A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hooptedoodle #70 – Don, the Probability Well

Today’s pointless yarn is about a fellow I was at school with, somewhere around the middle of the last century.

Don was always an engaging, likeable chap – great sense of humour, and he was a good footballer as a kid – but he had a remarkable ability to get into scrapes. He was constantly getting hurt, or into trouble for something which, strictly, wasn’t his fault. Unlucky - you know?

When we left school we pretty much lost touch, and since we live hundreds of miles apart I’ve only met him a few times since, but I still hear tales of his misadventures. Don seems to have a knack of being around when things go wrong. There is a long record of 200 year old pictures falling off walls as he walked past, lifts getting stuck when he was in them, one case of a very old and valuable parrot which died of a heart attack when Don spoke to it - things like that.

I arranged to meet him for a beer about 5 years ago when I was visiting his part of the world, and was privileged to see a small sample of his powers in action. A full pint of Guinness slid horizontally across a perfectly steady table – no-one touched it – and dropped into someone’s lap. I swear this is true – there were four of us at the table, and we all saw it quite clearly. Later during the same evening (and this was before the general smoking ban came into effect in England), Don took exception to a note which was attached to the ash tray on our table, which said:

Please be considerate of diners in our restaurant. If anyone
is eating near you, please refrain from smoking. Thank you.
The Management.

Don airily waved his hand-rolled cigarette over the ashtray, and accidentally managed to set both the notice and a paper napkin alight, which caused some excitement. By this time, the staff of the pub were keeping a very careful eye on us, but we survived the rest of the evening without further dramas.

My favourite Don story was told to me by another old school chum (are you allowed to have school chums now?), who was present on the occasion when a group of friends was meeting in a London pub before going to the theatre. Don arrived a bit late, and was introduced to a lady in the party whom he had not met before. As she stood up to greet him, Don bowed in suitably theatrical style and their heads met with quite a thump. The general merriment was ended when the lady realised that she had become separated from one of her contact lenses, and would not be able to watch the play without it. A panic search failed to find it, so she rushed off to get a taxi home to collect some spare lenses.

She was about half-way home when the tip of Don’s cigarette, which somehow had fallen into her handbag and had been smouldering quietly, caused her bag to burst into flames. A bottle of cologne exploded and, though no-one was injured, the fire brigade had to come to put out the burning cab.

I have no plans to travel on an aeroplane with Don. To me, the scariest thing of all is that he has earned his living for the last 40 years – and very successfully – as a driving instructor. Are some people genuinely accident prone, or are they just clumsier or less careful than others?


  1. This is a splendid story, Mr. Foy. Regarding the question of the possibility of a hazard-gene, and speaking for myself, I find that I absolutely cannot watch a Mr. Bean episode as it is, well, too close to home. I suspect that others share my sentiment...


    1. Thank you Jim - I can watch Mr Bean, but found the TV series of The Office (that's the Ricky Gervais original, not the plastic copy) impossibly cringeworthy for similar reasons.


  2. I laughed out loud several times reading that!!

    1. All absolutely true - there is a big catalogue of Don stories, especially of his adventures with his local amateur dramatic society.

      In a 'plane, I could easily visualise him attempting to recline his seat, and pressing the Wings Fall Off button by mistake.

      Not recommended - he should carry a government health warning.

  3. He should come out for a bike ride with me-I can teach him a trick or two!

    1. Ouch! - the problem with Don is that the disasters always seem to befall the people he is with, not him.

  4. I shouldn't have read that at work;getting some very odd looks from my library users at my silent Ted Heath impression...

    1. Just tell them to shut up. Ted Heath - now there's a name to conjure with.


To avoid spam and advertising material, comments are moderated on this blog, and will appear once I have seen them.