Best of the Wheatsheet Number 2
July 1997


 Puzzling Times Approach!

One thing that most great military campaigns had in common was a leader who combined inspiration with guile. I went to see the re-make of Star Wars recently and left the cinema with a feeling of triumph following the awesome battle near the end of the film. It was just like the sharing the spoils of victory and mirrored an episode that I witnessed in Bury market last November.

Negotiating the puddles and the hordes of belligerent shoppers there, alone, demands the skill of a seasoned campaigner but there was an additional hazard that day. Unaware of it , I was lucky to have my own ‘vanguard’ striding forward in the guise of a plump and purposeful shopping lady in Wellingtons. As we proceeded a whirring, clanking sound became audible only a short distance ahead and this stirred my guide into action. She thrust her arms out sideways and barked out an order. "Go easy on them *bumperflewts!".

Chortling and scuttling ensued for a few seconds, then a space gradually opened up. An easy victory seemed plausible and was quickly confirmed when my protector began a lengthy discourse mainly concerning the need to clear safe passage in order to prevent any possible aggravation of her rheumatic ankles from "bloody bumperflewts". It dawned on me that her protagonists, who had fled, were a group of teenagers who had been cavorting on skateboards.

This really illustrates my main argument, namely "the best form of defence is attack" as the popular axiom claims. Examine the present situation. The election vindicated the idea of a swing in public opinion. The Tories elected a new leader who typifies Yorkshire grit and stubbornness - certain battle plans here. He then re-instates Cecil Parkinson a guileful Lancastrian. One suspects that this is a political strategy in formation. My sources in the North ( the old stagers) advise caution. Who would have recognised Mr Haigh - say three months ago? It conjures up a picture in my mind of *" the man with no name" or perhaps an agent provocateur as the French so succinctly say. Are the Tories hoping to solidify their defence by the mounting an attack after the fashion of Scipio? I urge you to be vigilant, watch out for bumperflewt battalions - a well known diversionary tactic. Eat more black pudding! and of course do not be bombarded by jargon.

*1 inventive, innovatory term not yet in the Oxford dictionary means ‘Skateboards’

*2 for details read Fontamaria by Ignatio Silone

What happens to spiders washed down the plughole?

They drown , naturally. This barbaric practice was once common in less civilized households. People used to assume that the spiders made their way into the bath via the drains (swimming through the U-bend). Of course , we now know that spiders find their way into the bath from above. Then they discover that they cannot scale the steep, slippery sided of the bath and remain stuck there until help arrives. The practice of washing spiders down the plughole is , one hopes, a thing of the past. But legend has it that there are still some who spurn the fascinating artistry of a spider in a well-formed web. These households, it is said, can be identified by the clouds of midges and flies that plague them as a result.

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