Thursday, December 27, 2007
Happy New Year, innit
Mrs Boyo has just fastened name tags to my clothing, as we're off on our annual pilgrimage to Ukraine - the touristic delights of which are carolled here.
Back on 5th January, so have yourselves a lively time over the New Year. I'll be somewhere on Maydan Nezalezhnosti or arm-wrestling Kolya Lektryk for the return of my trousers as usual.
In the meantime, here's some more of the thoughts of Capt Deakin on the rainbow nations of the North-West Frontier:
... could mimic a bassoon at 100 yds by straining slightly for
weeks thereafter. I could not have imagined such horrors those
few months ago as I was summoned into the Govnr's State Rooms
in Peshawar, even though I was not expecting thepleasantest of
"I'm innocent, Sir! The native girl was sick; she would have
died anyway," I said by way of greeting, after the G's curt
"Desist, Capt. Deakin. I have no wish to trawl deeper through
the sump of degeneracy that is your personal contribution to
the White Man's Burden." The G pointed wearily at a large
area of the Punjab, coloured crimson on his campaign map. "The
main chieftains of the area have been appeased by the gift of
many head of elephants, and the urban curfew is now being
observed, despite many days of mutiny by the Seventh Sepoys
and the disembowelment of fifteen Unitarian missionaries by
the indignant populace in Chunki-Pazaar."
"Capital! No real harm done then, eh, Your Excellency... What
about a round of billiards? I'll let yer win, treat you to a
Siamese Sandwich at Madame Wong's Star of Mandalay Rub-and-Tug
Parlour, if yer know what I mean, and we'll forget all about
this ghastly misunderstanding - watcha say?"
My normally successful tactics for dealing with anxious
superior officers failed me in this my one encounter with the
Govnr, who was clearly not a Fifth Lancers' Man.
"Capt. Deakin! Confound you, man! Thanks to your grotesque
behaviour we nearly lost the whole of north-west India to
bloody insurrection, and all you can suggest is table-games
and further molestation of His Majesty's colonial charges!
Have you any idea, you depraved cretin, of how close you have
come to a full court-martial? THAT close!" bellowed the
clearly overwrought G., hacking at the punkah-wallah with
his scimitar by way of illustration of my proximity to
disgrace. "It is only the intercession on your behalf of Col.
Dunn-Chan - Lord alone knows why - that spared you from five
years in the stockade and a transfer to the Gurkha Target-
Practice Platoon, for Heaven's sake!"
Good old Gussie Dunn-Chan, I thought to myself. Not much of a
soldier, but a sound chap who knows when he's been done a
favour. The sale of his appalling spouse to those devil-
worshippers in Chitral for a sack of goat-fat and a set of
Uighur embroidered undergarments, only slightly soiled, was
one of my most successful trades as Commercial Commissioner in
Chini-Bagh two years previously, and Gussie's gratitude has
been as touching as it is useful. I also got him out of some
bother over the Inflatable Sari business in Sindh prior to the
King's Durbar, and he has never let me down since.
"When all is said and done you're still an officer in the
British Army of India, but the Ghorband of Amritsar is
demanding that an example should be made of you, nonetheless,"
continued the G., mollified by my respectful silence. "With
Russian agents crawling all over the place we cannot afford to
be seen to be ignoring his demands, nor can we give in to an
ultimatum from some damn'd native nabob. So I have decided on
With that the Govnr drew a service-revolver from his
desk and handed it to me. "Mortified by the distress and
sanguinary bedlam caused by your incontinent behaviour, you
did what any Lancer would have done," he said, with more
relish than I thought necessary. "Your death will calm the
Ghorband, and impress upon the masses how strict is the
British officers' code of honour. The worst of the damage will
be put right, and we can get on with the job of winning border
tribes to the Empire's side in preparation for the final
reckoning with the Czar and his Cossack marauders. You know it
makes sense, Deakin."
I thought it worth seeking some sort of dignified alternative
that would, nonetheless, not diminish my standing in the
Govnr.-General's eyes. "Can't we shoot one of the men and
dress him up to look like me Sir? My batman, Rose, would
gladly sacrifice himself the greater good, and anyway we
needn't tell. Give me half an hour and I sort it out myself,"
"A coward, a bully, and a disgrace to our Island Race, as I
always suspected!" exploded the G., which I thought was
rather hard on poor old Rosie. Never the model fighting-man,
it must be said, and prone to excessive perspiration when
being used as a human shield by an officer under heavy
artillery-fire, but an ideal if reluctant beater on tiger-
sticking outings and a ready source of cash in that difficult
last week of the month - after a little physical persuasion
and threats to deport his mulatto family to the molasses-farms
"Don't worry, Captain, I don't seriously expect you to do the
decent thing and blow your warped brains out, given your
incompetence and the sheer volume of your gin intake, not to
mention the difficulty of finding the target. No, we have a
much more positive use for you mottled neck."