following letters have come into Bikwil's possession via an
anonymous hand. They are reproduced here without comment, save to note
that it is difficult to tell which of the two correspondents is more
urgently in need of assistance — the Billy-Bunter-loving tango man, or
his egocentric psychologist from hell, who by the time he runs out of
self-indulgent steam apparently cannot remember who the real client is.)
Dr I.Q. Lowe,
Dear Dr Lowe,
I seek your advice re
recent disturbances in my life.
For forty years I
toiled faithfully as a public servant. Apart from devotion to Work and to my
wife and daughter, my only indulgence was an excessive absorption in a stamp
On my recent
retirement I unfortunately came across the publication Bikwil which I
rightly thought facetious. Whilst waiting impatiently for the next silly
issue I frittered away Time searching second-hand shops for Beano
comics and literature devoted to the life of the “Owl of the Fifth Remove”
— Billy Bunter.
Becoming less and
less responsible I hooted with mirth when I discovered silverfish had
devoured my precious “penny-browns”. My daughter's collection of
Wagnerian CDs I buried in the kitchen garden promising to replace them with
versions by The Spice Girls. I have taken up tango lessons and I attempt to
write amusing pieces for Bikwil.
When my daughter was
practising a series of shrieks from The Valkyries I shook my maracas
at her and demonstrated my tango steps.
Edna won't speak to
me. Tra la la!
The Police make me
turn off my music at two am. Cha cha cha!
Is something the
reply to your professional enquiry, I would unhesitatingly diagnose you
as an advanced case of WPD (Whimsical Personality Disorder). Luckily I
am conducting a therapy group for cases such as yours at my rural
retreat at Grunt Grunt. This is conveniently situated only two days easy
ride by camel from Tibooburra.
principle of the therapy is that of ‘negative practice’ that is, the
whimsical response is extinguished by dint of practice of antagonistic
responses. This principle will become apparent when I outline our
participants will take part in the annual Grunt Grunt Roo Gutting and
Sheep Knackering competitions, which are the main cultural events in
this part of the country. Other entertainments are the sack races, in
which the sacks are placed over the head (instead of the more usual
over-the-feet procedure), so that the participants stumble blindly over
the dunes, tripping over rocks and running into patches of prickly pear.
Great fun! Or you may soak yourself in the sheep-dip pond while you
meditate on the meaning of life, of which the sack races are but a
metaphor. After meals of damper and bunghole (mains) followed by spotted
slut (sweets), all washed down with pannikins of rum, we relax around
the campfire, smoking our camel-dung cigarettes and singing such family
favourites as: The One-Eyed Reilly, The Ball at Kerrymuir
and The Old Red Flannel Drawers that Maggie Wore.
the unlikely event that this program does not appeal, there is, I'm
afraid, only one other course open to you. This is therapy based on the
‘flooding’ technique, whereby you involve yourself in so much
whimsical indulgence that you become satiated, and so eventually the
response is extinguished.
this end, you must attend the current production of Tannhäuser.
Since the opera itself is only three hours long, you must additionally
put in many months, even years in practising all the roles —
Heldentenor, dramatic soprano, barreltone and chorus — whilst
accompanying yourself on the piano. You will understand that all the
singing must be performed at the top of your voice, for Wagnerian opera
is not bel canto so much as can belto. By the end of these
endeavours, you will find that your whimsy has deserted you, ditto your
wife and daughter.
you not wish to change, as I half suspect, but rather take pride in
flaunting your symptoms, then I have this proposal to offer: Lord Peter,
in the course of your celebrated detective work, you have investigated
the bel canto singing of Farinelli, Vivaldi's Gloria and
Fauré's Requiem, and to your surprise and credit, you enjoyed
those experiences. I now urge you to go to the current production of Tannhäuser,
which you are sure to enjoy. You may dispense with the homework I
outlined in the previous paragraph, and just wallow in whimsy, but at a
different level of sophistication. It is a dramatic coup de théâtre,
a masterpiece. If you boggle at this proposal, then like Tannhäuser
himself, you are damned, and it will be Grunt Grunt for you, my boy!
hope this answers my query.