'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Vital Spark by Neil Munro

A collection of humorous short stories involving Captain Para Handy and his Clyde Puffer, The Vital Spark, the 'smertest boat in the tred!' A delightful read at only 94 pages.

Para (Peter) Handy has been captain on the Vital Spark for more than 20 years. His crew is first mate Dougie, a married man with 10 children and a new one coming every year. The Tar (Colin) their cook who can't seem to stay awake long, even to get married! And Dan, the engineer who is always in the engine room reading penny novels, romances no less! Story is he was in Australia once and killed a man in the bush (two when he's been drinking!) so Para treats him with kid gloves. All of this lends itself to hilarious adventures.

There are 25 stories in this book ending with the tale of long term bachelor, Para's wedding. Some of my favorites are the story where Para bet a man his canary could sing better than the man's, and the one where they try to convince The Tar to cook something besides tinned meat or the time Dougie and Para went to a farm sale and came away with a cow. But my favorite is the tale of Para's wedding. He's quite a character and he's always saying everything is 'chust sublime'.

I love the Gaelic and Scots vernacular...

The Tar was so plainly asleep from his snoring that it seemed no use to tackle him. The Captain looked at him. "Man!" he said, "he hass a nose that minds me o' a winter day, it's so short and dirty. He would be no use any way. It's the enchineer's chob, but I daurna waken him, he's such a man for high jeenks." And still the whistle waked the echoes of Tarbert

Or from the tale about poaching salmon!

"'But it's no' the Fast Day in oor parish,' he said. 'We'll chust give it a trial, and if there's no fush at the start we'll come away back again.' Oh! a consuderate fellow, Dougie; he saw my poseetion at wance, and that I wasna awfu' keen to be fushin' wi' a splash-net on the Fast Day. The end and the short of it wass that when it wass dark we took the net and the punt and rowed doon to the river and began to splash. We had got a fine haul at wance of six great big salmon, and every salmon Dougie would be takin' oot of the net he would be feeling it all over in a droll way, till I said to him, 'What are you feel-feelin' for, Dougie, the same ass if they had pockets on them? I'm sure they're all right'.

Eventually TV series were made from the books. Full episodes can be seen on YouTube.

If this sounds like something you might like to read get a digital copy free over at Manybooks.net.

Peggy Ann

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