Plenty beer, plenty meat, plenty money

On our recent jaunt in the north of Ger­many, we took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to re-read Ersk­ine Childers 1903 Ger­man-inva­sion-scare nov­el, The Rid­dle of the Sands.

This pas­sage occurs when Davies and Car­ruthers (yes, the nar­ra­tor is called Car­ruthers!) meet a chan­nel pilot on the Friesian coast and he takes them duck hunt­ing.

Yes, yes,’ he said, ‘all right. There is plen­ty ducks, but first we will drink a glass beer; then we will shift your ship, captain–she lies not good there.’ (Davies start­ed up in a pan­ic, but was waved back to his beer.) ‘Then we will drink togeth­er anoth­er glass beer; then we will talk of ducks–no, then we will kill ducks–that is bet­ter. Then we will have plen­ty glass­es beer.’

This was an unex­pect­ed cli­max, and promised well for our prospects. And the pro­gramme was ful­ly car­ried out. After the beer our host was packed briskly by his daugh­ter into an armour of woollen gaiters, coats, and muf­flers, topped with a worsted hel­met, which left noth­ing of his face vis­i­ble but a pair of twin­kling eyes. Thus equipped, he led the way out of doors, and roared for Hans and his gun, till a great gawky youth, with high cheek-bones and a downy beard, came out from the yard and sheep­ish­ly shook our hands.

Togeth­er we repaired to the quay, where the pilot stood, look­ing like a genial ball of worsted, and bawled hoarse direc­tions while we shift­ed the Dul­ci­bel­la to a berth on the far­ther shore close to the oth­er ves­sels. We returned with our guns, and the inter­val for refresh­ments fol­lowed. It was just dusk when we sal­lied out again, crossed a stretch of bog-land, and took up strate­gic posts round a stag­nant pond. Hans had been sent to dri­ve, and the result was a fine mal­lard and three ducks. It was true that all fell to the pilot’s gun, per­haps owing to Hans’ fil­ial instinct and his parent’s can­ny ego­tism in choos­ing his own lair, or per­haps it was chance; but the shoot­ing-par­ty was none the less a tri­umphal suc­cess. It was cel­e­brat­ed with beer and music as before, while the pilot, an infant on each podgy knee, dis­coursed exu­ber­ant­ly on the glo­ries of his coun­try and the Elysian con­tent of his life. ‘There is plen­ty beer, plen­ty meat, plen­ty mon­ey, plen­ty ducks,’ summed up his sur­vey.

Image from the cov­er of the recent beau­ti­ful­ly designed Pen­guin edi­tion.

8 thoughts on “Plenty beer, plenty meat, plenty money”

  1. I don’t remem­ber the last time I hat­ed a book as much as that. Good God it’s dull. I was enter­tain­ing fan­tasies of being in the Free State fir­ing squad by page 80.

  2. Beer Nut – so we not only don’t like any of the same beers, we also dis­agree about books…

    There is cer­tain­ly a bor­ing bit in the mid­dle where they seem to do noth­ing but mea­sure the depth of the water but, as an evo­ca­tion of a place and time, it’s fan­tas­tic – like Baedekker with a plot.

  3. What ho! Cur­ruthers!

    I read this years ago and loved it. Obvi­ous­ly not per­fect but I too found it evoca­tive and have always fan­cied boat­ing around the islands just to check if the das­tard­ly Ger­mans were still there.

  4. Thanks-that’s whet­ted my appetite! I tried to read it when I was about 11 or 12 dur­ing some inter­minable child­hood ill­ness, but failed. Childers was an inter­est­ing cove-wasn’t he an ear­ly mem­ber of Sinn Fein?

  5. men­talden­tal & Wit­ten­den – a good one to re-read with a mince pie on Box­ing Day, then?

    I don’t know much about Childers although the book itself is the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to para­noid fic­tion about a Ger­man inva­sion. Michael Moor­cock col­lect­ed a whole vol­ume of short sto­ries from var­i­ous mag­a­zines like the Strand and Harper’s all of which would have you believe that the Ger­mans were massed in ranks wait­ing to head for Britain in sub­marines, air­ships, tanks.…

  6. Wit­ten­den, Childers wasn’t exact­ly an ear­ly Sinn Féin mem­ber, but was one of the group who took the par­ty over after 1916 and turned into a Repub­li­can move­ment. Ear­ly Sinn Féin (1905–1917) was a monar­chist par­ty: not­ta lot­ta peo­ple know that. His son was lat­er Pres­i­dent of Ire­land, and his grand­daugh­ter is now an MEP.

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