“Having finally managed to shrug off horryd, even though one of his goats had found its way onto the ship – a happenstance which was to reap benefits in terms of a fresh milk supply - we travelled peaceably above the great ocean of the Indies for some time. Suddenly, however, a monstrous wind forced us to seek the shelter of land and we made a bumpy landing in a god-forsaken landscape filled with decaying circular metal objects inscribed with the letters XXXX – clearly a totem created by this savage people to ward off sinister events.
Scouring the horizon for dwellings, I could see but a single place that might warrant that description – a forelorn pile in the midst of the inhospitable desert. Approaching it with caution, I came upon a rickety door, on which had been daubed the message DOGS AND POMMES ONLY. The use of an admixture of English and French puzzled me greatly. How could it be that a place so evidently lacking in civilisation could support natives fluent in two tongues?
Belonging to neither of these two categories, I made my way to the front portal, upon which, having tried the bell and found it not to be working, I rapped with a certain vigour. A half-dressed personage (at this point I was uncertain as to its gender), holding in its hand one of the afore-mentioned totemic tins, flung the door open and addressed me in tones that I found impossible to comprehend. My conclusions about this people’s linguistic ability had clearly been formulated too rapidly and in the face of all the evidence.
‘My good fellow,’ I hazarded, correctly discerning his orientation from the depth and nasality of his voice, ‘I was blown off course in my travels and seek harbour for the evening.’
‘That’ll be the Fremantle Doctor, mate,’ the savage sounded, whether in response to my utterance or in reference to a forthcoming consultation with the local surgeon.
Before I could clarify, his visage becoming suddenly more pained, he continued in a heightened tone, ‘Mate, can’t you read? Pommes need to come in the back door.’
Nonplussed momentarily by the idea he could have somehow mistaken me for a greencrocer, I fell back on the humour that had served me so well on previous journeys, especially when dealing with horryd and his goats.
‘Next time, I will be certain to bring you some supplies, I assure you, but we are clean out of Granny Smiths at present.’
The man, who wore a sleeveless vest stained with all manner of nutriments and potations and a pair of shorts that had seen better days, beckoned me inside his abode, muttering something about needing to change ‘that bloody sign’. Then, he called out to an unseen person inside the dank dwelling, ‘Raelene! Put the billy on. We’ve got a visitor.’
‘Roast goat!’ I thought. I was doubly pleased that I had not led horryd’s goat a sacrificial lamb to this pagan shrine.
‘A cup of tea would suit me fine, I assure you,’ I said, following him down an unlit passage on which old photos could faintly be discerned, with large signs scrawled in a childish hand proclaiming ‘RABBITOHS YOU BUTES!’ and ‘COME BACK WHEN YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH POMMES!!’ resolving them into two apparent classes.
‘That’s about all you’re getting mate,’ my interlocutor responded gruffly. ‘The old woman will see to it.’
While I was contemplating the likely appearance of his mother, for whom he appeared to have not the slightest regard, he shrieked, ‘Raelene, you gone walkabout again?’
It was not long after we had entered a kind of parlour, in which I had declined the offer of a seat, owing to the less than hygienic appearance of the cushions, that a fine looking woman whom I took to be the man’s daughter or younger sister entered with a tray of tea things. I have to confess I was not surprised that his mother would decline to respond to a summons delivered in so uncouth a manner.
Having finished the tea, which was quite tolerable given the circumstances, the man, who had gone outside for a few minutes, addressed me again. ‘Mate, I reckon you’ll be needing the dunny. Stay there and I’ll get you a pair of thongs.’
To say that I was terrified is no exaggeration. I had attended lectures at the Royal Geographical Society at which explorers had given reports of the deviant sexual behaviour of savage tribes of the Amazon basin, but I had never heard of such perversions in the lands east of the Indian seas.
‘My good fellow, I assure you that I am quite comfortable in these britches.’
‘As you like, mate,’ he responded, ‘but it gets a bit spicy out there and I wouldn’t want you to get your Uggs dirty.’
Following him through the kitchen area, where Raelene was doing her best to remove the stains from one of his vests, we entered a kind of yard at the bottom of which was a dilapidated hut from which emanated as rank an odour as I have ever encountered on all my travels. When I espied the word DUNNY above the door, I made a break for it and, after briefly losing my bearings in the tin-infested undergrowth, finally came via the other side of the dwelling to the back door. Glancing back one last time, I noticed that he had had changed the sign intended for the greengrocer, presumably in order to prevent misunderstandings of the kind that had arisen that afternoon from ever arising again. In place of POMMES, he had daubed NO POMMEE BASTERDS!
What a race, I thought! Enough material for several world tours. Stanley, eat your heart out!"
1 Rich eccentric given kind of gun to attach handle to (8)
CHRISTEN – anagram* of RICH STEN
5 Those in class about to err (4,2)
SLIP UP – PUPILS reversed
9 Announcement at table which rules out seats (2-6)
NO-TRUMPS – NOT RUMPS (seats as in bums)
10 Animal crossing big road shows caution (6)
CAVEAT – AVE (avenue) in CAT
12 One probing affair with politicians where records are kept (6,7)
FILING CABINET – I in FLING CABINET
15 Ship's labourer losing face (5)
OILER – [t]OILER
16 Old degenerate relies on plant extract (9)
OLEORESIN – O (old) RELIES ON* (degenerate is the anagrind)
17 Very bad or good Latin man translated (9)
MALIGNANT – G LATIN MAN*
19 Captain sending off very quiet sportsman (5)
SKIER – SKI[pp]ER
20 Person succeeding with one kind of clue gets award (8,5)
VICTORIA CROSS – VICTOR I ACROSS
22 Gold twice casing right area for skylights? (6)
AURORA – R (right) in AU OR (two words for gold) A (area)
23 Sloth, say, in garden with place for art (8)
EDENTATE – EDEN TATE
25 Cruelty from low lives and leader of Mob (6)
SADISM – SAD IS M[ob]
26 Recommend dropping ecstasy, swallowing a liqueur (8)
ADVOCAAT – A in ADVOCAT[e]
1 Toilet from German city which shouldn't be opened (3,2,5)
CAN OF WORMS – a kind of intersticed double definition; with CAN standing for a toilet and WORMS a German place more normally associated with diets
2 Cut price for person doing shopping (3)
RAT – RAT[e]
3 Peach stone borne by topless athlete (7)
STUNNER – ST [r]UNNER
4 Imagine speaker is one hawking (12)
EXPECTORATOR – EXPECT ORATOR
6 Left person bringing home the bacon who needs plates (7)
LEARNER – L EARNER
7 Rapid playing is to impress (11)
PRESTISSIMO – IS TO IMPRESS*
8 Loaf, or something to put on it (4)
PATE – double definition
11 Inattentive, lying about dispatched object (6-6)
ABSENT-MINDED – SENT (dispatched) MIND (object – verb) in ABED (lying)
13 Weak girl survived, holding on (4-7)
LILY-LIVERED – LILY RE in LIVED
14 Consider oneself beginning school without pressure (10)
INTROSPECT – INTRO P in SECT
18 Wheel turned by star changing vehicles (2-5)
GO-CARTS – COG reversed STAR*
19 Work hands perform almost fixed US home (7)
SECONDO – SE[t] CONDO; secondo is the second part in a duet
21 Family member with two sons I don't know (4)
PASS – PA S S
24 Dry people around golf range (3)
AGA – G in AA