I was reminded on seeing the word quartet of the most wonderful film and high point of British entertainment, “Carry on up the Khyber”, especially the scene where they are being attacked and complete chaos is reigning about, cannon shells crashing through the walls and ceiling and through it all the string quartet continue to play, much like the band on the Titanic.
Conveniently enough I wasn’t born until after World War two was over which meant my services were never called upon in defence of the realm but like a considerable number of British people, I think, we feel as if we contributed by letting our fathers go and die on our behalf.
I used to think should I have been there at the time I would have instantly offered my services to the R.A.F. and become a dashing Spitfire pilot but on reflection I decided that as their life expectancy was approximately three weeks I would look for something slightly less dangerous, Bletchley Park, perhaps.
Safely tucked away out of town at Station X, all very hush, hush, using my considerable brain power to crack the Nazi codes and when asked where I was going, the reply, “to join Captain Ridley’s shooting party.” Then at the weekend or on days off I would venture into town for a quiet afternoon tea at the Palm Court Hotel, relaxing to the gentle sound of a string quartet, much more my cup of tea than dying needlessly in some foreign field.
“Keep calm and carry on,” the world may be about to end with the Cuban missile crisis, or more recently being poisoned by Russian agents, or the outbreak of nuclear war with North Korea. Fear not, put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea, place a gramophone record on the turntable and relax to a string quartet and the soothing sounds of a Mozart concerto and all will be well.
A quartet may not have a musical connection for a quartet can be just a group of four, rather like the Cambridge graduates who took to spying for the KGB from World War Two right up the early 1950’s. Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Blunt, cads and bounders to a man.
I shouldn’t have written the last sentence as I’m getting all worked up now and it’s too late to get to the Palm Court, I’ll just have to forgo the musical quartet and make my own tea, I hope I can find a scone and some jam and cream in the larder.