A Life Tramping No3


‘God made Deck Officers. It took an Act of Parliament to create Engineering Officers’ was, and is probably still, an oft-quoted phrase used by Merchant Marine Deck Officers worldwide.
My riposte to this perception, as an Engineering Officer was ‘It’s us that drive the ship chum, you just point it!’
The wise Captain always goes out of his way not to alienate the Chief Engineer, and it’s the wise Engineer that ensures that the Captain’s shower water is at least warm.
If they leave the sea before the liver rots, and the years allow a change of job, wise Captains become pilots or insurance salesmen and wise Chief Engineers become Marine Surveyors or plumbers. However, most Captains and Chief Engineers stay at sea until they retire and foster the ‘Oil and Water’ syndrome.
When a ship’s company are locked up in a steel box for months on end, personalities clash, it’s inevitable. And you would think the older, and more experienced the seafarer becomes, the more the understanding of human passions and their intrinsic bellicose qualities would grow. That time would mellow the older sea dog; he would grow older and wiser.
Not so! The longer the voyages and the older you get, the wider the gap between Deck and Engine room personnel. And it all starts from the top.
In twenty-five years of roving the seven seas, on anything from brand new eighty-five thousand tonne bulk carriers to six hundred tonne rust buckets, with the most wonderful characters of every nationality going, I know why. It’s Empire building. Let me explain. The older you get, the higher up the ladder you climb. Eventually, you end up as the Captain of your own vessel or conversely Chief Engineer and as time marches on you tend to stand still. You’ve reached your peak; there is no other summit to surmount.
After a couple of years at the top, the novelty starts to wear off and the rot sets in. And so does cirrhoses of the liver in many cases. Of course, you go through the motions. After all, you’re in charge, but the motions have had a long time to stereotype. You know it all, that’s why you’ve been given the job, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Time doesn’t stand still. In a fast changing world, new innovations in all aspects of shipboard life from navigation aids, to cargo handling; from computer designated maintenance scheduling to intricate engine management systems come thick and fast.
And always more blasted paperwork, more ISO rules, more Health and Safety regulations and new human resource procedures …the list is endless. Gradually your ways become obsolete, your junior officers know more than you do. The worm has turned; you become the person you swore you wouldn’t when you were climbing the ranks.
Now the defence mechanism kicks in. Blame the other bloke; it’s never your fault. After all, you’ve seen it all, done it all, your faculties have never been sharper…have they? It works both ways. The Captain blames the Chief Engineer and vice versa. And the sooner the respective departments know where the blame for the latest cock up lies the better. That is when you start Empire building.
This passing of the buck worms its way throughout the respective departments, it’s like a slow acting virus. The junior officers of both departments know their respective heads have lost the plot, but loyalty comes into play. That’s the Empire. This aspect then filters through both the Deck and Engineering branches until, in extreme cases, open hostility exists.
This hostility manifests itself in various forms. I have, as a Junior Engineer actually spent a whole night chaperoning a Chief Engineer around a port’s red light district while the Captain roamed the same port’s streets with a loaded revolver, looking for him. The cause of the argument is lost in the mists of time but had something to do with a bet involving a girl and a case of beer when they were both cadets together and always surfaced when a minor disagreement on board the ship blossomed into a manhunt. The next day they shrugged their differences off and carried on working together as they had for years. It was the most natural thing in the world.
While at sea the Officers saloon is a veritable hotbed of hostility if the two four ringers are at loggerheads. I watched with fascination one lunch time when in the middle of a verbal diatribe between the Captain and Chief Engineer, the latter rose to his feet to emphasise a point and shot his full set of dentures into the Captains soup. Without a pause, the Chief leant over and picked them out of the purple-faced Captain’s bowl with his fingers, plonked them back into his mouth and continued his tirade.
Another manifestation of hostilities between the two parties is silence. Nobody speaks. Notes are rather passed for the salt or pepper rather than actually have to converse with the ‘other side’. It’s the same with orders from or to the bridge; all done through third parties because the respective heads were not on speaking terms.
Then there are the petty retribution aspects. The Engineers have a powerful arsenal at their disposal. Turning off air conditioning, turning off heating, turning off sanitary water pumps or in extreme cases poisoning the drinking water: as it is well known that Engineers only drink beer and never wash.
The Deck department’s favourite method of being bloody minded is to bugger the Engineers about with ballast pumping. Especially pumping out tanks that are already as dry as a bone, but because they can’t be bothered to actually sound the tanks they leave the onus on the Engineer to squeeze the last drop of rusty water out and then get the poor bloody Engineer to sound the tanks for them. Another trick is to not signal ‘Finished with Engines’ when the vessel berths. The Engineers hang around the telegraph, cursing, but can’t move, and all the time the Deck Departments getting fixed up with taxis to go ashore. By the time the Engineers emerge they find an empty ship and no bloody taxis.
A very notable facet of this enmity between warring Captains and Chief Engineers is a very strong love/hate relationship. The two antagonists have usually sailed with each other for years and years. Neither of them would sail with anyone else. Very often they are respective Godfathers to each other’s children. Sometimes they are related through marriage. They go on leave together, they join the ship together and they grow old together. And they know each other better than their wives could possibly do. After all when you reckon it up they’ve spent most of their lives together.

A Life Tramping No 2

No 2 Soojin Stanley

Stanley (Soojin) Penberthy, from Cornwall, a lovely stout, ruddy-faced chap who would have been more at home as a Holiday Camp comic, had been elevated from cabin boy on board a fishing boat to Chief Engineer over a period of about half a century. During that time he had spent about thirty years as a ‘Professional Third.’
To be a ‘Professional Third’ is to join a venerable body of men who generally have no wish to climb the seniority ladder, that or any other type of ladder come to that. And, not just because of indifferent talents in the machinery domain.
Some of the ‘Professional Thirds’ I’ve sailed with have a profound and deep-rooted knowledge of their particular ship’s machinery and its idiosyncrasies, most of which they’ve had a hand in ‘modifying’, in order that nobody else knows for example, how a particular ‘ballast pump’ actually pumps, or how to start the main engine. This knowledge of how particular things work in the engine room is their closely guarded secret and keeps them in a job for many a year.
In others, what hampered or curtailed their advancement, if they wanted it, is any mechanical knowledge. What you might call as having a ‘mechanical bent’ was as alien to them as some Chief Officers I know chartering their way to the wheelhouse.
Stanley was one of the latter. He knew it, he didn’t care and he was one of the happiest men I’ve ever met. No matter that his ability to read and write was severely hampered by senile dementia setting in before he had mastered the alphabet, he got round that problem like he got round every problem, by laughing it off. He even had a nephew, Adrian working in the Company, but more of the famous Adrian later; he deserves a chapter on his own.
Stanley’s rise through the ranks involved a masterful stroke of good luck, which entailed him saving the life of the Company Chairman’s wife, who, after a party on board, had fallen into a harbour and was on the point of drowning when Stanley fished her out with a marlin spike. From that moment on his climb up the seniority ladder was assured. Whether he wanted to be called a Chief Engineer is neither here nor there. At heart, he was still a ‘Professional Third,
By the time I met him he was the Chief Engineer onboard the twenty-year-old ‘MV Winchesterbrook a three hatch general cargo vessel, of the magical 1598 GRT which classed it as a Coaster. The Middle or Home Trade Articles allowed a certain laxness in certification for the Officers and Dispensations were the order of the day.
The ship itself was of undoubted inherent robustness, it had to be, what with all the weird and wonderful repairs and maintenance that the vessel endured, during the last ten years under Stanley and Co.
I joined the vessel in Newhaven, as a third trip Third Engineer after two trips as an Extra Fifth Engineer ‘Deep Sea’ with grand ideas of the sanctity of rank, the invulnerability of status and a certain mode of dress code.
I donned a white boiler suit and found my way down to the Engine Room. Sitting on a toolbox was a portly fellow, red of face and a thin circle of red hair circumnavigating his ears. He was dressed in a pair of long johns and string vest. In his hand I noticed a paintbrush. On the engine room plates was a tin of black enamel paint. He was painting his shoes.
‘Morning,’ I said, ‘I’m looking for the Chief Engineer.’
‘Hell,’ he exclaimed, looking me up and down. ‘I weren’t ‘specting a Surveyor.’
‘No,’ I said, ‘I’m the new Third Engineer.’
‘Hell,’ he said again, ‘you gave me quite a turn there my flower…can you write?’
‘…er yes.’
‘Proper job,’ he said picking up where he had left off, painting what I could now see as his working shoes. ‘I be goin’ ashore when I finished ‘em’,’ he continued.
‘It might seem an odd question,’ I asked, ‘but why do they need painting?’
He gave me a quizzical look as though I was half demented and said, ‘You never ‘eard of painted black leather shoes my flower.’
The question hung in the air for what seemed an eternity, and then I finally twigged, Patent…he means patent leather. Luckily I had enough gumption not to pursue the matter, which was just as well, as this was the Chief Engineer.
Later, I was sitting down in my cabin, wondering what I’d let myself in for when Stanley arrived with half a dozen beers and told me.
‘Now my flower,’ he said, ‘you said you can write?’
‘I can,’ I told him.
‘I don’t like this ‘ere writin’ caper, there’s too much. What I like doin’ best is soojin’.
‘Washing?’ I said.
‘Soojin’…aye… washin’.’ A far away look came into his eyes, ‘Nothin’ better than clean engine room plates and clean engines and all that other machinery stuff down below.’
After a few beers Stanley, or Soojin, as I found out he was universally known, came to the point. In short, if I did all his paperwork he would do all the soojin. The fact that the ship possessed a Donkeyman who usually did the ‘soojin’ had nothing to do with it; he was relegated to pure mechanical work.
The Second Engineer was an Irish lad, who although of a mild disposition was well past retirement age but possessed a Second Engineers Ticket which covered the Department of Trade’s requirements for this class of vessel to sail Middle Trade. He was extremely arthritic and hardly ever got as far as the Engine Room. When he did, it needed all our combined efforts to help him up back to his cabin again.
He was, however, invaluable with advice, which he gave out from his bunk, regarding the attributes of the various pubs and bars that we would encounter in our next port of call. More often than not he would be the first down the gangway and into the said pubs and bars when the ship tied up, having had a miraculous cure for his poor old joints answered by divine intervention after praying to some obscure Saint.
The next three months went by very amicably. Soojin found all the engine room logs and abstracts neatly written on his desk every week. I found a case of beer in my cabin, courtesy of Soojin every Friday, and the Donkeyman did all the maintenance.
Soojin never seemed to go on leave. This was the time of ‘A’ Articles, when leave could be cashed in or accumulated. The Owners didn’t seem to mind, and neither apparently did Mrs Soojin. The ship ran around the British Isles and near Continent and occasionally ventured as far as the Baltic and the Mediterranean, she had the cleanest engine room in any Coaster in the British Merchant Navy.
Of course, there were moments of anxiety. Some Deck Officers, especially those from ‘Deep Sea’ origins couldn’t quite grasp the working methods of the Engine Room and often made disparaging remarks, especially at meal times. Soojin usually disarmed them with incomprehensible Cornish logic which included calling everybody ‘my flower’.
Soojin eventually went ashore, when new regulations came in, he was well past retirement age. He had saved enough money to buy a small guesthouse in Penzance, it’s called…well guess.

A life Tramping

Cavorting across the seven seas in various states of delicacy for twenty-five odd years has prompted me, twenty- odd years later, to ask why?
Well, it was the glamour. The glamour of the South China Sea that got to me, listening to an old sea dog I knew, telling yarns of the South China bloody Sea and the jolly good time he had there. He was the cellarman at my local pub the Mead House in Penzance, an old priory. Listening with awe, whilst sitting on an upturned barrel sipping half pint glasses of highly intoxicating mead, to tales of gun running, opium dealing, white slave trading and other ebullient traits. There I sat, surrounded by hundreds of cobwebs in a dimly lit Cornish cellar as shadows of god knows what flickered across ancient granite walls There I sat entranced perceiving oriental brigands, lascivious Suzie Wongs. It fair took a young lad’s fancy.
And tramp I did. Sailing from port to port, picking up cargoes in old rust buckets of dubious stability crewed by shipmates of dubious sanity. Put the elements together and a swashbuckling life of heigh-ho on the ocean waves seems writ large.
The owners of these tramps were usually dubious as well. Sometimes they were the captains of the vessel, sometimes shadowy figures living in the back streets of cities dotted across the world dealing in cargoes that sometimes varied widely with those entered in the ship’s manifest. Just tramping round the world, taking your time, ensconced with a sociable set of like-minded blokes was a nice way to spend half your life. Not for us the hectic schedules of Container ships, nor the ‘Tanker Twitch’ which is a universal symptom of all Tanker and Gas Carrier crews worldwide. No rush, no hectic schedules, no irate agents or Charter Companies screaming and certainly no wives.
Herewith then a series of tales. most of which you won’t believe unless you’ve tramped yourself. Then you will nod your head knowingly and say,’that reminds me.’

Something like this…
‘I think we’ll go the nice way round,’ said Farmer John, through a hole in his froth covered beard. John wasn’t a farmer, although his rotund figure and very red face coupled with a natural affability made him a dead cert for one. He was a gourmet as well as the Captain, and the nice way round was, on this voyage, his idea of a ‘Grand Tour’ of bars and restaurants stretching from the north coast of Spain through the Straights of Gibraltar and all points east until we reached our destination which happened this time to be Cyprus.
The ship’s officers happened to be sitting in a pub, two hours after closing time in Hull, an exotic port shoved right up the Humber. The crew, Cape Verdi Islanders, were dotted around the town battened down with various girls of dubious virtue. It was pouring down outside and very dark. We looked out of the window and could see the ship with gangway half askew as the vessel rose with the tide and through Farmer John’s beard a blast of beer-laden fumes erupted, which just about summed up all our feelings.
We had been waiting for five hours for the pilot to board the ship, a rather nice and comfortable 1,500 tonner carrying general cargo vessel christened ‘M.V.George Armfield’. Who or what ‘George Armfield’ remained a mystery. Although rumour had it, he was little-known Goalkeeper who once let in nine goals whilst playing for Norwich against Wolves. Anyway, we would be summoned by a blast on the ship’s whistle, when the pilot arrived, blown by the only man left on the board, the Donkeyman a seventy-five-year-old Cardiff Arab who was too infirm to negotiate the gang- way.
I think it was at this point in the proceedings that a course of action was devised, we always prepared a plan for such eventualities, an act of retribution against the miserable weather. We ordered another round and discussed the ports of call. It seemed to be a good idea, this time, to get across the Bay of Biscay first, and then by chance, have a number of surreptitious machinery failures very near various ports with a tradition of gastronomic excellence on passage to our discharge port in Cyprus.
I was Second Engineer on this voyage and to go the nice way round seemed like a very good idea after eight pints of ale. The Mate thought so as well as he indicated by kicking the Second mate, who had slid underneath the table three hours earlier, and told him to get various charts out, in readiness for the gastronomic dawdle through the Mediterranean.
The third Engineer, Denzil, a lad from Camborn was not widely travelled. His experience of shipping was confined to the King Harry Ferry in Falmouth; a backwards and forward trip of a hundred yards. In fact, he’d never been further than Plymouth in his life until today when he joined the ship. His only work so far was to get the beer in.
A knock at the back door drew our attention. It was the pilot. He said he was unable to get on board as the gangway was now ten feet off the jetty as the tide had come in and nobody had lowered it. He was invited to join us for a quick one and of course, he agreed. Eventually, we stumbled back to the ship and after one or two fractious moments with errant crew trying to smuggle ladies of the night on board we managed to detach ourselves from the quay and set sail. After dropping the pilot off in the estuary and headed down the English channel towards Ushant and thence the Bay of Biscay.
Three days out the Chief Engineer, a grizzled individual who was on his fifteenth Discharge Book and made a point of finding the engine room at least once a trip made his first appearance, we knew he was on board, we could hear him snoring. He sat down at the breakfast table in a three-piece suit and said he was going ashore for a haircut. (This is the seaman’s equivalent of telling your wife you are taking the dog for a walk) It was gently pointed out that he would get rather wet as we were half way through the Bay of Biscay. He glanced out of the porthole, grunted and went back to his cabin.
Santander was the first port of call where we had to call in and pretend to repair a shaft bearing that was running hot. There we feasted on particularly good oysters’ sautéed in Cointreau. Next port of call was Gibraltar, where we took on fuel and the Mate took on rather a lot of his own.
Sardinia was rather a letdown, we stopped there for a dodgy fuel pump but the prawns in margarita had an adverse affect on the digestive system. Sicily was memorable for crayfish marinated in calvados. We had to stop there for imagined urgent repairs to the gearbox. Malta where we needed repairs to an oil cooler, was memorable because the Chief Engineer appeared again in his paying off suit and announced, that he was going to visit ‘The Gut’ as he, ‘Had many old friends there from his war years’. We saw him three days later while we were dining in a rather nice restaurant on scallops in a very good aquavit source; the Chief Engineer was being escorted by the police back to the ship at the time.
We had a fanciful problem with the shaft generator next, just off Crete, and called in for a delicious meal of lobster flavoured with an exquisite retsina dressing. Denzil, the Third Engineer excelled himself on this occasion by ordering a Cornish pasty and getting rather huffy when he was shown the door.
Finally, we headed for Cyprus. We missed it, and stopped a fishing boat to ask the way. The Boat’s Skipper informed us it was two days back the way we had come, but not before we exchanged three bottles of Johnny Walker for a rather nice basket of prawns which the fishing boat skipper cooked for us while we exchanged pleasantries. They went down very well with a Riesling we had picked up on a similar voyage a few months before.
Eventually, a couple or so days later, we arrived at our port of discharge and while lying alongside the berth, we settled ourselves in a seafood restaurant, with a lovely view of the port ‘I think, as we’re loading in Palermo for Antwerp,’ said Farmer John, over a plate of squid in brandy; we’ll go back via……

Journeys Taken on Mother’s Knee

As the crow flies it was a hundred and forty-four miles from our village in Staffordshire to Sydenham in London. Nothing these days. Jump into the car and zoom up the Motorway, with perhaps only a stop for a coffee or pee at the Rank Services to break the journey. Sitting in an air conditioned car with satellite navigation systems, radios, play stations and all the paraphernalia we take for granted to smooth our way. Three hours maximum, perhaps another half hour accounting for the rush hour.

But how different fifty-five years ago when I was a young ten-year-old. Twelve hours minimum along the A5 with more than the occasional stop to replenish father at various hostelries en route, not to mention the breakdowns. Journeys in old cars, long before MOT’s were heard of, in austere times when Motorways were a far away dream and potholed roads, ravaged by wartime use were not high on the list of repair priorities by Government departments.

Mother, father, various dogs and yours truly made this journey at least three times a year to visit grandparents. Christmas, Easter and school holidays were the agreed times, and now in hindsight all the journeys were horrific, or wonderful according to how you remember them. For a start, the cars were nearly always pre 1930 and none of them costs more than fifteen quid. None of them had heaters and most of them had hoods which were torn or held together with sticky tape or coat hanger wire. None of them was capable of more than forty-five mph and that was downhill, with a following wind. Brakes were a hit and miss affair, almost literally and head lights were as dim as a nun’s nightie. Street lights were the same… if there were any. White lines with cat’s eyes suddenly seemed to veer off into muddy ditches or fields and road signs pointed the way to intended destinations via bridle paths and farm tracks.

However we didn’t know any better, it was a way of life, it was normal and so were the drink and drive laws. Father wouldn’t contemplate such a monumental expedition to the Metropolis without a monumental amount of alcohol to steady the nerve. Anyway, he always drove better after a couple or six. And he was a Barrister!

So picture a typical scene. The day before Christmas Eve and Mum and I are all packed and ready for father to come back in the car he has been testing after a day spent underneath putting in new main engine bearings. It’s now early afternoon and father disappeared at eleven. We both know that he’s at the Bull, fortifying himself for the journey ahead, but more than that, being a crafty devil, the journey, his journey is planned according to pub opening and closing times, and there are lots of watering holes along the A5. We stare out of the window; we always stare out of this same window at these times, we’ve done it for years. Any thought about phoning the pub was as alien, in those days, as drinking and driving are today.

Eventually, we hear the car, it’s now about three in the afternoon, and father pulls up outside. He gets out, gives a front tyre a perfunctory kick and opens the bonnet. This is all show; we know that. He thinks we will think he’s been having more trouble with the engine and has spent the last two hours fixing it. We say nothing.

Eventually, we were ensconced in the car, me on mother’s lap, the dog under the dashboard. Three flasks of sweet tea and Marmite sandwiches catered for our hunger pangs and hot water bottles provided the heat, as did various blankets and at least four layers of clothing. The hood was kept down as father thought that the various draughts induced by the exceptional speed he could now induce out of the finely tuned engine would give us lumbago.

By five to six we had got as far as the outskirts of Coventry and father stopped for replenishment at a pub. He said he needed the Gents, which he probably did and he disappeared with alacrity together with our hot water bottles and flasks, into the warm, welcoming bar, leaving us to shiver by the light of a solitary street lamp. The customary Vimto and sweet sherry were brought out to us, together with the newly replenished hot water bottles and flasks.

By seven thirty we were on our way again, by nine we got as far as a nice little pub near Fenny Stratford we had to stop because the engine was overheating! The fact that it is minus five degrees outside, where we are and the engine water temperature gauge registered little more than slightly warm had nothing to do with it. The same pattern follows… sweet sherry for mum and a bottle of Vimto for me, plus the necessary filling up of hot water bottles and flasks. The dog poked his nose out of the door, shivered and declined the invitation to perform against the pub wall. By nine o’ clock father in all his wisdom and swaying gently managed to sprain his wrist whilst cranking the starting handle, a not uncommon occurrence and sometimes used as a ploy to go back into the pub for medicinal purposes. This time, however, he managed to kick the engine into some sort of life by jumping up and down on the handle. Mum and I made the right noises praising his heroic endeavours and huddled together.

We made about another thirty miles before father heard a distinct knocking in the engine and decided we had to stop to investigate. Luckily a pub car park was on hand and father decided he had better go inside to phone grandfather and tell him we may be a little late as the car had developed a distinct big end rattle. The phone call took a good thirty minutes which uncannily coincided with kicking out time. The sprained wrist somehow managed to coax the engine into action and we were off again. Try as we could mother and I, who were very tuned into engine sounds, could hear no discernable rattle, but there again we didn’t expect to.

By the time we reached the outskirts of London, the car had developed a nasty habit of jumping out of gear. Mother was elected to hold it in. Along the Victoria Embankment, we heard Big Ben strike twelve and the clutch started to slip. As we edged past the Oval at a sedate fifteen miles per hour the exhaust fell off and took the brake wires with it, rendering us unstoppable. This state of affairs was not uncommon and we took it in our stride; our stride being stopped when necessary by double declutching into first and allowing the engine to stop us…after a while.

In those days, there was not the traffic that there is today, the police seemed to want to help rather than hinder and when the lights went out as the battery gave a last gasp, we carried on regardless, unworried about prosecutions and all that stuff until at last we reached my grandparents. They, as always, stayed up in case we required a tow but rarely was this necessary, and especially not by grandfather who had an old Austin seven which was more un-roadworthy than our car, to say nothing of grandfather who was himself about as un-roadworthy as a headless chicken trying to cross the road.

Whilst father usually spent the next few days, when pub opening times allowed, repairing the car ready for the journey home, mother and I recuperated from severe frostbite The journey home was just as exhilarating but we usually went the Oxford route on the way home. At least it meant a different view of pub car park walls for mother and me.

Brain Swop Shop

Written 25 years ago, not nostalgia, just a muse.

‘Good morning doctor,’
‘Ah Mr Chapman, welcome to the Brain Swap shop, do sit down.’ The Doctor stabbed a few buttons on his console and stared intently at a screen.
‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘haven’t we met before, I seem to recollect your…’
‘Could have. I’ve only been doing this job for a month, used to be an astronaut, got me name in the paper, quite famous I believe. Had to give it up though, travel sickness you know’
‘Ah, that accounts for it, must have seen you on the telly.’
‘Probably, although I can’t remember anything about it of course. Change of brain cells and so forth.’
‘Of course,’ I said, ‘I’ve been told I was the President of an African Republic once and can’t remember any of my Swiss bank account numbers.’
‘Terrible isn’t it. I sometimes wonder why we want to change our brains at all.’
The Doctor scratched his head, ‘It’s the novelty I suppose.’
Time I thought to drag the doctor out of his rumination. I leant forward. ‘Not in my case it isn’t,’ I told him. ‘This is caused by my wife’s change of circumstances. It is not novelty.’
‘Oh well,’ said the doctor, then swivelled around to his computer and stared at the screen. ‘Let’s have a look at your application form.’
‘I must say, ‘I said, leaning back, ‘You’ve been jolly quick with the paper work.’
The Doctor smiled, ‘Oh we’re quite proficient in this department now the Government has dropped the restriction on only allowing five brains per lifetime.’
‘Has it?’ I said.
‘You should know. It says here you’re the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.’
‘Am I?’
He jabbed a finger on the screen. ‘Says here you are.’
‘I wondered why I was chairing these high-powered meetings. Mind you I’ve had a lot on my mind recently; what with Winifred’s condition and so forth…mind you come to think of it I did think they were a pretty rum lot, I wonder if…?’
‘Well the brain you’ve got now has a waiting list of six people, so you should be able to trade it in for something half decent.’ The Doctor jabbed at the keyboard, ‘but according to regulations I must ask you why you want to change?’
I looked at him. I rather hoped he’d not ask.’ It’s the wife,’ I said painfully, ‘she’s inherited her mother’s brain you see. The old bat left it to her in her will, and Winifred was close to her mother and feels obliged, as it were, to comply with her wishes.’
‘What is she now?’
‘A topless lap dancer.’
The doctor grimaced, ‘Hardly goes with your image,’
‘I should say not,’ I said, the fog suddenly clearing, ‘There I am chairing these dynamic meetings, discussing matters of state and what have you, when the wife comes in half naked, jumps onto the table and starts gyrating her navel and god knows what else into the faces of what I suppose is the Shadow Cabinet.’
‘How old is she?’
‘Good god, what happened to her mother?’
‘Fell off the stage at the Trocadero and drowned in a bath of Champagne.’
‘Very nasty,’ said the doctor.
‘They say she came up for air twice,’ I winced at the memory, ‘But I don’t believe ‘em… She only drank Gin.’
‘Is her brain alright?’
‘I think so they got it out before rigour mortise set in.’
The doctor sat back, ‘Well,’ he said punching some more keys, ‘I can’t see any problems, you pass all the criteria.’ He peered intently at the screen, ‘My word you’ve had some interesting brains in the past,’
‘Have I?’
‘One hundred and twenty odd brain years. Two Prime Ministers, The Archbishop of Canterbury, a champion pole vaulter and President of some obscure Republic in East Africa, for a start.’
‘Pity we can’t remember past lives,’ I said.
‘Good job in your case I should think, you’ve been shot fifteen times and run through with an assegai twice.’
‘Have I?’
‘Yes…but no good dwelling on the past, what do you fancy now?’
‘Well,’ I said sinking back into the chair and putting my hands behind my head, ‘I thought about something in the arts field might be interesting.’
The doctor pressed some more keys and we watched as a printer gurgled into action. He read the printout. ‘You may be in luck,’ he said, ‘We have a ballet dancer’s brain just come in, it might suit you, sort of fits in with your wife’s lifestyle, both working at the same sort of thing.’
‘Why did the ballet dancer want a change?’
‘It was forced on him actually,’ replied the doctor, ‘he only had one leg.’
‘How did he…?’
‘Oh we fitted him up with one of those artificial screw on ones of course, but every time he did an anti-clockwise pirouette he unscrewed himself. Very disconcerting for the audience.’
‘Let me think of that one,’ I said. ‘What else have you got?’
Well,’ said the doctor, ‘The trouble is most of the swaps in the arts field seem perfectly content at the moment and not many want to change with politicians. Hang on we’ve got a pop singer, he’s been on the books for quite a while.’
‘What’s wrong with him?’
‘He’s stone deaf.’
‘Stone deaf?’ I gasped.
‘Yes, he had six number one hits before anyone noticed.’
‘What is he now?’
‘Nothing…he’s in limbo.’
‘Can you do that?’ I asked, mind whirring.
‘Oh yes,’ replied the doctor, shuffling some papers, ‘Just leave the department with a list of preferred options and we’ll pop you in a freezer until something comes up.
‘How long can you stay in limbo?’ I asked, somewhat taken aback.
‘Three years is the maximum. After that we take a random brain and fit you up with that; a bit like the lottery really.’
‘Oh, I bet that leads to all sorts of…’
‘Well we can’t have bodies and brains cluttering up the place.’
‘No,’ I said, ‘otherwise people would stay here forever, frozen up and become a real drag on the taxpayer.
‘Exactly ,’ said the doctor, warming to the subject. ‘It all started with the other organs of course. Livers, kidneys, spleens and so forth.’
‘I know, jolly handy when you can pop into a body bank and pick up a new part.’
‘You’re so right,’ said the doctor,’ I’ve drunk myself to death regularly and had three new livers fitted.’
‘I’m on my third set of lungs,’ I said, ‘Lovely when you can smoke sixty a day and not give a damn about the old wheezing and coughing.’
The doctor gave me a conspiratorial sort of wink, ‘Tell you the truth I only wanted this job so I could get myself fitted out with a new set of family jewels.’ He smirked. ‘Perks of the job don’t you know. I’ve got contacts in other departments; they’ve promised to give me the nod when something decent comes in.’
‘Say no more,’ I said ‘but if you don’t mind me saying so, you don’t look much like a doctor.’
‘Oh this,’ he pointed to his forehead which was impregnated with a large purple tattoo. ‘Yes I must get it removed. Can’t go around doctoring with ‘Manchester United rules OK’ plastered across my face for ever.’
‘Bad for the image.’ I agreed.
‘Suppose I must have been a football hooligan a few brains ago,’ he muttered.
‘It never fails to surprise me,’ I went on, ‘I mean when you think what strides have been made in the last few years. Now you can just wander into any of these swap shops and get a whole new persona. Why just a few years ago you had to go through life with what you started off with.’
‘It’s good isn’t’ he replied, ‘A quick snip here and there and the next minute you’re off the operating table sitting up in bed with a cup of tea and a biscuit and a whole new person inside your head.’
I nodded agreement, ‘But I’m glad that the powers that be stopped issuing synthetic brains,’ I added. ‘I mean who wants to go around with a computer stuck in your head.’
‘It wasn’t that. It was the weight of the batteries you had to lug around with you. It was all right when you could plug yourself into the mains at home or work but not much fun otherwise. I mean who wants to lug two bloody big lorry batteries around strapped to your back when you’re wandering around Tesco’s or jigging the night away at the local disco.’
‘To say nothing of the Olympics,’ I added, I mean bit of a disadvantage when you’re going for gold in the high jump.’
‘Exactly, mind you, tell you confidentially we’ve had a bit of trouble fixing bodies up with brains. People don’t always tell us the truth about any abnormalities they might have.’
‘I suppose you’ve got to be careful.’
‘I should say so. We’ve had some god almighty cock-ups.’
‘Like what?’
‘Well we had in Interior Designer who didn’t tell us he was colour blind; created havoc wherever he worked.’
‘What happened to him?’
The doctor sniggered, ‘Fixed him up as a champion snooker player, just to get our own back.’
‘I suppose, ‘I said, ‘You get a lot of people in here applying for brains without thinking of the consequences?’
The doctor rolled his eyes, ‘Do you know, my predecessor actually fixed up a BBC football commentator who had an uncontrollable stammer. By the end of full time he was still trying to describe the bloody kickoff.’
‘Gosh!’ I said.
‘Too right,’ said the doctor. He leant back in his chair and gave me an appraising sort of look. ‘I could get you a very good deal on a juggler. These ones even got a guaranteed eighteen months circus contract.’
‘Sounds interesting,’ I said, ‘What’s wrong with him?’
‘Cross-eyed, kept dropping his balls.’
‘How very careless.’
‘They kept him on at the circus for a while, though as a catcher in a trapeze act, until we fixed him up with something.’
‘I’m glad I wasn’t his partner,’ I replied, mind-boggling.’ But what I really want is something in the real arts.
’We’ve had a wine taster one that came in yesterday for a swap.’
‘Why did he want to change?’
‘He didn’t, it was forced on him. Kept getting the sack, an absolute alcoholic, chronic shakes, kept swallowing the wine, wouldn’t spit it out,’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘I want something that will fit in with my wife’s routine.’
‘Well can’t you get her to change her mind?’ he asked.
‘No, she’s absolutely adamant. I think she quite enjoys it.’
‘Everybody to their own I suppose, but if you ask me I think she needs her head examining.’
‘I suppose there’s no use hanging around, for say, an opera singer?’
The doctor pushed another few buttons,’ we’ve got one here who’s looking for a swap; had him on the books for weeks now but I wouldn’t recommend him.’
‘Why not.’
‘Got a cleft palate.’
‘Oh right,’ I mumbled. ‘Anything in the classical Shakespearean mould?’
‘Only one, a dyslexic brain, it’s OK but can only play Falstaff, and that took the man whose got it five years to learn the part, so he has to wait for Henry the Fourth to come round, which isn’t very often. He’s been on our books for months.’
‘Doesn’t sound too bad,’ I said, ‘plenty of time off…that’ll do me.’
‘Are you sure, I mean if you can’t learn your lines you are gong to be a bit stuck with this Falstaff chap? ’
‘No, I’ve made my mind up,’ I said. ‘When can you fit me in?’
The doctor looked at the screen. ‘Next Tuesday be alright, ten in the morning?’
‘I tell you what though, the surgeon will need watching.’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘why’s that?’
‘He used to be the wine taster I was telling you about.’

Running the Gauntlet in Mogadishu.

Running the Gauntlet in Mogadishu.
A newspaper article I wrote in January 1993 for the Cape Times in South Africa.

A burst of small-arms fire. I turned Fleetwood Mac down a bit and waited for the answering shell to explode. It burst through Christine McVie’s Songbird. Cape Town’s Sea Point on a bad Saturday night had nothing on downtown Mogadishu in Somalia, East Africa.

The M.V. Esbjerg was a ship chartered by Red Cross and built nearly thirty years ago. Tied loosely against the dock wall she’s jumpy, just like the crew. We just wanted to get the hell out. Up to three times a month, we would bring relief supplies to war-torn Somalia from Mombasa. Rice, beans, cooking oil, medical supplies as well as a hundred cases of beer for the Red Cross workers. They deserved it. Mostly, though, the beer goes in bribes to the local and devout Moslem local mafia Moslem port authority who are corrupt beyond compare. They extort money from the local workforce in return for work permits and then control and supervise the looting with rifle butts.

Then, of course, there are the Red Cross workers. They are shot regularly and if still alive taken to hospital by friends. The doctors and nurses live and work under appalling conditions. The ship’s medical locker is opened and morphine, bandages and various pills are sent. The hospital has no supplies; they were looted a long time ago.

The Somalian women, old before their time, come down to the ship carrying babies when it gets dark. They come to sift through the dirt and dust for grains of rice that are left on the quayside after the ship has discharged its cargo. Never mind the probability of rape or indiscriminate shooting, it’s worth the gamble.

The bodies that float past the ship once or twice a day causes a fit of frenzy. The body is dragged out and stripped of whatever clothing remains. These garments are sold to the highest bidder in the marketplace. The bullet holes are taken for granted.

The marketplace includes the ship. Traders line the vessel’s side, selling looted luxury cars, fax machines, video cameras, watches, freezers and microwave ovens. The temptation to buy is high but an hour later a boy of ten could hold you up with an AK47 and demand it back. You don’t argue.

I look out of my porthole and watch one of the many armed militia masquerading as port officials shooting their rifles. The direction of aim varies according to the amount of alcohol drunk or ‘dagga’ smoked. They have one thing in common, these trigger happy brigands, not uniform or age, not really any allegiance to any particular warlord or military unit. Just regular flip-flops on their feet. Boys of ten are deemed old enough- if they are big enough to carry an AK47 for looting and killing.

An Arab dhow crept into the harbour a few days ago to take away Arab refugees. Men women and children crowded on board. The vessel was shelled and the bows were blown off. Those who lived jumped overboard and tried to swim to safety. Safety to them was the shark infested sea. None made it- they were all shot before they got half way across the harbour.

Perhaps it would have done some good to have had a United Nations observer on our ship. Mixing with American captain Chris Ross, Pakistani Mate Hussain and a crew from all over Africa. I was the Chief Engineer, a Brit now living in Cape Town.
The Red Cross boys and girls on the ground in Somalia are magnificent. Don’t ask them, though, what they think of all the armchair opinion that spouts from so-called ‘”do gooders”. Don’t ask what they think of African politics and don’t even think of asking them what the solutions are. It’s unprintable.


As the Language of the Community of Gipseys is very expressive, and different from all others, we think we shall gratify the curious by publishing a specimen of it.

* * * * *

ABRAM, naked, without clothes, or scarce enough to cover the nakedness.

Ambi-dexter, one that goes snacks in gaming with both parties; also a lawyer that takes fees of a plaintiff and defendant at once.

Alel-Wackets, blows given on the palm of the hand with a twisted handkerchief, instead of a ferula; a jocular punishment among seamen, who sometimes play at cards for wackets, the loser suffering as many strokes as he has lost games.

Abram Cove, among thieves, signifies a naked or poor man; also a lusty strong rogue.

Adam, Tiler, a pickpocket’s associate, who receives the stolen goods.

Air and Exercise. He has had air and exercise, i.e., has been whipped at the cart’s tail; or, as it is generally expressed, at the cart’s arse.

Alls, the Five Alls is a country sign, representing five human figures, each having a motto under him. The first is a king in his regalia; his motto, I govern all: the second a bishop in his pontificals; motto, I pray for all: third, a lawyer in his gown; motto, I plead for all: fourth, a soldier in his regimentals, fully accoutred; with the motto, I fight for all: and the fifth, a poor countryman with his scythe and rake; motto, I pay for all.

Amen Curler, a parish clerk.

Anodyne Necklace, a halter.

Arch Rogue, or Dimber Damber Upright Man, the chief of a gang of gipseys.

Arch Doxy, signifies the same in rank among the female canters or gipseys.

Ard, hot.

Autumn Mort, a married woman; also a female beggar with several children, hired to excite charity.

Autumn, a church; also married.

Autumn bawler, a preacher.

Autumn cacklers or prick-ears, dissenters of whatever denomination.

Autumn divers, church pickpockets; but often used for churchwardens, overseers of the poor, sidesmen, and others, who manage the poor’s money.

Autumn jet, a parson.

Babes in the Wood, criminals in the stocks.

Back’d, dead.

Badge Coves, parish pensioners.

Balsam, money.

Bam, a jocular imposition, the same as humbug.

Bandog, a bailiff, or his followers; a sergeant, or his yeomen; also a fierce mastiff.

Bandero, a widow’s mourning peak; also a musical instrument.

Baptised, rum, brandy, or any other spirits that have been lowered with water.

Barker, a salesman’s servant that walks before the shop, and cries, coats, gowns, &c., what d’ye buy?

Barking irons, pistols, from their explosion resembling the barking of a dog.

Barnacles, a good job, or a snack easily got; also, the irons worn by felons in gaols.

Barrel Fever, he died of the barrel fever; he killed himself by drinking.

Battner, an ox.

Bawbee, a halfpenny.

Baudrons, a cat.

Beak, a justice of the peace, or magistrate.

Beard splitter, a whoremaster, or a beadle.

Beater cases, boots.

Bellows, the lungs.

Belly cheat, an apron.

Bill of sale, a widow’s weeds.

Bing, to go, bing avast; get you gone. Binged avast in a darkmans; stole away in the night. Bing we to Rumvilck; shall we go to London.

Bingo, brandy, or other spirituous liquor.

Bingo boy, a dram drinker.

Bingo mort, a female dram drinker.

Bingowaste, get you hence.

Black fly, the greatest drawback on the farmer is the black fly, i.e. the parson.

Bleating rig, sheep-stealing.

Blind harpers, beggars counterfeiting blindness, playing on fiddles, &c.

Black box, a lawyer.

Black Indies, Newcastle, from whence the coals are brought.

Black spy, the devil.

Blind cheek, the breech.

Blowen, a whore.

Bluffer, an innkeeper, or victualler.

Boarding school, Bridewell, Newgate, or any other prison, or house of correction.

Bob, a shoplifter’s assistant, or one that receives and carries off stolen goods.

Bob ken, or a Brownmanken, a well furnished house.

Bone, to apprehend, seize, or arrest.

Bone box, the mouth.

Bone Darkmans, a good night.

Bone setter, a hard-trotting horse.

Booby hutch, a one-horse chaise, noddy, buggy, or leathern bottle.

Borde, a shilling.

Bouncing cheat, a bottle.

Bracket face, ugly, ill-favoured.

Brown George, an ammunition loaf.

Buck’s face, a cuckold.

Bufe, a dog.

Butt’s eye, a crown, or five shilling piece.

Bung, a purse, pocket, or fob.

Bur, a hanger-on, a dependant.

Bum bailiff, a sheriff’s officer who arrests debtors; so called perhaps from following his prey, and being at their bums, or as the vulgar phrase is, hard at their a—s. Blackstone says it is a corruption of bound bailiff, from their being obliged to give bond for their good behaviour.

Bum brusher, a schoolmaster.

Bus-napper, a constable.

Bus-napper’s kenchin, a watchman.

Bye-blow, a bastard.

Calle, a cloak or gown.

Cank, dumb.

Canniken, the plague.

Cap, to swear.

Captain Queernabs, a fellow in poor clothes.

Caravan, a good round sum of money about a man.

Case, a house, shop, or warehouse.

Cassun, cheese.

Caster, a cloak.

Calfskin fiddle, a drum. To smack calfskin; to kiss the book in taking the oath. It is held by the St. Giles’s casuists, that by kissing one’s own thumb instead of smacking calfskin, the guilt of taking a false oath is avoided.

Canticle, a parish clerk.

Canting, preaching with a whining affected tone, perhaps a corruption of chaunting; some derive it from Andrew Cant, a famous Scotch preacher, who used that whining manner of expression. Also, a kind of gibberish used by thieves and gipseys, called, likewise, pedlar’s French.

Catamaran, an old scraggy woman; from a kind of float, made of spars and yards lashed together, for saving shipwrecked persons.

Catch Club, a member of the catch club; a bum bailiff.

Chanticleer, a cock.

Charactered, or Lettered, burnt in the hand. They have palmed the character upon him, they have burned him in the hand.

Charm, a picklock.

Chates, the gallows.

Chats, lice.

Chanter culls, grub-street writers, who compose songs and carrols for ballad singers.

Cherubims, peevish children, because cherubim and seraphim continually do cry.

Cheat-the-devil, a dicky.

Chife, a knife, file, or saw.

Chosen Pells, highwaymen who rob in pairs, in the streets and squares of London; to prevent being followed by the sound of their horses’ shoes on the stones, they shoe them with leather.

Chuck farthing, a parish clerk.

Clank napper, a silver tankard.

Clickman Toad, a watch; also, an appellation for a West countryman, said to have arisen from the following—a West countryman, who had never seen a watch, found one on a heath near Pool, which, by the motion of the hand, and the noise of the wheels, he concluded to be a living creature of the toad kind; and, from its clicking, he named it a clickman toad.

Clowes, rogues.

Cloy, thief, robber, &c.

Cloyes, thieves, robbers, &c.

Cly, money; also, a pocket. He has filed a cly; he has picked a pocket.

Cold burning, a punishment inflicted by private soldiers, on their comrades, for any trifling offences of their mess laws; it is administered in the following manner—the prisoner is set against the wall, with the arm which is to be burned tied as high above his head as possible; the executioner then ascends a stool, and having a bottle of cold water, pours it slowly down the sleeve of the delinquent, patting him, and leading the water gently down his body, till it runs out at the bottom of his trowsers—this is repeated to the other arm, if he is sentenced to be burned in both.

Cloak, a silver tankard.

Coach wheel, or a fore coach wheel, half-a-crown; a hind coach wheel, a crown.

Cobblecotter, a turnkey.

Collar day, execution day.

Colquarron, a man’s neck.

Comefa, a shirt, or shift.

Commission, a shirt.

Comfortable impudence, a wife.

Cooler, a woman.

Costard, the head.

Court card, a gay fluttering coxcomb.

Cow’s baby, a calf.

Cow-handed, awkward, not dextrous.

Crab shells, shoes.

Cramp word, sentence of death passed on a criminal by a judge:—he has just undergone the cramp word; sentence has just been passed upon him.

Crew, a knot or gang: the canting crew are thus divided into twenty-three orders:—


1. Rufflers.

2. Upright Men.

3. Hookers, or Anglers.

4. Rogues.

5. Wild Rogues.

6. Priggers, or Prancers.

7. Pailliards.

8. Fraters.

9. Jarkmen, or Patricoes.

10. Fresh Water Mariner’s or Whip Jackets.

11. Drummerers.

12. Drunken Tinkers.

13. Swaddlers, or Pedlars.

14. Abrams.


1. Demanders for Glimmer or Fire.

2. Bawdy Baskets.

3. Morts.

4. Autumn Morts.

5. Walking Morts.

6. Doxies.

7. Delles.

8. Kinchin Morts.

9. Kinchin Coves.

Crookmans, hedges.

Coxy, a stupid fellow.

Crook, sixpence.

Croker, a groat, or fourpence.

Croppen, the tail of any thing.

Cucumbers, tailors.

Cuffin cove, a drunken fellow.

Cull, a fellow.

Cut his stick, run away.

Culp, a kick, or blow.

Cup hot, drunk.

Cursitors, petty fogging attornies.

Cussin, a man.

Darby, ready money.

Dace, twopence;—tip me a dace; lend me twopence.

Dag, a gun.

Damber, or Dimber, a rascal.

Dancers, stairs.

Darkmans, night.

Dash, a tavern drawer.

Dawbe, a bribe or reward for secret service.

Decus, a crown.

Degen, a sword.

Diddle, gin.

Diggers, spurs.

Dimber Damber, a top-man among the canting crew; also the chief rogue of the gang, or the greatest cheat.

Dimbermort, a pretty wench.

Doash, a cloak.

Dobin rig, stealing ribbons from haberdashers early in the morning, or late at night, generally practised by women in the disguise of maid-servants,

Doctor, milk and water, with a little rum and some nutmeg; also the name of a composition used by distillers, to make spirits appear stronger than they really are.

Doctors, loaded dice that will run but two or three chances—they put the doctors upon him; they cheated him with loaded dice.

Dodsey, a woman; perhaps a corruption of Doxey.

Downy cove, a smart fellow.

Drumbelow, a dull fellow.

Dunnikin, a necessary, or little-house.

Dunaker, a stealer of cows and calves.

Eriffs, rogues just initiated, and beginning to practise.

Eternity box, a coffin.

Facer, a bumper without lip room.

Families, rings.

Famms, hands.

Fastener, a warrant.

Fawney, a ring.

Feeder, a spoon:—to nab the feeder; to steal a spoon.

Fermerdy beggars, all those who have not the sham sores or clymes.

Ferret, a pawnbroker or tradesman, that sells goods to young spendthrifts upon trust, at excessive rates, and then hunts them without mercy, and often throws them into jail, where they perish for their debt.

Fidlam Ben, general thieves; called also St. Peter’s sons, having every finger a fish-hook.

Flag, a groat.

Flash, a periwig.

Flaybottomist, a bum-thrasher, or schoolmaster.

Flick, old-fashioned, or sly.

Flicker, a drinking-glass.

Flicking, to cut, cutting; as flick me some panea and cassan, cut me some bread and cheese.

Flute, the recorder of London, or any other town.

Flyers, shoes or boots.

Fogus, tobacco: tip me a gage of fogus; give me a pipe of tobacco.

Froglanders, Dutchmen.

Frummagemmed, choked, strangled, or hanged.

Furmen, aldermen.

Gaberlunzie, a beggar.

Gan, a mouth.

Gans, the lips.

Gage, a liquor pot, or a tobacco pipe.

George, a half-crown piece.

Gem, a fire.

Gentry cove, a gentleman.

Gibberish, the cant language of thieves and gipseys, called pedlars’s French, St. Giles’s Greek, and the Flash tongue: also the mystic language of Geber, used by chemists. Gibberish likewise means a sort of disguised language, formed by inserting any consonant between each syllable of an English word; in which case it is called the gibberish of the letter inserted; if f, it is the f gibberish; if g, the g gibberish; as in the sentence, How do you do? Howg dog youg dog?

Gigg, a nose: snitchell his gigg; fillip his nose: grunter’s gigg; a hog’s snout. Gigg is also a high one-horse chaise.

Gipseys, a set of wandering vagrants found in the country. When a fresh recruit is admitted into this fraternity, he is to take the following oath, administered by the principal maunder, after going through the annexed forms:—

First, a new name is given him, by which he is ever after to be called; then standing up in the middle of the assembly, and directing his face to the dimber damber, or principal man of the gang, he repeats the following oath, which is dictated to him by some experienced member of the fraternity:

I, Crank Cuffin, do swear to be a true brother, and that I will in all things obey the commands of the great tawney prince, and keep his council, and not divulge the secrets of my brethren.

I will never leave nor forsake the company, but observe and keep all the times of appointment, either by day or night in every place whatever.

I will not teach any one to cant, nor will I disclose any of our mysteries to them.

I will take my prince’s part against all that shall oppose him, or any of us, according to the utmost of my ability: nor will I suffer him, or any one belonging to us, to be abused by any strange abrams, rufflers, hookers, pailliards, swaddlers, Irish toyles, swigmen, whip jacks, jarkmen, bawdy baskets, domerars, clapper dogeons, patricoes, or curtails; but will defend him or them, as much as I can, against all other outliers whatever. I will not conceal aught I win out of libkins, or from the ruffmans, but I will preserve it for the use of the company. Lastly, I will cleave to my doxy-wap stiffly, and will bring her duds, margery praters, goblers, grunting cheats, or tibs of the buttery, or any thing else I can come at, as winnings for her wappings.

Gigger, a door.

Globe, pewter.

Glue-pot, a parson; from joining men and women together in matrimony.

Glaziers, eyes.

Glim, a dark lantern.

Glimfenders, hand-irons.

Glim, a candle.

Glimstick, a candlestick.

Gaoler’s coach, a hurdle.

Goose Riding: a goose, whose neck is greased, being suspended by the legs to a cord tied to two trees or high posts, a number of men on horseback, riding full speed, attempt to pull off the head; which if they effect, the goose is their prize. This has been practised in Derbyshire within the memory of persons now living.

Grannan gold, old hoarded coin.

Green bag, a lawyer.

Grig, a farthing.

Gropers, blind men.

Gutter-lane, the throat.

Hammer, a great lie, a rapper.

Halberhead, a silly foolish fellow.

Half nab, at a venture, unsight, unseen, hit or miss.

Half-borde sixpence.

Hams, breeches.

Hamlet, a high constable.

Hand-me-downs, second-hand clothes.

Hanktel, a silly fellow, a mere cod’s-head.

Hansan kelder, a jack in the box, the child in the womb, or a health to it.

Harman, a constable.

Harmanbeck, a beadle.

Hawk, a sharper.

Hazel gold, to beat any one with a stick.

Hearingcheats, ears.

Heaver, the breast.

Hell, the place where the tailors lay up their cabbage or remnants, which are sometimes very large.

Hempen widow, one whose husband was hanged.

Henfright, those commanders and officers who are absolutely swayed by their wives.

High tide, when the pocket is full of money.

Hocus, disguised in liquor, drunk.

Hodmendods, snails in their shells.

Hoggrubber, a close-fisted, narrow-minded, sneaking fellow.

Hop-merchant, a dancing-master.

Hum-box, a pulpit.

Humpty-dumpty, ale boiled with brandy.

Hums, persons at church.

Huskylour, a job, a guinea.

Iron doublet, a parson.

Itchland, Ireland.

Jackrum, a licence.

Jack Adams, a fool.

Jack-a-dandy, a little insignificant fellow.

Jack-in-a-box, a sharper or cheat.

Jack-at-a-pinch, a poor hackney parson.

Jacobites, sham or collar shirts.

Jack, a seal.

Jet, a lawyer

Ken, a house.

Kicks, breeches.

Kill devil, row.

Kinchin, a little child.

King’s pictures, money of any description.

Laced mutton, a woman.

Lag, last; lagging behind, to be hindmost.

Lage, water.

Lage duds, a buck of clothes.

Lambskin men, the judges of several courts.

Lansprisado, he that comes into company with only two-pence in his pocket.

Lantern. A dark lantern, the servant or agent that receives the bribe at court.

Libben, a private dwelling-house.

Libbege, a bed.

Lifter, a crutch.

Lightmans, the day, or day-break.

Line of the old author, a dram of brandy.

Little Barbary, Wapping.

Lop’d, run away; he lop’d up the dancers, he whipped up the dancers.

Loge, a watch.

Louse-trap, a comb.

Low tide, when there’s no money in a man’s pocket.

Lushy cove, a drunken man.

Maik, a halfpenny.

Mannikin, a dwarf or diminutive fellow.

Maunders, beggars.

Maundering breath, scolding.

Meggs, guineas.

Meet, to spend money.

Millclapper, a woman’s tongue.

Mist, a contraction of commission, signifying a shirt, smock or sheet.

Mishtopper, a coat or petticoat.

Moabites, sergeants, bailiffs, and their crew.

Moon-curser, a link-boy.

Mower, a cow.

Muck, money, wealth.

Muttonmonger, a lover of women.

Mutton in long coats, women; a leg of mutton in a silk stocking, a woman’s leg.

Nab, a hat, cap, or head; also a coxcomb.

Ne’er a face but his own, not a penny in his pocket.

Nim gimmer, a doctor, a surgeon, an apothecary.

Nubbing cheat, the gallows.

Nut-crackers, a pillory.

Oak, a rich man of good substance and credit.

Ogles, eyes.

Old flick a knowing fellow.

One in ten, a parson.

Pad-the-hoof, journeying on foot.

Panum, bread.

Panter, a heart.

Pantler, a butler.

Peaches, discovers, informs.

Peeper, a looking-glass.

Peter, a portmanteau, or cloak-bag.

Peg tandrums, as, gone to peg tandrums, dead.

Penance boards, a pillory.

Penthouse nab, a very broad-brimmed hat.

Periwinkle, a peruke or wig.

Philistines, sergeants, bailiffs, and their crew.

Porker, a sword.

Property, a mere tool or implement to serve a turn; a cat’s foot.

Prig, a thief.

Quail pipe, a woman’s tongue.

Queer cuffin, a justice of peace, also, a churl.

Rabbit suckers, young spendthrifts, taking goods on tick of pawnbrokers or tallymen, at excessive rates.

Rattling cove, a coachman.

Red rag, a tongue; your red rag will never lie still, your tongue will never be quiet.

Regraters, forestallers in markets.

Ribben, money.

Rotan, a coach, or wagon, or any thing that runs upon wheels, but principally a cart.

Royster, a rude roaring fellow.

Ruffin, the devil.

Ruffmans, the woods or bushes.

Rumbeck, a justice of peace.

Rumbo, a prison.

Rumboozling welts, bunches of grapes.

Rumboyled, sought after with a warrant.

Rum clank, a large silver tankard.

Rum degen, a silver-hilted or inlaid sword.

Rumdropper, a vintner.

Rum ogle’s, fine, bright, clear, piercing eyes.

Rum-strum, a long wig.

Rum-swag, full of riches.

Scab, a sixpence.

School butter, a whipping.

Sconce, to run in debt, to cheat.

Seeds, poor, moneyless, exhausted.

Setters, or setting-dogs, they that draw in bubbles for old gamesters to rook; also a sergeant’s yeoman, or bailiff’s follower; also an excise-officer.

Sharper, a swindler, a cheat.

Sharper’s tools, false dice.

Shot, clapped or poxed.

Shove the tumbler, whipped at the cart’s tail.

Skin-flint, a griping, sharping, close clown; also, the same as flat.

Smearer, a painter, or plasterer.

Smeller, a nose.

Smelling cheat, a nosegay; also an orchard, a garden.

Smiter, an arm.

Smug, a blacksmith, also neat and spruce.

Smite, to wipe or slap.

Snitch, to eye or see any body; the cub snitches, the man eyes or sees you.

Snout, a hogshead.

Sack, a pocket.

Shanks’s naigs, the feet.

Snacks, full share.

Son of prattlement, a lawyer.

Soul driver, a parson.

South-sea mountain, Geneva.

Sow’s baby, a pig.

Spanish money, fair words and compliments.

Spanks, money, gold or silver.

Specked wiper, a coloured handkerchief.

Spiritual flesh-broker, a parson.

Split fig, a grocer.

Splitter of causes, a lawyer.

Spoil pudding, a parson who makes his morning sermon too long.

Squeel, an informer.

Squirrish, foolish.

Stamps, legs.

Stampers, shoes, or carriers.

Stick flams, a pair of gloves.

Stoter, a heavy blow.

Strapper, a handsome woman.

Strommel, straw.

Strum, a periwig.

Stubble it, hold your tongue.

Suit and cloak, good store of brandy, or agreeable liquor.

Supouch, a hostess or landlady.

Swag, a shop.

Swell cove, a man with plenty of money.

Tagmans, a gown or cloak.

Tanner, a sixpence.

Tears of the tankard, drops of good liquor that falls aside.

Thrums, threepence.

Tickler, a knowing fellow.

Tile, a hat.

Tip of the buttery, a goose.

Tip, to give or lend.

Tip’s your flipper, give us a shake of your hand.

Toggery, clothes.

Top diver, a lover of women.

Topping cheat, the gallows.

Topping cove, the hangman.

Topt, to go out sharp, to be upon one’s guard.

To twig, to disengage, to sunder, to break off.

To twig the darbies, to knock of the irons.

Track, to go.

Trees, wins threepence.

Trib, a prison.

Trine, to hang, also Tyburn.

Troch, a drunkard.

Trooper, a half-crown.

Trundles, pease.

Tumbler, a cart.

Turkey merchant, driver of turkeys.

Vampers, stockings.

Velvet, a tongue.

To tip the velvet, to tongue a woman.

Vinegar, a cloak.

Wattles, ears.

Whack, a share.

Whids, words.

Whipshire, Yorkshire.

Whoball, a milkmaid.

Whisker, a great lie.

White wool, silver money.

Whibble, sad drink.

Whiddle, to tell or discover: he whiddles, he peaches: he whiddles the whole scrap, he discovers all he knows: the cull whiddled because they would not tip him a snack, the fellow peached because they would not give him a share: they whiddle beef and we must brush, they cry out thieves and we must make off.

Whinyard, a sword.

Whip off, to run away, to drink off greedily, to snatch: he whipped away from home, went to the alehouse, where he whipped off a full tankard, and coming back whipped off a fellow’s hat from his head.

White swelling, a woman big with child is said to have a white swelling.

Witcher, a silver bowl.

Wing, a penny.

Womblety cropt, the indisposition of a drunkard after a debauch in wine or other liquors.

Wooden Ruff, a pillory; he wore the wooden ruff, he stood in the pillory.

Word-pecker, one that plays with words, a punster.

Yam, to eat heartily, to stuff lustily.

Yarmouth-capon, a red herring.

Yarum, milk, or food made of milk.

Yellow George, a guinea.

Yelper, a town-crier; also one subject to complain or make a pitiful lamentation.

Znees, frost, or frozen.

Zneesy weather, frosty weather.