SPECTATOR COMPETITION No. 126
Report by limpet
The following advertisement appeared four years ago under the heading " Personal " in a country newspaper : " Cricket—Will the Boiler Engineer Gentleman who met an Assam Tea-Planter at the Gentlemen v. Players Match at Lord's kindly communicate with Box. .. ." The usual prize was offered for a report of the con- versation that takes place at the reunion, assuming that it embraces (gentlemanly) boiler-engineering, Assam tea-planting and cricket.
I half expected that one of the pair might enter, but neither did ; and, mercifully, no one spoofed an entry beginning : " Daar Sir, As a matter of fact we did renew acquaintance and . . . " It might have been difficult to avoid giving the prize for the reported con- versation that followed, no matter how trivial, if it were, or seemed to be, a true report.
The insertion of the advertisement seemed to me to argue one of the following : compatibility amounting to enchantment with his companion, on the part of the tea-planter ; or, in his case, a leave made terrible by loneliness or agonised punctiliousness regarding some small, imagined, obligation (" I'll buy you a half-pint next time we meet ").
There could, of course, have been other reasons. J. P. Mullarky suggested each picked up what he assumed to be the other's kit ; PM that they wished to exchange jobs. Several made politics the common ground the couple shared. " The unions used to play cricket with us, but this body-line stuff the shop-stewards throw at us . . . " (Admiral Sir W. M. James).
I award a first prize of £3 to G. E. Assinder, who made the couple a pair of Mr. Jingles (" Quanko Samba—last man left—sun so hot, bats in blisters ") clearly mutually infatuated and unlikely to en- counter sparring partners of such mettle except infrequently.
To W. D. Gilmour for a baroque conversation-piece that matches up well to thF tone of the advertisement ; and to R. B. Browning, whose dialogue had an authentic ring, £1 each.
(G. E. ASSINDER) give the Empire away. Wha'dlit expect, hey ? These
Indians. Beat us at cricket soon."
" Boilers, ah 1 " " What ? "
" Hutton : reminds me of a turbulent flow air preheater : smooth, controlled—er—poetic. Aye, a grand Yorkshire lad—and the best boilers come from Yorkshire, too."
" Maybe, maybe. But there's no guts in the nation. Spoon-fed. Free wigs. Youngsters, no manners. Tigers, bang, bang ! "
" What ? "
" Big fellows. Used to shoot 'em. Friend of mine, dead shot, sinuous : reminded me of Woolley. Lot o' rabbits now."
"Aye, like the Lancashire side. I never thought much of Lancashire boilers, either. Conical cross-tubes."
" Comical ? Worse than comical, Sir. With a Government like this, no enterprise. And where does it all end, hey 7 in tht decrepit, degenerate, emasculated, spineless cricket of today. Give the Empire away, that's what they do."
" But not Hutton. Have you ever seen a Babcock double-ended marine boiler ? 3001b. per square inch. Lovely : precision instrument. Like Hutton on a sticky wicket."
" Square inches, eh ? But the youngsters don't go to India today, Sir. No enterprise. Blasted coolies getting saucy. Tea's not what it was either. Remember we had a good team in '09. Naga district, Haw, haw ! Little feller like Freeman skittled 'em out once. Ants under the crease."
"Ants ? oh, ah ! Nuisance like scale. Soft water's the answer." " Haw, haw I not soft soap, eh what ? I like you, Sir : sensible. Got sound views."
"And you, sir. You're not argumentative like. Understand each other, especially about Hutton. Have a beer ? "
"A sundowner SECOND PRIZES (W. D. Gnmoua)
B. E. : There's splendour, is it not, in the sun's rays' striking of the great gasometer. A huge vertical boiler it is surely. All winter long am I yearning for the sight. The verdigris is all of the pitch. There's nostalgia for you I And how restful is it, after the clamour of the rivettings, to regard one's handiwork clear standing in these verdant purlieus.
T. P. : I consider this ground sociable and a very whirl of gaiety after the remoteness of the garden. I shall never forget Monday's last- wicket stand. You were here ?
B. E.: Sorry am Ito say, man, that I was rolling the red hot metal, my mates around me, copper and steel and fire was it all—but now tranquil am I. T. P.: To me it seems all bustle and stir. How quickly the itinerant vendors perambulate ! With what elan do the figures jump in the frames. Only sorry the memsahib doesn't care for it.
B. E.: An acquired taste it surely is. Quietness and contemplation in these precincts are very excellent things. Oh, there's a stroke sir I T. P.: He is an orange pekoe of a batsman.
(R. B. BROWNING) T. P.: Gad Threadscrew, glad to see you again.
B. E.: Well, well, if it isn't old B. Tee himself !
T. P.: Didn't have a chance of ending our chat last time ; you remember, you said that the tea ration would come off and I was saying that the idea, though an excellent one,. would not be considered by the Socialists . . .
B. E.: Good shot, sir ! Yes of course, I distinctly remember that.
T. P. : They're all for beer ... Gad, that Gentleman ought to be a Player . yes, beer at some frothy price few can afford. Run, you paralytic, run ! Phew !, B. E.: I wish they knew as much about steel as they seem to know about beer. Mind you, the Tories aren't making much of a show.
T. P.: My dear chap, if you had to clean up the mess made by someone else, it would take you some time . . . Hell, he's been bowled !
B. E.: Goose makes a duck ! What a headline for the Sundays. That's the end . .
T. P.: What about some tea, or a chota peg ?
B. E.: My dear fellow ; you can't drink in this country at tea-tittle. Don't forget our licensing laws.
T. P.: Then tea it is. Most disappointing—the score I mean. (They walk away.) How's business with you ?
B. E.: Oh we're working at high pressure, trying to get steel allocations. There is more blood pressure than steam pressure in our outfit. We're rusting in this country, Tee old boy, rusting . . .