Friday, 28 March 2014

The uses of philately

The judge greeted them charmingly and for half an hour Leslie and Spiro sat at his table sipping coffee while Leslie talked to him in voluble, but inaccurate Greek. ...
They returned to our table where we waited agog for the news.

'Charming old boy,'  said Leslie.  'Couldn't have been nicer.  I promised to get him some stamps.  Who do we know in England who collects them?'
'Well, your father used to,'  said Mother.  'He was a very keen philatelist when he was alive.'
'Gollys, don't say that, Mrs Durrells,' said Spiro, in genuine anguish.
A short pause ensued while the family explained to him the meaning of the word philatelist.

'I still don't see how this is going to help the case,' said Larry.  'Even if you inundate him with penny blacks.'...

For the next few days Leslie, convinced that Spiro could obstruct the course of justice, wrote to everybody he could think of in England and demanded stamps.  The result was that our mail increased threefold and practically every space in the villa was taken up by piles of stamps which, whenever a wind blew, would drift like autumn leaves across the room to the vociferous, snarling delight of the dogs.  Many of the stamps began to look slightly the worse for wear,

'You're not going to give him those, are you?' said Larry disdainfully surveying a pile of mangled, semi-masticated stamps that Leslie had rescued from the jaws of Roger half an hour previously.

'Well, stamps are supposed to be old, aren't they?' said Leslie belligerently.
'Old, perhaps,'  said Larry,  'but not covered with enough spittle to give him hydrophobia.'
'Well, if you can think of a better bloody plan, why don't you suggest it?'  enquired Leslie.
'My dear fellow, I don't mind,' said Larry.  'When the judge is running around biting all his colleagues and you are languishing in a Greek prison, don't blame me.'

'Well, dear,' said Mother adjusting her spectacles, 'I do think he may be right, you know.  After all, some of those stamps do look a little, well, you know, second-hand.'
'He wants stamps and he's bloody well going to get stamps,' said Leslie.
And stamps the poor judge got, in a bewildering variety of sizes, shapes, colours and stages of disintegration."

Birds, Beasts and Relatives  Gerald Durrell

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