Laugh out loud moment today was prompted by the last line of a report in the paper which said that Paul Daniels, the magician, had cut off the tips of two fingers when making a new prop for his forthcoming show. I didn’t laugh at that, of course, no laughing matter at all. The report ended by saying that, after surgery, he’s been back working in his shed, where he makes many of his own props. “Next week he will be making a guillotine,” it finished drily.
Speaking of crossword puzzles, as I was yesterday, reminded me of an anecdote told me many years ago by Captain Sheppard. He was a great friend of mine when I was in my late teens and early twenties. My mother’s gardener died suddenly and, in a spirit of great kindness, he turned up on the doorstep and offered to help out. He was an elderly bachelor who lived in a caravan a couple of miles away, one of those men who had never quite achieved the knack of looking after himself and so looked – well, frankly, a bit of a tramp. He was immensely intelligent and cultured, but I rather think he had, or had had, a drinking problem. He certainly lived a very simple life. I liked him a lot and we had long conversations.
We shared an enthusiasm for cryptic crosswords, although he was way more intelligent and clever than I, but he was very kind to me and never showed any indication that he was aware of that. And he told me of his favourite crossword clue.
Torquemada was the pen name of a compiler of fiendishly difficult crossword puzzles back in the 1920s and 30s, for The Observer. Puzzles of this sort were ones I rarely attempted and never could solve. I can’t remember the name of the compiler in my young day, my father could do them but they were horribly difficult. Anyway, Captain Sheppard taught in a boys’ boarding school and all the masters lived in. One night, no one could solve the final clue – For the alleviation of the labour of childbearing (4).
And I’ll say no more about that until tomorrow, because you might see it straight away or you might not. There were scientists, linguists, classicists, no one could get the answer.
Rog has given Chris a prize for solving a very nice clue, but he deserves one from me too. Chris dear heart, what is your favourite pudding? It shall be served on 26th May and you will receive the first helping. Assuming you make it to the party, that is.