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My Hero

By Ian Thorpe

(A Tribute to Spike Milligan - see footnote)

My Uncle George was a hero. I have known this since I was a very young child. One
day I was sitting on the packed mud of the British Army parade ground at Lucknow
in northern India watching a Parsi manservant massage Uncle's corns with a paste
made from Ganges mud and Mango Chutney when he called me to his side and confided
this information.

"My Boy," he said, "I am a hero." You just can't dispute facts like that.

Uncle George spent most of his life serving as an officer with the Army in India.
Handsome and dignified, witty and erudite, athletic and an enthusiast for the
delights of the ladies boudoir he was naturally prone to personal vanity and was
inordinately proud of the thick, curly red hair that covered his leonine head.

One night Uncle George was sitting in the officers mess at the Lucknow barracks
when he was approached by a very old bow legged woman. She appeared to be in late
middle age but her legs were like very old bows.

"Forgive me sahib, but I am told you were a friend of Rufus Carew." She spoke in a
very old woman voice that resembled the sound of two sheets of sandpaper being
rubbed together by a mad percussionist.

"Rufus," Uncle exclaimed, "By Jove woman you speak of none other than Mad Carew! I
was his messmate back in Aldershot. Last I heard of him he was living with an ape
just outside Bangalore. Dishonourable discharge doncha know, he discharged into
the regimental mascot apparently."

"Was it a male ape?" asked the woman.

"Certainly not!" George snapped, "there was nothing queer about Carew."

"I must tell you a terrible story," the Ummi said, "If you listen the things I say
could make you wealthy beyond you wildest imaginings." This was a rash statement
as George's wildest imaginings included bathing in curry sauce accompanied by
Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop. Even so he permitted the old woman to continue.

"There is a green - eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu,

on a little grassy hill above the town,

where a broken hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,

while little yellow god sits staring down."

she sandpapered rhythmically.

"I don't wish to know that" said George, kindly leave this mess.

"I can't" said the old woman, your nephew the writer put me in this mess and only
he can get me out. And while we are on the subject his syntax leaves a lot to be
desired. Now do you want to know more about the Little Yellow God?"

"This is the Little Yellow God of bad poets?" George said, "I have heard of him
now get on with the story."
"Well," the Ummi continued, " it is told that the eye of the God is worth a
billion rupees."

"And what can I buy with a billion rupees," George asked.

"In London, a souvenir T shirt that says My friends went to London and all I got
is this lousy T shirt but in India, anything you want."

"And you are suggesting that I should go and steal the eye of the God."

"I am only a humble messenger sahib, you must do as you will."

Uncle gave the woman a hundred rupees and she backed away bowing repeatedly until
she was in the street where she was run down by a drunken mahout driving a high
powered sports elephant.

Inside the mess Uncle thought on what the old woman had said. A wisp of smoke
escaped from his pipe. Quickly he inserted a fresh wisp and reclined in his chair.
In a state of great agitation he drew on his pipe. He also drew on the table, the
barman's apron, and the soles of his boots. Was there no limit on his imagination?

Eventually George made a decision. He must go north, claim the eye of the God and
avenge the death of his friend.

To launch the venture he called for Arak and when the waiter brought a bottle and
filled his glass he cried "God Save The King" and drank, tossing his head back
like a ballet dancer. (its a family thing)

Several of the other officers asked what was going on and when George revealed his
plan they rushed over to congratulate him on a pointless show of bravado that
would certainly result in the destruction of his immortal liver. He called for
more Arak and glasses and poured each man a liberal libation.

"To George and the British Empire," cried the senior officer and they drank,
tossing their heads back like ballet dancers.

A week later George set off for Kathmandu accompanied by two native bearers who
did not know the nature of his plan. With them they carried dry rations, , a full
set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a liberal supply of Arak, a map of the London
Underground Railway system, an effigy of Queen Victoria's breasts, and a baby
grand piano, They also had a large hand mirror so that Uncle could check his
precious hair each morning. The two undernourished bearers carried all of this on
their heads. At sunset on the first night they set up camp and as they ate their
curry around the campfire George, his tongue loosened by Arak, told the bearers to
fetch another bottle and their drinking cups as they must help him celebrate.

He poured each man a measure of the potent spirit and they drank, tossing their
heads back like ballet dancers.

"Why do we drink?" asked the older man.

George told them of his intention and how the venture would make him rich beyond
Bill Gate's wildest dreams and both began to panic.

"You are a crazy sahib. It is madness to try and steal the idol's eye."

"But I've always been a better man than Carew so there is no danger," George said.
The Indians went away and returned a little later with a Fakir who was totally
naked except for a large hairy wart on his knee.

"Sahib, I have come to warn you not to do this thing. There is an ancient curse.
Anybody who tries to steal the eye of the idol with suffer the worst fate they can
imagine."

"But what about Carew," George asked, "he died honourably did he not."

"Alas no Sahib, he ceased to be mad and became a bank manager. He died during an
economic recession through lack of interest."

"Go away you silly fakir," said George, "I shall become the richest man in India
and have my own personal hairdresser."

He had drank himself and several complete strangers into a stupor that night and
before dawn the bearers made off with the piano. George had to struggle on for the
rest of the way paying for everything with small change because he was left
without a note.

When he found the grassy hill, gratified the carnal desires of the distraught
young woman who wailed by the grave of Mad Carew and further comforted her by
pouring two glasses of Arak which they drank, tossing their heads back like ballet
dancers, he found it simple to steal the eye of the God. Uncle returned to Lucknow
as quickly as he could and three days later slept in his own bed having visited
the mess and told his friends the legends of the curse were superstitious
nonsense.

On waking the next morning my uncle ran his fingers through......nothing. He was
sitting up in bed, his glorious hair still lay on the pillow. George was not found
for several hours and then was rushed to hospital suffering from acute
embarrassment. The doctors made him remain in intensive care until his hair had
been woven into the most magnificent and realistic ginger wig anybody had ever
seen. About a year after resuming his duties Uncle George was drilling some
recruits on the parade ground one day when a large bird of prey swooped down and
snatched his wig, flying off towards the distant mountains before anybody could
react.

Distraught George left the army and spent his days roaming India searching for a
fakir who could reverse the curse of the idol and make his hair grow again. He
bathed his head in yaks milk, he applied a poultice of Ground rice, Strawberry
flavoured ghee, Cardomon paste and Fisherman's Friend lozenges, he swam in the
River Ganges, drank his own urine and listened to Tammy Wynette records all to no
avail. His fortune was squandered in the futile quest for a remedy but George's
head remained as hairy as a pool ball.

Years later while in the Himalayans seeking Yeti dung in the hope that the hairy
creature's droppings would contain some mystical gene altering substance capable
of restoring his hirsute glory George was nearing the top of a high peak when a
strange incident occurred. He came upon and Eagle's nest lined with a man's custom
made ginger wig.

Even stranger, it was not George's.

- END -
Author's note

Spike Milligan, who died in March 2002, was a radical and ground breaking comedy
writer and performer, the founder of the Goons, a radio team which included Peter
Sellers, later star of The Pink Panther and many other films. Milligan is also
credited as a primary influence by the members of the Monty Python team, and many
others. His humour was and still is for it stands the test of time well and
episodes of The Goons radio show recorded in the 1950s still sound fresh and
challenging. Milligan was a complex man and probably as a result of his
experiences in the 1939 - 45 war was afflicted by manic depression. In spite of
this he managed to write comedy for stage, radio, TV and the printed page until
not long before his death and was also a serious writer and poet, a committed
environmentalist. One of his great gifts was that he always retained a level of
innocence and seemed genuinely bemused by the stupidity and short - sightednes of
humankind.

Humour has always been important to me, particularly throughout the last few
years, and I thank Spike for the laughter he gave the world for many years the
inspiration for this and other stories and for his unyielding attempts to prod our
consciences.

More of Ian Thorpe's writing


http://greenteeth.blog.co.uk/main

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