Saturday 21 January 2012

Awesome genius?

Laugh out loud moment today was prompted by the last line of a report in the paper which said that Paul Daniels, the magician, had cut off the tips of two fingers when making a new prop for his forthcoming show.  I didn't laugh at that, of course, no laughing matter at all.  The report ended by saying that, after surgery, he's been back working in his shed, where he makes many of his own props.  "Next week he will be making a guillotine," it finished drily.

Speaking of crossword puzzles, as I was yesterday, reminded me of an anecdote told me many years ago by Captain Sheppard.  He was a great friend of mine when I was in my late teens and early twenties.  My mother's gardener died suddenly and, in a spirit of great kindness, he turned up on the doorstep and offered to help out.  He was an elderly bachelor who lived in a caravan a couple of miles away, one of those men who had never quite achieved the knack of looking after himself and so looked - well, frankly, a bit of a tramp.  He was immensely intelligent and cultured, but I rather think he had, or had had, a drinking problem.  He certainly lived a very simple life.  I liked him a lot and we had long conversations.

We shared an enthusiasm for cryptic crosswords, although he was way more intelligent and clever than I, but he was very kind to me and never showed any indication that he was aware of that.  And he told me of his favourite crossword clue.

Torquemada was the pen name of a compiler of fiendishly difficult crossword puzzles back in the 1920s and 30s, for The Observer.  Puzzles of this sort were ones I rarely attempted and never could solve.  I can't remember the name of the compiler in my young day, my father could do them but they were horribly difficult.  Anyway, Captain Sheppard taught in a boys' boarding school and all the masters lived in.  One night, no one could solve the final clue - For the alleviation of the labour of childbearing (4).

And I'll say no more about that until tomorrow, because you might see it straight away or you might not.  There were scientists, linguists, classicists, no one could get the answer.

Rog has given Chris a prize for solving a very nice clue, but he deserves one from me too.  Chris dear heart, what is your favourite pudding?  It shall be served on 26th May and you will receive the first helping.  Assuming you make it to the party, that is.


Blue Witch said...

That Paul Daniels non-story made me laugh too - I heard him interviewed on Breakfast TV this morning - apparently the accident happened on 1st January and he's cut the bit above the first joint off his ring finger, while making a prop on a circular saw to make his stage saw safer. Apparently he makes all his own props in is workshop.

Why it's only just got into the media I have no idea. But, I suspect he has a new tour coming up, or a book coming out... Almost certainly another example of what I was bemoaning yesterday. Bit of an extreme one, but... make use of what happens.

kippy said...

One of Dad's friends was a semi-pro magician. He had a homemade guillotine prop stored in his basement. He had lost a finger-but due to a lawnmower accident,not prop construction. Wonder how his estate dealt with getting rid of the guillotine? Not the kind of thing you put on eBay or at Goodwill.

ElizT said...


Rog said...


LẌ said...


I like Scrabble and other word games. I don't care for those where one has to put oneself in the mindset of the creator to get the correct answer though.

Z said...

He's got another tour starting in four weeks, I think it said.

Round here, most of the farmers are missing a digit or two at least. Well, the ones in the Saints, at any rate (in joke, sorry)

Eliz, welcome and you've got it. Of course, the point is that it's a simple question and answer and normally his clues were so convoluted.

The first compiler of Times crosswords was Adrian Bell, whose books I adore and who lived a few miles from here (father of Martin). Takes a while to get into the mind of a compiler, so hard to change newspaper!

Tim said...

I vote for pram.
Marmite custard for Chris.

Tim said...

... and honest, I posted that before you posted the answer - so Eliz and I get half a badge each.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Z:
We love cryptic crosswords too. The satisfaction when one can complete them without any additional resources....but sadly, that does not happen every time!

Our favourite is the Daily Telegraph, but as we cannot possibly be seen anywhere near this newspaper, we subscribe to the puzzles online.

Do all Paul Daniels's assistants know that he makes his own props, we wonder and is there a Magic Circle equivalent to the Health and Safety Executive?

Z said...

I'm a Marmite purist. Chris will get it on toast, in a sandwich or on a crumpet. If he wishes to add cheese, I shall not object but shall avert my eyes.

You're all clever, darlings, I'm lost in admiration.

I suppose his main assistant is his wife, so she'll take any risk going! I think he might pooh-pooh the H&SE, don't you!

I wish I had more time for the crossword. I think I might have to get up to scratch now that I know you're all fans.

allotmentqueen said...

I think his wife Debbie was his assistant before she ever became his wife - so a long time. Note she wasn't around at the time, so he had to drive himself to the hospital!

I'm afraid my crossword answer was "snip" - which would alleviate children altogether.

ElizT said...

'Simple...' We worked hard on that!

Rog said...

I saw Paul Daniels do an amazing trick with a chair and a local solicitor in Thetford Sports Centre. Brilliant!

Is Chris's clue "The Daily Crossword"? Can he put me out of my misery?

Z said...

*Wonders how foot got so embedded in mouth and tries to extricate it* - I know, Eliz, that's the excellence of it. A complicated question with a disarmingly simple answer, and one that can't be worked out, it just needs a stroke of genius.

I took it as 'The Times Crossword', Rog, Jove being a reference to The Thunderer and the cross word being spoken in anger. Chris may well correct me, however.

Christopher said...

Well done. I'm passing on my Awesome Genius badge (slightly worn) to you, a much more worthy recipient. In exchange for strawberry pavlova.

Z said...

Ooh, Chris. You do me too much honour, dear heart. Strawberry pavlova it will be.

ElizT said...

No foot in mouth, leg pull.

Dandelion said...

Sorry, I think I must be a bit thick, but that seems like a rubbish clue to me. What has a pram got to do with the act of childbirth?