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McAuslanAs noted in the comments to my post about the new Aubrey/Maturin movie below, I fully intend to take on Kathy the Cake-Eater over the issue of whether Russell Crowe is the right actor to play Lucky Jack Aubrey.  Furthermore, I intend to go right through the series of novels,citing primary text to blow mon ami du gateau right out of the water.  (I shall smite her.  Oh, yes.  I shall.)

However, Madame’s chastisement is going to have to wait a bit, because I suddenly find myself deep into George MacDonald Fraser’s hy-larious WWII-Era collection of stories, The Complete McAuslan. Private McAuslan, J.,  is described as “the Dirtiest Soldier in the World (alias the Tartan Caliban, or the Highland Division’s answer to the Pekin Man).

I am only a few chapters into the first novel of this collection, The General Danced at Dawn, so I cannot yet give you any overall picture.  But I can assure you that I have already recieved many a glance on the Metro as a result of my uncontrollable giggling over Fraser’s workmanship.  How the hell could that man have really been a Scot?

(Yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ve also recently purchased a copy of Fraser’s own WWII memoir, Quartered Safe Out Here.  I gather that there is a considerable amount of biographical detail that makes its way from Fraser’s non-fiction to his fiction.  Indeed, it was in my hunt for this volume on the devil’s website that I stumbled across the McAuslan series.) 

Oh, one other thing: As in the Flashman series, Fraser here makes extensive use of the adjective “slantendicular” as in “a slantendicular glance”.  Although I know the word essentially means “side-long”, damme if it appears in my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.  Where the hell did Fraser find it?  And why is he so partial to it?

Mrs. Robbo is away this week doing graduate work up at Johns Hopkins.  (Among other things, I understand that the certificate she earns in this course entitles her to borrow actual moon rocks from the Goddard Space Lab to use in her classroom.  How seriously cool is that?)

In order to cover the gels while I slave away for Uncle, we’re employing a young colleague of Mrs. R’s as a daytime babysitter.  I’ll call her Miss Mary.  She’s about 30 or so and single.

So this afternoon, the eldest gel called me at the office.  “Dad!” she said, “We really like Miss M!  Do you think that sometime this week – she could stay over at our house for a sleepover? You know – with us girls down in the basement?”

“Absolutely not,” I replied.

Later, the gel tagged me for an explanation.

“Well,” I said, “Miss Mary is not related to us, either by blood or by marriage.  It simply wouldn’t do to have her spend the night in our house if I were here without Mom, never mind whether she was staying downstairs with you kids.”

The gel more or less accepted this, although I could tell she was not totally convinced.

Now we have been fortunate enough never to have had to employ a nanny, au pair or other live-in help.   But this little incident got me thinking just how terrible a trap such an arrangement can be.  Indeed, from the anecdotal evidence I’ve picked up in my puff, the possibilities for mischief brought about by introducing an unattached young thing into a household are simply mind-boggling.  What I can never understand is why any sensible wife and mother would ever allow herself to be persuaded that such an arrangement is a good thing.


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July 2009