I don’t know about anyone else, but these days I’m beginning to suffer from Severe News Overdose Reaction Trauma ( SNORT). Among today’s headlines that have caused me to inhale sharply:
“God Help Us” – British Army Readied In Case Of Hard Brexit (1)
Is it “God Help Us” in the event of a hard Brexit? Or “God Help Us” if the British Army shows up? Or both?
It had me fantasizing this morning that the streets would soon be filled with army trucks delivering hot tea and tins of bully beef and spam. And Dad’s Army characters with fixed bayonets changing all the road signs around.
What is bully beef anyway? Will they let me try a slice of it before delivering my allotted ration? Do they have a vindaloo flavour?
Trump Declares State Of Emergency As “Apocalyptic” Wildfire Devastates Northern California (2)
Maybe they need the British Army more in Northern California? They could drive round San Francisco delivering bully beef and spam, and changing all the street signs around.
London weather forecast: Temperatures will soar back up to 30C by Friday as UK heatwave returns after washout weekend (3)
Will that mean wildfires across Britain?
And just when I was really enjoying all the wonderful rain and cloud.
Donald Trump is the greatest threat to human life since the Black Death. (4)
Did he start the wildfire in California?
HOTEL HORROR Brit mum-of-two, 37, dies on Greek holiday after eating just ONE mouthful of raw chicken from hotel restaurant (5)
Who eats raw chicken? I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any. Why didn’t she bring a few tins of bully beef or spam?
Clade X virus ‘could wipe out 900 million people,’ experts warn… (6)
I always ignore what experts say.
Greece breeds new donkey type to carry overweight tourists… (7)
That’ll be all those overweight tourists eating raw chicken, I suppose.
I find that in Severe News Overdose Reaction Trauma, all the news headlines I’ve just read blend together into one headline, something like:
Wildfire horror emergency forecast: donkey apocalypse.
On days like this I think it would be much better to read a good book than read all these news headlines. Something light and humorous. Perhaps something by P. G. Wodehouse? The Luck of the Bodkins has a promising opening line:
‘Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.’
I know the feeling of being about to talk French. I was in Boulogne’s docks many years ago, and I couldn’t figure out which ship was the ferry back to Britain. But I spotted a gendarme on the quay, and so carefully composed a question to ask him. I can still remember the question, which I revised and recited several times before summoning up the courage to approach him and declare:
“Est-ce que sais que ce bateau-ci est le bateau qui parte á Angleterrre?”
The impassive gendarme immediately replied with a single word:
I wondered whether, as a courtesy, he was replying to me in English. And further wondered whether I had missed something he’d said. Had he said, for example, “No way”? Or, worse still, “Go away”?
But I didn’t have a carefully-composed follow-up question to ask him. I had in fact completely exhausted my French vocabulary with my single utterance. I had shot my bolt. If I was going to ask another question, I would have to sidle off somewhere, and laboriously compose a new question, and practise asking it a few times, before coming back to confront the gendarme with it.
But it also occurred to me that he had in fact replied in French, and had mis-pronounced the word “Oui.” Could gendarmes mispronounce French? Maybe it was not different from an Englishman replying “Yeah” or “Yup” rather than “Yes” to the same question.
But what if the gendarme had come out with a long and fulsome response, such as: “Les hommes ne croient jamais les autres capables de ce qu’ils ne le sont pas eux-mêmes”? That would have sunk me completely. I should have been grateful for his monosyllabic response: he’d presented me with a single word to puzzle over, rather than twenty or thirty.
In far retrospect, I can now see that I had asked the gendarme an almost existential question that prefigured Brexit by 30 or 40 years: I was an Englishman trying to find my way home.
Suddenly decisive, I lifted the two heavy suitcases I was carrying, and turned towards the nearest bateau, but not before smiling confidently and declaring:
…and then climbing aboard a ship that would take me I knew not where.