - The master bedroom. Lord Lustington-Cantaloupe is being dressed by the Filipina maid, Miss Belladomina Bangabang]
"Ooh - let me just feel this in my hand! Mmm! It is so heavy! [gasps] But where is the other one?"
"If mem'ry serves me right, it's hangin' on a barbed-wire fence just outside Kohima."
"You poor man! But why were you wearing Old Harrovian cufflinks in the Burmese jungle anyway?"
"I was incognito." [To be continued, and so on and so forth]

All suggestions, constructive criticism and offers of funding and so forth gratefully received.

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.