Monday, 18 February 2008

Nothing Much Really

Nicholas Monsarrat was famous as the author of 'The Cruel Sea'. He was also responsible for another book that I found far more interesting. This was 'Three Corvettes' which is the story of his wartime service in corvettes. There's one particular story in it that often comes to mind.

Minesweeping in WW2 has a risky business. A small boat trailed a sweep behind it hoping to snag mines. As it had to be in front of the sweep to tow it there was every chance that a mine might be inconsiderate enough to contact the boat rather than the sweep, with fatal consquences. Monsarrat recalls watching a minesweeper toiling along when a mine was touched off. He saw the boat disappear in a huge column of water and was very relieved to see it emerge unharmed, if rather the damper, from the other side.

Naval officers in WW2 liked to send signals. It was necessary practise for the signallers anyhow, and, with Noel Coward films in mind, there was a great fondness for displaying calm imperturbalility and wit. So Monsarrat signalled to the minesweeper 'that was a big one'.

The skipper of the minesweeper was clearly Oscar material. His reply to Monsarrat outscores Nelson in my book.

His reply was: 'what was?'.

Which bring me to the fact that I'm still making very slow progress and nothing much to report.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Ah yes, the art of understatement.

-- Jeff

Andy Mitchell said...

What always reminds me of this is when I go round to someone's house and they've got the TV on. Invariably everything has to be hyped up - audiences break into shrieking and applauding when nothing, absolutely nothing, of moment has occurred. Or a sports commentator goes mental over some trifle that's going to be forgotten within 24 hours.

Steve said...

Andy has it in one - these days if it isn't a catastrophe or a drama then it's not "interesting" - reduces life to a soap opera... good post, you may not have much to report, but you write good posts! :o))

johnpreece said...

I am also wrestling with the problem of what to write when nothing has happened!

The anecdote is a very underated form of expression and fast disappearing in todays 'culture'. Please feel free to post as many as you like if they are of this quality.

So much hype today can be dismissed in the phrase used by Dr Johnstone.

"Consider Madam, what your praise is worth."