Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 9 December 2016
A few days ago, the red light appeared on my router and it would not connect to the internet. A few hours later it connected, and I found a message informing me that the server was aware that some of its customers were experiencing difficulties connecting to the internet and had red lights on their routers. They might as well have sent me a telegram.
The thing I remember most about telegrams is the motorcycles with which they were delivered. A very young lad in a red uniform rode on a little two-stroke bike which was painted a dirty red colour - a BSA Bantam. Despite the size of these little things, I always secretly wanted one.
The delivery of a telegram meant - for my parents generation - either very good news or very bad news, neither of which could wait. The importance of the message was obvious from the beginning, because they were so expensive to send. Priced by the word and with words as punctuation - STOP - they were dictated to telephone operators and kept as brief as possible, as in: SON KILLED IN ACCIDENT STOP REGRETS STOP, or CONGRATS ON 100TH BIRTHDAY STOP THE QUEEN STOP
For an ordinary household to receive a telegram during the World Wars would only mean one thing, and that thing was bad. We only had a couple at our house, and I cannot remember what they were about - except for one. I thought I must send at least one in my life, so I sent one to myself. I think it cost about six shillings. I almost gave my parents a nervous breakdown when the little red bike with the little red rider spluttered into our front drive. My father thought it was a shocking waste of money, especially since my pocket money was two shillings a week, but I suspect he was just disappointed that it was not the news that he had won the Pools which made him so angry.
I would have wasted the money anyway, because almost every Saturday for about a year I would go into town and buy a box of 100 .22 blank cartridges for my little starting pistol - at two shillings per box.
As soon as I got home I would load up 8 into the magazine and begin firing them. My brother would count the bangs (he must have had more time on his hands than I had) and would shout out the numbers to me as I let them off in the garden. I was not - for understandable reasons - allowed to let them off in the house, where they would have been deafeningly loud. In the open air, a .22 blank is a sharp pop.
At last, my brother would shout, "99!" and then there would be the final crack, at which he would shout "100!" with joyous relief. One day I had borrowed a single blank from a friend, and when he shouted '100' I left it for a few seconds before defiantly firing it. That was satisfying.
This is the time of year when, if you want to get one over on relatives you dislike, you buy their child a noisy toy for Christmas.
The classic Tin Drum used to be a perennial favourite, but these days there are electronic gadgets which do the job so much better.
When the Grandson was about 10 years old, his mother bought him a full-sized drum kit which was installed in his bedroom of the tiny house. I don't know what she was thinking, but luckily he had destroyed it by the following year.