Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From: Snook (the Elder) at Home

Of Life's Explicable Little Delights

Was lighting my pipe earlier and discovered that a stray ember had dropped onto my shirtfront and burned a hole there--just to the right of my navel. At last!

(Anyone who knows me knows that it is a trademark of mine to wear a small but conspicuous burn hole on my shirtfront. Should they find me otherwise embellished they become suspicious of my true identity and I'm inundated with trivial questions re. my favourite colour (ans: Hunting Stewart), my middle names (ans: Hengist and Gaylord), how many aunts I have (ans: none), etc.)

When I first took up pipe smoking--shortly after I grew my first teeth, I'm told--I thought this inevitable occurrence unique to me and likely some kind of divine or karmic retribution for the habit.* But, one day, my father** happened to notice one of these sartorial wounds and informed me that such was the lot of all pipe smokers; undid his waistcoat buttons to reveal a dapper little burn hole just to the right of his navel on his shirtfront.

He proceeded then to relay to me the story of how, when he was a schoolteacher, he had once incautiously thrust a lit pipe into his jacket pocket ... From which, some minutes later, great clouds of burnt-tweed smelling smoke began to pour forth. Concerned students nearby took up the cry of "He's on fire! He's on fire!" and rushed at him brandishing huge and hardbacked textbooks with which to put him out. It took two of them, apparently, and roughly two minutes of agitated thumping.

My father laughed affectionately as he told this story, which he thought very wholesome and amusing: this concern of his pupils that their beloved Senior Housemaster not go up in flames; the readiness with which they leaped into action, with no thought of their own safety. I nodded agreement, and said nothing. The thought did occur to me, though, that neither should I have wasted a second, being presented with the opportunity to beat hell out of that formidable old pedagogue, if I was to suffer no worse consequence for it than to be thanked by him afterwards.


*It had yet to occur to me, heathen that I was, that even if the divine could be bothered with so trifling a vice as tobacco smoking--which, of course, he can't--that as punishments go this was clearly more along the lines of being an attack on my vanity.

**That would be Snook the
elder Elder.