(This is Part IV from a memoir of my Father, Noel Mathias. Parts I to III are:
- Polyphemus, the Cyclops
- A Memoir of My Father, Noel Mathias. In England, in the Forties & Fifties
- At Play with my Father)
Shake and Shake the Ketchup Bottle
We were never certain if the stories my father told us were truth or invention.
He claimed he responded to an advertisement in The Illustrated Weekly of India: “All mosquitoes eliminated from your house and garden in a day. Guaranteed to work, or your money back.” He sent in his ten rupees and waited. He received two small rocks. Take the mosquito, read the instructions, place it on the lower stone. Cover with the other stone. Crush mosquito.
Another story: A country bumpkin arrives in Bombay, craning his neck at the skyscrapers. A city slicker marches up, “It’s my building. You have to pay me a rupee for every storey you look at?” The bumpkin hands over fifteen rupees, then conspiratorially confesses to the bystanders. “I gave him fifteen rupees, but actually–I looked at the whole building.”
Yeah, his humour leaned towards the verbal though silly. A man leaves his wife. As he crosses the threshold, she wails, “You said you wouldn’t leave, and you’ve left.” He, “I promised to cleave, and I’ve cleft.”
* * *
“Was that really Professor Mathias?” one of his students asked, observing him joke with us on a train. “I have never seen him smile.” “You can only talk to him soberly on sober subjects,” my cousin Dorothy lamented. However,