Tuesday 22 March 2011

A bit of 1930s fun

Yesterday I mentioned The Perfect Pest by Adrian Porter, which I picked up in a charity shop and quickly read. It's not the kind of book you normally find in a charity shop - a piece of 1930s whimsy and silliness.

The book is a collection of comic verse of the sort that appeared (as some of these did) in Punch and the Morning Post. The first half covers 'The Perfect...' example of various types - host, husband, child, dog - in a wry way. The second half does a similar thing, but with more varied topics. It's all light and silly and amusing - and delightfully illustrated by Eileen McGrath, in a style similar to Joyce Dennys' wonderful illustrations.

The best way to sell this sweet little book is to give you an example - I'll pick the title poem, and a few images of the sketches. I think this would make a fun gift for anyone with a retro taste in books - or something to pop on the bedside table in your guest room. Fold down the pertinent pages if you want your guest to make an early exit...

The Perfect Pest

She merely sent a wire to say
That she was coming down to stay.
She brought a maid of minxsome look
Who promptly quarrelled with the cook.
She smoked, and dropped with ruthless hand,
Hot ashes on the Steinway grand.

She strode across the parquet floors
In hobnail boots from out of doors.
She said the water wasn't hot, and Jane gave notice on the spot.
She snubbed the wealthy dull relations
From whom my wife had expectations.

She kept her bell in constant peals,
She never was in time for meals,
And when at last with joyful heart
We thrust her in the luggage cart,
In half an hour she came again
And said, "My dear, I've missed the train!"


  1. Brilliant!!!! I was totally born in the wrong era, oh! to find a time-machine to transport me to the 1930s!

  2. Naomi - weren't we all! Although I wouldn't have fancied fighting in the war...

  3. Living on Cape Cod where we are inundated with guests both invited and otherwise, I love that poem! I would like to copy it in calligraphy and hang it on the guest room door! Sounds like such a fun book with great illustrations. Simon, you have become my new addiction and my shelves are full of your recommendations.

  4. Chuckling with Diane's comment -- one for the guest bath indeed. :) I've long thought I was born at the wrong time...until I feel my air-conditioner kick on and hear the hum of the dishwasher...truly I live way too pampered a life compared to our predecessors!

  5. Diane - what a lovely thing to say - I'm glad your shelves are filling up! And how funny it would be to hang on the guest room door... although maybe not politic ;)

    Susan - I know, it's a quandary, isn't it! The fun of the 1930s, against the lure of things like the internet. I would say air-con and dishwasher, but I don't have either...

  6. Oops, that was me, Simon, but my colleague is signed in here...

  7. Thank you so much. My father read it to me when I was seven years old, in the small district town of Sholapur in India, nearly 70 years ago. There's also a poem in the book entitled, "The Perfect Host."

    He met me at the station of my choice
    With chauffeur, footman, and Rolls Royce.
    Assuaged the journey's aftermath
    Within a vast and boiling bath.
    His valet pressed in perfect fold
    A dress suit that was worn and old.

    An heiress with a smile divine
    Sat next to me when we went to dine.
    He gave us quails and sturgeon roe
    And washed them down with Veuve Cliquot.

    He mounted me for every hunt,
    And when my razor's edge was blunt
    He lent me his, and what is more
    He had spare collar studs galore.

    At every beat, from first to last,
    His pheasants came, both thick and fast.
    He took my I.O.U. and rent it,
    Said "Come again," and really meant it.

    1. How lovely to find someone else who has read this book, and has such fond memories of it! I must dig out my copy for a re-read.


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