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  1. #171
    PARLIAMENTARY EXCHANGE

    Minister: What we need here is a free, frank and open debate about the whole matter.

    Member: Hogwash! When the minister speaks of a free, frank and open debate, we all know that what he really means is that the government has no intention of doing anything about the problem. We require action.

    Minister: We have already done a great deal. Does the honourable gentleman not realise that we are a world leader in the field of which we speak?

    Member: Balderdash! Allow me to translate. The truth is that, as in so many other matters, this government has ensured that we are a world leader in talking about the issue. Virtually nothing practical has actually been done.

    Minister: That is not true. We have spent almost ten million in setting up a study group comprising some of the finest minds in the country to advise us on the way ahead. That could hardly be called inactive. It gives an indication of our serious intent.

    Member: Twaddle! The minister has recruited a bunch of otherwise out-of-work academics and is paying them handsomely for what it has proved to be: a master class in procrastination. As ever, the government is using this chamber as a talk shop.

    Minister: Oh dear, the honourable gentleman seems to be having some difficulty with the English language. If the word Ďparliamentí does not mean talk shop, I am bound to wonder what it does mean.

    Member: Well, it doesnít mean endless temporising and prevarication, which is the governmentís approach to any troublesome affair. This whole administration is characterised by indolence and indecision.

    Minister: The honourable gentleman is once again in error. I have already indicated that we cannot be regarded as indolent. As for indecision, I have repeatedly made my attitude clear in the plainest possible terms.

    Member: Tripe! What the minister has clarified to any but the most obtuse minds that he is sitting on the fence and has no idea how to get off it. I hope the splinters are not too uncomfortable. I am mindful of some famous words of Oliver Cromwell, which are appropriate here. I believe they were as follows: ĎYou have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!í

    Minister: Thatís interesting coming from the honourable gentleman. His party sat even longer than we have and did far less good.

    Member: Never mind what we did or did not do. The point here is what the minister is doing or rather not doing. He is simply kicking the ball into the long grass in the hope that the question will disappear and he will not have to deal with it at all.

    Minister: The honourable gentleman has already shown that he has trouble with one aspect of our language. Now he is struggling with metaphors. If a ball is kicked into the long grass it is indeed likely to go out of sight. However, that has not happened in this case. I suspect that what the honourable gentleman really intended to say was that the can has been kicked down the road, which I think implies that it is still visible, as it is on this occasion. The fact is that when in office the party now in opposition kicked the can so far down the road that it took a little time to reach it. However, after doing so, we have made much progress.

    Member: The government has not done any such thing. In fact it appears to be paralysed. I would say it could be regarded as more in traction than in action.

    Minister: Oh, very good. What a pity that the honourable gentlemanís wisdom does not equal his wit.

    Member: Not so great a pity as that the ministerís sagacity does not match his mendacity.

    Speaker: That remark must be withdrawn. I have allowed hogwash, balderdash, twaddle and tripe, but mendacity is going too far. It means lying and that has long been considered unparliamentary language.

    Member: Thank you for reminding me, Mr Speaker. I will change my comment by harking back to 1906 and substituting Winston Churchillís reference to terminological inexactitude as a variation on untruth, but you might admit that it hardly has the same ring as my observation.

    Speaker: I accept that you have a way with words but we are here to deal with politics rather than poetry. However, you may continue after the minister has responded.

    Minister: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was about to express my regret that the honourable gentlemanís intellect is in inverse proportion to his invective. No doubt that explains why he failed so lamentably when he was in the seat I now occupy. Sadly, his conduct at that time was nothing short of treasonous.

    Speaker: Oh, so the minister is at it now. An accusation of treason falls into the same category as one of lying. This argument must now cease and the two of you will be allowed to resume it when I am satisfied that your intelligence exceeds your intemperance. See, you are not the only ones who can produce catchy quips. We shall now proceed to the next item on the agenda.

    Note. Anyone unfamiliar with the kind of parliamentary protocol demonstrated above may wish to note that in such exchanges the participants do not normally use the word Ďyouí to the opposing party because remarks are indirect, being addressed to the speaker, who need not observe the same nicety.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content



  2. #172
    FRANCIS DRAKE REPORTS

    The item below is a transcript of a one-sided conversation in which Queen Elizabeth I talks to Francis Drake during his circumnavigation of the Earth. What Drake said can be understood by inference.

    Hello, Frankie. Itís about time you called. I was beginning to think youíd got lost. . . . You have? Thatís a pity. Anyway, apart from not knowing where you are, what have you to report? . . . You had to scuttle two ships while crossing the Atlantic. Why? . . . Oh, too many men perished to keep all the fleet going. What a shame. You havenít said what happened to the Portuguese merchant ship you picked up on your way but never mind that. Anything else? . . . One more ship lost to storms in the Strait of Magellan and another sent limping back home. . . . Really, Frankie, thatís pretty careless of you. I mean, you started with five vessels, added another and now youíre down to one. I hope itís your flagship. . . . Oh, good. Youíve renamed it. So what do you call it now? The Golden Hind. I see. Well, I liked it when it was the Pelican, but I suppose you had your reasons. They say thereís method in your madness, although I sometimes think itís more case of madness in your method. Hang on a minute. One of these pesky courtiers wants to tell me something.

    Back again. Have you managed to collect any plunder? . . . Oh, attacked a few Spanish ports, eh? That might be a bit too provocative. It wouldnít surprise me if Philip sends an armada here within a decade or so. I hope youíll be back if that happens because I have you in mind for second-in-command of our lads to repel any possible assault. . . . No, you canít have the top job. Thatíll probably go to Hawkins. Now, about the marauding and pillaging. I need oodles of boodle to keep the country going. . . . You captured three ships. What did you get from them? . . . A load of wine. Well, that isnít much. Ah, 25,000 gold pesos. Thatís about 37,000 ducats in Spanish money. Very good! Is that all? . . . Well, well, itís gets better. Eighty pounds in gold bullion, twenty-six tons of silver plate, thirteen chests of royals and another load of plate. Excellent work. I can use that kind of loot. Just a moment. Another interruption.

    Here again. Whatís that? You executed Thomas Doughty. A bit drastic, Iíd say. I mean, he was your co-commander. However, whatís done is done. Anything further? . . . You couldnít find the way back to the Strait of Magellan. Thatís quite an admission for a chap whoís supposed to be an ace navigator. So what will you do? . . . Cross the Pacific Ocean. Wow, thatís a long haul. It could take a year or more. I could do with you back here sooner. Still, as long as you return with all that lovely mazuma, weíll call that a success, big time. If all goes well, there might be a knighthood in it for you. Now, Iím being pestered by affairs of state, so weíll have to close. All the best for what remains of your voyage and try to stay in touch. You know what they say Ė donít be a stranger. Bye-bye.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content



  3. #173
    AS THE CRITICS SAW IT

    Yesterday evening’s recital of piano music at the town hall was attended by two of our most prominent critics. Their views are given below:

    A star is born! I was privileged to spend much of last evening listening to the first major performance in this country by Polish pianist Szymon Babrinski. Readers may be sure that he will give many more. It was enthralling to hear his interpretation of Beethoven’s eighth sonata, followed by Liszt’s sixth Hungarian rhapsody, with encores of Rachmaninov’s prelude opus twenty-three, number five and Chopin’s etude opus ten, number twelve, known far and wide as ‘The Revolutionary’. Not surprisingly, his rendition of the last item was particularly moving.

    Every moment was a joy. Rarely have I heard any of these works presented to such effect. Mr Babrinski’s ritardando and rubato were particularly delightful. It is of course well known that these famous pieces usually get a rousing reception but frankly I was far too transported to notice how the rest of the audience reacted. So thunderous and overwhelming were the chords in the Liszt piece that I was put in mind of an avalanche. At times it seemed as though at least two virtuosi were in action.

    It has been held by many that Sergei Rachmaninov was the greatest pianist in living memory. I suspect that same will be said of Mr Babrinski at some point in the future. My space here is too limited to do full justice to what I heard from this young man, so let me just say da capo, maestro. Your next appearance cannot come soon enough for my liking.

    The Herald
    * * *

    It would be difficult for me to overstate my disappointment at last night’s piano recital by Szymon Babrinski. To my mind it was the pianistic equivalent of listening to the squawking of Florence Foster Jenkins, once called the world’s worst opera singer.

    I had been told that we were to hear superb interpretations of Beethoven’s eighth sonata and Liszt's sixth Hungarian rhapsody. In the event the attendees who sat through these pieces and came up for more also had to endure Rachmaninov’s fifth opus twenty-three prelude and Chopin’s revolutionary etude.

    The whole experience was extremely painful. I have it on good authority that Mr Babrinski’s contemporaries at whatever conservatoire he attended were in the habit of referring to him as ‘Old Ten-Thumbs’. One can understand why. At times I was reminded of an episode of the Morecambe and Wise comedy show, when Andrť Previn accused Eric Morecambe of playing all the wrong notes during his fumbling at a piano keyboard. Eric replied that he was in fact playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.

    I fail to understand how this alleged artist managed to get as far as appearing before a paying public. Perhaps he or someone on his behalf indulged in bribery, rather in the way boxing managers of old were, I understand, accustomed to paying opponents of their pugilists to fall and take the full count as soon as they received a punch that seemed convincing enough to satisfy the spectators. Whatever the background, I hope that I shall not be asked to sit through another spell such as the one I endured yesterday.

    The Clarion

    * * *

    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content



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