Major’s Corner column for Feb. 5, 2012
The club represents all that is warm and chummy in this far too short life. It is a place where like-minded fellows (and now women) have always gathered to read, chat and generally let down the defences, as it were.
It has always been my plan to shed light on our doings, as I sometimes fear that not a few mems would prefer a more secretive home of homes, which leads to odd handshakes and loathsome winks.
Several years ago we were persuaded to mount the Bard’s play Romeo and Juliet starring the Brigadier and Mrs. ffrangington-Davis, with myself playing the subsequently murdered Paris. It was felt that this script represented all that can go wrong when there is no club for a quiet chat and thus the example of these tragically warring families would be a lesson well learned. It was deemed by the club accountant’s weeping abacus that it was economically expedient only one performance be produced.
As every schoolboy who is expected to sit through these sort of things (Shakespeare) knows, the real meat and potatoes comes near the end, and Romeo gets the wrong end of the stick. Instead of going to the pub for a large one, he kills himself after dispatching Paris (I died magnificently).
Here comes the hard cheese as far as the club is concerned. When Mrs. ffrangington-Davis (Juliet) leant down to give the Brigadier (Romeo) a farewell buss, she came back up looking at the bewildered audience wearing Romeo’s moustache.
When the laughter began to roll forward from the paying customers, I cautiously opened one of Paris’ dead eyes to witness our very large Juliet with a hairy lip and so joined in the merriment. The Brigadier always claimed he never wanted to wear the hairy thing in the first place, for Romeo is young. Our Juliet has not yet forgiven him, but I think the play itself made the hoped-for point.
Staying with the theme of our beloved Shakespeare, on another occasion, a Minister of Education spoke at one of our well-known Speakers’ Luncheons about the government’s position on dead white playwrights, and it was not good.
In short the chap felt that almost everything you and I had to learn by rote before finally appreciating literature was an anachronism of the first order and should be done away with smartly. As we gawped back at him in distaste, an educated man not wanting the next generation to have his advantages, he shouted, “Everything should be ON Twitter!” and then proudly left.
We sat glumly imagining a world without the Bard, no Henry V, Macbeth, Hamlet, the sonnets, nothing, just a void, voiceless but for the babbling Internet. We immediately set up a flying wedge of poetry volunteers to go amongst the schools, pleasantly reading the classics to the culturally starved students. We were met by walls of teachers yelling about putting them out of work, no volunteers allowed and the bargaining table, etc.
Speaking of teachers, we heard the other day that their union was against standardized testing in the schools, leaning to more ad hoc sort of thing. If that advanced liberal attitude had been present when I was a boy, it might have sprung me loose from the low 50s, where my marks wallowed throughout most of my scholastic career. The blind admiral chirped up that should this odd idea catch on, he might – and he did emphasize might – obtain his driving licence after some 30 years of diminishing sight.
Colonel de Coopers piped in that he could perhaps adopt his pet and best friend William the weasel and leave his not inconsiderable fortune to him rather than his pressing family. Mrs. ffrangington-Davis intruded rudely, I thought, that why didn’t he just marry the frightful creature and be done with it. Harsh words, I know, but without standards, who is to know who is qualified?
Copyright Christopher Dalton 2016