25 NOVEMBER 1955, Page 48

Other People's Purgatories

Competitors were invited to submit neat and witty definitions of purgatory for three of the following : a poet, a civil servant, a schoolteacher, a housewife, a TV celebrity, a Cabinet Minister, a university don, a film actress and a psychiatrist.

MY purgatory was to find so many entries alike. All those poets forced to listen to each other's works! Those civil servants obliged to make decisions! Those housewives with unexpected guests and no tin-openers! Have competitors, too, formed a ring? Do they spend their weekends together at some huge secret headquarters? Or are they a single person, multitudinously pseudony- mous?

The blacklegs—the originals—shone all the more brightly for this background of repetition. It was nice, for example, to con- template the ingenuity of Katrina's doom for a Cabinet Minister : 'Defending a Gov- ernment majority of one againgt an Op- position all-night-sitting attack on policy concern ing hydrazinocarbonylmethyltri- methylarnmonium.' I enjoyed, too, imagin- ing A. W. Dicker's psychiatrist 'marooned on a desert island with another psychiatrist.' On the whole, though, 1 must conclude that we are not good at defining purgatories any more. Something has gone out of us in that quarter. We have lost our medieval malice.

It was a mistake, of course, to include the schoolteacher and the housewife. Most of the teachers in England, and many of the housewives, took the opportunity to de- scribe (often in something more than 75 words) their everyday, habitual condition. I have seldom read anything more heart- felt: but this is a page for laughter, not for tears. The general feeling was summed up by Vera. Telfer : 'A schoolteacher's purga- tory is being a schoolteacher.'

No one scored winningly three times. I recommend that thirty shillings each he awarded to Granville Garley and Rhoda Tuck Pook, who came nearest (and were neatest); and that £1 should go to Valdor,

and ten shillings each to F. J. Young and H. A. C. Evans. A selection of the most pungent purgatories is printed below.


Hearing himself acclaimed as an Obvious chtiice for the next Laureate. (J. M. Swain) Giving a reading of his poems in Workers' Playtime. (Leslie Johnson) Making poetry in the night and forgetting it in the morning. (Nan Wishart) Helping the wife to choose a Christmas card with a 'nice' verse. (Douglas Hawson) Songs without words. (A. M. Sayers) SCHOOLTEACHER: Taking the whole school for physical jerks at short notice on a wet day in a crowded room before HM Inspector. (R. Kennard Davis) The last day of term coinciding with the first day of April. (Nan Wishart) Listening politely to Governors, Aldermen and MPs at speech days explaining that the teacher's work cannot really be evaluated in terms of money. (E. C. Jenkins) HousEwiFE: Living in another housewife's house. (G. J Blundell) Listening to a delightful play, charmingly acted, while wondering whether one has left the electric iron on at home. (Mrs. V. R. Ormerod) Looking after a family possessing staggering appetites and working staggered hours when she can barely stagger. (Leslie Johnson)


Appearing as the subject in This is Your Life and finding that it actually is. (Katrina) Performing with an even bigger TV cele- brity whose friend controls the cameras. (Doug- las Hawson) PSYCHIATRIST: Unravelling the sex-complexes of an herma- phrodite. (P. M.)



FILM ACTRESS: Acting. Psva-HADusT: Relaxing on his own COLIC,b; HOUSEWIFE: Unexpected visitors and tin-opener mislaid.


POET: Conversation with an old lady Wb° once met Tennyson, and so has critical standards. UNIVERSITY DON: Being recognised in Pub' lie by the hoi polloi. TV CELEBRITY: Not being recognised public by the hoi polloi.

(v AwoR)

CIVIL SERVANT: To spend all morning 5,3Y. ing 'Yes' and all afternoon making it geou d HOUSEWIFE: Doing out nappies with barn soap to the sound of the washing machine se" door. A FILM ACTRESS: Entertaining all her Os• bands to a showing of her first film.

(F. J. YOUNG) PSYCHIATRIST: To overhear his wife telling a friend, 'I can read my husband like a bo°''a

CIVIL SERvAtrr: To be presented dossier marked 'By-passed to you for imnl" ate action.'

UNIVERSITY DON: Playing 'Consequen--1 at a Women's Institute Christmas party.

(u. A. C. EVANS) A SCHOOL TEACHER: Being stuck, between floors, in a lift with parents. A TV CELEBRITY: Having to watch oiller TV celebrities on TV.

PSYCHIATRIST: Treating a Trappist.