This post by Tim Worstall reminded me of a key, nay defining moment of my life. When I decided what sort of uncle I would be.
John Blashford Snell, is the epitome of this description of the English from a glorious book , Foreigners by Theodora Benson and Betty Asquith (1936)
“The madness of the English may be a little on the decline. That is to say, the better informed people are sometimes on the verge of deposing it from knowledge to exaggeration or even rather justifiable superstition. But it is not really outworn. Whenever it seems to totter, whoops ! the conduct of any English actually under observation boosts it back again. It is even more widely known than their hypocrisy. Remote, ignorant, simple people might be found who had heard of the English and did not know that they were hypocrites. But nowhere on the continent have the English been heard of divorced from the adjective “mad”.
He has delightfully just advertised thus,
“Wanted: one organist for concert in remote Bolivian jungle accessible only by raft. Must be prepared to face rapids, alligators and 30C (86F) temperatures. Ability to swim a bonus”.
He is an old friend of my father. They had both been instructors at the Old College in Sandhurst. The fact that Blashers was teaching adventure training might just explain something about some of our officers.
He would turn up every now and then for Sunday lunch with bizarre objects in his pocket and odd tales about natives, alligators and parched throats. For a young boy he was quite the most amazing creature in the word, and spoke of aspiration, trial, individualism and sheer, often wrongheaded but romantic idealism.
The other half of my planned uncleness was epitomised by the telegram sent by the children’s father in Swallows and Amazons, when asked if the children could go boating unaccompanied on Windermere,
“Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers wont drown”.