February 2nd, 2010


We took Odi for an ultra-sound scan- and came away with photos of the tiny, peanut-shaped baby. The photos should have cost us £4.50, but the woman working the machine gave us them for free as an apology for making us wait so long. The waiting was actually  no hardship. Fabrizio treated it as playtime and went the rounds of everyone in the room- climbing into laps and being rewarded with crisps. We were the last to be seen. Left in an empty waiting room with an excited child to entertain, I turned, as I do in these circumstances, into a performing elephant. I was going to say it does my poor old bones no favours, but, on reflection,  I believe I'm all the better for the exercise.

Five Short Pieces

Life's Handicap is a bit of a rag-bag. Later collections are meticulously organised, but here Kipling has  just bundled together whatever he had available at the time. The more substantial pieces are placed at the front,  the scrappy, little anecdotes- originally written to fill empty columns in some newspaper or other- bring up the rear.

"Namgay Doola" is a joke at the expense of the Irish. If I were Irish myself my reaction would be, "patronising English git".

"The Lang Men o' Larut" may be the most pointless thing Kipling ever wrote.

With "Bertran and Bimi" we're on a steamer travelling round the Malay peninsula. Hans Breitmann, the orchid collector, tells us a gruesome tale in his funny German accent- and incidentally utters the glorious phrase- which I repeat to myself whenever I'm faced with loud and bumptious people- "you haf too much Ego in your Cosmos".

"Reingelder and the German Flag" is another tale from Hans Breitmann, similarly gruesome. The German flag is a species of poisonous snake.

"The Wandering Jew" deals with a rich man in the grip of a crazy obsession. It makes me think of Howard Hughes. Incidentally, the man is not a Jew- and by the end of the story he no longer wanders. It's a prime example of how much power Kipling could pack into four pages when his daemon was upon him.