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★ Great Bores of Today ★ No.38
‘…they’ve got this brilliant site on the internet now where you can look up your family history it’s really amazing I looked up mine and it goes right back my greatgreat-great-great-grandfather who was born in Swansea and he went to live in Watford where he married a lady from Sussex my uncle’s sister’s brother emigrated to
Canada and it’s got details of all his children and it says my great-grandfather was born in Croydon and married a woman from Devon they have even got the date when she died and the number of the house where she was born you should look up yours...’
© Fant and Dick
Tally ho! Change is under way at England’s most unconventional publishing house. The brainchild of the late lamented Michael Wharton (alias ‘Peter Simple’ of the Daily Telegraph), the R S Surtees Society was set up thirty years ago to republish the works of the great Victorian hunting novelist in cloth-bound facsimile editions complete with John Leech’s gloomy engravings of hounds streaming across bleak mid-winter fields.
Ignored by Eng Lit academics, who wrongly assume that his books appeal only to hunting fanatics and empurpled country gents, Surtees’s boisterous novels feature the Victorian equivalents of used-car salesmen flogging spavinned nags to unsuspecting squires, anxious mamas seeking husbands for their frumpish daughters, and dashing demimondaines like the cigarpuffing Lucy Glitters.
His admirers have included George Orwell, Siegfried Sassoon, V S Pritchett and (surprisingly) Virginia Woolf. Until recently the Society was run by Lady Pickthorn, who housed the books in a mediaeval barn near her home in Somerset; her successor is a Master of Foxhounds with a double first in English from Trinity, Cambridge. Oldie readers keen to learn more about Surtees and the Society should turn to www.rssurtees,com
Sara’s law This autumn, Israel has been embroiled in rows with both Turkey and Egypt, while in Tel Aviv half a million protesters took to the streets to complain about the high cost of living. So which burning issue has Prime Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu’s 30-strong National Information Directorate been preoccupied with?
Answer: it has been issuing a spate of press releases attacking the reputation of Tara Kumari, the sacked Nepalese careworker who had been looking after First Wife Sara Netanyahu’s 96-year-old father. According to the Directorate, the facts ‘prove that Kumari is a negligent caregiver, prone to temper tantrums, who failed to properly treat Mr Ben-Artzi.’ In fact, Ms Kumari’s real offence appears to be that she publicly claimed that the Netanyahus forced her to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that she had been injured during a confrontation with Mrs Netanyahu.
Israeli government officials are prohibited from dealing with politicians’ personal affairs, but when it comes to Mrs Netanyahu, all bets are off. Ha’aretz reported that she appeared in her husband’s office, shouting at the staff and demanding that press releases be sent out at once. ‘It is well known that anyone who does not conform to Mrs Netanyahu’s wishes soon finds himself without a job,’ a source told the newspaper.
Mrs N has a track record with domestic staff. Last year a housekeeper accused her of mistreating and underpaying her, and in 1997 a maid claimed she was bombarded with shoes because Sara didn’t like the way she had polished them.
Her husband is thought to be terrified of her, yet he is equally guilty of using the Directorate to promote personal matters. Press releases went out on the 100th birthday of his father, his son Avner’s triumph in the national Bible quiz, and of course, the saintly Sara’s philanthropic endeavours.
8 THE OLDIE – November 2011