Welcome to our nightly radio adventure in the Mark Steyn Club series Tales for Our Time. Last night we made a catastrophic error and aired an installment out of order, but we righted the ship and I trust without tipping too much soup into your laps. If you're still not caught up, yesterday's Episode Seven is here. Dave Anderson, a first-week Founding Member of the Steyn Club, writes:
Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus.
Indeed. It's true that sometimes not so good Marcus nods off, but I do apologize for yesterday's somnolence. And we're reasonably confident that tonight's episode of The Thirty-Nine Steps is appearing in the correct order. In Chapter Eight of John Buchan's classic "shocker" Richard Hannay decides to head south from Scotland, and encounters a rather dry fly fisherman:
'Clear, isn't it?' he said pleasantly. 'I back our Kenner any day against the Test. Look at that big fellow. Four pounds if he's an ounce. But the evening rise is over and you can't tempt 'em.'
'I don't see him,' said I.
'Look! There! A yard from the reeds just above that stickle.'
'I've got him now. You might swear he was a black stone.'
'So,' he said, and whistled another bar of 'Annie Laurie'.
'Twisdon's the name, isn't it?' he said over his shoulder, his eyes still fixed on the stream.
'No,' I said. 'I mean to say, Yes.' I had forgotten all about my alias.
'It's a wise conspirator that knows his own name,' he observed, grinning broadly at a moor-hen that emerged from the bridge's shadow.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Eight of this month's audio entertainment simply by clicking here and logging-in. I can whistle "Annie Laurie", but I'm not sure how many young 'uns could. It's an auld Scots folk song about a wee bonnie lassie that retained universal recognition until relatively recently: Bing sang it, and Jo Stafford, and the Red Army Choir were oddly partial to it. The original lyric was somewhat saucy:
She's backit like the peacock
She's breistit like the swan...
Which means in today's argot:
She's got a booty like the peacock
Hooters curvy as the swan...
But I would bet Mr Hannay's fisherman was whistling the cleaned-up version:
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I'd lay me doon an' dee.
Which always reminds me of Flanders & Swann's great ode on "transports of delight":
Some people like a motorbike
Some say, 'A tram for me!'
For a bonnie Army lorry
Some wad lay them doon an' dee...
While we're annotating: when Richard Hannay heads south, he goes via Crewe, of course. Crewe is a comparatively minor town in Cheshire that by happy accident became, in the years before the motor car, one of the busiest railway stations in the world: A thousand trains a day stopped there, and, generally speaking, wherever you were headed, you had to change at Crewe. Hence Marie Lloyd's famous music-hall hit of 1892 about an unfortunate girl who "went too far":
Oh! Mr Porter
What shall I do?
I want to go to Birmingham
And they're taking me on to Crewe...
That song gets rather saucy, too.
Maybe we're annotating too far afield. So do enjoy tonight's installment without worrying too much about Marie Lloyd. Earlier episodes of The Thirty-Nine Steps can be found here - and thank you for all your comments thereon. Colin Bastable, a Steyn Club member from our very first weekend, has nevertheless waited for this twelfth tale to get with the program:
This is the first of these yarns that I have listened to, and I must say I am enjoying it. Back in 1981-2 there was a tv program in Bristol with a 5 minute spoof radio show of Dick Barton, Special Agent. I recall the animation - eg the use of moving lights against black to represent car headlights. One man did voice, music, sound effects and special effects. Next up - Biggles please!
If you like Dick Barton, Colin, I hope you spotted our tip of the hat to the contemporaneous Paul Temple in Episode Two of The Thirty-Nine Steps. As for Biggles, with due respect to Captain W E Johns, I can never quite get past the Monty Python version, Biggles Flies Undone.
If you'd like to know more about The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget, for fellow fans of classic fiction, our Steyn Club Gift Membership. See you back here tomorrow for Part Nine of The Thirty-Nine Steps - and for our other weekend delights.