Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Pass the Port . . .


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I once told a Trinidadian friend that I love old jokes. He replied without the slightest hesitation, “It looks [like] your wife likes old jokes more than you.” Then to my quizzical expression he added, “Well she married one.” I suppose, as Trinis would say, I “look for that”.
There is a story about two famous Americans, Joseph H. Choate and Chauncey Depew, that illustrates why you need to beware of saying things to people who are as sharp or sharper than you. The two gentlemen were invited to a dinner at which Mr Choate, a diplomat, was the feature speaker and Mr Depew, a United States senator, was the master of ceremonies.  
When it was time to introduce the speaker, Mr Depew said, “Gentlemen, permit me to introduce Ambassador Choate, America’s most inveterate after-dinner speaker. All you need to do to get a speech out of Mr Choate is to open his mouth, drop in a dinner and up comes your speech.”
Mr Choate warmly and effusively thanked the senator for his compliment, and then said: “Mr Depew says if you open my mouth and drop in a dinner up will come a speech, but I warn you that if you open your mouths and drop in one of Senator Depew’s speeches up will come your dinners.”
Alcoholic indulgence
In addition to old jokes, I also like port which remains my only after dinner alcoholic indulgence except when occasionally I am asked to make a speech. Needless to say that I like “Port” jokes and after-dinner stories. When asked about why I chose this particular type of wine, I always reply, “I am like the sailor who wherever he docked gave his girlfriends a bottle of this same wine. He liked to have a little port in every sweetheart.”
Sometimes, when I feel a little nautical, I tell a joke about “port” – not Port-of-Spain because things are too tense there these days to elicit any humour or Port Royal because after they eat their cassava people there get a bit barmy.  
The joke goes like this. Once upon a time there was a famous sea captain. This captain was very successful at what he did; for years he guided merchant ships all over the world. Never did stormy seas or pirates get the best of him. He was admired by his crew and fellow captains. However, there was one thing different about this captain.
Every morning he went through a strange ritual. He would lock himself in his captain’s quarters and open a small safe. In the safe was an envelope with a piece of paper inside. He would stare at the paper for a minute, and then lock it back up. Afterwards he went about his daily duties.
For years this went on and his crew became very curious. Was it a treasure map? Was it a letter from a long lost love? Everyone speculated about the contents of the strange envelope.
One day the captain died at sea. After laying the captain’s body to rest, the first mate led the entire crew into the captain’s quarters. He opened the safe, got the envelope, opened it and the first mate turned pale and showed the paper to the others. Four words were on the paper, two on two lines: Port Left, Starboard Right.
Recently I rediscovered an old favourite of mine called “Pass The Port”. It is a collection of after-dinner stories told by famous Englishmen. Because I like old English detective stories almost as much as I love British humour, the book has been alternating for my nocturnal affections with a Ngaio Marsh collection that I have been “Kindling” with in my pad – my Asus Eee pad, a really touching experience.  
This one came from Sir Godfrey Agnew, clerk of the Privy Council.  A woman commissioned an artist to paint her portrait for a fee of £300. She immediately wrote out a cheque and handed it to him.
The artist was concerned, “I thought we had agreed a fee of £300 but you made out your cheque for £400.” The woman replied, “Yes, I know; but I find it a bit embarrassing. Would you have any objection to painting me in the nude?” The artist smiled, “None whatsoever, madam, provided that I can keep my socks on as I must have somewhere to put my brushes.”
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that even the greats love their corny jokes. Lord Fortescue of the Coldstream Guards asked, “How do elephants make love under water?” They first remove their trunks.

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