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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ever been down Crickley Hill nude on a motorbike?

I am, as ever, mindful of my duty to bring to your attention entertaining snippets relating to the Hill.  It is alleged that one day in 1915, the music critic and composer Philip Heseltine, now better known by his composing pseudonym, Peter Warlock, rode down Crickley Hill stark naked on a motorbike.  

7 years ago devotees of the Peter Warlock Society conceived a plan to repeat the feat, but were discouraged by the Gloucestershire Police. The story of the aborted proposed re-enactment and the contemporaneous press coverage are to be found on the Peter Warlock Society website.  

By a coincidence of Koestlerian proportions (as Dr Ferris used to be fond of saying), one of the members of the Peter Warlock Society, featured in the press photos and the story on the website, is Felix Aprahamian, for many years deputy music critic of the Sunday Times: he was the older brother of Crickley Hill Man's father's best friend at school and an extraordinary and genial man whose obituary here and here are interesting. The only man I ever knew who lived in a house which was reconfigured to accommodate an exceedingly large organ.  

Felix said that he halted, for ever, return visits by Jehovah's witnesses to his home in Muswell Hill by the following method: he was a short, round man with a shock of wiry hair and a goatee beard of some size and distinction. In his youth, according to my father, both hair and beard were jet black but later in life both beard and hair were snow white. 

There was a knock at the front door one Saturday morning: the door is at the top of a couple of steps. Felix, just out of the shower and irritated at being interrupted, threw on a white towelling robe that came down to his ankles, knotted the belt and flung open the door. He would have made an imposing sight, all in white, with the added height of the steps, the ample girth and all that white hair and beard. "Good morning: we're Jehovah's witnesses and we were wondering whether you would be interested in buying a copy of "The Watchtower"?". Felix was wild: he reached out his arms towards them and bellowed: "I am Jehovah! Hand over the takings!" They fled, never to darken his door again.

From Jim Irvine: "In a similar vein, my wife's uncle was a very large man, a very Irish catholic priest in Sunderland in the 1960s. One day whilst up a ladder painting a ceiling there came a knock at the door. With much language of a non-religious kind he descended the ladder and answered the door. He was greeted by two, neatly suited young men with briefcases. "We are Ministers of God..." was all they had a chance to say. "So am I" was the abrupt response as the door slammed."

1 comment:

Jim said...

On a similar vein, my wife's uncle was a very large man, a very Irish catholic priest in Sunderland in the 1960s. One day whilst up a ladder painting a ceiling there came a knock at the door. With much language of a non-religious kind he descended the ladder and answered the door. He was greeted by two, neatly suited young men with briefcases.

"We are Ministers of God..." was all they had a chance to say.

"So am I" was the abrupt response as the door slammed.