I would be taking a liberty with the truth if I were to say that things were all sunny and gay at home.
I would also be betraying my readers confidences .
No Things were not quite so sunny at all .
You see Dotty , my sister had got it into her head that I was making inappropriate overtures to young ladies .
It was all poppey cock you know. Absolutely .
I insist .
In any event Dotty had got it into her head that I’d picked up some bad habits in the army and well , she had consigned me to this hamlet in the west of Ireland . Galway was its city and I was now residing in a village which had HMG ever taken any heed of , that heed was slight - dismissive I would say .
This is where I now languished. All very well you know but I missed my clubs and all the chaps in Sloan Square . The cricket , the bowling , the ..well all the joys of bachelorhood in the City .
I can tell you I utterly loathed the place at first but and by you know I began to fall in with the quirkiness of the local culture . By Jove - you had to admit ; they were colourful.
What with an insurrection one day , followed by a funeral which might take nigh on a week before the misfortunate soul was consigned to the final peace of his grave ; another debate would follow and it would be decided that another insurrection would be arranged for the following Monday, but that was deferred because of the local horse racing .
You will have to persist with me gentle reader , but this haphazard way of life was considered the norm.
I have alluded previously to that little difficulty at home .
Well with one thing and another , you see the thing was that was the little affair concerning Dotty’s girl had not as I had assumed been consigned to wherever these things are consigned to and as a matter of fact , things had taken turn which I would be less than truthful to describe as fortuitous .
The bothersome things at home were well fairly well dare I say it ..well.. unforgotten so to speak ..
Hence I suppose I registered a tad more surprise than I ought when the wire arrived from Dotty.
I was half aslumbered in my rooms in the fishing hamlet in the west of Ireland , where I’d been sent on an expedition at Dotty‘s insistence .. I considered the wire now ruminatively.
- family consensus require that you see a psychiatrist before returning home .
Abrupt . You might say .and I would agree . Only I knew it was about me you see , that’s the difference .
I see . I said to myself , I see I repeated with asperity. I meant every word .
- see a psychiatrist indeed sir !! - indeed !!
You see the whole thing was that I had made two minor infractions of the family code. I had made a simple overture towards Dortty’s girl - an act of complete and selfless kindness you understand , and the girl had taken it to be some sort of impropriety.
- well Dotty is like that. No slur on the family escutcheon , what !!
Then there was one little episode after a fox hunt. Simply helping her dismount her charger , and lo and behold , the gesture was completely misconstrued .
My elder sister by two tender years , Dotty had become something of the matriarchal figure in the family. She had from girlhood been a humourless girl. Quite without humour . Boadicea springs to mind , when I reflect on her girlhood. Not one of the sunny little frail things given to making daisy chains, was our Dotty.
No . Alas she was of an altogether disposition ; given to reading Homer’s Iliad . That sort of thing , you understand. Well it was quite unnatural if you ask me , but she grew up with that kind of humourless personna which alienated chumminess.
We were close in so far as we were on first name terms but other than meeting her when a ye olde family pile of late I knew very little about her. She had married a Duke . I think he was Hungaro-Austrian .. You know . One of those types .or is it Austro-Hungarian ?
Related to that Ferdinand chappie who was the cause of the War.
We met occasionally as I say on family occasions . My father was a stoical old bird. He had resolved that the title would go to my brother , Wilberforce , which was the natural order of things , but I had to do the next more ennobling thing expected of sons of the realm , and joined HM Forces.
I was sent to Sand Hurst just before the war .
I was a very average sort of an officer . I gambled quite a bit you know , I’ll admit but there was so little to do before hostilities broke out , other than go to the mess night after night and listen to these excruciatingly boring stories about valour in the face of the enemy. My word some of these old chaps could scarcely stay awake for a rubber of bridge , yet they would have you believe a lot of poppycock about defending the honour of the King , single headedly with their sword .
So some of the chaps and I took some of the local comforts with the Abyssinians .
They are by nature a warm hearted people and by golly some of the boys got up to some jolly old rogering .
Retribution and resolve and all that good rot could all wait as far a s I was concerned.
We were having quite a merry time indeed. And were it not for the blasted war we should have continued to do so.
In the end the conflagration occurred rather more suddenly than Command had expected. All the plans were rather in disarray as a consequence, and I dare say we were routed and had to effect our retreat with a degree of ignominy. Well one thing followed another and in the chaos which ensued we found ourselves rather trapped in an Assyrian wadi.
We were caught in the Kaiser’s pincer movement . The Huns were gunning in on us from either side.
I had a little familiarity with our CO . He was a Scottish chap. A shooting guide I would have thought , and he thought as little of me. Mc Donald was his name . He had paraded me a number of times for fraternising with the locals in Amman before we were unceremoniously uprooted. And twice I think for having a little wager on a rubber of bridge . And once or twice for having a little female company in quarters . Just twice in my own humble view, and I seem to recollect about thrice in Biffos quarters , and then there was an other chappies rooms and so on .
The whole thing was utterly harmless but Mc Donald was not amused . I suspect he was borne unamused and it would not have surprised me had I heard that he chastised his own mother as she still nursed him in the cradle.
There were a few of us in the little group who seemed to form a continuum of pilgrimages to Mc Donalds office for weekly chats.
Well , it was the Presbyterian mindset you see.
I can tell you it was mot an easy matter to stand in front of ones lessers - the man would scarcely make a beater in my own dear barony- but we were at war you see .
.And now the balloon had gone up so to speak , well I dare say we rather missed the big occasion .
Between one thing and another we chaps got sort of left behind when the company pulled out; missed the clarion call as it were , well by Jove it was a lesson I can tell you.
The chaps were about three miles ahead of us when we heard the shooting
I say I said to Prichard -
- I say-
Prichard as lucid as ever said
And that was more or less it.1
-Prichard , I said
- oh yes
Pricahd where the blazes is Biffo.
The man looked sheepishly at me
- what ho old man .!.I say what a rumpus.. What on earth is going on.. ?- Biffo came crawling into the room nursing a heavy head.
-well- I said to Bifffo - with renewed vigour.
-Oh hello there Roundy .. Is that you - he said in a feeble voice .
- There happens to be a war on Biffo , and you may as well get that into your jolly good head..
-A war is taking place Biffo. I said making it unmistakeably clear
- Oh I say , said Biffo..
- Prichard - he said
- do you realise its on
- the war
OH I say.. Dash it .. Have we missed something !
-- now look here chaps ..listen up.. I said
I endeavoured to explain the situation as Biffo swilled down the last remaining cocktails We were you see this side of the ridge . Behind enemy lines , you understand . Well we knew the boys were ambushed and were in a tricky wicket .
Now here’s a curious thing , were it not for Biffos idiotic ramblings things might have been altogether otherwise . You see old Biffo who while in deep alcoholics raptures started gabling on about a tank back in the village, and I looked at Prichard and said
- what ho !
And he retorted in an instant
- By Jove !!
And Biffo said Tally Ho !
Biffo had trained as a tank commander but has never been given control of a tank in Sandhurst.. This was considered to be the prudent course at HQ.
Biffo , you see , the man had spotted a derelict Kaiser tank back in the little hamlet we’d left.
Well we jolly well beavered back there and to my utter astonishment what with this and that and a lot of cranking and so on we got the thing started ,.
I took comand of thre sit .
- Biffo - I said
-Head straight for the enemy lines
Well the short of it was that we rather surprised Kaisers bimbos when we blazed into the ambush with Biffo as front gunner and Pringle on the rear , and I suppose I was the driver really I should add that I drove unsteadily . It was a little like swimming in a pool of treacle . I could not see nor hear and the only thing to do was to bally well forge ahead .
Well we did and to everyone’s astonishment , especially our own , we had turned the skirmish round . Without knowing it we had somehow managed to turn the event in our favour . Well, of a sudden there were chaps shouting Pip pip hurray !! And other chaps clapping us on the back and so on . So we said , what ho !! And all of that and I was quite relieved to be able to see again.
We became the saviours of the hour all on account of Biffos’s alcoholic dementia . We were heroes !
They gave us our gongs ad all that lot. Awarded in the field by Crookham of Essex . Decent sort of chapand a much revered son of the realm. It was said of him that he slayed a crockodile bare handed in the Ganges - well better he than me I thought looking at those noble hands as he lowered the sword thrice upon our shoulders
Well we got on with it but old Mcdonald could never could . Enmity of a tribal nature on his behalf , I always thought . You see now we were heroes by default of course , but no one knew. But considering how bitterly disappointed the chaps might have felt about our hour of valour , and how it just sort of eventuated from the fact that Biffo was just on a mad alcoholic delirious spree ; he was part Irish you know .Had anyone known than were it not so; it would have been unspeakably disappointing . The men think like that you know.
For being on the tiles for three solid days and nights well all we could have expected was another dressing down from that uncouth Scotsman . I had had enough of to Mc Donald’s office ., I can tell you, and the chaos whatsit theory seemed quite agreeable to me .It required less explanations .
We decided to just let it be .
Well that briefly was the background to my DSM.
But I have prevaricated . I return to the episode in Galway.- a little known sleepy hamlet on the western fringes of the realm.
The damn thing was that Ditty was insisting that I see one of those psychiatrist bozos.
That I should now find myself subjected to the scrutiny of a nerve specialist caused me no mirth at all I can tell you.
The old bird must have been well over the three score and ten . He looked at me suspiciously over those horn-rimmed glasses so beloved of his profession.
- where s me pen .. Jesus you cant keep a bloody pen in this place .. Ahh there it it .. Well me boy.. Where’s me stethoscope .. Mar.. gret..
A waifish woman appeared at the door ..
- Me stethoscope Margret .. Wheres .the hell do you leave things ..one second its there and the next its gone and . Ahh Dam Damnation .. .. Leave something down .. And I declare..
- Tis on yer neck sir .. The waifish voice sounded almost impudent .
-Ahh !! So tis … So tis . Put the kettle on like a good woman.. And by the by will you ever go up to Carthers and put a fiver on Lively lad 3 o cock ..Doncaster ..
He took out what appeared to be a tobacco and threw copious notes on the desk..
- and 4 quid on Lucky Lady in Down Royal. ..5 .15.. Ahhha !! - now sonny boy ?
The man was alluding to me . I have not diverted from the very facts, other than to give a brief description of this physicians ‘s rooms .
The room was dark . Gloomy , would be the wrong word and Gothic , perhaps too strong There was a desk , and to one side a bundle of files , each the size of a telephone directory There were more files to the rear of the establishment and what looked to be once a window above, but such little light penetrated that it was difficult to be precise as it served no useful purpose whatsoever . I persevered.
- I say - I said as I had begun to get that sinking feeling one frequently gets it in this country
- You are a psychiatrist ?
- I am sir - to be sure , no doubt in the world about that . I am . .. I am your humble servant in this tedious profession and .Begod .. to tell you the truth I wish wasn’t .
- I say ..
- Just between the two of us now .. Fair enough ? Well I’ll be shut of it this time next month thank God.. Halleluhhia !!!
He looked at the open page he had extricated from the amorphous pile in front of him and studied it balefully. A pained look came over him as he turned the next page and the next two more quickly . Flicking through what was manifestly a routine pro-forma of sorts . The standard one the use in the rest of the Empire, He winced , closed it and pushed it away disdainfully
- Forms forms forms .. - he said
I beg your pardon- I ventured
- I have to fill these form s…the basis of my report on these… forms.! Forms forms is that what we’re down to .. - he threw the papers in a whirl before he regained his countenance ..
- I see -I said
- no good in them really. I prefer to make my own mind up.
- Oh I see
- and these forms are asking the questions for you - see ?
He held up the paper and studied it .
- to determine by way of direct query as to whether the subject is likely to constitute a de facto threat ..-.. And all of that .. See what I mean ..?
- Not exactly . Now look here - I said standing up.
He stood up with me and I realised he was quite a formidable old bird standing a goodish full 6 inches over me.. He put a paternalistic hand on my shoulder r, and its sheer weight brought me to the sitting posit in an instant.
- No No .. we’ll not bother with these forms .. I’ll fill them in later.. Now tell me he said as Margret came in with the tea ..
-I see that you have an address in Scotland as well as London.
- I do
I see .. - he took down his pipe and examined it ruminatively. Rolling it this way and that . Is was a Meerschaum , and now he started stuffing a measure of tobacco equivalent to about a full ounce..
- don’t mind if I smoke
-now look here -I said with a degree of advanced asperity-
-I want to know what the devil is going on here .. What with these forms and whatnot . - I mean to say ..I have a right to know . I mean what the devil is it all about . ..
- They want to know if you’re loopy ?
-Loopy - Loopy … ? You mean loopy as in loopy .? - I said.
More than that - they want to know if you’d be likely to have a particular fancy for the youngish ladies .- he said as he began to stoke the fire like a furnace in his massively cupped hand.
- young ladies - I say what does that imply. Am I ….
I have to desist imitating the dialogue which follows which started not unlike a steam train leaving St Pancreas, what with the billowing furnace
-Well isn’t it better than being fond of young boys .- he winked impishly at me through the spumes .
-why !! that’s preposterous !! Pre… - I began to stand up again
- Scotland .. - he said luxuriously taking in the updraft of the smoke ..
- Scotland , isn’t is a great place for the grouse .
- - Grouse ? .. Now what the devil is going..
The birds man !!! Whoosh .. Grouse..
That heavy hand of fate was again upon my shoulders, and I sank back into my chair.
- Oh yes - well yes - well rather - yes .
-Have you ever shot ?
- I do so all the time
- opening day must be a great bit of crack
- I dare say
- ever shot a left and right
- why yes as a matter of fact- the thing was getting very confusing . I mean here we were doing some sort of psychiatric thing and this old boy is talking about a left and right at grouse ..
- never had the chance - snipe yes ; duck , pheasant -, woodcock.. Teal .. several left and rights there .. Never got the opportunity. of the brace of grouce .. Never ... The bog s you see…
-Well , my brother Alphonsus…- The man completely ignored me and continued as if he were dictating a letter .
- Yes the bog s it’s the richness of the turf in the uplands in Scotland that attracts them . We tried to introduce them here but they shagged off again… wouldn’t be surprised if you shot the odd bird yourself. You shoot the moors do you ?
- well my brother Alphonsus .. well the Earl.. Has a thousand or so acres of upland moor land ..
- ahhh ! - I can smell them now.
He went to an upright tallboy and opening the top drawer he dipped in his hand looking at as if askance
I declare the drawer had a false bottom and he was now hoisting leather sort of suitcase .
He took the case and laid it on his desk
He opened the case and there in front of me lay the finest pair of Purdies I‘d ever seen.
- well ?
_ I thought you’d have an eye for them. I was left them by the old cannon . He was a keen shooter .Presented them to me before he died bless him. Wasn’t I shooting with him the week before he died . Dropped dead in a bog hole , after felling a high pheasant. Great shot , But I knew the poor devil was dead . I just wondered if he saw that last shot. God he looked the happiest corpse I ever saw. We laid him out with the gun beside him on the bed , and honest to God he looked ready for the off . Jayes ! It must have been the happiest day of his life .. All the boys lined the hearse in a guard of honour . And the boys insisted they’d bring along their dogs for the guard of honour ..
-they brought their dogs to the funeral
- every dog in the parish was lined up beside his master
- dogs - at a funeral
- Dogs me boyoo have feelings too ..
This utterly shocked me I’d never heard the like
-Oh yes the dogs lined out and paid their respects..
He put the gun to his shoulder and raised it to the window ,
- Pow Pow !! - I fired the voley over his grave
- you fired the shotgun over his grave
- it was the least I could do.
- Is that allowed .. I mean producing a shotgun in a grave yard
-Oh no .. they didn’t see me bringing it in . I hid it under my gabardine . I took it out after the consecration .. Just to check..Pow pow !!- Ah ha !! The young curate got a start .. Well there you are - he said placing the gun back in its case.
He slid the gun away with the hand of a magician back into the tallboy.
- Now me lad .. You ‘re a bit of a la doo what ?
I was unfamiliar with the term and ignored the man but he continued .
-Tell me - he said in an offhanded way
-did you ever serve under Forbes
- Do you mean Sir Fobisher - Fills - Forbes - I said regaining my position .
- The very man . He’s a big shot now .. I knew him as Fobey.. And now he’d a lord .
-Why yes ..but he was brigade HQ ..
-He would have been .. Good shot too..Ahh !! we had manys the grand night together .. Good poker hand .. Steady as a rock . Good at the bridge too .. But lazy as hell .. wouldn’t tie his shoelaces if he could get away with it … But put him in a tight spot.. Different man. Stayed with him a couple of times .. KylemoreHall .. Fine place ..my God he must be a good age now .. Letmeseee .. Seventy five .. Or six ..
The man was clearly rambling .
-I see you met Crook ham ?
- I say . Do you mean Lord Essex
-didn’t he get on well in the world .. Married that one did he ,, ? Ah well..? A fine man .. Good soldier !- put him in front of a pack of Zulus.. Never flinched .. Lot of them did .. Fainted when thy saw the charge .. - asked me if I could get some of the wounded men to man the barricades.. Pass them fit you know,, I did . Took a rifle myself .. Well the lord must have been smiling on us that day..
He seemed to wander off into a private reverie , and I was loath to interfere but I had to persist in the end .
- Now look here .. I said, drawing myself up to my full height.- I have something to say..
- You do ?
-I do !
-Margret !! He bellowed and she was there in an instant
-The gentleman wants to go to the WC..
I didn’t and I said so .
-yes he does , and if he doesn’t .. you might have to wait all night to get a specimen.. Outside his door .. At his rooms.. Margret have you got the bif specimen bottles ?
- I do sir .. Surely .. Will I get you wan..
- Now see here
- Get the bedpan so Margret like a good girl..
- that will not be necessary - I said rather coolly.
- Good !good man ! - the gigantic hand was now lifting me from my chair like a sort of silent hoist ..
I was a little perplexed. I mean what was to happen now. Would he write this dam report . What would he say to Margret ?
- I realise this may seem to conflict with the ethical business and all that .. But .well .. You see Margret takes things rather ..well she lacks imagination you see and if something were said figuratively you see…
I could see I was making a hames of it. He regarded me keenly and those lively eyes for a second looked askance as if I ’d made an indecent suggestion , and just as suddenly with a liveliness of the aforementioned conjurer he winked at me in a sort of conspiratorial manner.
I really didn’t know what to make of it all , and as I was stepping out he followed me down his hall which was adorned with stuffed hares , badgers , pheasant grouse and a menagerie of other oddish creatures .
I paused at the door.
- I’ll have my man issue you a cheque for your services - I said
- Good Man .. Good man ..
- But I must emphasise that your report could have the gravest consequence . Should an injudicious word be inadvertently added here or say there .. What I mean is .. Well my sister lacks imagination . She was always a girl who lacked even the smallest appreciation of digression into humour… Humourless I’d call her ..
- Ahh ! Yes the report.. You mean .. I see .. Well to be truthful , I don’t mind if you wrote it yourself..
- Me ? Me write my own report ..
- fine I’ll just make a few wires .. You know .. - Bring it up and I’ll sign it.. No time for these long winded things .. Keep it to about 400 words .. Take the forms with you if you like …
The heavy oak door was beginning to close , as sturdily as London Bridge .
The suggestion sounded preposterous. Turning away he ached his eyebrows , and it didn’t seem so preposterous at all - a gesture of kindness more like . Then as he squinted more studiously at me it seemed preposterous again. He had that sort of effect on one .I obviously displayed none of my nobless oblige personna at that moment for in the next he said .
- No Sonny ! Leave it to me . I’ll have it done by Thursday. He turned back into the hall and whispered as loudly as he might -
- Its Margret !!- poor girl she wont do a bloody course in typing !!
He waited with arched eyebrows for the retort , and it came as surely as he’d expected it .
- She’d do it if she wanted to type .!!!. She’s enough to be doin round here - came the reply from the bowels of the kitchen
He winked at me again. , and offering me his massive hand , shook mine and stepped back into the hall
- Margaret .. Begod !!! haven’t you the keen hearing all the same - what ? he bellowed closing the door.
I didn’t know what to make of this whole ordeal . I mean this psychiatrist fellow. Odd you know, yet there was something terribly likeable about him. I mean calling me ‘’ Sonny ‘’ as I was leaving - you know I didn’t even mind that . No . I regarded it as a term of amity.
And his offer of me writing my own report. Of course he wasn’t serious about it , or was he In any case it gave you a sense of authority or something .
It is difficult to describe my feelings re this whole encounter , but having mulled it over several times I was not displeased .I had rarely met a man with such insinuated authority . I was used to having servants and whatnot at home and other than my nanny I had never experienced such insipient authority in another person. .
He exuded that sort of undertone which suggested what one might consider impudence .I suppose . Why , it was dam confounding really He seemed to be one or two steps of the conversation all the time. The direction of our consultation had gone exactly as he had ordained, yet I was the patient ,if you see what I mean.
I was unused to being outmanoeuvred and as a man used to having things his own way . Well it is best described if I quote from my journal .
My dated entry of the 15th inst , refers - describing the man states roundly. ‘Impudent ‘
Then this is crossed out and the word ‘ completely above his station ‘ is entered which in turn is replaced with ‘ irascible’ then ‘intriguing ‘ then featherheaded ‘ then …..
Oh ! Many many more,
I happened to recall the horse he had mentioned running in Doncaster and as it was still well before the off, I had my man put an even two score on the nag .One never knew .
Then I called my man back and said make it an even hundred .
Aha ! I felt . If the old bird was wronng .. Wel l lets say it was my way of assessing him. The horse was called as you will recall ‘’Lucky Lady ‘’ riding in Doncaster .
Would you believe ? The nag came in at fours netting me a neat 400 .
Bedevilling luck , bit I put it aside and thought no more of it . I slipped 100 to the girl Melissa , just for the boys , incognito as it were .
Nothing very much that following week . I’d had two dam good days fishing and the girl Melissa was always there in the evening and I dare say she seemed more enigmatic by the day .
The wire when it came from Dotty was succinct.
‘ return at your leisure ..D
Well I can tell you this was warmly received. And I wondered if the old bird could have possible gotten the woman Margaret to type the letter. I wondered how on earth things had moved so swiftly ,.I mean filling in the forms and have things typed up and all that old rot . Well it was all so merry now , and quite so quickly.
I had resigned to be incarcerated in this hamlet of peasants for a further 3 weeks or more .while procedures as they called them in the army were being processed .
I am writing from the haven of my club in Sloan Square .
The whole ordeal left me reeling to be frank .
What with Dotty welcoming me back to ye old family hearth and whatnot ..well I was bemused .
As I was rminatig the thing over old Crookham appeared before me as if an ethereal puff of magic had wafted him into the reading room .
- Well Old boy.. Good to see you ..!! How good to see you.. Believe you were vacating in Connemara ..
- Why . Sir ! I ejaculated standing to attention .
- Good friend of mine over there.. Psychiatrist chappie .. Had a call from him the other day .. Tells me the fly will be up in a week or so..
- Sir ? - I said utterly confounded .
- Oh yes .. Should meet him .. Irascible sort he was in the war .. But my Lord what a soldier .. My lord ..! Met him in the 80’s .. he was the brigade MO… Ahh ! Sticky type you know .. But My goodness could he hold his reserve .. Ahh Yes … Fine shot too . What a rather jolly time we had….
I would be taking a liberty with the truth if I were to say that things were all sunny and gay at home.