Thursday, March 2, 2017

Idler, Thursday,

Here's a real blast from the past


A MESSAGE arrives from Gordon Gillespie, of Malvern. It begins (all in capitals) "GMTU. (RECOGNISE THE OLD TELEX WAY OF SAYING "GOOD MORNING TO YOU?")


Recognise it? I cut my teeth on it.


Gordon suggests, in response to another reader's suggestion that Proteas cricket names have a strong association with beer, that a spice emporium could also become a sponsor of our cricket, with famous names like Cook, Lamb, Currie and Rice having featured in the local game.


Good idea. TKU. BI.


Special lingo


YES, the telex was once the only means of communication for newspapermen. A special lingo of brevity developed. Access to a telex machine was essential for foreign correspondents.


In the Angolan town of Nova Lisboa, on the central plateau, there was a tailor's shop called Nova Yorcke that had a telex. Foreign correspondents made a beeline for it. The Nova Yorcke address always printed out.


One fellow filed a lively report on Angolan goings-on and got the reply from his newsdesk: "TKS GREAT PIECE. BUT WHAT THE HELL YOU DOING IN NEW YORK?"




TELEX exchanges became the stuff of legend. One foreign correspondent got tired of being nagged by his newsdesk.




Sir Roy


THEN there was the fellow who had interviewed Sir Roy Welensky, prime minister of the old Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (today's Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi). He didn't mention Welensky's age (which was available in any newspaper library).


He was wakened from his slumbers in the hotel to a Fleet Street telex message: "HOW OLD ROY WELENSKY?"


To which he replied: "OLD ROY WELENSKY FINE. HOW YOU?"




PETER Younghusband, doyen of Africa's foreign correspondents, was a hulking figure also known as Bigfoot, after the legendary North American ape-man.


He worked for the London Daily Mail, shadowed by a fellow named Monks from the London Daily Express. The two of them went to a news spot in the Congo. It involved crossing a river to get there.


Next day Monks got a telex from his newsdesk: "WHY YOU UNSWIM CROCODILE INFESTED RIVER LIKE YOUNGHUSBAND?"


Book title


THERE was also the fellow who was sent to Africa from Fleet Street but failed for a week or so to file any material at all. He got a sarcastic telex from his newsdesk: "PRESUME YOU ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN AFRICA."




That so tickled the abovementioned Younghusband that he made it the title of a hilarious book on his days in Africa.


And Bigfoot supplied the title for another hilarious/scary book by Chris Munnion, Africa correspondent for the London Telegraph.


There's a small port at the mouth of the Congo River called Banana. Nothing much ever happened in Banana but Younghusband was determined to go there over a weekend and write a report with the dateline Banana Sunday. He contrived it and telexed a report.


But the foreign pages were a bit full that evening at the Daily Mail so they held over Younghusband's piece for next day. Banana Tuesday. Joke spoiled.


But Munnion had a book title: Banana Sunday.


Press telegrams


OF COURSE, in some parts of Africa there wouldn't even be a telex machine. You had to send a press telegram from the nearest post office.


I was once at a little place called Vila Luso, in the remote south-east of Angola. I'd just interviewed a Portuguese general who had just been told by Jonas Savimbi that he was laying down arms to join the peace process in Luanda. It seemed rather important.


I handed in the press telegram and watched as a Portuguese who spoke not a word of English sent it by morse key to Lisbon, from where another Portuguese with limited English would relay it to Johannesburg.


Sigh! My report never saw the light of day.



THE Lone Ranger finds Tonto lying with his ear to the ground.

"What's up, Tonto?"

"Four cowboys on horses. Also stagecoach with lady in it. Third horse got only three shoes."

"You know all that just from listening to the ground?"

"No, whole damn lot just run me over."

Last word

Art is either plagiarism or revolution.

Paul Gauguin



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