True story: My Dad has just informed me that, after he had hit a near-perfect drive down the fairway on Saturday, a rook swooped down and flew off with his golfball.
From p.171 of Off the Record, the wartime diary of the author and journalist Charles Graves:
May 30th. 
Took Peggy to H- on the 1.15 a.m. from Paddington. […]
H- has the best beach for about 100 miles in any direction, and is directly opposite Ireland. H-is full of evacuated children from Merseyside, Liverpool University students doing theses, various foreign refugees, and others who have skipped from danger areas, like London. The greens on the [golf] course were in good condition. Local regulations about showing lights are not very strict. This despite the fact that the German Bomber Command aircraft always go up Cardigan Bay to attack Liverpool, and thus get a “fix” on the naked lights visible in various parts of Merioneth, including H-. H- has had no bombs nor sirens. Found four evacuee kids at Erinfa—Leslie the blonde, Norman the brunette, David the red-head, and Edwin just mouse colour. As a test of observation for them I hid eight pennies, three sixpences and a shilling round the terrace of the house. Leslie the blonde found practically all of them. Played penny bridge, and went to bed to the hoot of the owls. Thank goodness there are none of that much over-praised bird the nightingale round here.
- Charles Graves was the younger brother of the poet and novelist Robert ‘I, Claudius’ Graves;
- ‘H-’ stands for Harlech in North Wales;
- Erinfa was the Graves’ family home, where Charles’s mother—a German—Amalie Elizabeth Sophie von Ranke, was doing her bit for the British war effort by taking on the four ‘evacuee kids’;
- the blond evacuee, Leslie, is my Uncle Les (then aged 7);
- the brunette evacuee, Norman, is my dad (then aged 6).
I managed to track down a second-hand copy of Off the Record a few months back, and, yesterday, left it as a surprise Christmas present at my dad’s. By a strange coincidence, unaware of the present, Dad was reminiscing about his days as an evacuee over whisky on Sunday evening. He is planning to pump his older brother for more reminiscences over Christmas lunch at my sister’s place this afternoon.
As you might have gathered, Stense and I went out on a hot date on Tuesday night (photos here). Stense spent the whole evening mentally undressing me. Don’t you just hate it when they do that? WHAT AM I: A PIECE OF MEAT?!
My social life is one crazy whirl at the moment: we went to the same pub that I had taken Carolyn to just four nights earlier. The landlady gave me a funny look as she came to collect our glasses. I don’t think she was mentally undressing me. Well, I bloody well hope not.
“Be honest now,” I asked the landlady, nodding at Stense, “which do you prefer, this one, or the other one? I can’t make up my mind.”
The landlady was too polite to venture an opinion.
“Your son has been totally out of order this evening,” Stense informed my dad when he came to collect us.
“He gets it from his mother,” said Dad.
Congratulations to my golf-mad dad for getting his third ever hole-in-one last week. This one was particularly pleasing as it pitched straight into the hole: no superfluous, namby-pamby bounces for Dad!
My dad has what can only be described as an unhealthy paranoia about the BBC. He thinks they’re the spawn of Satan.
Like all the best paranoias and conspiracy theories, Dad’s has a small toe-hold in reality. There certainly is a Southern England bias at the BBC, which is reflected in its news coverage and even its weather forecasts. But Dad seems to believe that every single BBC presenter or continuity announcer who pronounces their A’s long was personally selected by the Director General to promote the corporation’s Cockney Agenda.
Dad’s fixation with the BBC began in the summer of 1982 during the Falklands War. Every evening, the Newsnight programme would wheel on some recently retired British general and get him to talk military tactics. Dad was convinced this was tantamount to treason. “The Argentinan Embassy will be noting all this down!” he would shout at Peter Snow.
In fact, Dad did have a point: I clearly remember how, during the early days of the war, when one Argentinian bomb hit a British warship but failed to explode, the BBC displayed a helpful graphic showing how the bomb should have been dropped. Next thing our lads in the South Atlantic knew, that was exactly how the bombs were being dropped—with far greater effect.
Ever since then, Dad has been convinced that the BBC’s not particularly well-hidden agenda is to undermine British society and betray us to our enemies. He is, for example, the only person I know who believes that the Hutton Enquiry wasn’t a shameless stitch-up, totally exhonorated the Blair government, and showed up the BBC and its Cockney Director General for what they really were.
This Tuesday, Dad’s BBC paranoia finally tipped him over the edge. My parents and I were watching the comedy quiz show QI, when Stephen Fry asked a question along the lines of, “Why might it be dangerous to have a ship-load of pistachio nuts?” The answer, it turned out, was that large masses of pistachio nuts are prone to spontaneous combustion and can sometimes explode.
“There they go again!” Dad shouted at the telly. “Giving away information of use to terrorists!”
Mum and I thought we were going to die. We were laughing so much, we couldn’t breath.
“I hardly think the pistachio nut is going to be the weapon of choice for a terrorist!” I gasped at Dad, still trying to work out out how to get my lungs to take in air.
Dad was adamant: “Mark my words, you’ll be watching the news one day soon, saying ‘Norm predicted that!’”
My dad gave me a lift to the railway station the night I bought my defective railway ticket. As he was reversing out the drive in the dark, Dad made the following observation:
I remember when reversing lights were bright enough for you to actually see where you were going. You used to get two. Then some bright spark in London somewhere decided that two white lights on the back of a car looked like a car coming the other way…
Well they bloody well were a car coming the other way!
So now you know where I get it from.