Sunday, November 04, 2007

Down the Oxus on a Log

Gorilla Bananas, earnest as ever for closer Welsh-Simian links, has expressed interest in the memoirs of Colonel Peter Deakin, one of Britain's most avid if luckless players of the Great Game.

Thorpe's An History of Inner Asia notes that "if any one man can be held responsible for the successful Soviet conquest of Bokhara, Khiva and the Badakh Shans, then it is Colonel Deakin. His military ineptitude, diplomatic insouciance and Neronic excess left the benighted khanates longing for the relative reason and solicitude of Bolshevist rule" (footnote iii, pp 157-158).

The manuscript has long resided in my Uncle Idris's meatlocker, and the time has come for its biennial skimming, so I'll copy the covering letter and introduction for your perusal.

R. Cooke
Dept of Manuscripts,
India Office,
London W1
Dr. M. Atkin,
Curator, Turkestan Collection,
British Museum,
London W1C

16th February, 1927

Dear Atkin,
We found this down the back of the "Afghan,
Bokhara, Misc." trunk last week. Not really our sort of stuff,
so I thought you might like first refusal, so to speak. It is
an unnumbered manuscript written on what the Yard tells us is
regurgitated rice, hence the sumptuous texture, but it
contains significant traces of mutton fat and human saliva,
I'm afraid, so you may want to wear gloves and keep it away
from radiators.
There is no mention of any Capt. Deakin in our military
files, and the records of the 5th Baluchi Lancers were
destroyed in a Pathan raid on Quetta after the unfortunate
"iron pig" incident in the Mess involving the Eid-ul-Fitr
pilaf and the Governor of Qandahar's favourite wife - it is
interesting that the survivors I have spoken to do mention a
Subaltern Champion in this connexion too, but are reluctant to
discuss the spontaneous combustion reports.
Deakin's comments on the policies of the Government of
India, not to mention his rampant Germanophilia and priapic
exhibitionism, preclude any possibility of publishing it in
anything but a heavily-edited form in England. Nonetheless, as
I am sure you will agree, the manuscript is not without some
interest in shedding light on the petty khanates of the Pamirs
on the eve of the Bolshevist Revolution, and might perhaps fit
in your "Yellow Collection".
The first few pages are missing and, again according to
the Yard, it seems that someone (the egregious Subt Champion,
perchance?) tried to eat the manuscript - whether out of
hunger or fear of discovery in that noisome oubliette I
frankly shudder to think. The fate of these poor wretches
remains a mystery, although I enclose a clipping - with
translation - from the Bolshevist "Naqatepe haqiqati" district
newsletter obtained by the redoubtable Mrs Robinson on her
perhaps ill-advised Bach Choir tour of Red Army border posts
in Turkestan last year. Note if you will the Naqatepe
commissar for corrective work with juvenile delinquents,
Comrade Dzh. T. Bugariy, and read on.

R. Cooke, Archivist.

[Manuscript, in pencil, on rice; incomplete, c 1915. Author
identifies self as Capt. Peter Beauregarde D'Arcy Deakin of
the 5th Baluchi Lancers (disbanded 1919)]

... kept it in her mouth until she stopped breathing. But not
even these recollections bring me much comfort in this reeking
bug-pit, where my every movement provokes more larval gnawing
at my sweetbreads, and my slightest sigh brings down a bucket
of rancid offal on my head from the pitiless heathen guards in
the cell above. The putrid camel innards excite the diverse
vermin further, although Champion - stout fellow - is doing
his best to consign all sources of torment to the oblivion of
his pelican-like maw. The ensuing eructations from his
fundament serve to warm our dungeon on the cold nights,
Months have passed and I have all but abandoned hope of
seeing England and Mavis again, while Champion must curse the
day he turned down the Pink Turcomans' invitation to stay on
as their cricket-bashee and install bells in their Inter-
Denominational Mosque and 24-Hour Women's Self-Help Centre. I
don't know what he really thinks as he still hasn't spoken to
me since his hideous ordeal at the hands of the Akhund of
Basiq-Arvil, for which he persists in holding me responsible
on grounds of my purely-tactical conversion to the sect of the
Assassins and my strategic withdrawal to the Akhund's harem
for a week.
The Amir's Mingbashee visits us each Friday with
entreaties that we should embrace their heathen faith in
return for our liberty and our clothes, which sounds fair
enough to me, but Champion has indicated via the guards that
he will press for my expulsion from the regiment if I should
submit. I suppose he's right. As every Englishman will agree,
it is better to be eaten alive, manhood first, by four-inch
insects with serrated mandibles in a cramped cesspit in the
High Pamirs, and then to have your dismembered body dragged
around the local bazaar by jabbering, pointy-headed urchins,
than to lose one's place on the Lancers' Polo Team and
Maidservant Selection Committee, or something like that.
My only hope is that this record of our ill-fated mission
to Turkestan will find its way back to England in time for the
war, which is scheduled to start any day now. The Mingbashee
says he has heard reports that battle has already commenced
between Germany and the French, so it can only be a matter of
time before our brave troops show their Saxon colours and
rally to the Kaiser's cause against the reptilian Gauls, their
decadent poetry and hirsute women. Our intelligence about the
Russians' sale of laminated cooking utensils to the unlettered
Mohammedans of this remote Himalayan outpost will be crucial
in deciding the fate of Europe, Civilisation, Mankind, the
World and indeed of England itself, I believe.
My greatest wish now is that whoever finds these scraps
of paper should seek out Mavis and tell her that throughout my
travails, even when I was forced for tactical reasons to
submit to the shameless caresses of the depraved, large-
breasted denizens of the Akhund's harem, my thoughts were of
her and her alone, apart perhaps from the occasion when they
slathered two large aubergines with mutton fat and ra....
[remainder of page illegible]


M C Ward said...

Erudite, revealing and clearly fuelled by extravagant substance abuse. NGB, once again I am left in awe of your crazed scholarship.

No Good Boyo said...

Thanks. My sponsors are Sharq Yulduzi Uzbek vodka and nas, a chewable mess of Afghan black and grass clippings readily available from all Tashkent street urchins.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. Deakin is without a doubt one of the unsung heroes of the British Empire.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Deakin seemed to have had a sound strategic grasp, but he was let down by the English weakness of listening to advice from his horse. Unless 'Champion' was an ancestor of 'Champion the Wonder Horse', I don't think he should have been consulted on military matters.

No Good Boyo said...

Horses are indeed the idiots of the animal world, rather like supermodels. Nice to look at, usually up for a ride, but clueless on tracking Russian intelligencers through the High Pamirs. As for Deakin, Bonheddwr Ordo, I like to think he's the man Reginald "Open Fire" Dyer could have become.