An intimate but not too-authentic account of the M.C.C.’s Classic Run.
The institution which houses me during the hours of daylight includes among its inhabitants Argentines (“without means”), Portugees and Greeks— and a Chinaman. Ah Sing does not wear silken robes but Harris tweed plus-fours : does not ride in a palanquin but on a 500 c.c. sports model : does not speak Chinese (at any rate in our hearing) or English—but a somewhat fanciful combination of the two, flavoured with Americanisms and garnished with sprigs of almost every other language. When I returned after the Christmas vacation I remarked casually (with a good deal of ill-subdued pride) that I had “satisfied the examiners” of the M.C.C. and obtained a Gold Medal in their London-Exeter run.
“Me go Exeter lun too,” remarked Ah Sing.
“Oh, sorry not to see you at Slough—” I began.
“No, no, Ah Sing go Exeter allee way, all lay with Mister Gelald Hambone in honorlable couch wheel,” and he beamed.
Now Gerald Hambone is the roughest man of all : he drives a big twin with a side-car like an undertaker’s apprentice’s first attempt at a coffin : he welcomes punctures in an all night trial to enable him to “make up time ” : his machine may run on petrol but he runs on cold rum and water—and his consumption is that of a Schneider Cup seaplane. I had seen his name among the entries and welcomed the fact that I was on a solo machine separated from him by a hundred or so other entries, for Gerald has invented a game, the essence of which is a high speed “pub crawl in which second man pays for drinks. When Gerald pays—well, as Esquimau Nell says, “It may not be rare in Berkeley Square but it is on the Rio Grande “—or on the high-roads of England. I had also noticed that Gerald was not among the finishers and had been somewhat surprised to see his burly frame apparently intact in his favourite place of refreshment about New Year’s Day. He had not mentioned the Exeter.
Business was pressing at the moment and it was not till a few days later that I had an opportunity of pumping Ah Sing. Forgive me if I fail to reproduce his jargon realistically but the substance of his remarks was as follows. “Mister Gelald he go Exeter ‘long Miss Florla by damn” (Flora is a young lady—” poor but reasonably honest “). ” Klissmass, they go blindo celeblation. Miss Florla say she damn and blas’ she go Exeter—why Mister Gelald go, by jimmy? She like gin eyetahlian not mud’an’lain. Mr. Gelald no gent by heck. Yessir, Miss Florla she shout all one piecey hellcat and Mister Gelald go mad, tell her go boil headpiece. By gar, Mister Gelald he say Ah Sing he come ‘long Exeter by hell. Me one piecey Engliss sportsman wee wee. ” Bimeby, Mister Gelald he say Ah Sing this goddam’ Exeter dam’ side too far, Klissmass dam side too cold, motor dam’ side too knock knee, all long dam fool game.
” Howsomever Mister Gelald he fetch Ah Sing with motor and number one topsidey couch wheel for honorlable self. Thlu’ Westend—wouf ! Slough—wouf ! By gar, one hell big conglegation motors, couch wheels, autos, gentles in velly showerploofs—dam’ pletty girls in like what poly bear he wear in Legent’s Park. One big King Man in black hat he say go and a man go and Ah Sing say ‘Mister Gelald—Go’ and Mister Gelald say Don’t be a dam’ fool Ah Sing : this no b— lace— not yet : this ‘liability tlial.
“All gentles go off and Ah Sing he lie in couch to tly come off with pletty girls, but no dam— good. Then Mister Gelald come back and sing, and put tlee bottles in couch wheel and say ‘That’ll do till Exeter.’ King Man in black hat he say go and Mister Gelald has permiss’n take Ah Sing Exeter by jimmy.
“Soon Ah Sing go sleep till Mister Gelald sing velly loud, ‘Get out you Chink and mend puncture.’ Ah Sing no Chink he Chinee gentle ; tell Mister Gelald no mend puncture, no dam’ galargee, me couch wheel occupanter —night, night. Ah Sing think Mister Gelald vulcanize patch, with vocal chords.
Bimeby we go ‘long again too click so Ah Sing lap head in lug, and tink he in bed in Bloonasbly, all ‘long night till Mister Gelald say, ‘Thank God, Yeovil.’ We dlink coffee all hot and Mister Gelald he swallow bottle in couch wheel and say Aaaaaah! Soon Ah Sing know it lain and say damn : Mister Gelald he say damn too and swallow ‘nother bottle and go like hell.
“Soon we come to a gleat mountain and many spectors and Mister Gelald insert lower latio and go up—bang–bang—and then gleat bang and noise and gentles shout and Ah Sing see we stop. Mister Gelald he no say “Mend chain” ; he stand and damn and blast an swallow ‘nother bottle. Pletty girl she come and ask honorlable signature in handsome volume and Ah Sing think him dam’ kind and lite ‘Alec Bennett’ on one page and ‘ Perfesser Low’ on ‘nother. Then Mister Gelald mend chain and look for ‘nother bottle to swallow and say damn and tell Ah Sing lead loute card.
“Ah Sing no dam’ fool : Mister Gelald he dlive too goddam’ click so when plinted dilections say left Ah Sing he holler ” Light ” and versi vica. Soon Ah Sing see no more motors and think Mister Gelald him see dam’ all evlything. Honorlable couch wheel him go lound bend like notable Splouts and go down mountain like notable Sir Lord Seglave. Then Ah Sing he see dilectional indicator ‘ Ilflacombe two miles’ and lay low and say damn all and Mister Gelald go clicker norlever. Then mark me you—whoosh Ah Sing appear to lecognize bosom of mighty ocean but Mister Gelald yell B— duckpond.’
“Ah Sing he no laugh—he say ‘Mister Gelald you velly kind take Chinee gentle motor dive: you go bye bye in honorlable couch wheel. Ah Sing go home Bloomsbly —night night.’ Mister Gelald him say damn bad words and fall in duck pond and Ah Sing lun like hell.”
We have started a fund to provide a decent funeral for the first man to mention ” Exeter” in Gerald Harwood’s presence.