One benefit of Mark Steyn Club membership is access to more than two dozen of our audio adventures in Tales for Our Time, all now easily accessible in a new Netflix-style tile format. And that's all before we get to our latest radio serial - Jerome K Jerome's 1889 comic classic of cruising and musing: Three Men in a Boat. Wednesday's installment seems to have gone down a treat. Sol, a Steyn Club maiden-voyage cruiser, especially enjoyed "the voicing of the would-be cemetery tour guide, memorably brought to life". So did First Weekend Founding Member Fran Lavery:
That graveyard caretaker's voice was stellar, indeed. Of all the voices we've heard so far, this one will stick 'til my last dying breath. From the tease of skulls in the crypt to the last gasping, 'come back and see the skulls!' That nearly killed me for good. I need to hear it again and again. It just can't get any better than this.
Crumbs. I feel like the Meryl Streep of third-rate guest-hosts. Like Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, I put on fifty pounds for this one, just replicating the diet of hearty Victorian trenchermen.
As you can tell from the above comments, the indispensable part of The Mark Steyn Club is its members. It means an awful lot to know you value what we do here - the passing parade, civilizational collapse, audio fiction, video poetry, live music. If you'd like to join us for the next twelve months, please see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership.
Meanwhile, welcome to Part Eight of this tale of boating and badinage. In tonight's episode, we consider the matter of towing (and an even more perilous variant thereof, towing with girls):
There is something very strange and unaccountable about a tow-line. You roll it up with as much patience and care as you would take to fold up a new pair of trousers, and five minutes afterwards, when you pick it up, it is one ghastly, soul-revolting tangle.
I do not wish to be insulting, but I firmly believe that if you took an average tow-line, and stretched it out straight across the middle of a field, and then turned your back on it for thirty seconds, that, when you looked round again, you would find that it had got itself altogether in a heap in the middle of the field, and had twisted itself up, and tied itself into knots, and lost its two ends, and become all loops; and it would take you a good half-hour, sitting down there on the grass and swearing all the while, to disentangle it again.
That is my opinion of tow-lines in general. Of course, there may be honourable exceptions; I do not say that there are not. There may be tow-lines that are a credit to their profession—conscientious, respectable tow-lines—tow-lines that do not imagine they are crochet-work, and try to knit themselves up into antimacassars the instant they are left to themselves. I say there may be such tow-lines; I sincerely hope there are. But I have not met with them.
"Antimacassar" is such a lovely Victorianism. We still have antimacassars - they're those pieces of protective fabric you see at the top of your train or plane seat - but do you know why antimacassars are so called? Because in the nineteenth century Rowland's Macassar Oil became such a popular unguent for gentlemen's coiffures that the land was full of oily-haired chaps who, upon entering your drawing room, would settle back in your favorite chair - and uh-oh, there goes the fabric. Hence, the vital deployment of the antimacassar. Rowland's Macassar Oil was one of the first products to be marketed nationally (and, indeed, internationally), and so universally known that Lewis Carroll put it in Alice Through the Looking-Glass:
His accents mild took up the tale:
He said 'I go my ways,
And when I find a mountain-rill,
I set it in a blaze;
And thence they make a stuff they call
Rowlands' Macassar-Oil –
Yet twopence-halfpenny is all
They give me for my toil.'
Better yet, in Don Juan Lord Byron managed to rhyme it:
In virtue, nothing earthly could surpass her
Save thine 'incomparable oil', Macassar!
I see I'm wandering even more whimsically than Jerome K Jerome. So settle your oily locks back on the antimacassar and enjoy Part Eight of Three Men in a Boat. Members of The Mark Steyn Club should simply click here and log-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
And, if you have a chair and antimacassar but have yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining the Steyn Club. For more details, see here. And please join me on Saturday for Part Nine of Three Men in a Boat.
If you're one of that brave band who enjoy me on camera, I'll be back on American telly next week. Then again, if you prefer me in non-visual formats, I'll also be back on Canadian radio.