On Cocking A Snook

Q – What is your claim to fame?

A – My claim to fame, though modest, is one of which I am tremendously proud, and which I never tire of shouting from the rooftops, with the aid of a Tannoy. I cocked a snook at Pook Tuncks.

Q – That is flabbergasting. Tell us more.

A – Gladly. One springtime day I was bustling along the boulevard, bustle bustle, when across the way I spotted Pook Tuncks. He was standing, stock still, in the lee of a linden tree, lost, I thought, in thought. I hailed him. “Ahoy there! Pook Tuncks!” I boomed, “Thou Jesuitical duck-mesmerising versifier!” And I cocked a snook at him, and bustled on along the boulevard without waiting for a reply. When cocking a snook, one does not entertain a response, or the point is lost.

Q – What happened next?

A – My bustling continued until I arrived at a snackbar. It was called Big Pingu Snackbar and was situated at the intersection of the boulevard and Erebus And Terror Street. It is no longer there. The property is now I think a palazzo di tat. This then extant snackbar I entered, and strutted to the counter, where I ordered a snack before sitting down at a table by the window where I had a good view of the boulevard. I had bustled too far along from Pook Tuncks and the linden tree for either to be visible, though other linden trees I could see.

Q – What form of snack did you order?

A – A pickle-packed sandwich and a beaker of milk. Service at the snackbar was woeful, which is perhaps one reason why it closed down. I had to wait a long time, sitting looking out of the window, before a grim-faced bepimpled sallow stooped skivvy brought my snack to the table. No napkin was provided, so there was an altercation. I insist on several napkins in snackbars, one for my lap, one on which to wipe my hands, one with which to dab my lips, one to mop up any spillages I might cause during my snacking, and one for later use, which I pop into my pocket. But I was given no napkin at all, until I made loud complaint. The loudness was unassisted, in that I did not have recourse to the Tannoy I use nowadays to bruit my claim to fame abroad. My voice can be loud enough in the confined space of a snackbar, and the Big Pingu Snackbar, despite its name, was not a big snackbar. The skivvy was at first unwilling to bring me a napkin, which I thought odd. Surely, I thundered, the napkin is an essential component of any snackbar’s toolkit? My use of the word “toolkit” as it is deployed by management consultants and pointyheads bewildered the skivvy, or at least she pretended bewilderment. It was hard to tell. In my experience snackbar skivvies can be past masters at dissembling. My insistence and loudness and eye-popping frenzy did persuade this one to fetch my napkin, but she brought just one. I lowered my voice, just a tad, and explained that I required several napkins, though I did not itemise the uses to which I would put them, as I have done for you. It was not, in my view, any business of the skivvy’s. I was patronising the snackbar and I wanted my napkins, it was really as simple as that.

Q – This is all very interesting, but what of Pook Tuncks? Did he detach himself from the lee of the linden tree and pursue you into the snackbar?

A – I have yet to conclude the anecdote of the napkins.

Q – Well, let us pass on that. I think the listeners are agog re Pook Tuncks.

A – It is, I promise you, an anecdote both instructive and amusing and well worth the hearing.

Q – Be that as it may, this programme is called “My Claim To Fame”, not “Napkin World” or “Annals Of The Snackbars”, and your claim to fame is that you cocked a snook at Pook Tuncks, so perhaps we could concentrate on that.

A – I would not want it to be thought I am some kind of napkin monomaniac, so, reluctantly, I will desist. But I must ask, do those napkin and snackbar shows exist, or did you just make them up for the purposes of your argument?

Q – I am merely the host and presenter and, if you like, anchor of “My Claim To Fame”, so I am not familiar with the full schedule of programmes. I cannot say for certain whether those I adverted to exist or not.

A – Could you find out, while I sit here twiddling my thumbs?

Q – Now is not the best time. Perhaps at the end of the show you and I could go together to see the programme director, within whose head is gathered such a body of knowledge of the schedules that it would dazzle you.

A – That sounds like a capital idea.

Q – So, Pook Tuncks…

A – And if there is not currently a snackbar and napkin strand, then I would be happy to present such a programme, daily, at breakfast time, or even before breakfast, at dawn, or before dawn, in the middle of the night.

Q – I am sure the programme director would be only too willing to discuss that with you.

A – Good, that is settled then.

Q – Then let us proceed. Did Pook Tuncks come crashing into the snackbar, hot on your heels, to berate you for cocking a snook at him?

A – No, he did not. I never saw hide nor hair of him again, ever after. I like to think my cocking a snook at him must have given him pause, and caused him to retreat, away from the boulevard and the lee of the linden tree, into reclusion and solitude and the bleak existence of a hermit, shuttered in a hut on a remote promontory far from humankind. Such is the power of my snook, when cocked.

Q – Gosh.

[Tinkly, hesitant, music, followed by the weather forecast.]

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