Lord Elgin was (and still is) the biggest collector of marbles of all time.
Most of his stockpile was looted, or at least bought at a knockdown prices, from various Greeks who preferred drachma to dobbers.
They’re back in the news at the moment because the Greeks are mortified that we’ve lent one to Russia and the heat is back on us to given them all back to Greece. This always worries me in case the Germans get in on the act and ask me to restore all my loot to them.
I have some treasures looted from Germany during my extensive campaigns there as a squaddie in the 1950s. I have some splendid embossed ashtrays nicked from various hostelries and an enormous whaleboned foundation garment autographed by a lady called Brunhilde.
Pride of my collection is a two-litre beer mug with a hinged lid. Every time you lift the lid it automatically plays a traditional oompah band’s rendition which is more familiar to us as an anglicised version of “Hitler has only got one.etc.” followed by mass wind-breaking ceremony.
It came from Obermeyer’s Bier Kellar after a brisk melee with some natives quaintly clad in leather shorts and funny hats with a feather on one side.
Moving now to what was soviet Russia, I have had pangs of conscience regarding my acquisition of a fur-lined Cossack hat. I came across it laying about on a hat-stand in the third bar on the left having exited the docks at Leningrad.
We always identified pubs in their location from the dock gates, mainly because we couldn’t pronounced their names. Finnish crew members got to the first bar, Swedes made it as far as the second, while the more civilised Brits and Danes hung on until they reached the third.
Anyway, if the large bearded Russian gentlman reads this and wants his hat back, he should contact me at the Visitor office and I will return it. It never suited me, but a number of dogs will miss it.
I usually take this annual opportunity to wish all my readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Please consider it said. However, the usual escape clause applies.
My enemy in Hest Bank is excluded, may the fleas from a thousand reindeer infest his armpits...