Truly, there is no justice in a world in which such a dynamite tale of romance hasn’t been made into a Bruce Willis movie (am I showing my age? okay, fine, Michael Bay movie, then. happy now?). I’ve stolen this tender, yet explosive vignette from a 12-year-old copy of the Tatler, and will here retell it in my own words, both because I like the sound of them and because who knows whether or not this Gerald Harper person may have a particularly aggressive intellectual property lawyer.
So, this Gerald Harper actor-sometime-magazine-writer-person tells a story he heard from a certain John Mills, artist-person. Who I also hope is unpossessed of an aggressive intellectual property lawyer, because these days you can’t even gossip about YOURSELF without somebody suing you for invading your own privacy and, well, you just can’t be too careful.
Not that I’ve ever tried.
In any case, howeversomeitbe, if it pleases the jury, this is what said John Mills told said Gerald Harper, and then Harper turned right around and got one pound sterling a word or thereabouts for it, which proves the pecking order of the arts world and the pen is mightier than the brush, or at least has a better agent, don’t it?
Mills was a navy officer whose job did not, surprisingly, involve a lot of time on boats. He was, you see, a demolition expert, and those people are not really so much in demand on the open ocean because, that famous whale notwithstanding (and it couldn’t even withstand a couple of hot days on the beach, and you can watch the video yourself if you doubt me which you should never do unless I say I’ll pay you by Thursday and then you get what you deserve) there are not a lot of explosive materials or substrates right handy once you get out at sea. There’s a lot of water, a fish or two, and far too many smug, retired couples who insist that you call their glorified dingies “yachts.” Which, however much you may want to blow them up, you couldn’t, because they probably play bridge with some retired relative of yours who’d be annoyed at losing a pair of easy marks.
So, despite being a naval officer, this Mills person spent most of his time on terra firma, rendering parts of it significantly less firm and, not infrequently, airborne. This has to be some kind of elaborate prank of the navy’s on the army, surely? In any case, it’s a heck of a job description and I can’t think of many pleasanter ways to spend your career if you’re the kind of man who grew up reading exciting Boy’s Only books and rigging snares and messing around in the basement trying to make your own guncotton and feeding seagulls fish stuffed with baking soda (not that I know any men like that, no indeed, and I would have turned them right over to the Society for the Preservation of Shithawks if I’d met any, of that you may be sure). Most particularly if you find yourself in the navy and you don’t really like, you know, boats and stuff.
So Mills was trundling across Europe, blowing up whatever the powers that be wanted blown, and speaking of which, he met a girl.
It so happened that he had a little time off, and he and his fair lady spent many a pleasant hour picnicking and partaking of other pleasures on a particular little hillock somewhere north of Rouen. Now, a note to those of a pedantic turn of mind: you might as well close that tab you opened on Google Earth. You won’t find it. And why not?
Because, on their last evening together, lying on the little hill, the lady leaned in and sighed, “Oh my darling Jean, I ‘ate to zink zat anybody will use our ‘ill.”
So the next day, he blew it up.
Who says chivalry is dead?