15 APRIL 1989, Page 44


A to E


In Competition No. 1569 you were in- vited to produce a piece of plausible prose in which every word begins with one of the first five letters of the alphabet.

I expected this competition to appeal only to a few obsessional 'Oulipians' (see p.31 of our 18 March issue) and so give me a light week's load, but it proved wildly popular. Some of you proudly confined yourselves to only one letter, but acroba- tics aren't the same as races. If I had said 'entertaining' rather than 'plausible' a prize would have gone to Stanley Shaw for a magnificent piece of nonsense inspired by a sentence of James Joyce: 'Moynihan leaned towards Stephen's ear and mur- mured, "What price ellipsoidal balls? Chase me, ladies, I'm in the cavalry!"' D. C. Moran had a fine elegiac ending: 'Beech drifted dutifully downstairs. Dusk deepened, doves cooed amid ancient elms, and Blandings Castle breathed easily again.' There were excellent entries from L. V. Harke, Noel Petty, Nick Richards, Ella Hatfield, Brian Wheeler, D. A. Prince and J. J. Webster. The winners below get a hard-won £15 each, and the bonus bottle of Rioja 1973 Gran Zaco Reserva, presented by Becket Drake Ferrier Moseley, 57-59 Neal St, London WC2, goes to Betty Lee. Easter again, and a certain doyen among bishops attracts attention, as ever, by denying an ancient belief chronicled centuries ago by Evangelists and accepted by credulous Christ- ians down ensuing ages. Apoplectic clerics, devout converts, evangelical conservatives, epis- copal colleagues, Commons back-benchers,

even atheists and agnostics, condemn, but Bishop David accepts censure bravely, counting criticism a cross borne by countless bishops before, especially at Durham.

Can a Church eschewing controversy, closing doors against Biblical criticism, continue? Can contemporary congregations, educated and en- quiring, accept antiquated dogma? Adults, adolescents and children alike, all demand enlightened exegesis. An active and alive Church develops and changes as cultural cli- mates dictate. As Cranmer's archaic cadences are abandoned (by all but diehard conservatives and Catholics) and Alternative banalities are embraced, cannot clergymen allow credal altera- tions also? An ambivalent Church equals a divided Church attacked by doubt and disbelief, but a courageous Church, armed against all attack, agrees doctrinally and devotionally. (Betty Lee) East African Aid Conference Abu Asfari, an elderly Ethiopian economist and agronomist, arrived at Addis Ababa's bus depot complaining bitterly after experiencing an arduous and circuitous cross-country course accompanying a commercial camel caravan.

Abu, an Abyssinian aristocrat by birth but culturally and by education at Downside and Balliol, altogether European, argued articulate- ly and cogently against American aid. Coca- Cola colonialism, as Abu called even Christian Aid's efforts, did enormous economic damage by almost entirely disregarding ethnic attitudes and aspirations. A dispassionate assessment could but confirm Abu's damning description as all attempts at air-dropping equipment ended disastrously, and additional evidence came as canned corn and baked beans cascaded before embarrassed ambassadorial eyes, and broken boxes and bags abounded.

A Citizens' Army band, blowing brass bugles and beating drums, could barely afford an entertaining distraction as an aborted confer- ence disintegrated entirely. (John Sweetman)

Ahmal's Asian Curry Emporium. Attention curt, contemptuous and dilatory; decor artificial and exceedingly drab (chintz curtains, creaking chairs, drooping carnations). Billed as 'an East- ern eating experience beyond compare', but extravagant advertising claims cannot conceal appalling amenities and an expensive cuisine aimed (apparently) at driving diners away.

Basmati clammy and cold; Biryani (although edible) barely acceptable. Brinjal (aubergine/ eggplant) curry arguably best, but bitter and barely cooked. Chicken Dhansak below aver- age: excessive coriander, cumin, cardamom and especially chilli cannot disguise a dull dhal and an aged, cartilaginous bird carelessly boiled and badly boned. Dry chupattis, disappointing chut- neys (chiefly cucumber and courgette).

Curious emetic effects are constantly experi- enced: even confirmed curry addicts can expect disastrous consequences. Bill exorbitant, every- thing else cheap and depressing. Asian cookery enthusiasts, after all, deserve better, as Ahmal's cannot but be aware.

Conclusion: avoid at all costs.

(M. R. Woodhead)

Caroline admitted being an alcoholic. 'Bad days are easier drunk,' Caroline explained. Every-

body at Alcoholics Anonymous agreed.

'But acute depression,' advised Brenda, a counsellor, `and depleted energy are everyone's enemies and cannot be allowed as excuses.'

Caroline broke down and cried, describing a demoralising experience at Euston, arrested as a drunk and disorderly citizen. And David, another alcoholic burdened by bereavement, added, 'Dry evenings alone are dreary beyond belief.' Apparently, David's chum, Edward, diopped by, bringing a bottle, but around eleven, after an extended drinking bout, Ed- ward collapsed and died.

'Dreadful . . .' consoled Brenda.

Adrian, aged eighteen, drugged and depen- dent, admitted, 'Cold cramps drive everyone crazy. Coping as an addict can't be described.'

Adrian's difficulties began as a child, doubt- lessly caused (explained Brenda) by early breast deprivation. Brenda, a divorcee, believes analy- sis can answer addicts' despair. 'Everyone — except doctors — agrees; confession and con- frontation are crucial,' Brenda assured every- body confidently. (Ann Anderson) Evolution's darlings and absolute apex, Adam and Eve exist, albeit Eden-confined, equably and amorously. All day and every day, an energetically assiduous Adam and a diligently

compliant Eve (both exceptionally environmentally-conscious and ecologically- aware) do as Big Daddy dictatorially commands and dig and cultivate, eat and drink, cuddle and copulate, bed down among aromatic asphodel and delectably drowse and doze. Eventually, an astute and agile asp, devil-driven, enters Adam and Eve's blissful bower and, advancing, en- treatingly enjoins: 'Eat an apple — do!' Dare ever-dutiful Adam and egregiously conformist Eve defy a divine edict? After agonised doubts, each does. Delicious! Eagerly, Adam and Eve establish an Ambrosial Eden Apples Export Agency . . . And afterwards? Expeditious expul- sion and dire disgrace? Au contraire, a delighted and excited Deity exclaims ecstatically, 'Ex- ceedingly entrepreneurial! An admirably ambi- tious couple — excellent!' (Andrew McEvoy)