Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Email to a pal: Hitch Minor, Sherlock Holmes, Anthony Powell, and The Germans.

'I read Hitch Minor's latest book recently, The Broken Compass. The flak he's got since his last book has made him sharpen and refine his arguments considerably. The showboating and the baiting of the audience has subsided. If the Labour Party still had its socially conservative/patriotic side then he'd fit right in. The chapters on education and feminism have some knock-out punches for the Blair/Gove/Cameron/Mandelson mindset. I disagree with a load of what he says, but some things are just so spot on you want to clap. He was completely right about Blair from the word go.

I was perhaps rash about the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. I take your point. I'm going back through The Case Book of, and that has its moments. The Sussex Vampire, an old fave when I was a kid, has just about all the Holmes appurtenances - mist, mystery, old house etc - but the plot hangs on the wife refusing to tell the husband that his son is poisoning their baby cos it would break the man's heart. LUDICROUS, even in pulp fiction. Also been buying the Rathbone/Bruce B-Movies. You can get the UCLA-restored ones for three quid at HMV. They are very enjoyable: good 40s Hollywood lines, great 'cheap' art direction that is, with this material, much better than realism. Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw and The Pearl of Death (featuring The Hoxton Creeper) are total rockers. Picked up some new information in one of them: 'Moriarty was a virtuoso on the bassoon'.

Been re-reading Powell. The Military Philosophers and Books Do Furnish a Room. I loved that bit at the end of TMP when he bumps into Jean Duport down a side street off the Embankment and remembers her opening the door to him years before, naked. I sort of waited the whole book for one line and when it arrived I found that I'd underlined it: 'Like so many things that have actually taken place, the incident was now wholly unbelievable.'

Regarding the anniversary of the war. I was in a pub the other night with two pals, Angela and Mick. There were three stools at the high table were drinking at. They went out to have a fag. Meanwhile, eight or ten middle-aged, middle class Germans, all dressed in cheap-looking leather jackets, walked in. It was half-eight at night in the big Wetherspoons in George Street, so seating was scarce. They looked around a bit. Spotted Mick and Ange's chairs and here's what they did. Two of the wives sidled over and stood near Angela's stool. They looked round at it. Then one of the husbands came over and put his pint of lager on our table, at the edge, near Ange's stool. They could see both chairs were in use, by the half-empty pints. A moment or two passed. Then one of the women grabbed the back of the stool and started to turn it round her way, while another of the men grabbed Mick's stool. "OI, OI, OI, IN USE," I said and, feigning surprise, they gave the stools back with crinkly mouths and the man took his beer away. But they hung near. Mick and Ange came back and one of the women leant on the back of the stool. "What happened?' asked Mick. I replied loudly: "I've just seen the political and military history of Europe, 1914-1945, played out in this pub, that's what."
Even Mick, a hippy and socialist, laughed. The Germans scowled and left. When I got home there was something on the telly about the Germans torpedoing the SS City of Benares in 1940 and killing all those children. You've really got to watch those bastards.
And there, as Kipling concludes in the Man Who Would Be King, the matter rests.'


Mark Brentano said...

"I've just seen the political and military history of Europe, 1914-1945, played out in this pub, that's what."

Now that, Bodhi Dharma, made me laugh long and loud. Word ver: spers

William Gazy said...

Word ver: maropyk

Thanks. It was an extraordinary demonstration of Germanic expansion.