A Cleverly Christmas DayFriday, December 25, 2009
Because we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and our granddaughters and parents go and visit their other relatives on Christmas Day we are left with a day to do nothing. For me that is the real spirit of Christmas Day.
The late morning began with breakfast in bed (as usual). I brought up a tray with two glasses of orange juice, sliced bananas with brown sugar for Rosemary and toast (from Rebecca’s homemade bread for me. A mug of strong tea was for me while for Rosemary I brewed some of her decaf. The only newspaper (reading the newspaper is part of our early morning routine) was a Vancouver Courier. The NY Times does publish on Christmas Day but delivery is still curtailed in Vancouver. The Christmas edition is delivered on Boxing Day with the Boxing Day edition.
I never did take off my nightgown and I only got out of bed during the day to replenish my tea and indulge in Christmas stocking goodies as my favourite (once-a-year) Guylian Belgian Chocolate Sea Shells, and Efruti fruit juice slices.
I read two books, Barbara Cleverly’s The Palace Tiger and The Bee’s Kiss. The latter transfers Scotland Yard Commander Joe Sandilands (bottom, right) back to his home in London after four novels in the The Raj of the 1920s. One of those four novels, Ragtime In Simla I have reserved at the Vancouver Public Library. They have only two copies and both are out. Perhaps I am not the only one on a Cleverly Christmas binge.
Cleverly's four Raj Sandilands novels have re-injected an interest in all things British India (the Raj) so I have been consulting my copy of Velerie Pakenham's Out in the Noonday Sun - Edwardians in the Tropics.
The re-reading of Pakenham's book suddenly put me into contact with a most interesting character that seems to have slipped my mind. It was ornithologist (Birds of Arabia, 1930) Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967) who fought in India and East Africa and by the time he had command he used vicious tactics of reprisals called the Punjab Principle before settling in as a brilliant Intelligence Officer for General Allenby in the Palestinian campaign in WWI. Pakenham writes:
Richard Meinertzhagen found himself back in Europe early in 1917, seconded to the War Office, Kitchener's last disastrous post. Meinertzhagen had made himself a brilliant reputation in the East African capaign as Chief Intelligence Officer where he evolved a highly original method of collecting information about the enemy's strength and movement. He called it the D.P.M. - Dirty Paper Method - since it depended largely on salvaging jettisoned doucuments from the enemy's latrines.
...In December he was relieved to be posted to another sideshow - the Palestinian campaign, this time as Chief Intelligence Officer to Allenby, the first general for whom he soon had unstinted praise. He set up his D.P.M. system again to report on Turkish activities and in October carried out in person one of the war's most daring coups. He rode up alone within sight of the Turkish lines, near enough to be shot at, then, wheeling about, apparently wounded, he dropped a bloodstained haversack in mid-flight. The haversack contained carefully forged plans of a n Allied attack on the Turk's western front, among other personal documents; it fooled the Turks sufficiently to allow Allenby's real offensive a few weeks later to Beersheba to go through relatively unopposed.
That Commnder Joe Sandilands dispatches two, over ten foot tigers, within minutes in The Palace Tiger with his Holland and Holland Royal double 23-inch barrel rifle does not in the least seem all that extraordinary when I read Pakenham's brief story on the fighting ornithologist!