top of page
  • Writer's pictureCarl Plummer

Some Notes for Chapter 2. (2a) (After that Strange release in the Spring of 1939).

Notes for this chapter are in two parts, yes, parts (2a) and (2b) owing to the number of subjects covered.


Another snippet of etymology here. Some argue that brouhaha is borrowed from the French, and they could have half-inched it from the Hebrew (perhaps through onomatopoeic assimilation) barúkh habá, meaning ‘welcome, bless he who comes’ a hail fellow, welcoming uproar for a long-awaited guest, or messiah.

Synonyms could be kerfuffle or hubbub. The odd thesaurus will go so far as ‘uproar’ or ‘noisy meeting’. Anyway, a great word, and one I shall try to use more often, especially when getting my raucous students to put a collective sock in it.

Is there a synonym for Thesaurus?


No, not the Jack Higgins novel The Judas Gate, which no doubt is excellent. I have not read many Higgins’ novels – I should read more. The Eagle has Landed is superb.

Some dictionaries take us back to Yorkshire dialect (and nothing wrong with that), taking us from wicket gate to wicked gate – Judas being the personification of wickedness, I suppose. I feel a bit sorry for poor old Judas – let us be honest, being named Judas puts him at a disadvantage right from the start, as ironic as poor old Achilleus having an Achilles heel. (See what I did there?)

A simple answer for you: A Judas gate is a small door located in a larger gate or door so that a person can enter without opening the larger gate or door. A door-within-a-door. These ‘doors’ were often used in factories, mills, even monasteries. A bloody big cat-flap for humans.

Judas Hole is used – very mid-19th century – referring to a peephole in a door, and a Judas window is that tiny window in a cell door allowing the prison guard to check on his inmates.

Any way you look at it, put the name Judas in front of anything and we are in the realm of betrayal and spying.

The Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby, in Antisemitism and Modernity (2006), argues that the name Judas was merely a construction to fit a narrative, to attack the Judeans and the Judean religion. John Shelby, in The Sins of Scripture (2009), feels this too contrived when considering the name Judas is not mentioned in the Christian story until The Gospel of Mark (3:19), written in the eight decade of the common era (CE) or (AD). It can also be argued that plenty of other geezers, good blokes one and all, are mentioned in The New Testament: Judas son of James, Judas Barsabbas, and even Jude, brother of Jesus. We even have Judas Maccabeus (Judah Maccabee), a Jewish priest who led the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire (167-160 BCE).

I find myself siding with Joan Acocella and William Klassen when they argue that the name Judas, held up as a symbol of treachery and a symbol of the Jews, has reinforced a long-lasting stereotype of deviousness, lust for money and other racial vices. Joan Acocella, New Yorker (2006). And we know who put that to evil use.

With all that said, the Judas Gate mentioned in Chapter 2 of Pelham on Parole is simply a small door within a larger door.

You see what happens when you start researching stuff? So many pathways to go down. Is that why I am a slow writer?


There is only one thing Pelham loves more than his suede boots, and that is his Fedora. He gets through quite a few in his adventures. Now, I do not wish to come across as jealous, envious, suffering the chip in the shoulder, here, but hats are a problem for me. Yes, I am what is known in common parlance as a short-arse – and have been informed of this on numerous occasions throughout my life; opinions voiced by teachers, workmates, students, and even what is laughably called the fairer sex. Any bitterness…no. But being only 5’ 4” is not conducive to headwear for a chap unless it be a cloth cap or what Monty Python referred to as a Bloth Bap when they were having issues with the ‘C’ word.

The Fedora is a hat that is generally made out of felt or straw.

It has a wide brim and a crown that is indented and pitched and usually finished with a ribbon hat band. It can be made in any color but black, gray, dark brown and tan are the most popular.

The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by dramatist Victorien Sardou, Fédora, written for Sarah Bernhardt. The play was first performed in the United States in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play. During the play, Bernhardt wore a center-creased, soft brimmed hat. (Go to Bernard Hats:

(Our Humphrey in The Maltese Falcon)

Mention manliness and hats, and who springs to mind: Bogart, (no need to put the Humphrey bit, eh?), Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Indiana Jones…get the gist? This is from the films of the 40s and 50s – especially film noir and gangster stuff, and yes, there are some gangsterish roots here. But here is the twist: think Sarah Bernhardt. Victorien Sardou wrote Fedora for SB in 1882, and it was first performed in 1889. During the play – as SB plays Princess fedora – she wears a centre-creased, soft brimmed hat. Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor – yes, him, the embarrassing one with a fondness for Nazis – sported one in 1924 and is quoted in Men’s Wear magazine: The average young man in America is more interested in the clothes of the Prince of Wales than in any other individual on earth. (arrogant git or what!?) We shall ignore him and look more along the lines of Indiana Jones.


This is for the younger reader, and welcome to you. The 10 Shilling note, commonly known as ten bob, was the equivalent of 50p. It was introduced in August 1914 to combat the financial instability of war. A larger supply of ten bob notes made it easier for people to make small transactions. The Bank of England – usually responsible for the issue of coins and notes – was ill prepared for the emergency, so the note was issued by the government, and came to be classified as Treasury Banknotes. The ten-shilling note became the most widely used note after that. Responsibility for the printing of these notes was transferred to the Bank of England in 1928, but hey ho, trouble was soon upon the treasury.

Operation Bernhard was a Nazi plot to undermine British currency. (You can learn more about this in Pelham on Tin Islands – the 3rd Pelham Hardimann adventure). The Germans planned to distribute counterfeit ‘white fivers’ about the country. The Bank of England sprang into action and changed the ten-shilling note to a pink and blue colour. The metal security thread was introduced, putting the kibosh on German plans; they had no means to get past that. After the Second World War, the ten-shilling note reverted to its original red-brown, until 1961 when a new design featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was put into circulation. There were plans to wallop a picture of Sir Walter Raleigh on the reverse side, but that was dropped when the process of decimalization and the 50p coin went into planning. The 50p coin arrived in 1969 and we waved goodbye to the ten bob note on 22nd November 1970 – a sad day for kids. I was only nine at the time, and the old ten bob note had a feel to it, it meant something, whereas the 7-sided coin didn’t quite have the substance, the gravitas, if you know what I mean, especially when shoved into a sweaty little hand by an aunt or uncle – for birthdays and Christmas.

To give you an idea of the value of ten-shillings in 1939; one pound today is worth only 2% of a pound in 1939. I am sure you have heard many an old codger, like my good self, go on about how much things cost in the old days.

Well, here goes: UK Prices 1939 from

Butter 1/6 (7½p) per lb. - Margarine 6d (2½p) per lb. - Lard 7d (3p) per lb. Cheddar cheese 10d (4p) per lb. - Danish side bacon 1/6 (7½p) per lb. - Milk 3d (1½p) per pint - Egyptian eggs 8d (3½p) per dozen - CWS Tea-tips 3/- (15p) per lb. - Granulated sugar 4½d (2p) per lb. - Large tin of Lokreel peaches 1/2 (6p) - Nestles cream 6½d (2½p) per small tin - Sweet biscuits 1/- (5p) per lb. - Chocolate Fingers 1/9 (8½p) per lb. - Flour 1/7 (8p) per stone (14lb.) - Self raising flour 7½d (3p) per 3lb. - Players cigarettes 10 for 7d (3p) - Woodbine cigarettes 10 for 5d (2p) - St Bruno tobacco 1/2 (6p) per 1oz. - Marcella Elegante cigars 50 for £1/1/6 (£1.07½p). - Danish eggs, large 2/- (10p) per dozen. - Potatoes 1/2 (6p) per stone (14lb).

A live-in maid doing plain cooking could be engaged for £1 per week and a modern furnished bungalow could be rented for 2 to 3 gns (£2.10p to £3.15p) and a detached three bedroomed bungalow with a garage and garden cost £550, and a new baby Austin to go in the garage cost £122.

Looks good, eh? But consider this: In October 1938, the average hourly wage for adult males was just under 1s 6d, nearly double the average hourly wage for women, which was 9d.


I thought about removing the ‘hewn from an elephant’s tusk’ bit, and even wondered about saying ‘ivory’ (doesn’t sound as brutal) or ditching the whole thing altogether, but I thought, no, we cannot, must not lie about the past. If we have any sign of progress, any indication of how we have improved, we can best do it by seeing what we have rejected – by knowing what was once acceptable. Does that make Pelham Hardimann a bad person or just someone of his time? Strange way to look at it when considering we are all ‘of our time’. (You will find a discussion along these lines between Hardimann and Hammer in Pelham and the Plan on the Clapham Omnibus). So, having a comb made of ivory was quite normal, despite how we may now view such a thing. Condemn everyone in the past? Your average bloke playing dominoes in the snug at the Rose and Crown would be classed as wicked – what, you thought dominoes and dice were made of plastic?

My TOK students get stuck into ethics – their favourite subject – and often argue about what will no longer be acceptable in a hundred years. Eating meat seems to be the favourite; I can see that happening. Well, there was a time when women having the vote was considered lunacy. I remember the anti-fur movement of the 1970s: think of all those stars of the 40s, 50s, and 60s swanning around in mink or those ghastly foxes they had hanging about their necks – ugh!

Would I buy or own anything made of ivory – no, certainly not. But had I been around in the 1930s, I doubt I would have given the subject a moment’s thought.

Authors should not avoid or omit things, no matter how distasteful they may now be. I could put pictures of objects – some of them considered fine works of art – on this page but I won’t; pictures are not necessary, but if you are keen to learn more about the past horrors – and, I regret to say, present horrors – of the ivory trade:

Things once made from ivory: religious sculptures, jewellery and hairpins, trinket boxes, combs and hairbrush handles, chess pieces, snooker balls, door handles, buttons, piano keys…the list is endless.


Shall we look at this knot? It is a commonly used one, perhaps without us knowing what it is called. Mainly used by the camping, sailing/boating fraternity, scouts, and guides – do they still have scouts and guides in the UK? (From

It is a good knot for securing things because it tightens on itself, while allowing a quick release if you do not pull the line all the way through.

Something that may have struck you, and has certainly struck me: in all those old western movies I watched as a kid, the cowboy would ride into town – maybe mosey – go straight to the saloon, which is understandable, get off his trusty steed then simply flop the rope over a bar in front of the saloon without doing a proper, secure knot. Maybe a couple of round turns, but no hitching. I think it is something to do with conditioning. The horse will just stand there – that is until the gunfire cracks or the cowboy is defenestrated – a defenestration swiftly followed by his ten-gallon hat and a spit of chewed tobacco.

I think it is to do with habit – with conditioning. I read somewhere about training elephants in India – something that is oft times very cruel. Elephant calves are chained to posts – by one leg, with very heavy chains until they learn they cannot move. This conditioning leads to the point where a simple rope – even string – can be attached to the elephant’s leg and it will remain in place. I must look further into this.

Anyway, if you haven’t learned any knots before, try the round turn and two half hitches. If you have read Fifty Shades of Grey, I will assume you already know the ropes. No, I have not read it, and do not intend to, thank you very much!

The only knots I ever learned were fishing knots. The blood knot and surgeon’s knot.


A palliasse is a makeshift mattress – a huge strong bag made of canvas or sackcloth then stuffed with straw or wool, or if you can find enough – feathers. Good for camping, but watch out for those stiff sticks of straw, and make sure your stuffing is dry. The origin of the word, Scots via French – paillasse, from the Latin palea meaning straw.

(WW2 British palliasse field bed 1945)

American readers may refer to such delights of outward-bound bedroom furniture as ticks; is that because of insect bites? No, do not confuse with tic. Ticking is a tightly woven fabric – tightly woven to ensure no intrusion by sharp ends of straw. Interesting point – to me, anyway: Europeans and English refer to the stuffing while Americans refer to the covering. A cultural thing, a different way of viewing things – maybe. Years ago, when I was in the furniture trade, we used to refer to ticking – as the tough backing or covering cloth, often thin black or grey strips on cream or white linen.


I did not mention John Le Carré in my introduction to Pelham Hardimann adventures – remiss of me. The Karla trilogy: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) , and Smiley’s People (1979) is superb and his first novel Call for the Dead (1961) is one of the greatest introductions to a character I have ever read. George Smiley’s wife, Lady Ann Sercombe, calls him "breathtakingly ordinary." Le Carré describes him as Short, fat, and of a quiet disposition, he appeared to spend a lot of money on really bad clothes, which hung about his squat frame like skin on a shrunken toad. Le Carré wanted his ‘hero’ to be a nobody, a cuckolded nothingness in a world of power, class, and prestige: the polar opposite of James Bond, who could walk into a Hong Kong or Nassau hotel and be greeted as a superstar and valued customer. Bond had a flashy Dunhill lighter (We come across this Dunhill in Pelham and the Plan on the Clapham Omnibus), while Smiley had a Ronson.

In Tinker, Tailer…Smiley explains to Peter Guillam how his Ronson is filched by Karla during a hot and sweaty, although rather gentlemanly on Smiley’s part, interrogation in a Delhi jail. Engraved on the lighter is ‘To George from Ann with all my love”. Years later, in Smiley’s People, we see the lighter again as Karla is met by Smiley, Guillam, Esterhase et al after Karla has crossed from East to West. Smiley’s compassion and humanism has defeated Karla’s fanaticism. But Smiley is not cheering, maybe because he has become what he hates in order to win. "They exchanged one more glance and perhaps each for that second did see in the other something of himself. . . . Smiley . . . stepped quickly out of the halo, passing very close to Ann's lighter on his way. It lay at the halo's very edge, tilted slightly, glinting like fool's gold on the cobble. He thought of picking it up, but somehow there seemed no point and no one else appeared to have seen it". The last line in the novel is Smiley's response to Guillam's statement that George had won. "Did I?' said Smiley. “Yes. Yes, well I suppose I did.”

What fascinates me is how le Carré can use such a simple thing as a lighter to enhance and even use as a symbol in such a moral struggle, a personal struggle, and so many philosophical and ideological questions. He does not over-egg it; he just lets it play its way through, like a shadow. Genius writing. I try to do the same with Pelham’s yellow scarf: I think it works.

Louis Vincent Aronson, along with Max Hecht and Leopold Herzog started The Art Metal Works in Newark, New jersey, in 1897. They made lamps, inkwells, and safety matches. Aronson invented the non-toxic match and the all-weather-match, and in doing so discovered a way of making a white phosphorous-free match. For many years, phosphorous used in production had been the cause of the industrial disease phossy jaw.

So why Ronson? My father always used a Ronson, and I have always used a Ronson. Simple as that. (And yes, I smoke. No lectures, please).


Pelham Hardimann is an Old Etonian. Eton, perhaps the most prestigious public school in the world, was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI – then known as Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton beside Windesor – a stone’s throw from Windsor, in Berkshire. Fees are approaching £43,000 a year (about US$58,000), making it one of the most expensive schools, but not the most expensive school in the country. Originally a charity school, it was to provide pupils for King’s College Cambridge.

(Photo by

There is no space to go through a hefty list of famous alumni here, but jab a digit at Britain’s most prominent politicians – many Prime Ministers, the first being Sir Robert Walpole and Boris Johnson the latest – and you’ll poke many in the eye, along with Bishops and Archbishops, world leaders, writers, actors, scientists, explorers, and a fair share of scoundrels, along with a plenitude of heroes: 37 Old Etonians have been awarded The Victoria Cross.

For many years, these wearers of the bum-freezer (mess jacket) or tailcoat, the elite of the elite, were destined for Empire, to rule the world: a subject beautifully ridiculed by King’s Scholar and Old Etonian, George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) of 1984 and The Road to Wigan Pier fame. Worth noting, for ‘literature’ types here: Orwell’s French teacher was Aldous Huxley, yes, he of Brave New World. Orwell spent five years in the 1920s as an officer of the Imperial Police in Burma – now Myanmar. Worth a read: Orwell’s essay Shooting an Elephant.

Back to Eton. A decade after the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington was watching a cricket match at Eton and overheard to say the battle of Waterloo was won here. This is not to say that all the soldiers at Waterloo were Old Etonians – not possible – but it was a reference to cricket as a form of war – a gentlemanly form, I suppose. We will be talking about cricket later during An Interlude (Chapter 15).

Shooting an Elephant, an essay by English writer George Orwell, first published in the literary magazine New Writing in late 1936

Carl Plummer 2020

6 views0 comments


bottom of page