Here we go with Part Twenty-Four of our current Tale for Our Time - my serialization of Erskine Childers' Frisian Islands classic The Riddle of the Sands. Following our opening round of Six Degrees of Erskine Childers, Mark Steyn Club member Frank Golden is a shoo-in for tonight's trophy:
His son Erskine was a minister in the De Valera government, In the 50s he came to our neighbourhood in Ireland where we had a post office which had a tiny telephone exchange. I put calls through for him and we all found him to be an absolute gentleman. At that time he was Minister of Posts and Telegraphs.
For more on that period of Erskine Jr's career, see Eamonn Andrews et al here.
I don't know why Erskine Snr. got preoccupied with militant Irish nationalism. The militancy was embraced largely by Anglos. If Shaw was around he would probably explain it...
Interesting that an Aussie triggered the comment on six degrees. Last year I visited Freemantle to celebrate the landing of the last convict ship to Australia. My grand uncle was on this ship and survived prison to establish a family in Australia.
I am delighted to be in the club where historical events are often mentioned.
Keep up the good work!
PS. Last time we communicated was on Percy French.
I remember it well, Frank. Always good to be talking about Percy French - bonus Percy, with special appearance by Britain's next Prime Minister, here.
In tonight's episode, our intrepid heroes find themselves, unusually, dressing for dinner:
'Well, let's get into these beastly clothes for it,' groaned Davis. 'I shall have a plunge overboard.'
Something drastic was required, and I followed his example, curious as the hour was for bathing.
'I believe I know what happened just now,' said I, as we plied rough towels in the warmth below. 'They steamed up and found nobody on board. "I'll leave a note," says Dollmann. "No independent communications," say they (or think they), "we'll come too, and take the chance of inspecting this hornets' nest." Down they go, and Dollmann, who knows what to look for first, sees that damning bit of evidence staring him in the face.'
That would be the sailing book Dollmann wrote back when he was an Englishman - before he turned German. Carruthers continues:
'They look casually at the shelf among other thingsâ€”examine the logbook, sayâ€”and he manages to push his own book out of sight. But he couldn't replace it when the interruption came. The action would have attracted attention then, and BÃ¶hme made him leave the cabin in advance, you know.'
'This is all very well,' said Davies, pausing in his toilet, 'but do they guess how we've spent the day? By Jove, Carruthers, that chart with the square cut out; there it is on the rack!'
'We must chance it, and bluff for all we're worth,' I said.
It's not nautical charts but railway timetables that figure in Carruthers and Davies' calculations in this episode. So here's the relevant railway lines near the German coast:
See you back here tomorrow for Part Twenty-Five of The Riddle of the Sands.