In the past I have had the need to admonish my e-pal, JK, for the seemingly endless supply of links with which he bombards me so regularly but just when my patience is about to snap he produces a corker which is not only fascinating in itself but leads on to yet more enticing matters. This morning he sent me a copy of a letter written by the late comic genius Spike Milligan. For the benefit of my foreign readers let me explain that Milligan was the 'Godfather' of the Monty Python gang whose literally lunatic humour was derived from Milligan's earlier Goon Show, a radio show broadcast in the '50s which reduced the entire nation to helpless, howling laughter regularly once a week. (How difficult it is to remember those days when families gathered round a radio to be entertained!) Milligan served 'up the sharp end' during WWII and was wounded for his troubles. He wrote several books on the subject under the general heading of 'Hitler: My Part in his Downfall', or words to that effect. Apparently one of his books produced a very critical letter of complaint from a reader to whom he replied, thus, and again, for my foreign readers Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers were his compatriots on The Goon Show:
28th February, 1977
Questions, questions, questions. If you are disappointed in my book 'MONTY', so am I. I must be more disappointed than you because I spent a year collecting material for it, and it was a choice of having it made into a suit or a book.
There are lots of one liners in the book, but then when the German Army are throwing bloody great lumps of hot iron at you, one only has time for one liners. In fact, the book should really consist of the following:
"Christ here's another"
"Where did that fall?"
"My lorry's on fire"
"Oh Christ, the cook is dead"
You realise a book just consisting of those would just be the end, so my one liners are extensions of these brevities.
Then you are worried because as yet I have not mentioned my meeting with Secombe and later Sellers. Well by the end of the Monty book I had as yet not met either Secombe or Sellers. I met Secombe in Italy, which will be in vol 4, and I am arranging to meet Peter Sellers on page 78 of vol 5 in London. I'm sorry I can't put back the clock to meet Secombe in 1941, to alleviate your disappointment — hope springs anew with the information I have given you.
Another thing that bothers you is "cowardice in the face of the enemy". Well, the point is I suffered from cowardice in the face of the enemy throughout the war — in the face of the enemy, also in the legs, the elbows, and the wrists; in fact, after two years in the front line a mortar bomb exploded by my head (or was it my head exploded by a mortar bomb), and it so frightened me, I put on a tremendous act of stammering, stuttering, and shivering. This mixed with cries of "mother" and a free flow of dysentery enabled me to be taken out of the line and down-graded to B2. But for that brilliant performance, this letter would be coming to you from a grave in Italy.
Any more questions from you and our friendship is at an end.
Well, that's all very amusing but JK's link goes further, much further, and into a superb new site for me which is now well and truly bookmarked for future pleasures because the Miiligan letter came from a site called:
As the title implies, this is simply a site for the collection of private correspondence from anyone who was anybody from any age. The most recent is a letter from Anaïs Nin to an anonymous collecter of pornography for whom she and her then husband, Henry Miller, wrote suitably ripe stories. What a way to earn a living! But that is just one letter and the whole site is a treasure trove of such obscure trifles in which one may dip and wallow at leisure.
Anyway, I was minded to award the 'Corker of the Month' award to JK for this find but then I remembered that it had already been earned by Andra for her superlative Russian sing-song - which I still play every morning just to cheer myself up. So, children, you will have to share the prize between you and I don't want any squabbling!