Autumn 2014: Once more into the Field of Corn, just in time for the harvest. Let`s see what rewards we reap this time.
“What on earth is he going to write, this time?” asked somebody in the church coffee room, last week. He, of course, had not bothered to read any more of it than the first page of introduction, and then gave up. He had deigned to tell me that he liked the cartoons. “The drawings are very good,” he said patronisingly. He didn`t understand the captions and could not link them to the pictures. I am glad they will always remain a mystery to him and many others.
So, here we are again with some more fun from the Chalk Face, and this time, for your delectation, a trip to Walmington – on – Sea, which, for those who have never heard of it, was a fictional town existing only in the minds of a couple of scriptwriters, until the BBC got hold of their script and employed several actors and actresses to bring it to life.
Now, after I had sent my serious cartoon Christmas cards to His Holiness, Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XV1 and to The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Menini, in London, and received suitable replies, at the beginning of 2014, I applied myself to restoring the life size statue of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, at Montfort House, Blundellsands. You can see it from the gate. An account of my endeavours will appear on this site shortly. This task took some time and now I have the opportunity to bring you some more corn. As you can see, I am expanding the field many fold.
Some of you may be followers of the aforementioned comedy series `Dad`s Army`, which began in the late sixties and went on television for some years. Apparently, some of the taped programmes were lost. They were found recently and broadcast, but, there was one episode which was deliberately thrown away, the producer hoping never to see it again. The man who gave me the script made me promise not to use his name, so thanks to you Bernard Lawrence Arthur Blunt. I read the script and here it is, copied out in my own rough hand (I`ve been working in the garden recently and painting statues.}
Homage to Dad`s Army.
An elderly benefactor causes trouble for the platoon.
Intro : “Who do you think you are kidding Mister Hitler, if you think Old England`s done………”Fade music..
At eight fifty, one sunny, September Monday morning, during the Second World War, George Mainwaring, came down stairs, carrying his wife`s breakfast tray and placed it on the table in the kitchen. He took his long, pointed steel comb from his top pocket and gently combed his ginger moustache, as he admired himself in the mirror. “You handsome devil, George,” he thought, smirking, and raising his right eyebrow. He breathed on the lenses of his new glasses, polished them with the special cloth, and put them back on. “There may be a war on, but here you are, a successful Bank Manager, Commanding Officer of the Walmington –on –Sea Home Guard Platoon and a wife upstairs. What more could you want? I wonder what today holds for us,” he said out loud, as he put on his black bowler and picked up his umbrella. He paused at the bottom of the stairs and called out, “Just off, now, Elizabeth. Have a good day.” There was no reply. “Oh, well,” he thought. “It`s not surprising, really, I suppose. She must be exhausted after that air raid last night.” He gave it no more thought as he stepped out into the sunshine, closed the front door, and walked along Blenheim Avenue towards the High Street, where his place of work, the Swallow Bank was. Just as he was setting out, so too were Arthur Wilson and his`nephew`, Frank Pike. “If we hurry, Frank,” said Wilson, “we will arrive at the bank before Mister Mainwaring, and have a few minutes to ourselves.” Wilson noticed that the boy had something on his mind. “Is there something you wanted to ask me, Frank?” he asked. “Yes, Uncle Arthur, there is. At breakfast, Mum only ever gives me porridge. Could you ask her if I could have an egg and maybe a sausage instead? When I ask her she always says that I must wait until I am grown up, and that your need is greater than mine, and that you need all the strength that you can get. So would you, Uncle?” “I, I`ll see what I can do for you, Frank,” said Wilson. “I can`t understand her sometimes.” Wilson took out the key and opened the door of the bank. Both entered, and Wilson put the `open` sign on the door and closed it. “Just time for a pot of tea,” he said as he turned round, but Pike was already in the staff kitchen.
“Nine o`clock and all is well.”
As he turned the corner, everything seemed to be in order in the High Street. None of the bombs had fallen on the town and the shopkeepers were opening for business. Mr Frazer, the local undertaker, crossed the road, large tape measure and note book in hand. He was dressed in his topper and black overcoat. “Good morning, Frazer. Got some business, I see,” Mainwaring said in a raised voice. “Aye,” replied the old, grim looking, Scotsman, rolling his eyes, “that I have. Auld Missus Schoofield passed on during yon air raid, God rest her sool.” Mainwaring continued on his way, and noticed Jack Jones the Butcher, putting his advertising board on the pavement in front of his shop window. Wearing his boater, his striped apron covering his clothes, Jones gave Mainwaring a cheery, “Hello”. “Don`t forget to call in on the way home, Mister Mainwaring. I`ll have some sausages ready for you, by then.” “Fine fellow, that,” thought Mainwaring, waving. “I`m glad I have him as platoon corporal.” As he passed Hodge`s greengrocery, he glanced in the window and noticed that he was not in his shop. “So glad he was not there,” he thought. “He would only have made some crass comment.”
Potential new customers
Swallow Bank, on the corner of the High Street, was already open, and just before Mainwaring reached the step, a black saloon car pulled up. The two occupants, who resembled men from the Middle East, were wearing dark suits. They got out. Mainwaring stopped, as they approached. “Can I be of any assistance?” he asked, cheerfully. The driver walked to the kerb and enquired, in an Oxford accent, “Awfully good of you, old chap. Is this the only bank in the town?” “As far as I am aware, Sir,” he replied. “I am George Mainwaring, the Manager. If you wish to do some banking you are quite welcome to do it here. Please come on in.” He held the door for them and they all entered. “If you would like to wait here, I`ll call the assistant Manager.” He went behind the counter and, ignoring the young clerk already busy there, counting a wad of pound notes, called, “Wilson! Wilson! Could you come to the counter, please? There are some potential customers who would like to do business with us.” Wilson was there within moments. “Good morning, Mister Mainwaring. Good morning, gentlemen,” he said in that unctuous way of his as he bowed slightly. “How may I be of assistance?”
“On second thoughts,” interjected Mainwaring, realising the potential of these foreign gentlemen, “I`ll take them to my office. Would you care for some tea, or perhaps coffee, gentlemen?” he enquired, turning toward the men. “Oh, rather,” they intoned, “tea would be fine.” Wilson spoke up. “I`ll get Pike to make it right away, Mister Mainwaring.” He coughed loudly, left fist over mouth and beckoned to Pike. They both disappeared along the corridor while Mainwaring ushered the men into his office and invited them to sit down. The driver scanned the room. “Is this bank safe, Mister, er, Mainwaring?” he asked. “Do bank robbers make many attempts to steal from it?”
“Oh, yes, it`s very safe,” said Mainwaring. “Why do you ask?” “Well, you do have a Lewis machine gun lying on those sandbags on your window ledge. I just wondered if you had to defend yourself from thieves.” “Oh, nothing of the sort,” said Mainwaring. “The machine gun is for defending the High Street, should any German paratroopers attack the town again.” Realising what he had just said, he glanced at the `Careless talk costs lives` poster, on the wall behind the visitors. He was about to change the subject when Pike tapped the door with his foot and entered, carrying the crockery on a tray, followed by Wilson carrying the teapot, his right hand holding the handle, the other hand holding the spout, which he had covered with a white handkerchief, so that he would not burn himself. Wilson and Pike left as soon as they had laid everything out. Mainwaring poured out the tea. “Help your-selves to sugar, and biscuits, Gentlemen,” he said. “Now, tell me how I can help you.”
“Well, I am Abdul Ababa, Emir, and this is my cousin, Amin Ababa, Emir. We have been up at Oxford for a couple of years, now, reading English,” said Amin, the quieter of the two, “and are unable to get to our home in the Middle East because of the war. We were wondering if we could use the facilities of this bank while we are on holiday, in Walmington –on-Sea. We need money and I have a cheque to cash.” “I see no reason to stop you,” said Mainwaring, eager to please wherever money was concerned. “If you tell me where you are staying, we can get the proceedings under way,” he said. “That`s just it, Mister Mainwaring,” said Amin. “We don`t know where we are going to stay. We were looking for a small bed and breakfast. Don`t suppose you know of anywhere, do you?” He picked up his cup and sipped the tea. “As a matter of fact, I do,” said Mainwaring, smiling. “There`s one, not far away, in the High Street.” “Thank you so much,” said Abdul. He had finished the warm tea by now. “If you could give us directions, we could go there straight away and sign in. Then we could return with the address, as soon as possible. Thank you for the tea and biscuits,” he continued, as he and his companion stood. “Think nothing of it,” said Mainwaring. “I am only glad to have been of some help.” He showed them to the front door of the bank, and pointed them in the direction of the b and b. “You will find it a few houses beyond the Undertakers. It is called `The Blue Horizons Bed and Breakfast` and has the word `vacancies` in the window,” he said, and they went on their way. “Who were those men, Mister Mainwaring?” Pike asked, as he was carrying the loaded tray into the corridor. “Some new customers, Pike,” said Mainwaring, as he entered his office. “They will be back shortly, and I want you to deal with them.” Pike said, “Very well, Mister Mainwaring,” and took the tray into the staff refreshment room. Then, Mainwaring sat at his desk and got on with some work.
A quarter of an hour later, the peace of the bank was disturbed by some raised voices at the counter.
A rather angry priest had just walked in, demanding to see the man in charge. “Oo, you can`t see him without an appointment, Father,” said Pike, and realising that he wanted to talk in private, he continued, “Maybe I can help, if you would like to come this way.” The white bearded, bespectacled priest was ushered into the small interview room, where he sat down. He introduced himself as Father Goodenough, the new Parish Priest of Saint Isadore, the Catholic Church in Walmington-on- Sea. “How may I be of assistance, Father?” Pike asked remembering the way Wilson would have posed the question.
“Well, young man, one of the first things I did, when I took over the parish, was to re-open the church account in my name and I deposited a cheque, for a considerable amount, in this bank, as the funds were low,” the priest said. “The housekeeper stayed on and I authorised her to continue as normal. She was to pay the bills and to come in here and withdraw money as and when. However, she told me that she was refused payment last week. What I want to know is why we have been refused the money,” he said. Pike stood and said, “Excuse me, Father, I will go and get your file.” He returned moments later, sat down and began to read the relevant sections. Pike scrutinised the documents and decided that he would need to see someone in a position of authority. “Excuse me, Father,” he said, “I will have to speak with Mr Wilson, the Chief Clerk.” He left the room with the documents and went to find Wilson. “Uncle Arthur, Uncle Arthur,” said Pike, tugging at Wilson`s sleeve, “I need you to read these file notes and help me with a customer.” “Not now, not now, Frank,” said Wilson, rather perturbed and trying not to show his annoyance. He took the documents in one hand. “Can`t you see I am busy?” He was ushering in a small, middle aged man, who was wearing a brown, flat cap and one of those light brown, knee length coats that workmen of his particular level tend to wear. His face was adorned with the kind of moustache worn by the leader of a certain political party in Europe at that time. The man was pushing a small, heavy safe, on a two wheeled trolley, into the Manager`s office.
Behind the desk sat Mr Mainwaring looking quite pleased. The safe was placed in the corner near the door, at his suggestion. The delivery man touched the peak of his cap as Mr Mainwaring said to his Chief Clerk, “Show him out, would you, Wilson. Oh, and er, give him a little something for his trouble… from the petty cash, if you don`t mind?” Wilson obeyed and Pike persisted that he needed him to read the priest`s documents. Wilson glanced through them saying that he would come to the interview room as soon as he could.
Wilson returned, moments later, to Mainwaring`s office and stood in front of the Manager`s desk. “What do you think, Wilson? About our new safe, I mean,” Mainwaring said, gesturing towards the new piece of furniture. Wilson managed a quick look. “It looks rather, er, splendid, don`t you think? It rather adds a little something to the starkness of your office.” He paused and then continued. “The man told me he had had a difficult time getting it here, from the head office supplies depot. He had to get through all those road blocks, air raids and some local flooding!”
“You know, Wilson, we have the Vicar to thank for this safe,” said Mainwaring confidently, continuing to smile. “Only yesterday, in church, he told the congregation that we were all going to say prayers for a safe delivery. Now, what more could you ask?” “Well, Mr Mainwaring,” said Wilson, ignoring his boss`s comments, “I need you to come and speak to a priest of another denomination, who is having some difficulty with his bank account. It would seem that it was opened in 1450, and he is claiming interest right back to that date, or something,” he said, over exaggerating and getting the wrong end of the stick yet again.
“Oh, for Heaven`s sake, Wilson, “can`t you do anything?” said Mainwaring, exasperated, as he got up from his chair. “Let`s go and sort this out.”
Pike and Father Goodenough were waiting patiently in the interview room. Mainwaring entered with Wilson, introduced himself and scanned the documents. He read them again, more slowly. “How much did you deposit in your new account, Father Goodenough?” Mainwaring asked, thoughtfully. “The cheque was for fifty pounds, Mister Mainwaring,” replied the priest. In silence the Manager looked at Pike. “Has this got something to do with you, Boy?” he asked, with one of his withering looks, handing the documents back to Wilson, who began to study them more closely, this time. Before Pike could reply, Wilson spoke up. “Mr Mainwaring, it would appear, that it is all Pikey`s fault. His signature is in several places but the most important thing is that he has put the decimal point in the wrong place on the deposit, and he has forgotten to write the amount in words. Further, he has written the time the account was opened,14.50, in the space reserved for the date.”
Mainwaring was quick to react. He gazed at Pike, in that way only he could, and sneered, “You stupid boy!” Then, turning to the priest he said, “May I apologise on behalf of my staff, Father? We are sorting out the problem, even as I speak.” Father Goodenough was ushered into the main part of the bank by Pike, before he could make any further comment. Then Mainwaring turned on Wilson. “ You really must keep up, Wilson. It`s your responsibility to check that Pike is doing his job properly. So you are just as much to blame.” He paused just long enough for what he had said to sink in. “I am so sorry, Mister Mainwaring,” said Wilson, the wind knocked out of his sails. “I`ll make sure it doesn`t happen again.” “Go and sort it out, Wilson,” said Mainwaring tersely and returned to his office to inspect his new safe.
Lady Spires of Oxford
About an hour later, Pike tapped on Mainwaring`s door and entered. “`Scuse me, Mister Mainwaring,” he said in his sing song way. “There`s a lady in the interview room, and she wants to see you. She was very insistent.” “Who is the woman?” asked Mainwaring, looking up from the paper he was reading. “It`s Lady Spires of Oxford.….. She banks with us,” said Pike. “Oh, do show her in, Boy,” said Mainwaring, enthusiastically, and bring that chair nearer my desk.” Mainwaring stood up, opened the door of a nearby cupboard and took out two glasses and a bottle of sherry. He placed all these items on the desk. Moments later, the frail, aged Lady Spires was seated opposite him, sipping a small sherry.
“Now, Lady Spires, what can I do for you?” asked Mainwaring oozing charm, as he knew that she had an account with the bank, and a large sum on deposit.
The small, grey haired woman, who had buried two husbands and who didn`t really know what to do with her fortune, said, “I wish to acknowledge all that you and your Home Guard Platoon are doing for everyone, by donating a small sum, so that you and your men can enjoy an evening in the pub. `The Eavesdropper Inn`,perhaps? You know, the one where all the Jerry spies hang out.” She chuckled at her own joke as she placed a roll of bank notes, secured with a sticky plaster, on the table. “Don`t go overboard, so to speak, as you push the boat out,” she continued, waving her right forefinger. She drained the glass, placed it on the desk, lifted her clenched fist to her mouth and said, “Ahem.”
Mainwaring was overwhelmed for a few moments, and thanked her by pouring out another sherry. “It certainly is good of you, Lady Spires…. Just wait until I tell the men.” Then, his sense of duty came to the fore. “How much are you giving us, if it doesn`t sound rude?” he asked, as he took a form from the drawer of his desk. “Not at all,” she replied. “We must keep everything above board. It`s twenty pounds.” He filled in the form and she signed it. Mainwaring counted the notes, got up and locked the money in the new safe, along with the form. He put the key in his waistcoat pocket, placed the glasses and sherry bottle in the cupboard, and saw Lady Spires to the front door.
On his way back to his room, he paused near Wilson who was busy with a customer. Just as his clerk was finishing, Mainwaring said, “Wilson, I want you to join me in my office, for a few moments, if you wouldn`t mind.” Wilson knew from the tone of voice that his boss had something confidential to impart to him and followed. He was even more intrigued when Mainwaring said, “Do sit down, Wilson, I`ve something important to tell you.” He closed the door and said,” It`s all pretty hush-hush, you know, so I don`t want you repeating what I am going to tell you, to the men.”
“I, I quite understand, Captain Mainwaring,” Wilson said, using his boss`s military title, because he was talking as Platoon Commander, while he stroked his right eyebrow with the ring finger of his right hand. “You can rely on me.”
“Really, Wilson?” said Mainwaring, remembering the fiasco earlier that morning. “That`s most reassuring.” He put the letter which had been lying on the centre of his desk, back inside a War Office envelope and placed it in the top drawer. Wilson was even more curious, now, but pretended not to be too intrigued. He was hoping that the envelope contained Mainwaring`s resignation from the Home Guard.
For a few moments, Wilson appeared to have dozed- off, he was so deep in thought. “Wilson, Wilson!” He heard Mainwaring calling his name. His boss continued. “I know we had a difficult time on manoeuvres at the weekend, but this is no time to be falling asleep.” “I`m awfully sorry, Captain Mainwaring, I`ll try not to let it happen again,” drawled Wilson, as he sat up in the chair.
“Now, remember, Wilson, this is strictly between the two of us, until I say otherwise.” “Of course,” encouraged Wilson. “Do carry on, Captain Mainwaring!” How Mainwaring hated it when Wilson adopted that tone, trying to belittle him. He ignored it, however, and continued.
Thwarted by Wilson
“I couldn`t wait to tell you, Wilson, that this morning I received some very good news that will bring more than a little joy to the platoon.” “Could it be something that was contained in that War Office envelope that you just put in your desk…er, maybe your resignation, Captain Mainwaring?” Wilson asked, smiling in that annoying way of his, as he looked beyond Mainwaring at the sandbagged window, being careful to avoid his eye. “Don`t be so absurd,” retorted Mainwaring, looking flustered. “It`s nothing of the sort.”
Mainwaring cleared his throat. “No,” he continued. “Lady Spires was in here this morning with the intention of donating a small sum of money for the platoon…so that we could all enjoy a few drinks, in the `Eavesdropper`.” “Oh, is that all?” said Wilson.” She told me of her intentions, yesterday, after Choral Evensong.”
“Pretending to ignore Wilson`s attempt at one-upmanship, he continued. “I thought we might combine the drinks with the moustache competition, tomorrow evening, after parade. Make it more of an occasion.” He paused, looking at Wilson`s face, but there was no reaction. “I`ll tell the men about the drinks after parade, tonight.” “What a good idea,” said Wilson. “Would that be all?” “Oh, er, yes. That will be all, Wilson. It`s nearly time for lunch.” As Wilson was leaving the room, he asked, “Pardon me, Captain Mainwaring, but… will you be entering the competition wearing your own moustache or somebody else`s?” Mainwaring`s face reddened with embarrassment. “Don`t talk such nonsense, Wilson,” he said. “The competition is for other ranks only.” As Wilson slowly closed the door, he heard Mainwaring saying,” I wonder what sort of moustache that old fool will be wearing.”
Captain Mainwaring entered the parade room followed by Sergeant Wilson, as Corporal Jones brought the platoon to attention. “Stand at ease! Stand easy, men,” said the Captain. “Pay attention! Now…what I have to tell you, men, is of extreme importance. A benefactor has”…. his voice trailed off as Pike interrupted him. “What is it, Pike?” he rasped, irritated. “Captain Mainwaring, what`s a benefactor?” asked the private.
“Get yourself a dictionary, Boy, and look it up. And don`t interrupt again or I will send you home.” Pike went quiet, and then muttered, as Mainwaring was about to continue. The men started muttering among themselves. Mainwaring realised what was happening. “Be quiet, all of you.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Is the word `benefactor` causing all this trouble? Am I to understand that none of you knows this word?” The men became quiet, looking at the floor and shuffling their feet. All of them were backing Pike, so that he would not look completely silly.
Mainwaring puts Wilson on the spot
Mainwaring continued, looking at his sergeant. “You`ve had a public school education, haven`t you, Wilson? Tell the men what `benefactor` means.”
Wilson looked uneasy and began to stroke his chin with his left hand as he always did when confronted with difficult situations. “My word,” said Wilson, gazing into the distance, completely taken aback. “Where on earth does one begin? I mean, it`s all so sudden.” “Get on with it, would you, Wilson,” Mainwaring ordered, “we don`t have all night.” Wilson coughed into his right fist, stalling for time, and began. “A benefactor is, er, someone who er, donates, or gives something to another. Just as Lady Spires has given er, some money to…er…” “Stop right there, Wilson!” Mainwaring shouted, suddenly realising that Wilson was about to steal his thunder. He continued, “Lady Spires has given me some money so that she can buy drinks for us all tomorrow night at the moustache competition.” “Three cheers for Lady Spires,” shouted Private Frazer, looking around at everybody and raising his fist to encourage all the others, who joined in readily.
The noise of the cheering abated quickly, and Captain Mainwaring told the platoon that they would be doing some weapons training and that he would carry out an inspection of the rifles, so that they would be ready for the following night, when the Platoon would be learning about explosives and grenades.
Mainwaring takes Godfrey into his confidence
The evening continued without further mishap. Captain Mainwaring brought the proceedings to a close with some comments and a warning about the men`s behaviour in the pub and how he did not want them to let down the Platoon. Finally, he asked Private Godfrey to wait behind as he wanted to speak to him. After the dismissal, Godfrey tapped gently on the office door and pushed it open. “Er, you wanted to see me, Captain Mainwaring,” he said in his tremulous voice. “Oh, er, yes, Godfrey. Come on in and sit down,” said Mainwaring who was sitting at the desk. “Have I done something wrong, Sir?” asked Godfrey, sheepishly. “Oh, no, no,no. Nothing of the sort, Godfrey. Quite the contrary,” said Mainwaring, smiling. “I would like you to do something for me and the platoon.
He stood up and removed a long piece of green cloth from the desk, revealing a rifle. “Isn`t that the rifle we kept after we had arrested the German parachutist, we captured last month, Captain Mainwaring?” inquired Godfrey, looking quite alert and interested. “Why, yes, it is, Godfrey,” said Mainwaring, surprised to see Godfrey so enthusiastic about something. He paused.(He liked to pause, because it gave him breathing space while he gathered his wits and tried to remember what he was going to say.) “It`s like this, Godfrey,” he said. “I wanted Walmington- on- Sea to know what we are up against, and I thought that the best way would be to give this rifle to the Landlord of the `Eavesdropper Inn`.” “Isn`t that the one where the Jerry spies all hang out, Captain Mainwaring?” interrupted Godfrey, grinning impudently. Mainwaring glared at him and continued, “So that he could display it, above the bar, with a plaque that I have ordered, to mark the occasion.” He paused yet again. Then he said, “Because the Mayor is indisposed, I have also invited Bob Bull-Finch, the Town Crier to be there with his bell, and in full costume, to announce the occasion in the pub. That should make them sit up and take note.”
Godfrey gets his orders
“I say, what an awfully good idea, Captain Mainwaring,” said Godfrey, taking a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, so that he could blow his nose. “But where do I come into your plans?” “Well, Godfrey, I thought you would like to bring Jerry`s rifle to the pub and be with me when I present it to the landlord, just before the judging panel chooses the best moustache,” said Mainwaring. “It would be a privilege and an honour, Sir. Thank you for inviting me,” said Godfrey, gently blowing his nose, this time because he was overwhelmed. As they both stood, Mainwaring said, “We will leave the rifle here for tonight and you can take it to the pub, after tomorrow`s parade.” Having returned the rifle to the steel cupboard, Mainwaring gave the key to Godfrey and said, “Oh, just one more thing. You might ask your sister, er, Dolly, to bake some of her upside down cakes for us. Just the things for a celebration! I will see her right with some coupons and some money from troop funds.” “That`s extremely generous of you, Captain Mainwaring,” said Godfrey, his voice trembling. He dabbed his forehead with his handkerchief as he left the office and made his way out of the parade hall.
Ovaltine before bed
As poor, old Godfrey turned the key in the lock of his front door, half an hour later, he was trying hard to remember what Captain Mainwaring had said, because so many things had happened that evening. His sister, Dolly, in her blue dressing gown, was in the hallway, carrying the tray of Ovaltine into the parlour, where their sister, Sissy, was, in her pink dressing gown nursing her blue hot water bottle. Both of the sisters had curlers in their hair. “Did you have a good time at the parade, Charles?” Dolly asked. “Oh, yes, thank you, Dolly,” he replied. “I have something to tell you both.” He unlaced his boots, took them off and put on his slippers, which had been warming in front of the coal fire. The trio sipped their Ovaltine. “Do you like the taste?” asked Dolly. “I have added a little something from Papa`s cabinet. Now, tell us your news.”
. “My memory is not what it used to be, Dolly,” said Godfrey, hesitating, “but Captain Mainwaring asked if you would make some of your fancy cakes for the do in the pub tomorrow night. You know, for the moustache competition. And maybe a trifle, in your large glass bowl.” As Dolly stood, she said, “Of course I will. And I might even put in a little something from Papa`s cabinet. Good night, Dear,” she said. ”Come on Sissy. It`s way past our bed time.” Godfrey turned on the radio and listened to Lord Haw-Haw for a while, before going to bed. “One can always rely on him for a laugh,” he thought.
Private Walker does a deal
The parade started earlier, the next evening, because of the moustache competition. Jones told the men to `stand at ease`, and Captain Mainwaring told them to `stand easy`. “Good evening, men,” he said. “Now, pay attention! I want to introduce you to Captain Denning- Smitherman and Sergeant Major Catterwaul, I, I mean, Catterall, from Headquarters, who have come here to teach us about explosives, how to disarm them and how to deal with those dropped by the enemy.”
As he was speaking, he noticed that Pike was not present, but did not stop to ask why, in case he lost the gist of what he was saying. No sooner had he finished than the Sergeant Major took over, barking his orders and putting the men into groups. Some had to put out chairs, others had to go outside and unload crates of grenades and explosives. Some had to set up the screen and projector for the short film on safety where ammunition was concerned. Everybody was interested on this occasion, especially Private Joe Walker, who `had something` on the Sergeant Major, and was eager to take him to one side at the break and do a `little deal` with him. The pair went outside for a smoke and Walker offered a `little something` to the Sergeant Major in return for a few sticks of dynamite, which he wanted for a fishing trip he had in mind, in a private lake. They would share the profits after the fish had been sold around the area.
Jack Jones to the rescue
The parade was soon over. The platoon was ordered to stand at attention and Captain Mainwaring said,” Now, listen up, men. I want to thank Captain Denning-Smitherman and the Sergeant Major for all they have taught us, tonight. And it just remains for me to invite them both back to the pub, `The Eavesdropper`, for a couple of drinks on us.” “I say, isn`t that the pub renowned for its reputation for Jerry spies?” asked Denning-Smitherman, as they were leaving. The building was soon empty, and Godfrey was in a bit of a dither. “Now, what was it that Captain Mainwaring wanted me to do?” he wondered. “Ah, yes, that`s it.” One of the others who was last to leave was Corporal Jones, who was about to lock up. “Are you okay, Charlie?” he asked. “Yes and no,” he replied. “I need to get something from the cottage that Captain Mainwaring asked for and I fear that it might be too heavy for me to carry, Jonesy.” “Don`t you worry about that, Charlie, I`ll help you. That`s what friends and comrades are for,” said Jones. “We can use my van. Come on, or we will miss the party.”
The Party at the `Eavesdropper`,famous for its enemy spies. Well really!
The platoon, still in uniform, took only a few minutes to reach the pub. Pike was already there. “Now, remember, men,” said Wilson, just before they entered, “Captain Mainwaring has allotted enough money for two pints each. So, enjoy yourselves and keep out of trouble.” They all entered and headed for the bar. Hardly any of the usual customers were there and so they obtained their beers, except for Pike, who had a bottle of Sarsaparilla with a straw, and made for the tables. He hadn`t been at the parade because he had been helping his Mum with a sick relative, but had been allowed to go to the pub for the moustache competition.
Wilson, life and soul of the party!
Wilson stayed with the Sergeant Major, and said, “You know, there`s no music. There should always be a little music, at a gathering such as this. Come on Sergeant Major, I`m going to play the piano.” Wilson ran his fingers over the upright`s keys to gain some attention, and began the first few bars of, “We`ll meet again,” and everyone started to join in. Then, he played, `Bless `em all` and `Kiss me good night sergeant major`. The men drifted off for their second pint and Wilson stopped to drain his glass. Suddenly, Mainwaring was at the other side of the piano. Wilson saw him. “Are you enjoying yourself, Sir?” he asked. “Oh, yes, thank you, Sergeant, very much so. The Captain and I are getting on just fine. Very decent bloke! Was up at Sandhurst, you know.” He emptied his whisky glass. “Have you run out of tunes, Wilson?” he asked, as the piano had fallen silent. Wilson countered with a comment of his own. “Isn`t it an awful pity that there are so few tunes to play, these days, Captain Mainwaring?” he said, looking into the distance, as usual. “There are hardly any new ones at all.” “Don`t you know there`s a war on? Wilson,” said Mainwaring abruptly. “Oh,” Wilson said, “if you hum it I will play it for you.”
The Town Crier makes an appearance
Before Mainwaring could say anything, the noise in the pub increased because the town crier, in his red uniform and rather large tri-corn hat, rang his bell as he entered the pub. “Eh, Bob,” shouted Walker, into the noise, “It`s your shout!” “Oh, very funny,” he retorted. “As if I have never heard that one before!” His retort was drowned by the cheer of approval for Walker`s joke. Mainwaring went over to the bar to speak to the Landlord, Ivor Pear- Tree. “Are you ready for the announcement?” he asked. “Yes, Captain Mainwaring,” he replied. “The plaque is under the counter, the Town Crier is ready, but we are lacking one thing. The gun.” Ignoring the civilian`s ignorance by using such a word about a rifle, Mainwaring said, “That`s all taken care of. I`m just waiting for Godfrey to arrive with it.” He looked around the room. Not only was Godfrey absent. Jones was missing as well.
Thinking on his feet, Mainwaring asked the Town Crier to ring his bell loudly, and when there was silence he called for attention. He noticed that the pub had filled up and that there were many wearing false moustaches. “ Now, we are going to have the moustaches competition, so I would like all those taking part to come out here, form a line and follow Private Frazer around the room, so that everybody can see the moustaches properly,” said Mainwaring, almost out of breath. Then, Hodges, the greengrocer and ARP warden called out, “I see you haven`t entered the competition, Mainwaring. That must be because Napoleon didn`t have a moustache. Ha, Ha, Ha.” Mainwaring ignored him, knowing full well that Hodges had never noticed his moustache in the first place and paid attention to the events in the room. The platoon and the civilians formed up and began to walk around the pub. The onlookers were clapping quietly as the competitors paraded in front of the judges: the Vicar, Lady Spires and Miss Elderberry, (who certainly wasn`t drinking cordial,) from the tea room.
Private Pike falls foul of Mainwaring, yet again!
Suddenly, Mainwaring noticed Pike in the parade, his scarf covering his face. “What the Dickens is that boy up to?” he thought. “Pike, Pike!” Come here boy,” he ordered. Pike, his face still covered up, approached cautiously. “Remove that scarf, Boy!” Mainwaring ordered. By now, everyone had stopped moving, as they were all keen to know what Mainwaring was up to. As soon as Pike removed the scarf, Mainwaring`s jaw dropped, followed by an audible gasp. “What the devil do you think you are playing at, Boy?” he shouted. “Where on earth did you get that ridiculous moustache? Take it off immediately, you stupid boy.” “But Captain Mainwaring, it was the only one they had left in the Joke Shop,” complained Pike. “Mister Corbett, the owner, said I would look good in a Hitler moustache.” Everyone burst out laughing and clapped as Pike returned to the line, blushing. Mainwaring went to join Captain Denning-Smitherman, who had seen the funny side of the incident. Mainwaring told the Crier to ring the bell again, and the judges were called upon for their decision. The Vicar, a little merry after his free drinks, staggered to his feet. “I must congratulate you all on such a fine turnout, everybody,” he said, taking a sip from his sherry glass. “However, there can be only one sinner, I, I mean winner, and we are newmaminous in our decision. We all thought Frank Pike was the best.” Everybody applauded, including Captain Mainwaring, not wishing to be dog in the manger about it all.
An explosive situation
Suddenly, the door opened and Jones came in. “Have I missed the competition?” he called out. “Who won?” It was as if it did not matter. He made for the bar and was given a pint of beer. Just then, Captain Mainwaring came over and said, “Glad to see you made it, Corporal Jones. Is everything all right?” “Oh, yes, thank you, Captain Mainwaring,” he replied. “I was helping Private Godfrey with the task you set him. I think we just made it. He`s still outside. He`s a little shy in front of big crowds.” Moments later, Mainwaring called to Pike. “I want to apologise for my behaviour,” he said. “Go and get another Sarsaparilla, and a G and T for me, there`s a good fellow.” Pike loped off muttering to himself. Now, Walker, always on the lookout to make capital out of anything, had noticed Mainwaring talking to Pike and said, beckoning with his head, “ Oi, Pikey, over `ere.” Pike approached. “What do you want, Joe?” he asked, not really wanting to speak to anyone, after Mainwaring`s outburst. “Well, Pikey, you look a little bothered and confused. I just wondered what Captain Mainwaring had said to upset you.” Pike replied. “He said he was sorry that he had embarrassed me about the moustache, and then he sent me to get a G and T. I`ve never heard of a G and T, Joe,” he whined. “That`s okay, Pikey,” said Joe. “You leave it to me.” Joe went quiet, and then, grinning, he said, “Look, I`ll give you ten bob, if you will do a little something for me.” He looked furtively from side to side, to check that nobody was listening, then, turning to the wall, he reached inside his battledress top and brought out a stick of dynamite, its long fuse still attached. “Give this to him and say, `Here`s your G and T, Captain Mainwaring`, and walk away, sharpish like.” Pike took the stick and the ten shillings and approached the Captain and his friend, who were standing in front of the bar, chatting to the Town Crier. Plucking up courage, Pike said, “Excuse me, Captain Mainwaring, but I`ve got the G and T, you asked me to get.” He proffered the stick. Mainwaring stared at him, trying to comprehend the situation. The whole place suddenly became quiet, everybody trying to take in the situation. Mainwaring continued staring as everyone threw them-selves to the floor or scrambled to get outside. In the ensuing silence, Mainwaring could be heard saying, “You stupid boy! I said get me a G and T, not some TNT.” Suddenly, Jones broke the silence. “He`s got a stick of dynamite! He`s got a stick of dynamite! Don`t panic! Don`t panic!” he shouted. “Everything is under control.” Moments later, the people stood up, realising that the dynamite was not going to explode, and the others came back inside. “Is this some sort of joke, Boy?” Mainwaring asked, his withering stare frightening Pike. “N n n no, Captain Mainwaring. I didn`t know what a G and T was, and I told Walker, who said, “Give this to Captain Mainwaring.” “I see, Pike,” said Mainwaring, calming down and taking charge of the situation. “No harm done!” he called out to everybody. “These things keep us on our toes, and we are ready for anything. Isn`t that right, men?” The Platoon cheered and Mainwaring called Wilson.
Yet another altercation
“Er, yes, Captain, what can I do for you?” he asked. “Have you got your notebook, Wilson?” Mainwaring asked with authority, and, pointing at Walker, said, “Take that man`s name!” “What on earth would I want to take his name for, Captain Mainwaring? I already know it,” said Wilson. “Because he`s on a charge, Wilson,” emphasised Mainwaring. He turned to a chastened Walker, who said, “I only did it for a lark, Captain Mainwaring.” “Maybe so, Walker, but it could have backfired with very serious consequences,” he said. “I`ll see you in my office later on.” He handed the stick of dynamite to Wilson, who promptly handed it to Walker. “You had better get rid of this for now, Walker,” he said. “Take it to the parade tomorrow night, and hand it in properly.”
Walker went over to the door, surreptitiously took a thunder flash from his tunic pocket, activated it, opened the side door and threw the explosive into the pub`s yard. He closed the door. The explosion shattered the windows in the pub and in surrounding buildings, and again the people threw themselves onto the floor. As the people stood up and dusted themselves down, a very, shaken Mainwaring rounded on Walker. “Was that the TNT I saw Sergeant Wilson hand to you, Walker?” asked the very irate Captain. “Nothing to do with me, Captain Mainwaring,” Walker lied. “Look, here`s the stick of dynamite Sergeant Wilson just returned to me.” Giving him a withering look, Mainwaring said, “Go home, Walker. I will deal with you tomorrow.” As Walker left the pub, the air raid sirens started. “That`s most likely because of Walker,” said Private Sponge. “When will he ever learn?”
Mainwaring takes some advice.
Mainwaring returned to his brother officer, who, although the situation was serious, saw the funny side of it. “It`s good for the men to let off steam from time to time, you know, George,” he said, seeing how cross Mainwaring was. “Try not to be too hard on Walker.” “Yes, of course. You are quite right,” said Mainwaring, calming down, as they both sipped their gin and tonic. After a few minutes, he had pulled himself together. “We haven`t got to the real business of the evening yet, Rupert,” he said. “Private Godfrey was supposed to be here with the captured weapon.”
All of a sudden, there was a commotion at the main door, and in walked the two Arab men, dressed in their national costume, with their special headdress. Everyone went quiet and turned to see who had arrived. Godfrey followed the men in, and went over to Mainwaring. “I am sorry we are late, Captain Mainwaring,” Godfrey said, “but I met these two gentlemen in the High Street and I invited them along, because I remembered what you had said earlier this evening, at the end of the parade, `Don`t forget to be there with two sheiks and a lamb`s tail`. Unfortunately, the lamb`s tail is still in Mister Jones` shop.” Mainwaring gazed at the group in disbelief. “I am utterly lost for words,” he said, completely drained. “Where is what I asked you to bring? Have you forgotten that also?” “Er, no, Captain Mainwaring. If you will excuse me for a moment, I will go and get it. It`s on the seat in Mister Jones` van.” Godfrey left the pub and within the minute he had returned, and stood holding something covered with a white tablecloth. “What on earth have you got there, Godfrey?” Mainwaring asked. Godfrey removed the cloth. “It`s the sherry trifle you asked me to bring from home,” he said. Mainwaring shook his head in disbelief. “I distinctly said, `Don`t forget to bring Jerry`s rifle`, not `don`t forget to bring a sherry trifle`.”
Corporal Jones to the rescue
As everyone fell about laughing, Jones thrust himself forward and said, “Captain Mainwaring, Captain Mainwaring, I would very much like to go and get the said rifle from the HQ quarters building. Permission to go and get Jerry`s rifle from the head-quarters, Sir.” The laughter did not die down for some minutes, giving Mainwaring some time to compose himself.
A quarter of an hour later, Jones and Godfrey returned with the rifle, a Mauser, covered in its protective cloth, and Jones handed it over to Captain Mainwaring, who handed it over to the Landlord. He, in turn, made sure that the curtain would open, in front of the plaque which he had already fixed on the wall behind the counter. The Town Crier rang his bell three times, at Mainwaring`s command, and shouted, ”My lords, ladies, gentlemen and soldiers of the King, pray silence for Captain George Mainwaring, Commanding Officer of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard Platoon, who would like to address you all.”
Jerry`s rifle, in place at last
“Thank you all for coming, ladies and gentlemen,” Mainwaring began. “The evening turned out to be rather spectacular in many ways. It was nothing like I had anticipated nor intended. It was my intention to honour the town of Walmington-on-Sea and the Home Guard Platoon, by presenting the rifle we took from our captured German Parachutist, along with the plaque I have had made up. Now, I do so.” He turned to the Captain. “I now call on my Brother Officer and colleague, Captain Rupert Denning-Smithereens, I mean Smitherman, to install the rifle on the mounting just above the plaque.” The officer did so, and moved out of the way. Mainwaring said, “And now, I call on Lady Spires of Oxford to say a few words, hoping that she will not repeat her `Eavesdropper` joke, which has done the rounds of the town many times.” Lady Spires, however, was well asleep in the snug. In front of her, on the table, stood several empty sherry glasses. “Three cheers for Lady Spires of Oxford,” shouted Corporal Jones!
The very next morning, at precisely eleven fifteen, Mainwaring and Wilson entered the tearoom in the High Street and sat at their usual table. They were the only customers. The ringing bell, attached to the door frame, had alerted Miss Elderberry, who ran the shop with her sister, Miss Elderflower. Their surname had been a secret for years, and even Jack Jones, the Butcher, one of the oldest residents of the town, did not know it. “Good morning, gentlemen,” the large bouffon- haired woman said. “Will you have your usual?” “Oh, er, yes, if you wouldn`t mind,” said Mainwaring, smiling. “We will have two teas and four biscuits, please. I have extra coupons this morning.”
As Miss Elderflower went away with the order, Mainwaring, looking happier than usual, said, “Well, last night went off with a bit of a bang, don`t you think, Wilson?” “Yes, it did, rather,” said Wilson. “Who on earth would have expected something like that? Makes one shiver to think what the consequences might have been. It`s a good thing that nobody was hurt.”
“Do I detect a note of disapproval, Wilson?” said Mainwaring, his attitude changing. “After all, nobody was hurt, and the round of drinks on the Platoon soothed everybody`s nerves. However, the money for the damage will have to come out of our windfall. It`s a good thing I kept enough aside for breakages, so to speak, don`t you think, eh, Wilson?” “Ah, here`s the tea,” said Wilson, his grasshopper mind prompting him to change the subject.
Before Miss Elderflower went back behind the counter, Wilson, stroking his right eyebrow, said, “ Er, excuse me for asking, but I seem to remember you had a waiter here… maybe a couple of weeks ago? Tha rather elderly man. He was always writing short character studies of people. He gave a few to me. Rather good they were, too. Has he been called up?”
“Oh, yes,” replied Miss Elderflower. ”You must mean Albert. No, he hasn`t been called up. The doctor has told him to stay away from the tea room until his problem has gone away.” “Oh, I`m awfully sorry to hear that,” interjected Mainwaring. “Always liked a quick word with him. What is wrong with the man?” “Well, I don`t like to say, Mister Mainwaring. `eaven knows I don`t want to be thought a gossip. Well, he told me that he was being treated for scalded thumbs. Very painful! Doctor told him that when he returns to work he must carry the soup bowls on a tray and not with his thumbs in the soup itself. Apparently, he said he had never thought of that himself.” She went back behind the counter to put the men`s money and coupons into the till and to do some jobs. Wilson sipped his tea, finished his biscuit, and put the cup on the saucer. “Well,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “It seems that Albert isn`t going to be doing any more of those thumb nail sketches for some time to come.” Mainwaring looked him in the eye, with that air of peevishness that was never far away, and said, “Well, really, Wilson. Must you?” Moments later, Wilson opened the door for them both, closed it quietly, and they headed back to work.