Can you tell us about yourself?
Due to the volume of gin I have consumed I am unable to tell you the true details of my identity.
Could you describe this book?
By Harry I tell you! This is a fine work of splendid military sporting fiction loosely based on the real events of after dinner games mind you. I have interviewed a multitude of marvelous British military officers from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Airforce, with a smattering of input from the Royal Marines. In addition, I have studiously researched historical literature and held many a brandy and cigar fueled discussion in order to produce this spiffing and inspirational book.
Can choose one of your favourite games?
I say old boy! My favourite mess game has to be Bridges (game 84) closely followed by Twizzly Hat (game 120). Bridges is a fantastically versatile sport and excellent at teaching young people the value of cantilever bridge construction and point load distribution.
An absolute classic mess game and my favourite.
There are two main variations:
1. Cross a set distance the fastest.
2. Place champagne bottles the furthest from the start line.
– One bottle per team.
– Start markers
Method of buffoonery:
Two or more equal teams start at one end of the room behind a designated start line. On the command, “Right-ho, off you pop,” the first man goes into the press-up position. The next fellow crawls straight along over him, from feet to head, and takes up a slightly higher press up position with his feet on first man’s shoulders or hands. This continues as far along mess as possible.
Where is the strangest/most unlikely place you have ever played a mess game?
My word! British officers maintain an air of civilized refinement at all times and in all situations, therefore every location is just perfect for a game or two. Most of my civilian chums would probably say the game played during a formal regimental black tie dinner on the summit of Mount Tryfan in Snowdonia was probably the strangest. Here we played an after dinner mess game of Swing Low Sweet Chariot (game 01). Admittedly it was a tad problematic whacking a cabbage over rocks and boulders which then tend to tumble over cliff edges. Most inconvenient.
What was the most dangerous game you were ever involved in?
Beelzebub’s beard! As an officer in Her Majesties armed forces we laugh in the face of danger, therefore we consider all mess games as not dangerous in the slightest. What I can tell you is probably the most rumbustious and daring game I have ever played.
Some of my chums would probably say it was the disastrous event involving a mess cannon, but I would probably say playing Potholing (game 64) on my first formal regimental dinner as a young officer. Here I was ordered to liberate a pair of senior officer spurs during pudding by secretly crawling under the dinner table. Unfortunately I was caught and subject to a tsunami of forfeits including singing the “cycling elephant” song for the amusement of our guests whilst wearing a tutu. Most embarrassing and dangerous for ones career.
Why is the mess game tradition so important?
Unfortunately gone are the days of hunting lions in the Sudan before a pink gin on the verandah at sunset. Today’s military situation is a focused and high-pressured working environment where critical decisions are made at a moments notice. More than ever before a balance to this seriousness is required and the utter buffoonery of a mess game can provide that much needed balance. A short and enjoyable vacation for body and mind.
All mess games seek to enhance the education of the young lady or gentleman with fortifying challenges and sports. Apart from being enormous fun, they are an excellent way of kinaestheticly teaching the boundaries of civilised courtesy and etiquette within a safe and controlled but ridiculous sporting environment.
If you could give a young officer one piece of advice what would it be?
As one splendid fellow once put it, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
One is only a young officer once and this time is probably the single opportunity in your career to have exuberant fun within sensible boundaries before you are promoted and everything gets serious. It is always the young officers that are the heart and soul of any officers’ mess! It certainly important to note that for everyone, military and civilians alike, a practical reminder of the fun of youth is a tonic for the soul. Anyone at any age should participate.
If you could choose just one game in your book to become and Olympic sport, what would it be and why?
Olympic sport you say? Gods teeth! To begin with the Olympics must allow sport to be focused around a formal dinner with top quality wine, brandy, conversation and ridiculous archaic rules. Afterwards of course the sport can begin.
I’d say Crummock (game 53) would make an excellent Olympic sport. Not only is it a tip top game for improving team cohesion and dexterity, but also has the critical function of the wearing of hats and formal dinner apparel. There is not enough booze and buffoonery in todays Olympics I’d say, simply barking mad. Crummock will alleviate that problem.