Works in the Herald 1934

I have always said that my friend Percy Podgrass definitely has brains. Nothing save a surgical operation can prove or disprove this absolutely. But my contention is that, since there is ample evidence that, on occasion, he uses something to think with, there must be some kind of brain, or grey-matter lurking about the premises somewhere.

Indeed, at times, Percy can be positively brilliant, as I have cause to know. Take, for example, his recent invention of a new parlor, lounge, or dinner-table game, which he has called "Taboo." I understand that the game is of absorbing interest when you have got into the way of it.

I have not yet got into the way of it.

Rather to my surprise, Percy 'phoned me the other day suggesting that I should lunch with him; and, since Percy is much more prone to accept, than to issue, invitations, I was curious.

Percy led me to a modest eating house, at which I noticed that the charge for luncheon, table d'hote, was three shillings.

Promptly discouraging any hint that lunch a la carte was anything but a delusion and a quite unnecessary mental effort, Percy immediately introduced and explained his new game, "Taboo."

The rules are simple. Having unanimously chosen a subject which must, in all aspects, be studiously avoided during a given period of conversation, the company (of two, or more), begins to talk at large on various matters, each player scheming slyly to trap another into some passing reference of the forbidden topic.

The thing seemed simple enough to me for a man of ordinary intelligence, and I said so. Percy immediately suggested that we should have a trial game during lunch. He mentioned two shillings a point as a nominal stake and chose as the forbidden topic "the game of cricket, or anything remotely allied thereto."

Then, with the arrival of the fish, he guided the conversation to the topic of fishing as a sport, switched dexterously to shooting and the recently opened quail season, while I, on the defensive, watched his every move so intently that I failed altogether to enjoy my fish course. I was determined not to be trapped.

But it happens that I hold very decided opinions on the subject of blood sports generally, so the conversation developed quickly - and suspiciously - into a rather heated argument.

Percy skipped nimbly from quail to duck, from duck to deer, to fixes, and finally to big game hunting. Then, in the heat of the argument, I caught myself, too late, making a passing reference to Jardine's hunting trip in India.

"Ah, Jardine, the cricketer," said Percy, grinning. "Two shillings, please."

I paid up; and thereafter I determined to guide the conversation myself. I chose Australian exports as a fairly safe subject. Percy immediately dropped his argumentative mood, and became a humble disciple sitting at my feet to gather economic wisdom. Where formerly he had asserted and denied hotly, he now sought information humbly.

I became deeply interested in my own subject: moving majestically from chilled beef to butter, from frozen mutton to fruit. It was while I was touching lightly on the egg market that Percy flung in a sudden criticism, assertive as it was unexpected.

"What rot, man!" I argued. "The English poultry farmers themselves admit our superiority. Note what Larwood said only the other - "

"Oh, yes," lisped Percy. "The fast bowler. Another two bob, please."

"This game of yours," I grumbled, as I paid up, "might be all very well for nitwits; but in certain circumstances it is not cricket!"

"Ah," chortled Percy, blandly. "Cricket. The very subject we agreed should be most strictly taboo. Another flawless florin, if you please." And again I paid.

Percy finished his sweet with a strange air of absorption, then leaned back with a contented sigh.

"Most extraordinary coincidence," said he, "but I happened to come into town this morning with a brass farthing, and now my lucky winnings just pay for our lunch. You must practise the game a bit, old man. You might get quite good at it in time."

I have always said that my friend, Percy Podgrass, had brains of a sort somewhere about him. I can only wish that he would employ them for worthier ends.

Herald, 12 April 1934, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002