Works in the Herald 1933

Talking of Herr Hitler -- By the way, quite a lot of people seem to be talking of Herr Hitler just now. But I recall that, years ago, a lot of people were talking of Jo-Jo, the Dogfaced Man. Nobody remembers poor old Jo-Jo now; but I don't suppose it matters much.

But talking of Herr Hitler and his attitude toward the Disarmament Conference. I note that the Berlin correspondent of the Times says that Germany is now "leaning back in her armchair uneasily contemplating the situation and leaving the next step to others."

Well, I remember the last time I sat back in an armchair and contemplated a situation of my own creation.

My father kept fowls.

Myself and a schoolboy mate of mine kept finding ancient nests of industrious but secretive hens who laid eggs in remote corners of our domain. Having found these venerable eggs, my young friend and I kept throwing them at a stolid German groom whom my father employed at that time. The result was, for the groom, extremely annoying and odorous; for us care-free young barbarians, delightfully humorous and diverting.

But complaints led to carpeting, and, at the very last disarmament conference, as I remember my father, unwittingly and quite prematurely assuming the role of the future Sir John Simon, laid down certain limitations concerning aged eggs and German grooms, beyond which he forbade us to step.

My mate and I regarded the humiliating ultimatum as a distinct blow to our very natural right in self-determination. We hardly expressed it in those words, but our attitude amounted to that.

For fully two weeks we strictly and honorably observed the condition of the treaty and then -

It was a truly wonderful old nest, of almost fabulous value in our young eyes. We came upon it accidentally, hidden away on top of a paddock. And it contained eggs -- nearly two dozen of them -- of such incredibly ancient vintage that our orderly young minds rejected utterly the absurd notion that such precious bombs should be entirely wasted.

We gathered them in our hats, and fate ordered that, as we rounded a corner of the stables, we came upon the German groom, with his back to us, bending above a piece of broken harness.

Action was unavoidable - in fact, almost automatic on our part, but our aim was accurate.

When it was all over, we deemed it wise to separate to confuse pursuit. My mate hastened to his own home, while I, strolling with studied nonchalance into what was known as "the front parlor," anticipated modern Germany and made the mistake of my life. I "leaned back in an armchair uneasily contemplating the situation and leaving the next step to others."

The step sounded all too soon, and the "others" arrived in the shape of -- (1) the German groom disguised as a most unpleasant omelette; (2) one absurdly irate and humorless parent, and (3) one brutally pliable horsewhip.

A few minutes later I was still leaning in the vicinity of the armchair; but I was not leaning back. I was leaning forward very uneasily contemplating the atrocious pattern of a mid-Victorian carpet, while, leaning above me, a humorless parent gave evidence of a vigor remarkable in one of his advancing years.

That historic episode convinced me for all time of the folly of leaning back during critical periods of one's life. I have never repeated the mistake since, and I am hopeful that the recital of this event will serve as a warning to Herr Hitler, and his seriously recumbent companions.

Herald, 21 October 1933, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002