Saturday, August 2, 2014


JOHN BUCHAN, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, born in 1875, was a Scottish novelist, historian and politician, who served as Governor-General of Canada from 1935 till his death in 1940.

His most famous novel The Thirty-nine Steps was made into a very successful film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 and there have been other adaptations since.

The following is taken from the opening chapter of PRESTER JOHN


I mind as if it were yesterday my first sight of the man. Little I knew at the time how big the moment was with destiny, or how often that face seen in the fitful moonlight would haunt my sleep and disturb my waking hours. But I mind yet the cold grue of terror I got from it, a terror which was surely more than the due of a few truant lads breaking the Sabbath with their play.

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The moon was rising, and besides there was that curious sheen from the sea which you will often notice in spring. The glow was maybe a hundred yards distant, a little spark of fire I could have put in my cap, and, from its crackling and smoke, composed of dry seaweed and half-green branches from the burnside thickets. A man's figure stood near it, and as we looked it moved round and round the fire in circles which first of all widened and then contracted.

The sight was so unexpected, so beyond the beat of our experience, that we were all a little scared. What could this strange being want with a fire at half-past eight of an April Sabbath night on the Dyve Burn sands? We discussed the thing in whispers behind a boulder, but none of us had any solution.

“Belike he's come ashore in a boat,” said Archie. “He's maybe a foreigner.”

But I pointed out that, from the tracks which Archie himself had found, the man must have come overland down the cliffs. Tam was clear he was a madman, and was for withdrawing promptly from the whole business. But some spell kept our feet tied there in that silent world of sand and moon and sea.

I remember looking back and seeing the solemn, frowning faces of the cliffs, and feeling somehow shut in with this unknown being in a strange union. What kind of errand had brought this interloper into our territory? For a wonder I was less afraid than curious. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter, and to discover what the man was up to with his fire and his circles.

The same thought must have been in Archie's head, for he dropped on his belly and began to crawl softly seawards. I followed, and Tam, with sundry complaints, crept after my heels.

Between the cliffs and the fire lay some sixty yards of debris and boulders above the level of all but the high spring tides. Beyond lay a string of seaweedy pools and then the hard sands of the burnfoot. There was excellent cover among the big stones, and apart from the distance and the dim light, the man by the fire was too preoccupied in his task to keep much look-out towards the land. I remember thinking he had chosen his place well, for save from the sea he could not be seen. The cliffs are so undercut that unless a watcher on the coast were on their extreme edge he would not see the burnfoot sands.

Archie, the skilled tracker, was the one who all but betrayed us. His knee slipped on the seaweed, and he rolled off a boulder, bringing down with him a clatter of small stones. We lay as still as mice, in terror lest the man should have heard the noise and have come to look for the cause. By and by when I ventured to raise my head above a flat-topped stone I saw that he was undisturbed. The fire still burned, and he was pacing round it.

On the edge of the pools was an outcrop of red sandstone much fissured by the sea. Here was an excellent vantage ground, and all three of us curled behind it, with our eyes just over the edge. The man was not twenty yards off, and I could see clearly what manner of fellow he was. For one thing he was huge of size, or so he seemed to me in the half-light. He wore nothing but a shirt and trousers, and I could hear by the flap of his feet on the sand that he was barefoot.

Suddenly Tam Dyke gave a gasp of astonishment. “Gosh, it's the black minister!” he said.

It was indeed a black man, as we saw when the moon came out of a cloud. His head was on his breast, and he walked round the fire with measured, regular steps. At intervals he would stop and raise both hands to the sky, and bend his body in the direction of the moon. But he never uttered a word.

“It's magic,” said Archie. “He's going to raise Satan.”

The procession continued as if to some slow music. I had been in no fear of the adventure back there by our cave; but now that I saw the thing from close at hand, my courage began to ebb. There was something desperately uncanny about this great negro, who had shed his clerical garments, and was now practising some strange magic alone by the sea. I had no doubt it was the black art, for there was that in the air and the scene which spelled the unlawful. As we watched, the circles stopped, and the man threw something on the fire. A thick smoke rose of which we could feel the aromatic scent, and when it was gone the flame burned with a silvery blueness like moonlight. Still no sound came from the minister, but he took something from his belt, and began to make odd markings in the sand between the inner circle and the fire. As he turned, the moon gleamed on the implement, and we saw it was a great knife.

We were now scared in real earnest. Here were we, three boys, at night in a lonely place a few yards from a savage with a knife. The adventure was far past my liking, and even the intrepid Archie was having qualms, if I could judge from his set face. As for Tam, his teeth were chattering like a threshing-mill.

Suddenly I felt something soft and warm on the rock at my right hand. I felt again, and, lo! it was the man's clothes. There were his boots and socks, his minister's coat and his minister's hat.

This made the predicament worse, for if we waited till he finished his rites we should for certain be found by him. At the same time, to return over the boulders in the bright moonlight seemed an equally sure way to discovery. I whispered to Archie, who was for waiting a little longer. "Something may turn up," he said. It was always his way.

I do not know what would have turned up, for we had no chance of testing it. The situation had proved too much for the nerves of Tam Dyke. As the man turned towards us in his bowings and bendings, Tam suddenly sprang to his feet and shouted at him a piece of schoolboy rudeness then fashionable in Kirkcaple.

"Wha called ye partan-face, my bonny man?" Then, clutching his lantern, he ran for dear life, while Archie and I raced at his heels. As I turned I had a glimpse of a huge figure, knife in hand, bounding towards us.

Though I only saw it in the turn of a head, the face stamped itself indelibly upon my mind. It was black, black as ebony, but it was different from the ordinary negro. There were no thick lips and flat nostrils; rather, if I could trust my eyes, the nose was high-bridged, and the lines of the mouth sharp and firm. But it was distorted into an expression of such a devilish fury and amazement that my heart became like water.

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Read the complete book online at -

TODAY'S POST CONCLUDES THE PRESENT SERIES

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Saturday, July 26, 2014



CHARLES DICKENS  1812-70 
the British writer and social critic created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period.


This is a short extract from The Pickwick Papers (1836)


The complete book can be read online at

“Mrs. Bardell,” said Mr. Pickwick, at last, as that amiable female approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment.

“Sir?” said Mrs. Bardell.

“Your little boy is a very long time gone.”

“Why it's a good long way to the Borough, sir,” remonstrated Mrs. Bardell.

“Ah,” said Mr. Pickwick, “very true; so it is.”

Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed her dusting.

“Mrs. Bardell,” said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes.

“Sir?” said Mrs. Bardell again.

“Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people, than to keep one?”

“La, Mr. Pickwick,” said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very border of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger; “La, Mr. Pickwick, what a question!”

“Well, but do you?” inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"That depends," said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near to Mr. Pickwick's elbow which was planted on the table, "that depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir."

“That's very true,” said Mr. Pickwick, “but the person I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell, which may be of material use to me.”

“La, Mr. Pickwick,” said Mrs. Bardell, the crimson rising to her cap-border again.

“I do,” said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him “I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.”

“Dear me, sir,“ exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

“You'll think it very strange now,” said the amiable Mr. Pickwick, with a good-humoured glance at his companion, “that I never consulted you about this matter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your little boy out this morning - eh?”

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshipped Mr. Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once, raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes had never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going to propose - a deliberate plan, too - sent her little boy to the Borough, to get him out of the way - how thoughtful - how considerate!

“Well,” said Mr. Pickwick, “what do you think?”

“Oh, Mr. Pickwick,” said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, “you're very kind, sir.”

“It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?” said Mr. Pickwick.

“Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,” replied Mrs. Bardell; “and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness.”

“Ah, to be sure,” said Mr. Pickwick; “I never thought of that. When I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you. To be sure, so you will.”

“I am sure I ought to be a very happy woman,” said Mrs. Bardell.

“And your little boy - “ said Mr. Pickwick.

“Bless his heart!” interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

“He, too, will have a companion,” resumed Mr. Pickwick, “a lively one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would ever learn in a year.”

And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

“Oh, you dear - “ said Mrs. Bardell.

Mr. Pickwick started.

“Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,” said Mrs. Bardell; and without more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick's neck, with a cataract of tears and a chorus of sobs.

“Bless my soul,” cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick; “Mrs. Bardell, my good woman - dear me, what a situation - pray consider - Mrs. Bardell, don't - if anybody should come - “

“Oh, let them come,” exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically; “I'll never leave you - dear, kind, good soul,” and, with these words, Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

“Mercy upon me,” said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently, “I hear somebody coming up the stairs. Don't, don't, there's a good creature, don't.”

But entreaty and remonstrance were alike unavailing; for Mrs. Bardell had fainted in Mr. Pickwick's arms; and before he could gain time to deposit her on a chair, Master Bardell entered the room, ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“I cannot conceive,” said Mr. Pickwick, “what has been the matter with that woman. I had merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing.”

“Very,” said his three friends.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

The new blog
MY VIRTUAL ART COLLECTION
was updated on Thursday
http://myvirtualartcollection.blogspot.com

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HECTOR HUGH MUNRO 1870-1916, better known as "Saki" was a British writer whose witty, mischievous style satirized Edwardian society and cuilture

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This is one of his short stories, shown here complete.



DOWN PENS

"Have you written to thank the Froplinsons for what they sent us?" asked Egbert.

"No," said Janetta, with a note of tired defiance in her voice; "I've written eleven letters to-day expressing surprise and gratitude for sundry unmerited gifts, but I haven't written to the Froplinsons."

"Some one will have to write to them," said Egbert.

"I don't dispute the necessity, but I don't think the some one should be me," said Janetta. "I wouldn't mind writing a letter of angry recrimination or heartless satire to some suitable recipient; in fact, I should rather enjoy it, but I've come to the end of my capacity for expressing servile amiability. Eleven letters to-day and nine yesterday, all couched in the same strain of ecstatic thankfulness: really, you can't expect me to sit down to another. There is such a thing as writing oneself out."

"I've written nearly as many," said Egbert, "and I've had my usual business correspondence to get through, too. Besides, I don't know what it was that the Froplinsons sent us."

"A William the Conqueror calendar," said Janetta, "with a quotation of one of his great thoughts for every day in the year."

"Impossible," said Egbert; "he didn't have three hundred and sixty-five thoughts in the whole of his life, or, if he did, he kept them to himself. He was a man of action, not of introspection."

"Well, it was William Wordsworth, then," said Janetta; "I know William came into it somewhere."

"That sounds more probable," said Egbert; "well, let's collaborate on this letter of thanks and get it done. I'll dictate, and you can scribble it down. 'Dear Mrs. Froplinson - thank you and your husband so much for the very pretty calendar you sent us. It was very good of you to think of us.' "

"You can't possibly say that," said Janetta, laying down her pen.

"It's what I always do say, and what every one says to me," protested Egbert.

"We sent them something on the twenty-second," said Janetta, "so they simply had to think of us. There was no getting away from it."

"What did we send them?" asked Egbert gloomily.

"Bridge-markers," said Janetta, "in a cardboard case, with some inanity about 'digging for fortune with a royal spade' emblazoned on the cover. The moment I saw it in the shop I said to myself 'Froplinsons' and to the attendant 'How much?' When he said 'Ninepence,' I gave him their address, jabbed our card in, paid tenpence or elevenpence to cover the postage, and thanked heaven. With less sincerity and infinitely more trouble they eventually thanked me."

"The Froplinsons don't play bridge," said Egbert.

"One is not supposed to notice social deformities of that sort," said Janetta; "it wouldn't be polite. Besides, what trouble did they take to find out whether we read Wordsworth with gladness? For all they knew or cared we might be frantically embedded in the belief that all poetry begins and ends with John Masefield, and it might infuriate or depress us to have a daily sample of Wordsworthian products flung at us."

"Well, let's get on with the letter of thanks," said Egbert.

"Proceed," said Janetta.

" How clever of you to guess that Wordsworth is our favourite poet," dictated Egbert.

Again Janetta laid down her pen.

"Do you realise what that means?" she asked; "a Wordsworth booklet next Christmas, and another calendar the Christmas after, with the same problem of having to write suitable letters of thankfulness. No, the best thing to do is to drop all further allusion to the calendar and switch off on to some other topic."

"But what other topic?"

"Oh, something like this: 'What do you think of the New Year Honours List? A friend of ours made such a clever remark when he read it.' Then you can stick in any remark that comes into your head; it needn't be clever. The Froplinsons won't know whether it is or isn't."

"We don't even know on which side they are in politics," objected Egbert; "and anyhow you can't suddenly dismiss the subject of the calendar. Surely there must be some intelligent remark that can be made about it."

"Well, we can't think of one," said Janetta wearily; "the fact is, we've both written ourselves out. Heavens! I've just remembered Mrs. Stephen Ludberry. I haven't thanked her for what she sent."

"What did she send?"

"I forget; I think it was a calendar."

There was a long silence, the forlorn silence of those who are bereft of hope and have almost ceased to care.

Presently Egbert started from his seat with an air of resolution. The light of battle was in his eyes.

"Let me come to the writing-table," he exclaimed.

"Gladly," said Janetta. "Are you going to write to Mrs. Ludberry or the Froplinsons?"

"To neither," said Egbert, drawing a stack of notepaper towards him; "I'm going to write to the editor of every enlightened and influential newspaper in the Kingdom, I'm going to suggest that there should be a sort of epistolary Truce of God during the festivities of Christmas and New Year. From the twenty-fourth of December to the third or fourth of January it shall be considered an offence against good sense and good feeling to write or expect any letter or communication that does not deal with the necessary events of the moment. Answers to invitations, arrangements about trains, renewal of club subscriptions, and, of course, all the ordinary everyday affairs of business, sickness, engaging new cooks, and so forth, these will be dealt with in the usual manner as something inevitable, a legitimate part of our daily life. But all the devastating accretions of correspondence, incident to the festive season, these should be swept away to give the season a chance of being really festive, a time of untroubled, unpunctuated peace and good will."

"But you would have to make some acknowledgment of presents received," objected Janetta; "otherwise people would never know whether they had arrived safely."

"Of course, I have thought of that," said Egbert; "every present that was sent off would be accompanied by a ticket bearing the date of dispatch and the signature of the sender, and some conventional hieroglyphic to show that it was intended to be a Christmas or New Year gift; there would be a counterfoil with space for the recipient's name and the date of arrival, and all you would have to do would be to sign and date the counterfoil, add a conventional hieroglyphic indicating heartfelt thanks and gratified surprise, put the thing into an envelope and post it."

"It sounds delightfully simple," said Janetta wistfully, "but people would consider it too cut-and- dried, too perfunctory."

"It is not a bit more perfunctory than the present system," said Egbert; "I have only the same conventional language of gratitude at my disposal with which to thank dear old Colonel Chuttle for his perfectly delicious Stilton, which we shall devour to the last morsel, and the Froplinsons for their calendar, which we shall never look at. Colonel Chuttle knows that we are grateful for the Stilton, without having to be told so, and the Froplinsons know that we are bored with their calendar, whatever we may say to the contrary, just as we know that they are bored with the bridge-markers in spite of their written assurance that they thanked us for our charming little gift. What is more, the Colonel knows that even if we had taken a sudden aversion to Stilton or been forbidden it by the doctor, we should still have written a letter of hearty thanks around it. So you see the present system of acknowledgment is just as perfunctory and conventional as the counterfoil business would be, only ten times more tiresome and brain-racking."

"Your plan would certainly bring the ideal of a Happy Christmas a step nearer realisation," said Janetta.

"There are exceptions, of course," said Egbert, "people who really try to infuse a breath of reality into their letters of acknowledgment. Aunt Susan, for instance, who writes: 'Thank you very much for the ham; not such a good flavour as the one you sent last year, which itself was not a particularly good one. Hams are not what they used to be.' It would be a pity to be deprived of her Christmas comments, but that loss would be swallowed up in the general gain."

"Meanwhile," said Janetta, "what am I to say to the Froplinsons?"

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Friday, July 11, 2014

NEW - now online - NEW

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THE DIARY OF A NOBODY

This famous English comic novel was the creation of two brothers George and Weedon Grossmith. It first appeared as a serial in the magazine Punch during 1888/9 and then in 1892 an extended form was published as a book.

The whole diary can be read online at -

The following is Chapter One

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My dear wife Carrie and I have just been a week in our new house, “The Laurels,” Brickfield Terrace, Holloway—a nice six-roomed residence, not counting basement, with a front breakfast-parlour.  We have a little front garden; and there is a flight of ten steps up to the front door, which, by-the-by, we keep locked with the chain up.  Cummings, Gowing, and our other intimate friends always come to the little side entrance, which saves the servant the trouble of going up to the front door, thereby taking her from her work.  We have a nice little back garden which runs down to the railway.  We were rather afraid of the noise of the trains at first, but the landlord said we should not notice them after a bit, and took £2 off the rent.  He was certainly right; and beyond the cracking of the garden wall at the bottom, we have suffered no inconvenience.

After my work in the City, I like to be at home.  What’s the good of a home, if you are never in it?  “Home, Sweet Home,” that’s my motto.  I am always in of an evening.  Our old friend Gowing may drop in without ceremony; so may Cummings, who lives opposite.  My dear wife Caroline and I are pleased to see them, if they like to drop in on us.  But Carrie and I can manage to pass our evenings together without friends.  There is always something to be done: a tin-tack here, a Venetian blind to put straight, a fan to nail up, or part of a carpet to nail down—all of which I can do with my pipe in my mouth; while Carrie is not above putting a button on a shirt, mending a pillow-case, or practising the “Sylvia Gavotte” on our new cottage piano (on the three years’ system), manufactured by W. Bilkson (in small letters), from Collard and Collard (in very large letters).  It is also a great comfort to us to know that our boy Willie is getting on so well in the Bank at Oldham.  We should like to see more of him.  Now for my diary:—

 April 3.—Tradesmen called for custom, and I promised Farmerson, the ironmonger, to give him a turn if I wanted any nails or tools.  By-the-by, that reminds me there is no key to our bedroom door, and the bells must be seen to.  The parlour bell is broken, and the front door rings up in the servant’s bedroom, which is ridiculous.  Dear friend Gowing dropped in, but wouldn’t stay, saying there was an infernal smell of paint.

April 4.  Tradesmen still calling; Carrie being out, I arranged to deal with Horwin, who seemed a civil butcher with a nice clean shop.  Ordered a shoulder of mutton for to-morrow, to give him a trial.  Carrie arranged with Borset, the butterman, and ordered a pound of fresh butter, and a pound and a half of salt ditto for kitchen, and a shilling’s worth of eggs.  In the evening, Cummings unexpectedly dropped in to show me a meerschaum pipe he had won in a raffle in the City, and told me to handle it carefully, as it would spoil the colouring if the hand was moist.  He said he wouldn’t stay, as he didn’t care much for the smell of the paint, and fell over the scraper as he went out.  Must get the scraper removed, or else I shall get into a scrape.  I don’t often make jokes.

April 5.—Two shoulders of mutton arrived, Carrie having arranged with another butcher without consulting me.  Gowing called, and fell over scraper coming in.  Must get that scraper removed.

April 6.—Eggs for breakfast simply shocking; sent them back to Borset with my compliments, and he needn’t call any more for orders.  Couldn’t find umbrella, and though it was pouring with rain, had to go without it.  Sarah said Mr. Gowing must have took it by mistake last night, as there was a stick in the ‘all that didn’t belong to nobody.  In the evening, hearing someone talking in a loud voice to the servant in the downstairs hall, I went out to see who it was, and was surprised to find it was Borset, the butterman, who was both drunk and offensive.  Borset, on seeing me, said he would be hanged if he would ever serve City clerks any more—the game wasn’t worth the candle.  I restrained my feelings, and quietly remarked that I thought it was possible for a city clerk to be a gentleman.  He replied he was very glad to hear it, and wanted to know whether I had ever come across one, for he hadn’t.  He left the house, slamming the door after him, which nearly broke the fanlight; and I heard him fall over the scraper, which made me feel glad I hadn’t removed it.  When he had gone, I thought of a splendid answer I ought to have given him.  However, I will keep it for another occasion.

April 7.—Being Saturday, I looked forward to being home early, and putting a few things straight; but two of our principals at the office were absent through illness, and I did not get home till seven.  Found Borset waiting.  He had been three times during the day to apologise for his conduct last night.  He said he was unable to take his Bank Holiday last Monday, and took it last night instead.  He begged me to accept his apology, and a pound of fresh butter.  He seems, after all, a decent sort of fellow; so I gave him an order for some fresh eggs, with a request that on this occasion they should be fresh.  I am afraid we shall have to get some new stair-carpets after all; our old ones are not quite wide enough to meet the paint on either side.  Carrie suggests that we might ourselves broaden the paint.  I will see if we can match the colour (dark chocolate) on Monday.

April 8, Sunday.—After Church, the Curate came back with us.  I sent Carrie in to open front door, which we do not use except on special occasions.  She could not get it open, and after all my display, I had to take the Curate (whose name, by-the-by, I did not catch,) round the side entrance.  He caught his foot in the scraper, and tore the bottom of his trousers.  Most annoying, as Carrie could not well offer to repair them on a Sunday.  After dinner, went to sleep.  Took a walk round the garden, and discovered a beautiful spot for sowing mustard-and-cress and radishes.  Went to Church again in the evening: walked back with the Curate.  Carrie noticed he had got on the same pair of trousers, only repaired.  He wants me to take round the plate, which I think a great compliment.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014


ROBERT BENCHLEY 1889-1945
was an American humorist, newspaper columnist and film actor.
His articles in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker along with his screen appearances made him famous.

The following is an extract from "Coffee, Megg and Ilk, Please" Chapter Two in "OF ALL THINGS."



The complete article can be read online at
www.gutenberg.org/files/37660/37660-h/37660-h.htm#OF_ALL_THINGS

My timidity when dealing with minor officials strikes me first in my voice. I have any number of witnesses who will sign statements to the effect that my voice changed about twelve years ago, and that in ordinary conversation my tone, if not especially virile, is at least consistent and even. But when, for instance, I give an order at a soda fountain, if the clerk overawes me at all, my voice breaks into a yodel that makes the phrase "Coffee, egg and milk" a pretty snatch of song, but practically worthless as an order.

If the soda counter is lined with customers and the clerks so busy tearing up checks and dropping them into the toy banks that they seem to resent any call on their drink-mixing abilities, I might just as well save time and go home and shake up an egg and milk for myself, for I shall not be waited on until every one else has left the counter and they are putting the nets over the caramels for the night. I know that. I've gone through it too many times to be deceived.

For there is something about the realization that I must shout out my order ahead of some one else that absolutely inhibits my shouting powers. I will stand against the counter, fingering my ten-cent check and waiting for the clerk to come near enough for me to tell him what I want, while, in the meantime, ten or a dozen people have edged up next to me and given their orders, received their drinks and gone away. Every once in a while I catch a clerk's eye and lean forward murmuring, "Coffee"—but that is as far as I get. Some one else has shoved his way in and shouted, "Coca-Cola," and I draw back to get out of the way of the vichy spray. (Incidentally, the men who push their way in and footfault on their orders always ask for "Coca-Cola." Somehow it seems like painting the lily for them to order a nerve tonic.)

I then decide that the thing for me to do is to speak up loud and act brazenly. So I clear my throat, and, placing both hands on the counter, emit what promises to be a perfect bellow: "COFFEE, MEGG AND ILK." This makes just about the impression you'd think it would, both on my neighbours and the clerk, especially as it is delivered in a tone which ranges from a rich baritone to a rather rasping tenor. At this I withdraw and go to the other end of the counter, where I can begin life over again with a clean slate.

Here, perhaps, I am suddenly confronted by an impatient clerk who is in a perfect frenzy to grab my check and tear it into bits to drop in his box. "What's yours?" he flings at me. I immediately lose my memory and forget what it was that I wanted. But here is a man who has a lot of people to wait on and who doubtless gets paid according to the volume of business he brings in. I have no right to interfere with his work. There is a big man edging his way beside me who is undoubtedly going to shout "Coca-Cola" in half a second. So I beat him to it and say, "Coca-Cola," which is probably the last drink in the store that I want to buy. But it is the only thing that I can remember at the moment, in spite of the fact that I have been thinking all morning how good a coffee, egg and milk would taste. I suppose that one of the psychological principles of advertising is to so hammer the name of your product into the mind of the timid buyer that when he is confronted by a brusque demand for an order be can't think of anything else to say, whether he wants it or not.

This dread of offending the minor official or appearing to a disadvantage before a clerk extends even to my taking nourishment. I don't think that I have ever yet gone into a restaurant and ordered exactly what I wanted. If only the waiter would give me the card and let me alone for, say, fifteen minutes, as he does when I want to get him to bring me my check, I could work out a meal along the lines of what I like. But when he stands over me, with disgust clearly registered on his face, I order the thing I like least and consider myself lucky to get out of it with so little disgrace.

And yet I have no doubt that if one could see him in his family life the Workingman is just an ordinary person like the rest of us. He is probably not at all as we think of him in our dealings with him—a harsh, dictatorial, intolerant autocrat, but rather a kindly soul who likes nothing better than to sit by the fire with his children and read.

And he would probably be the first person to scoff at the idea that he could frighten me.

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PIANO PLAYTIME
great recordings of great music by great composers played by great pianists
begins tomorrow Sunday 6th July

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Saturday, June 28, 2014


James Matthew Barrie (J.M. BARRIE) 1860-1937 was the Scottish author and playwright who created the boy who wouldn't grow up - Peter Pan. Before his death, Barrie gave the rights of the Peter Pan works to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital which still benefits from them today.

The following is part of the opening chapter of the famous story.

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All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

  Of course they lived at 14 [their house number on their street], and until Wendy came her mother was the chief one. She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there is was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.

  The way Mr. Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had been boys when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her, and they all ran to her house to propose to her except Mr. Darling, who took a cab and nipped in first, and so he got her. He got all of her, except the innermost box and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying for the kiss. Wendy thought Napoleon could have got it, but I can picture him trying, and then going off in a passion, slamming the door.

  Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about stocks and shares. Of course no one really knows, but he quite seemed to know, and he often said stocks were up and shares were down in a way that would have made any woman respect him.

  Mrs. Darling was married in white, and at first she kept the books perfectly, almost gleefully, as if it were a game, not so much as a Brussels sprout was missing; but by and by whole cauliflowers dropped out, and instead of them there were pictures of babies without faces. She drew them when she should have been totting up. They were Mrs. Darling's guesses.

  Wendy came first, then John, then Michael.

  For a week or two after Wendy came it was doubtful whether they would be able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed. Mr. Darling was frightfully proud of her, but he was very honourable, and he sat on the edge of Mrs. Darling's bed, holding her hand and calculating expenses, while she looked at him imploringly. She wanted to risk it, come what might, but that was not his way; his way was with a pencil and a piece of paper, and if she confused him with suggestions he had to begin at the beginning again.

  "Now don't interrupt," he would beg of her.

  "I have one pound seventeen here, and two and six at the office; I can cut off my coffee at the office, say ten shillings, making two nine and six, with your eighteen and three makes three nine seven, with five naught naught in my cheque-book makes eight nine seven -- who is that moving? -- eight nine seven, dot and carry seven -- don't speak, my own -- and the pound you lent to that man who came to the door -- quiet, child -- dot and carry child -- there, you've done it! -- did I say nine nine seven? yes, I said nine nine seven; the question is, can we try it for a year on nine nine seven?"

  "Of course we can, George," she cried. But she was prejudiced in Wendy's favour, and he was really the grander character of the two.

  "Remember mumps," he warned her almost threateningly, and off he went again. "Mumps one pound, that is what I have put down, but I daresay it will be more like thirty shillings -- don't speak -- measles one five, German measles half a guinea, makes two fifteen six -- don't waggle your finger -- whooping-cough, say fifteen shillings" -- and so on it went, and it added up differently each time; but at last Wendy just got through, with mumps reduced to twelve six, and the two kinds of measles treated as one.

  There was the same excitement over John, and Michael had even a narrower squeak; but both were kept, and soon, you might have seen the three of them going in a row to Miss Fulsom's Kindergarten school, accompanied by their nurse.

  Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a passion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they had a nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the children drank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who had belonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. She had always thought children important, however, and the Darlings had become acquainted with her in Kensington Gardens, where she spent most of her spare time peeping into perambulators, and was much hated by careless nursemaids, whom she followed to their homes and complained of to their mistresses. She proved to be quite a treasure of a nurse. How thorough she was at bath-time, and up at any moment of the night if one of her charges made the slightest cry. Of course her kennel was in the nursery. She had a genius for knowing when a cough is a thing to have no patience with and when it needs stocking around your throat. She believed to her last day in old-fashioned remedies like rhubarb leaf, and made sounds of contempt over all this new-fangled talk about germs, and so on. It was a lesson in propriety to see her escorting the children to school, walking sedately by their side when they were well behaved, and butting them back into line if they strayed. On John's footer [in England soccer was called football, "footer for short] days she never once forgot his sweater, and she usually carried an umbrella in her mouth in case of rain. There is a room in the basement of Miss Fulsom's school where the nurses wait. They sat on forms, while Nana lay on the floor, but that was the only difference. They affected to ignore her as of an inferior social status to themselves, and she despised their light talk. She resented visits to the nursery from Mrs. Darling's friends, but if they did come she first whipped off Michael's pinafore and put him into the one with blue braiding, and smoothed out Wendy and made a dash at John's hair.

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The complete story can be read at -

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