Wordle, Smurdle

Yet another friend drives me batty with a pic of their daily wordle success. Like I care. Still, I’m not one to chirp; I hate to miss my daily sudoku fix, my preference being the killer version, the trickier the better. I developed that passion for puzzles from my father; he taught me the rudiments of the Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword when I was about 16 and I was hooked. These days, I more numbers based but the principle addiction remains the same. Mind you, had I still been a daily cryptic aficionado, finding out that my blogging friend Derrick Knight was for many years a top setter of the same would have sent me into retirement in a heart beat. Cryptic crossword setters are evolved humans, the next stage after sapiens: Homo Cryptus. Either that or they are proof that Stephen Hawkins was right and there are multiple parallel universes, as they must hail from a more advanced universe.

Dad however used his talents differently.

My dad liked a couplet, a rhyme, a well-chosen pun and, especially a limerick. History doesn’t relate how he turned this love and not a little skill into a compelling hobby and a successful enterprise, but maybe a little like this.

In the lead up to his retirement in the mid 1980s, an idea occurred, probably to Mum, for him to have a go at one of a plethora of competitions, then so very popular. In essence (the format varied a little but this was basically it) you had to:

  • collect a certain number of labels/tokens/tops etc to prove you liked a certain product;
  • answer a general knowledge question of varying difficulty; and
  • say in 10/12/20 (a random number) words why said product was the best {insert product’s function} in the known universe.

Do these things still exist? No idea but Dad loved them.

He made mistakes. Once he had to be sent back to the shelves in Tesco, having filled  his basket with ten tins of Pedigree dog slop, even though the family dog had been dead some ten years by then – he tried it on again, this time with nappies, suggesting to his frugal wife that ‘we’ll need them when grandchildren come’. She may have loved him but she didn’t indulge him if it involved wasting money.

Initially he relied on his own skills to get him past the general knowledge quiz section but as he took things more seriously (and given this was all pre Google) he invested in a  monthly magazine that gave you the answers to dozens of competitions. Large businesses, such as Unilever and Nestle tried to shut it down but without success. He didn’t want to use this ‘cheat’, at least not to begin with, because, well, the pure breed Le Pard male has a very well-developed ego, but his spouse had the final word. ‘I’m not eating another Vesta bloody curry if you’re going to waste my sacrifice by screwing up the answer to the highest mountain in Guatemala (or whatever)’.

He had standards, mind; for instance he insisted on never paying an entrance fee, reasoning that buying a dozen cans of prime tripe was enough of a sacrifice.

Which left the tie breaker; the phrase or saying. He would ponder for hours; the magazine with the quiz answers also contained a lot of winning entries which gave guidance to what a specific company was looking for. And having pondered, he produced…

And he grew in confidence. And began to win. In those early days he tended to enter competitions he liked the look of, without much thought to the prize, so when the Archaeologist and I visited to find, apparently that the Old Man had taken up international class surfboarding, aged 60 and with a strong antipathy to salt water, we were told not to be surprised. He sold the board for a handsome sum in the classified ads in the Bournemouth Evening Echo, which started a trend.

Prizes proliferated; a handsome garden bench, a set of china flower pots, strange medical looking equipment that, apparently functioned in a well-stocked kitchen, and a top of the range Betamax player which pleased him for about 6 months until it became clear everyone was getting VHS videos. It’s a shame he sold that, given their collectable value today…

But the best prize, the one they enjoyed immensely came courtesy of Youngs’ Sea Food, and specifically a prawn dish made with cream and pasta. I don’t know what the slogan was but I do know the prize…

A weekend trip to Oslo

A grand all expenses stay in a 5* hotel

Multiple sight-seeing opportunities

A black tie dinner with the guest of honour the Mayor of Oslo

and best of all…

They flew there on Concorde

Concorde had never flown to Oslo from London before this trip. There was a reason for this. Concorde had reduced the flying time across the Atlantic to 3 hours by reaching speeds of twice the speed of sound, but to do this they needed to accelerate above mach 1 only when they crossed the coast (otherwise the sonic boom tended to blow out the nearest windows), there wasn’t enough distance to even reach Mach 1 by the time they had to slow down to land in Oslo. They got round this by flying west, crossing the Irish coast, giving it some real welly and then curving round Iceland and heading for Norway. As Mum said afterwards, ‘it hardly added any time and any way, it is really rather delicious watching the bubbles go straight up on a  glass of Moet when the speedometer reaches mach 2’. Please don’t get the impression she was a snob…

The dinner was indeed to be a grand affair and mum was presented with a broach in silver in the shape of a prawn with a small inset diamond. Dad received a tiepin with the same prawn motif and – and this took some believing given how no expenses spared the trip had been so far – a hat. Specifically a plastic Viking hat. It turned out that, as part of these celebrations, Dad and others were to be inducted into the Prawn Club and to do so, all the men had to put on this horned bedpans. Must be the Scandinavian version of the Masons, I suppose.

Here are two of the hats, nicked no doubt by mum, that ended up in her dressing up box and which delighted the grandchildren many times…

And yes, I’m wearing a pudding basin on my head. I worked in the legal profession, you know. It was part of the uniform.

Still, my parents loved their time in the limelight and I only wish I still had some examples of his wit and wisdom from these competitions. Sadly not, though I do recall his favourite winning line, penned by someone else. Infamously, in 1976, the BBC refused to broadcast any of the Formula One races that season despite it being one of the greatest seasons ever (they relented for the showdown in Japan which is a whole other story) because of one specific piece of on-car advertising? They’re righteous crusade was against… cigarettes? alcohol? No, condoms. Durex sponsored the Surtess car driven by Australian Alan Jones so, in those prurient days, the show, unlike the prophylactic, couldn’t go on.

Someone, a while later was asked for a slogan promoting the benefits of Durex over other rubbers and came up with:

Durex: it turns a small event into a grand prix

Had that been Dad’s, he would have died happy…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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34 Responses to Wordle, Smurdle

  1. As was my mom.
    She was addicted to a weekend radio question race run by the small town radio station.
    My job, 30 minutes before each question each week was to position myself in front of the family encyclopedia with my collection of almanacs, road maps and other various reference books ready for the qustion because I was her database search in those pre-WWW days.

    Heck, where else could a kid learn that tide tables weren’t published in old high school year books or that knowing who founded the local golf course was the key to winning a gravy boat from the gift store sponsor?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. joylennick says:

    That was some, entertaining post Geoff! What a character your Dad sounded. –Im indoors loves word games too and does lots of crossword puzzles and writes silly limericks. Keeps the doctor away…x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    Another interesting sorté into the your Dad’s many talents!
    Love the pudding basin!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ritu says:

    I love a puzzle or three!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That winning line certainly had it covered!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. noelleg44 says:

    What a grand story! My Mom and I used to work crosswords together – the New York Times hard ones – and I introduced her to Sudoku, which I have not quite mastered.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. trifflepudling says:

    Re. the F1 – yes, that was a bit idiotic, being the year that James Hunt won and there was that rivalry with Lauda!
    Well done, your dad – a special talent.
    That looks like a plastic Anton Mossiman Christmas pud basin on your noddle? It just has that look about it – dark green.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Well done, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ThingsHelenLoves says:

    Your dad was a comper! I love entering competitions, sadly the ones based on effort and wit are harder to find now. Most are just a lucky dip. Still hopeful I’ll win the big prize like your parents trip, but it hasn’t happened yet. Plenty of pet prizes and a hoover last month so can’t complain.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. JT Twissel says:

    Lol … horned bedpans! I love these stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Darlene says:

    A great story. I love your parents!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m sure that was your Dad’s – someone must have nicked it. Lots of chuckles in this one, Geoff – and thanks for the mention.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. V.M.Sang says:

    What a lovely story. And even the Norwegians, it seems, have fallen for the Viking hats with horns, although we’re told now that it’s a myth.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh, she was right there with me, meeting the challenge as a team. We rarely won the race but it made for a fun weekend event. Losses turned into strategy discussions for the next weekend. How cool is that for a kid?

    Liked by 1 person

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