There have been many studies of the consequences of the war, so on the face of it yet another one would seem unnecessary. I feel compelled to add my own for two reasons. First, that the extant studies are uniformly mistaken, foolish, and sprawling. Secondly, this one is by me and is therefore fantastic. It is also considerably shorter than those sprawling studies, so you will be all clued up on the consequences of the war, and able to spout intelligently about them at cocktail parties, having spent only a fraction of the time needed to digest the mistaken foolish sprawls.
Well, you will not be able to spout at cocktail parties, of course, because one of the consequences of the war is that cocktail parties are a thing of the past. It is difficult to host a halfway decent cocktail party in a landscape that had been reduced to crumbling ruins. I have no idea what Beamish is going on about in his mistaken and foolish and sprawling study, Some Notes On The Consequences Of The War Vis A Vis Fashionable Cocktail Parties. He claims to have personally attended no fewer than five such elegant social occasions in the six weeks immediately after the cessation of hostilities, though I note he is very cagey, very cagey indeed, about where these events are supposed to have taken place. He only gives one definite postal address – 14b Hysteria Mews – and it did not take much research for me to discover that this is now the site of a foetid swamp bubbling with hazardous chemicals. The only standing structure for miles around is the old coastguard’s hut. Thinking that perhaps some brainsick noddies had snuck past the barbed wire to hold a cocktail party there, I donned protective clothing and made my way in, only to discover that the roof and the ceiling and the floor had all collapsed, and that the pit thus formed below ground was home to a family of savage mutant otters. By all means go hither and try sipping a cocktail while engaged in elegant chitchat if you dare. But don’t blame me if you emerge bitten and clawed and bloody and wishing for a quick death.
Beamish is also the author of Some Notes On The Consequences Of The War Vis A Vis The Fixture List For The Domestic Pole-Vaulting League. It astonishes me that this book sprawls over nine hundred pages, excluding the index and appendices. I would have only one “note” on the subject, and it would read as follows: “In the aftermath of the war, there are no fixtures”. Yes, one could expand upon that by recalling the heady days of the prewar pole-vaulting team meetings, and the contrast with the postwar scene, but there is only so much one can say. Beamish, poor deluded Beamish, seems to be under the impression that pole-vaulting events are still taking place on Saturday afternoons, all across the land. Perhaps he is hallucinating. Certainly a population of stunted beggars with withered limbs is in no fit state to pole-vault over even a tiny pile of pebbles, if, that is, one could find anywhere a pole-vaulting pole that had not been reduced to ashes and dust, or been commandeered to prop up something that would otherwise collapse, like an old coastguard’s hut.
But Beamish is hardly the worst offender. More mistaken, more foolish, and more sprawling is An A To Z Of The Consequences Of The War by Alonzo Zumbag. This weighs in at over two thousand closely-printed pages, with more than six hundred entries under the letter A alone. And what a lot of bosh it is! If we are to believe Mr Zumbag, the following things have improved considerably since the end of the war: apples, apricots, alabaster, amnesiacs, aircraft (both real and model), ants, aniseed, aspirin, the month of April (but not, curiously, August), antiques, art, aglets, air, and antimony. Not a shred of evidence is offered in support of such blithering claptrap as “One of the consequences of the war is that Airfix modelling glue for model aeroplanes is now hundreds of times more gluey and sticky than it was before the war. Truly it is the king of adhesive pastes!”
This is patently untrue. Last week, for example, I was foraging around in a waterlogged bomb crater hoping to find a sprig of nettles to keep me alive until teatime, when I came upon an almost intact Airfix model kit. It was a seventy-six piece miniature of a Swordfish 109 Plasmatron Fighter Jet, complete with a tube of modelling glue. To pass the time, and to distract myself from the pangs of hunger and thirst and from the hideous suppurations of my many and various sores and boils, I squatted in a puddle and put the model together. But when it came time to apply the glue, the stuff that squirted out of the tube was neither gluey nor sticky. What it was was highly acidic, like the blood of the alien in Alien, and it burned holes in my arms and legs and torso which ache like billy-o. If that is better than prewar Airfix modelling glue, then I am a Swiss cheese. Actually, I am beginning to resemble a Swiss cheese, what with all these burning acid holes.
So if you take my advice you will throw away any of those Consequences Of The War studies you have bought, and stick with this one. I will not pretend I have been going to elegant cocktail parties. I will not claim to have attended a pole-vaulting league match. And I will have nothing good to say about anything beginning with A, let alone with B or with the other letters of the alphabet, not all of which I can remember. I was such a butterfingers with that tube of so-called “king of adhesive pastes” that I managed to squirt a goodly dollop on to my head. It ate its way through the flesh and bone right into my brain and out the other side, and I must admit to feeling not quite myself ever since. I have even begun wondering if there actually was a war, before which this land was a sort of paradise. Maybe it is all a phantasm, and I have always, for my entire life, squatted in a puddle under a foul black sky, half blind from gas, and starving and withered of limb, scrubbling in the muck for a sprig of poisonous nettle, happy as a warlord.