Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The games afoot

By Tony Deyal

We were doing Shakespeare’s “King Henry Five” for our exams and our teacher “went to town” on the king’s speech to his soldiers to get them ready for the war against France. The King started with “Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more” and it was bad enough when one of the boys asked, “Sir, Sir, ‘breach’ in those days was ‘pants’. You mean the king put the men to fight a war with only their pants on?” The teacher gave him a hard look and continued at full throttle, “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips/ Straining upon the start. The games afoot:/ Follow your spirit…” That was the end of the class for the day and the teacher for a whole week of medical treatment. 

What happened was one of the boys asked, “Sir, I thought it was a war but it sound like it was a dog race!” That was bad enough but what made the teacher leave was the same boy asking, “Sir, sir, how could the game be ‘ah foot’? You say it was a war that was going on.

The only way the games could be a foot is if it was a football match.” Another jumped up with, “Sir, they had spirits there? I fraid those creatures you know.” Wanting to show that I was a reader and knew about spirits, I made what was a joke for me but not my colleagues. Like Paul, I paid for all when I stopped the teacher, “Sir, I always follow my spirit instead of drinking it like my father.” One of the boys reached home before me and told my mother, who expressed her anger to my father claiming that I told the whole school that he was a drunkard. The game was not afoot. It was a belt and I got a few.

I started this article on Tuesday so it would go to the newspapers on Wednesday evening for them to publish on Saturday. So, there I was on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, putting my column together and realised it was Halloween. When I was at University in Canada, Halloween was a big deal. The neighbours’ children came for their share early (and the parents dropped in later). We had to grin and beer it. So, when I went to live in one of the houses of the sugar cane company, Caroni Ltd.  I was glad to know that my children would get a taste of Halloween. Unfortunately, a government minister was in the area, got my directions, and came to see me. He had to stop because the kids were on the road. They were in costumes and then not only blocked him but kept pounding on his doors and windows demanding sweets and money,

He was a “Trini” and had never experienced this before. He got scared and started to scream. The kids, even more frightened than he was, started running and shouting “Mammy. Mammy. Help”. I came out of the house, saw who it was, took him inside and tried to explain what the event was about. He had three quick whiskies to cool down and then insisted that I drive my car ahead of his until he reached the highway.

One of my friends, knowing I had a Subaru, suggested that because it was Halloween, night I should have dressed up as a “head gasket”. I responded, “That gives me a really good chance to get blown.” He retorted, “Is only you and the Jehovah Witnesses who don’t celebrate Halloween. In their case it is because they don’t appreciate strangers knocking at their doors.” I retorted, “I am like them when it come to that so you can’t come by me but given that you’re a Catholic, I know where to go on Tuesday night.” His response was quick, “So why not Saturday? That is a much bigger day than today.” Then he cut the connection and refused to answer the phone.

He was right. If you think the game was afoot Tuesday night it started long before that on Saturday, November 4, 1846, when Benjamin Palmer from New Hampshire in the US patented the artificial leg. The US also celebrates “National Chicken Lady Day” and “Use You Common Sense Day.”

I’m already priming up for it and learning how to be a shoe salesman. They make excellent detectives because they always know when something is afoot. But none is as good as Sherlock Holmes. He came up with a lot of interesting quips like, “My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what people don’t know.”; “I never guess. It is a shocking habit, – destructive to the logical faculty.”;  “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”; “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”; and “There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.”

Even though William Shakespeare used “the game’s afoot” in King Henry IV, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave Holmes the phrase “the game’s afoot” in “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange” and it became his. It was Sherlock’s declaration of his excitement and anticipation of a new investigation.

For instance, there is the story about Holmes and Watson who were out hunting one day when Watson spied something moving in the bushes thinking it was a threat to his master, he took out his rifle and fired at whatever or whoever it was. They then went into the bushes and found a severed leg with a clean bullet wound just below the ankle. Holmes was ecstatic and cried out, “Watson. The game’s afoot!” While there is no place like home, there really is no case like Holmes, especially when it comes to crime.

Sherlock and Watson found themselves at a scene of utter carnage. As Holmes, who had a nose and quick sense for danger, quickly fingered the bloody knife and eyed the various body parts strewn along the dark, deserted highway. He placed his ear to the ground and, with his heart in his throat, quietly told his companion, “Arm yourself Watson there’s an evil hand afoot ahead.”

And just to make sure that I leave you footloose and fancy-free, I will end by showing you that there’s no case like Holmes. This has been chosen as “The World’s Funniest Joke.” Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. In the middle of the night, Holmes wakes Watson up: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce.” Watson: “I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life.” Holmes: “Watson, you idiot, somebody’s stolen our tent!”

*Tony Deyal was last seen laughing at this Watson joke. Proud of his Doctorate from London University, Watson asked Holmes, “And what school did you go to Sherlock.” Holmes replied, “Elementary my dear Watson.”



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