The Spirit Of Beachcomber Lives On


Who? I hear you ask. Oh God, you’re so young – how can you not know about Beachcomber?

Before we commence, a little history; Beachcomber was the nom de plume used by surrealist humour writers D. B. Wyndham-Lewis and J. B. Morton, as authors of the Daily Express column “By the Way” in the period 1919-1975. I unashamedly lift this from Wikipedia as they explain it better than anyone else;

‘The format of the column was a random assortment of small paragraphs which were otherwise unconnected. These could be anything, such as:
Court reports, often involving Twelve Red-Bearded Dwarfs before Mr Justice Cocklecarrot.
Angry exchanges of letters between characters such as Florence McGurgle and her dissatisfied boarders.
Interruptions from “Prodnose”, representing the public, who would then be roundly cursed by the author and kicked out.
Installments of serials that could stop, restart from earlier, be abandoned altogether or change direction abruptly without warning.
Parodies of poetry or drama, particularly of the extremely “literary” type such as Ibsen.
News reports from around the country.
Anything that the author thought funny at the time.’

So, then, a lovely Tweet came in reminding me of Miles Kington’s report from a 2002 English court case echoing the classic form of Beachcomber – except that this is purportedly real. The accused; a man charged with stealing 40,000 coat hangers (the kind without hooks) from hotels. What happens next is simply wonderful –

Counsel: What is your name?
Chrysler: Chrysler. Arnold Chrysler.
Counsel: Is that your own name?
Chrysler: Whose name do you think it is?
Counsel: I am just asking if it is your name.
Chrysler: And I have just told you it is. Why do you doubt it?
Counsel: It is not unknown for people to give a false name in court.
Chrysler: Which court?
Counsel: This court.
Chrysler: What is the name of this court?
Counsel: This is No 5 Court.
Chrysler: No, that is the number of this court. What is the name of this court?
Counsel: It is quite immaterial what the name of this court is!
Chrysler: Then perhaps it is immaterial if Chrysler is really my name.
Counsel: No, not really, you see because…
Judge: Mr Lovelace?
Counsel: Yes, m’lud?
Judge: I think Mr Chrysler is running rings round you already. I would try a new line of attack if I were you.

Case transcript continues here.

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