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Hisperica famina

The frothing sea surrounds the world
and beats earth’s borders with its rushing waves.
Its storm-wall claws the rocky foreshore,
ploughs the bed with thumping crests,
strewing shingled foam in starry furrows,
ever-shaken by its thunderous blast.

We were musketeers once, and young

Long, ‘lost’ sequel to The Three Musketeers, reviewed.

For The Spectator


The honorary freedom of the borough of Rye in Sussex confers upon the freemen the privilege of kissing the mayoress.

The Nelson Evening Mail, March 21 1907

When you register your child at birth, it immediately becomes the legal property of the state.

In WW2 German physicists were able to discern the weather conditions in London from the tolling of Big Ben broadcast on the BBC.

Male kangaroos flex their biceps to impress their females.

Sir Nicholas Gimcrack died from a fever brought on by chasing a butterfly.

A man in Thailand believes a 10-foot cobra is the reincarnation of his deceased girlfriend. They go to the gym together.

Former England rugby hooker Brian Moore is a qualified nail manicurist.

In February 1643, Dutch colonists massacred members of the Lenape tribe at Bowling Green.

When Samuel Beckett’s eyesight faded he played his favourite golf courses from memory.

They have the Queen’s English in Inverness.

Award-winning children’s author Anthony McGowan once lost two children while drunk in charge of a creche.

‘post-truth’ is now included in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Every one percent unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die.

All people who like musical theatre are divs.

‘your broken heart’

for Rich Hardcastle 






your[ ]

your b

your br

your bro

your brok

your broke

your broken

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your broken h

your broken he

your broken hea

your broken hear

your broken heart


The telephone has a tendency to render the girl operators left-eared.

The Nelson Evening Mail, July 4 1908

Eight wickets for eight runs is the worst batting collapse in Twenty20 international cricket.

St Blaise is the patron saint of sore throats, and of knitting.

Estonian literature suffers from a dearth of stories by trucks drivers and/or prostitutes.

The presidential statues on Mount Rushmore were originally intended to extend down to the waist.

The Athenian philosopher Chrysippus died from laughing at his own jokes.

Richard Nixon once wrote a memo instructing his Secret Service detail to make sure no press took pictures of him with a drink in hand.

Tramps have heels like turnips.

Samuel Derrick, pimp, failed actor and master of the ceremonies at Bath, wrote a novel in the voice of Shakespeare’s ghost.

People now take in five times more information every day than they did thirty years ago.

Geoffrey Chaucer addressed his 1391 A Treatise on the Astrolabe to his ten-year-old son, Lewis.

The Japanese toilet industry has agreed to standardise complex bidet controls.

Calling somebody a pussy is not illegal.

A complete list of all those who have gone fishing, according to Benjamin Britten

1) Old Joe
2) Young Joe
3) You Know

Brief lives: Samuel Derrick

Samuel Derrick (1724-69), was an Irish writer, friend of Dr Johnson, Boswell, and Tobias Smollett, and master of the ceremonies at both Bath and Tunbridge Wells.

He published, among other works:

The Dramatic Censor, No. 1;
Sylla, a dramatic entertainment, from the French of Frederick II of Prussia;
A Voyage from the Moon, from the French of Cyrano de Bergerac;
Memoirs of the Count de Beauval, from the French of D’Argens;
The Third Satire of Juvenal, translated into English verse;
A View of the Stage;
The Battle of Lora, a poem, from Ossian;
Dryden’s Works, with a Life and Notes;
A Poetical Dictionary (4 vols.);
A Collection of Voyages (2 vols.);
Letters written from Leverpoole, Chester, Corke (2 vols.);
Derrick’s Jests – or, The Wit’s Chronicle;
and a novel narrated mostly by the ghost of William Shakespeare.

He is remembered for being the author of a directory of prostitutes.

Luck of the Irish – two letters



Imperial Hotel,
Jesmond Road,
Newcastle on Tyne 15th Dec 1907

My dear Victor,

…………………..It is my good fortune once more to ask you for your congratulations! This time it is on a very fine appointment as Navigating Officer of H.M.S. “Lord Nelson”, a battleship almost completed, and which is one of the finest in our fleet. I am a lucky young divil I know. The ship, which

is Commanded by a very smart man, is to fly the Flag of the Admiral Commanding the Home Division of the Home Fleet, and my headquarters will therefore revert to the Thames, where I first had the greatest of all good luck — my meeting with the wife! How are things with you all. Accept for yourself and family every sincere good wish which is not

only called forth by this season. (That sounds minced, but I mean they do on all the time!) I meditated a descent on Dublin at Christmas, but stern duty was asleep with one eye open and has intimated that, as I have to take 16,500 tons of stuff to sea for trials on the 8th January, and as a new ship is as much under control as a young wife, that I had better postpone my visits till a more fitting season. Truth to tell the trials are a big

responsibility & anxiety in this foggy season, and I shall heave a sigh of relief if, & when, I bring her safely back and have some knowledge and experience to go on with. Perhaps late on I may slip away and I shall look forward to another yarn with you. In the meantime every good wish to you all from

Your affec. brother,

A.H. Smyth




Extract from Letter

×  ×  ×  ×

From  - – -  Admiralty
To      - – -  The Commander-in-chief, Grand Fleet.
No     – - –  M. 08900
Date   – - -  7. December, 1915.

×  ×  ×  ×

‘My Lords concur in your opinion that the interception of the “Kristianfjord” reflects great credit on Commander Adrian H. Smyth, and he is to be so informed.’

Commander A.H. Smyth, R.N.
H.M.S. “Teutonic”

For information.

(signed) D.R. De Chair



Pineapples are so plentiful in Natal at certain seasons that they are not worth carting to market, and so are often given to pigs.

The Nelson Evening Mail, September 27 1906

The French king Louis XIII was known as ‘the Just’ because he was born under the sign of the Libra.

Maxwell Branning is reported to have caused the Walford bus crash.

The original name for Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate was to have been ‘Shame Lady’.

An early form of the asterisk was used by Aristarchus to identify lines replicated between the Iliad and Odyssey.

A weekly bulletin of international news is broadcast in Latin by Finland’s Yleisradio Oy, on Friday evenings. Pronunciation is classical.

‘Ananias’, ‘Azarias’ and ‘Misael’ refer to the same Biblical characters as ‘Shadrach’, ‘Meshach’ and ‘Abednego’.

Ceylon tea is now more expensive to produce than it is worth on the international market.

The Quaggy River flows 17 miles through the South-East London boroughs of Bromley, Greenwich, and Lewisham.

A standard-class one-way ticket from Ashford, Kent, to Ashford, Surrey, costs £34.10, off-peak.

The people of the South Sudan believe that the moon is the property of the white man.

Don Quixote was printed in a first edition of 400 copies. Most of them were despatched to the Americas, where they were lost in a shipwreck off the coast of Cuba.

Stephanie Davis says Jeremy McConnell is 100% the father of her son.


Omnibuses in Holland are fitted with letter-boxes.

— The Nelson Evening Mail, July 13 1908

A ‘havelock’ is the flap of cloth that hangs down from a soldier’s kepi, to protect the neck.

Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States drew bigger crowds to Washington DC than any previous inauguration.

The rules of Pratt’s permit no other card games besides bridge and cribbage.

During the WW2 ‘Baedeker’ Raids  schoolboys were often given their exams one question at a time, to stop them conferring in the bomb shelters during interludes.

Table-top football game Subbuteo™ was invented and manufactured outside Tunbridge Wells.

Giles Coren, restaurant critic of The Times (London), was paid a £30,000 advance for his debut novel Winkler. The book sold 771 copies in hardback, another 1400 in softcover.

Otters juggle when bored.

At 27+ hours, Jim Norton’s narration of Ulysses lasts longer than the day James Joyce’s characters experienced.

Some of the oldest extant musical instruments are flutes made out of human bones.

Duff Cooper once drew the line at seeing in the new year being kissed by a man.

The Colossus of Rhodes stood for only 56 years.

The Spectator columnist and bon viveur Jeffrey Bernard was repeatedly unwell.