Friday, September 21, 2012

Ashley Sterne Mixed Grill October 1924


By October 1924 Ashley Sterne had labored for three months as a writer of bi-weekly columns.  The strain of churning out comic prose and poetry on the clock was becoming evident.  His pen had glean'd his teeming brain and he had to increasingly resort to the common devices of the weekly column writer: commentary on current events in nature, sports, science, and fashion; reliance on recurring fictional characters (e.g., Prof. Barmion Crumpett, F.Z.S., Prof. Linnaeus Leberwurst, Dr. Feign Crank); and insertion of jokes and quips to pad out the material.  Flashes of wit occasionally appear in the writing—see the short account from October 4th concerning the ideal accommodation for a holidaybut the startling metaphors and references of Ashley Sterne at his best are largely absent.  Still, his writing remains lively and exceeds the standard of typical newspaper humor in 1924.


Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 4 October 1924)

By Ashley Sterne

August is over to all intents and purposes, and I am greatly disappointed that no authenticated glimpse of the sea-serpent has yet been recorded.  Last week's rumour that the harbour-barkeeper at Slushport-on-Slime saw a pale green one sunning itself on a sand-bank has now been entirely discredited, as it appears on investigation that a small caterpillar had become imprisoned between the fore and aft lenses of the telescope which the observer was using at the time of his discovery.

Although there are many credible accounts of the sea-serpent's having occasionally been seen, I believe my friend, Prof. Barmion Crumpett, F.Z.S., is the only person who has ever actually handled one.  He was paternostering for prawns off the Manacles some few summers ago when one got into his boat, lashing about so furiously that it broke the stone demijohn of whisky which the Professor always takes with him when fishing as a preventative of sea-sickness.  He pluckily tackled the reptile and attempted to hold his killing-bottle to the brute's nose, but in the scramble the Professor lost his spectacles and held the bottle to the wrong end, with the result that the sea-serpent, which proved very ticklish in the tail, plunged overboard, and was never seen again.

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I claim your sympathies this week for the shortsighted excursionist who, while picnicking on the beach at Margate last Wednesday, ate a large jellyfish in mistake for an arrowroot blancmange.

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A friend of mine writes that he has succeeded in finding the ideal accommodation for a holiday.  He has a large bedroom all to himself; a private sitting-room with use of piano; four meals a day with the privilege of choosing precisely what he fancies, and a maid specially delegated to wait upon him exclusively; and, at his disposal, a fair-sized garden, to whose fruit and flowers he is free to help himself.  Children and dogs are not taken in, hence the place is restful and quiet; while his weekly expenses are considerably less than when he is not on holiday. Since he has placed no ban of secrecy upon me I have no hesitation in telling you exactly where he is staying.  His wife and young family have been despatched to Llandudno; he himself is stopping at home.

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I am pleased to see that an anonymous writer to the Press announces his intention of remitting to the Chancellor of the Exchequer a sum of money which he feels he has not rightfully earned.  I can only add that if this meritorious example were followed, the Treasury would at least be the richer by many £400's a year.

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A reader has sought my advice on a matter of etiquette.  The problem he enunciates is a purely hypothetical one, but far from being one impossible of occurrence.  Briefly, A is a guest at a dinner-party, and while gnawing a pomegranate during dessert finds to his dismay that his false teeth have become transfixed in the tough rind.  All efforts to dislodge them fail, and to remove them still attached to the fruit and attempt to conceal the unwieldy mass in his pocket would most likely be detected by his host or hostess, and he would be accused of stealing food from the table.  What should he do?

The point is certainly a knotty one, but not so incapable of solution as my correspondent seems to suggest.  Clearly, A must pretend to go on gnawing his pomegranate for the rest of the evening.  At the worst, this hostess can only imagine that he is an inordinately slow eater, while A himself may rest assured that, seeing his mouth is full, nobody will be so boorish or impolite as to question him as to the reason for his tardy mastication.

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THE GLORIUS FIRST

(Sept. 1, Partridge shooting begins—Mr. Letts)

Hail to thee, blithe partridge!
Bird thou'll ever be
For my lethal cartridge
Filled with number three!

Neither grouse not pheasant
Stirs my sporting sowl
With a thought so pleasant
As do you, good fowl!

Grouse upsets my tummy,
Pheasant does so, too;
But sweet bird—lor' lummy!
This you never do!

Therefore let me hail you,
Ere you meet eclipse
When my teeth impale you
With bread sauce and chips.

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Overheard on the golf course during a ladies' match:

"How would you describes that Mrs. Pasteur-Primely, middle-aged or elderly?"

"It's hard to say, my dear.  Re-paints are so awfully deceptive."

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In order to come into line with many esteemed contemporaries I have decided to introduce a new feature this week, viz.,

GARDENING FOR THE WEEK END

Prune all pear-trees.  Pare all prune-trees.  Whitewash beetroot to keep off the wire-worms (they will think they are horse-radishes and leave them alone).  Erect scaffolding round the taller sunflowers and underpin where necessary.  Re-heat all cold red-hot pokers.  Take cutting of old man's beard, the lesser stinkwort, shepherd's purse, and house-maid's knee.  Sow bubble-and-squeak, liquorice, and linseed for early winter crop.  Shake earwigs off the dahlias and drown them thoroughly in a mixture of cod-liver oil and ginger-beer.  Air all beds, and collect weekly accounts from herbaceous boarders.

From time to time I have been asked to supply more intimate details concerning the activities of the eminent scientific gentlemen whose views and opinions I so frequently quote in these notes.  Hence it is with very great pleasure that I announce their consent to my publishing brief biographies of them,and since I have already had occasion to refer to one of them this week I think I cannot do better than commence the series with

I.  PROF. BARMION CRUMPETT, F.Z.S.

Born 1834, Educated Borstal and College of Heralds.  Took (1855) the Venizelos Zinc Medal for Greek Verse, but was detected and forced to return it.  Startled naturalists by pamphlet (1863) written to prove that elephants have tusks at one end only.  Was offered (1873) Chair of Comparative Zoology at Bath, but declined it on learning he would have to push it himself.  Narrowly escaped (1919) the O.B.E. for War services.. Published works include Treatment and Cure of Fleabitis (1866); The Mastodon in Sickness and Health (1885); The Life Story of the Jackass (autobiographical, 1922).  Club: the Junior Goose.  Hobby: drink.

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Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 11 October 1924)

By Ashley Sterne

My readers will doubtless be interested to hear that ere these lines appear in cold print (and I don't suppose the compositors have got any other sort) I shall be home again from my Swiss holiday.  I duly attended the Yodelling Eisteddfod, where the championship was secured by a Swiss roll manufacturer's labourer.  While executing a particularly elaborate yodel his voice went up so high that it couldn't get down again, and a couple of chamois-hunter had to go up and let it down with ropes.

The opening of the milk-chocolate harvest was duly celebrated with quaint old-time customs, which included a representation of William Tell's famous apple trick.  The impersonator of the great patriot, however, did not prove so skilled a toxophilist [lover of archery] as his original, and his son, besides sustaining punctures in both ears, had to suffer the spoliation of a new cricket cap before the elusive fruit was finally transfixed.

One practical result of my trip is that my study walls will be the richer by a magnificent pair of edelweiss horns.  They'll look simply topping between the two stuffed shrimps—relics of my prowess in a fishing competition off the pier at Harrogate.

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A Berlin museum, I read, is the enviable possessor of a mammoth's tooth, nine feet long, and weighing seventy pounds.  I can only hazard a guess that the mammoth would have had some little difficulty in accepting the tenets of Christian Science when that particular tooth ached.

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I hear that ladies are already receiving through the post milliners' and modistes' circulars and catalogues anent the fashions for the coming winter.  How I wish somebody would look after us men like that and tell us months beforehand what's going to be the correct thing!  I live in continual dread that something drastic will happen in the world of men's fashions and I shan't hear about it till too late.  I am, however, in a position to state positively that this winter braces will be worn one over both shoulders as heretofore; underwear will continue to remain invisible (except when our shirtcuffs are too short); and pink coral center-studs will still remain barred for use with evening dress.

On the other hand, I hear that Trilby hats are to be dinted from left to right, instead of from back to front, as at present; fur spars, in place of cloth ones, will be the mode; and pants are to be cut slightly shorter in the right leg than in the left to allow for limping in the chilblain season.

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This week's biography is that of the world-famous botanist—

II.  Prof. Linnaeus Leberwurst  (of Schinkelbrod)

Exact year of birth uncertain, but is believed to be sometime when the Professor was very young.  Educated by hand.  Exhibited early taste for flowers by eating decorations off his governess's hat.  First attracted public attention by articles in the Cauliflower Fancier's Journal (1877) on the Hybridization of Rhubarb and Monkey-Nuts [British name for peanuts].  Won the Daily Mail Patent Leather Belt (1881) for the rottenest tomato, and the Daily Reflector Tin Hat (1882) for the narrowest broad bean.  Created sensation by inventing (1896) and entirely new species of orchid (opossum linoleum) which flowered only on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Author of The Taming of Wild Flowers (1877); Heart Disease in Lettuces (1885); Eschschultzias: How to Spell 'em, Smell 'em, and Sell 'em (1890); Week-End Walks for Crimson Ramblers (1906); Hints on Climbing for Young Nasturiums (1913).  Received pension of one mark for life from University of Schinkelbrod (1922) for his persistent attempts to teach Spanish onions to talk German.

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From a book of traveller's reminiscences I learn that in certain parts of China the inhabitants can accurately tell the time by looking at a cat's eyes.  This, however, is not a gift peculiar to the Chinese.  Here in England there is many a wife who can tell any early morning hour by looking at the husband's.

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TO ANTHEA

(on reading that an eminent jurist states that it is hopeless
for a woman to expect obedience from a man)

Bid me to live, and I won't live
Your tame tom-cat to be;
Or bid me love, and I'll not give
The slightest heed to thee.

My heart is soft, my heart is kind,
My heart is sound and free;
But strike me purple if you'll find
It tractable to thee!

Bid that heart stay, and it won't stay;
I'll sue for a decree!
But bid it bimble far away,
And it shall cleave to thee.

Bid me to weep, and I will laugh
A lusty, loud tee-hee!
Bid me caress, and I won't half
Bite pieces out of thee!

Thou art my love, my heart, my life,
I think no end of thee;
But if you want to be my wife,
Don't try your "bids" on me!

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News reaches me of an electrical appliance which has been devised for ridding cheese of mites.  An appliance for ridding widows of theirs has long been on the market.  It's called a company-promoter.

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A crop which never seems to fail or let us down, or cause deputations of choleric yeomen to interview the Minister of Agriculture, is the blackberry crop.  So far as I am aware it is never threatened with phylloxera [an insect that attacks grape vine roots], sheep-rot, wire-worm, or other agricultural pestilence, but regularly appears every September in the richest profusion.

I fancy the explanation lies in the fact that we don't mollycoddle our blackberries.  A friend of mine once tried to rear a pineapple (grown from an empty tin) in his garden.  Three gardeners, a solicitor, and a night-nurse were engaged to look after it, and a rich and nourishing chemical manure was specially prepared for it.  It didn't lack for care.  When the weather was cold, the fruit was massaged to keep its juice in circulation.  When it was hot, the staff took turns to fan it.  When green-fly threatened it, a boy with a rattle and an ugly face was stationed over it.  In the end, the pineapple cast its frill and died.

I have always thought that had my friend simply chucked the thing among the turnips and forgotten all about it, he might now be making a beast of himself on pineapple salad very night.

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Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 22 October 1924)

By Ashley Sterne

An earnest attempt is to be made, I am told, to introduce several new ballroom dances this next winter.  I greet the tidings with dismay.  It is all very well for those fortunate young folks who live by the sweat of father's brow, and can afford to spend several hours a day acquiring new steps.  But for us working men these latest fledglings from the Tersichorean nest are likely to prove horses of quite a different colour, if not positive white elephants.  For my part, I no sooner acquire a new dance with sufficient proficience to warrant my exhibiting my prowess in public than it promptly goes out of fashion.  It took me two years to learn the tango, for instance, and when I had eventually go most of it off by heart and could go round the floor with only an occasional pause to consider the next step, or to make a furtive reference to the chart, it had joined the glorious company of "extincts" which number in their ranks such celebrities as the dodo, the great auk, and Queen Anne.

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Overheard at the Queen's Hall Promenade Concerts:

"Don't you think the 'Casse-Noisette' Suite's simply lovely?"

"Can't say—never tasted it."

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Can any lawn tennis expert suggest to me a way out of the following dilemma?  I am playing in a Mixed Doubles Tournament.  It is the first game of the match; I am serving (by request); the score is deuce.  Now, whenever I serve to my lady opponent, who scarcely knows one end of her racket from the other, I invariably defeat her with my first ball.  On the other hand, my male opponent, who has often reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon, just as invariably returns my service with a smashing drive which, with our limited technique, it is absolutely impossible for either me or my partner to return.  The score has now been deuce in the first game for nearly a fortnight; we have worn out a gross of balls; and four umpires; and we are holding up the whole tournament.

Deliberately to throw away the game would not be fair to my partner, who hasn't played a single stroke yet, and who is an admirable illustration of Milton's famous line, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Therefore I ask, what the Hellespont can I do?

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Yesterday a financial contemporary came out with a contents-bill announcing "Prominent Stock Exchange Features."  Suffice it to observe that last time I was in Throgmorton Street I could have hung my hat on most of the prominent features I encountered.

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A reader sends me the following newspaper cutting for my remarks:

"In sentencing a prisoner to six months' hard labour for torturing his cat, the Magistrate observed that the mere infliction of a fine would not, in his opinion, be adequate punishment for such gross cruelty, and that he would neglecting his duty if he failed to send the prprprp to prprpr."

I can only comment that his Worship's attempt to purr seems, in the circumstances, to have been singularly out of place.

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SONNET, TO A HOP-PICKER AT WORK WITH HIS FAMILY

I envy you, deft hopper and your kin,
The easy grace with which you cull each hop,
And fling it with a sweet, melodious plop
Into the deep recesses of your bin.
And ever as you throw the flow'rets in,
Just one by one (you never seem to stop
Except, in haste, to swill a well-earned drop),
Your features wear the soupcon of a grin!
Would I could thus compile my weekly "Grill,"
Shedding my paragraphs with equal ease,
Grinning the same elusive grin as you!
Yet, though I ceaseless strive, I never will;
And for this reason (grant your pardon, please);
You toil one week a year; I, fifty-two!

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London is not very full at the moment, most of the better class residents having gone to Scotland for the haggis-stalking.  Nevertheless, lunching at the Soidlitz yesterday I noticed the Earl of Rocksalmon and Halibut, with his daughter, Lady Philetta Sole; the Countess of Rum and Eigg, with her younger son, The Hon. Ginnand Ffrench; the Bishop of Sodor and Milk; the Dowager Duke of Elephant and Castle; the Manganese Ambassador and Senora Cascara-Sagrada; the Swedenbergian Minister; Sir Wilfred Pyppo-Squekely; and General Cort-Marshall.  There is, however, no dearth of foreign visitors to town, and dining at the Epicurus restaurant in Wembley last night I saw the Tartrate of Magnesia and suite; the Sulphate and Sulpuret of Ammonia; H.H. the Jam of Plumandaapul: the Kibosh of Kedgeree; the Ngu of MBkw (Yiddish Nigeria); the Ugoos of Uganda; the Mpret of Mpretoria; Prince Ivan Nastikoff; the Nadir and Nirvana of Mahatma; and the Poohdl of Pomerania.

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It is with special pleasure that I continue my series of biographies this week with: —

III. DR. FEIGN CRANK

Born in Iwash (Pa), 1864, Showed early tendency towards "uplift" by taking job as elevator-boy at the Plus Fours Hotel, New York.  Won a scholarship at Yell University, where he graduated (1885) with honours in Higher Mathematics and the Higher Criticism, and was subsequently elected a Fellow for his epoch-making thesis on Highballs.  First drawn to literature by winning a consolation prize of a shoehorn in a Limerick competition, and by his vivid writings soon ousted Mutt and Jeff as the most inspiring feature of modern journalism.  On the States becoming dry, however, felt a clear call to "uplift" England, and left America, by balloon.  Principal works include: The Elevating Power of the Crane (1894); Tonic Talks to Tiny Toys (1900); Daily Dope for Drivolling Dupes (1912); Cheery Chats for Chippy Chaps (1920); and Pep for the People (1922).  In 1921 the Tonic Sel-Far Association conferred upon him the degree of D.T. honoris causa.  Club: the Highbrow.  Hobbies: feigning and cranking.

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A South Devon correspondent reports that he picked a primrose in his garden last Sunday.  I can beat that easily.  I picked one in my garden last Easter Monday.

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ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

X.X.X.  Your informant is quite correct—sucking a pebble alleviates thirst.  Drinking beer also produces the same result.

KNUT.  Rain-soaked trousers will not lose their shape if, when removed, they are promptly filled with melted sealing-wax.

M.A. (Oxon).  1066.

R.S.P.C.A  Beetles may be quickly and permanently destroyed by running a white-hot steam roller over them.

A. COOKE.  Butter will remain fresh indefinitely if kept in a glacier.  To software hard water, melt it in a saucepan.

HOUSEWIFE.  To remove ink stains from table-linen, take a sharp pair of scissors and carefully cut out the soiled portions.

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