For 24A, Ivor Brown has set the task of writing a Wordsworthian sonnet on riding a motorcycle up Scafell Pike. One of the winning entries refers to ‘Clarkson’ … However, I can’t find an obvious news report of anyone taking a motorbike up Scafell (over 3000 feet) in 1930, so I’m not sure if this was a topical reference (it sounds it). The list of also-rans is lengthy (including the luckless T.E.Casson), and Brown is more than a but surprised that there’s such little mischief. He gives the top prize to the best of the ‘reverents’, C.M.R., and the second to the best of the parodists, William A. Jesper.
Only one William A. Jesper is listed in the births and marriages register, which would suggest that this is William Alfred Jesper of York, born in 1878, and in 1911 a railway clerk in the same city.
24B asks for four rehearsed opening conversational gambits to be prepared for a Mr. Tremble (‘a modest author’) when at a party given by a literary hostess (‘Lady Booming’). The date of the party is given as August 23 1930. I’m not sure of the significance of the 23rd, but it was two days after the birth of this little girl:
Brown awards the guinea to N.B. for a suicidal set of suggestions:
(1) I do hope you like Jane Austen.
(2) Tell me about your home life.
(3) Do tell me how one sews on buttons.
(4) Don’t you just adore Woolworth?
(None of these raised a smile in my case.)
The half-guinea goes to Hutch, and I do, like Brown, admire the fourth stage (Gilbert Jessop, by the way was regarded as the finest cricketer of the pre-WW1 years; a serious medical accident during World War I prevented him from playing again. Hobbs rated him the equal of Bradman).
“I hope we shan’t have an experience like the one I had last week at a dinner when the lights all went out
during the soup course.” (Failing a counter-reminiscence, you enlarge on an imaginary experience.)
The Test Match… “I have the advantage over you of being able to remember when Jessop …”
“I heard a rather amusing remark on the way here this evening.” Here follows some joke culled
from an old Punch. It is unlikely that your victim will remember it; if she does, “Is that so?
How truly Wilde said that Nature imitates Art!” If, however, she fails to see the joke, you
pass on to
“Do you believe in the lore of numbers? Someone has discovered that our new little Princess is
the second daughter of the second son of the second son of the second child of Queen
Victoria, and was born on the second day after the second decade of the second month of the
second half of the year.” To stop this kind of thing, she will have to start some subject of
[It actually took me a while to get this, as ‘decade’ is being used to mean ten days, i.e. two plus twenty days into August. I don’t know if it’s a better joke for getting the date of her birth wrong by one day, or a worse one, but it entertained me.]