Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Snippets from the archives

Gratuitous, I know, but I couldn't resist. One of the reasons why I love history is that you couldn't make this stuff up...

If you ever thought that Game and Vermin control was all chasing elephants and shoving poison down porcupine holes (assuming the subject's ever crossed your mind), you grossly misunderestimated the profession's ambitious scope. In 1938, with war on the horizon, Captain J T Oulton embarked on a one-man mission to foil Hitler's designs on East Africa, and so save the British Empire. In November of that year he showed up unexpectedly at the German-run Larry's Rest House at Marangu in northern Tanganyika. 'Gossip', he informed his superior, 'had credited Mrs Larry with a bitterly hostile attitude to all Britishers'. Oulton, however, found Mrs Larry to be an utterly charming woman, and he gobbled up, hook, line and sinker, her insinuations that "'KLOSS", the proprietor of the "Kibo Hotel" at Marangu' (which I can personally recommend as a charming, rambling establishment on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro--look out for the "Rip 'em 'Eaters t-shirt hanging on one wall), was engaging in nefarious activities. 'A German by the name of Dr JAKOBS' met a man called FRANT DOKTOR and 'his lady friend named Josephine SCHNEEBERG', and was seen scheming with the local Wachagga chief, 'PETRO'. Mrs Larry confided her suspicions that KLOSS was fortifying the Kibo Hotel as a German outpost. Oulton begged his superior to be allowed to take an expedition up Kilimanjaro to evaluate KLOSS' moves. He also did what any good spy would, and recruited the services of 'USENI, the Taveta witch doctor ... [who] will likely prove a useful medium for acquiring information'. Unfortunately, Oulton was deprived of the opportunity to engage in any heroics: his superior in Nairobi, the redoubtable Arthur Ritchie, poured water on the scheme, suggesting that Mrs Larry was motivated primarily by professional rivalry. Worse still, the witch doctor failed to materialise. Presumably, his powers advised him of the presence of a simpleminded paranoiac long before he arrived at Marangu (KW 15/7, 1936-1941).

...

In 1933 the British Board of Film Censors rejected 23 films for the following reasons:
-Offensive burlesque of the marriage service
-Procuration
-'First night' scenes
'Maternity houses and intimate details connected therewith
-Matrimonial complications coming within the prohibited degree
-Comic suicides
-Extreme vulgarity and suggestiveness
-Cruelty to animals etc
-Methods of crime capable of imitation
-Industrial unrest and violence
-Physiological arguments treated too frankly for public exhibition
-Intense brutality and sordidness, coupled with promiscuous immorality
-Bestiality
-Inaccurate and objectionably misleading themes purporting to illustrate parts of the British Empire
-British officers in uniform shown in reprehensible situations
(KW 27/1, 1930-1935)

...

And what better way to round out that late-summer BBQ than by adding a touch of the exotic? Writing to a Mr Fawcus, who had complained about the numbers of Antbears on his property, Game Warden D H Clarke inquired, 'Have you ever tried them roasted with apple sauce and green peas?' (KW 27/2, 1935-1938). If ever stuck for a little something missing from that special meal, we're all indebted to Mr Clarke...

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