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09/27/2004 Archived Entry: "Coffee, tea, monster?"
Posted by CKL @ 09:30 AM PST

Neil Gaiman loves a good story.

Bill Pilkington, son of a Wallasey police inspector, studied Medicine at Liverpool University but, two years into the course, realised that his father would never be able to afford the 2,000 then needed to start a practice. He switched to a general arts degree followed by a spell at Rada. When war was declared in 1939, he was master of ceremonies at the Argyle Theatre, Liverpool.

He joined up and was sent to France, where he drilled with a spade and in civilian clothes because that was all they had. When the Army discovered that Pilkington spoke passable Norwegian, having learned at night school, he was recruited into military intelligence and sent to what was then the Ringway Airport near Manchester for parachute training. Soon, Pilkington found himself in the Norwegian campaign with the task of testing the extent of enemy infiltration into local Norwegian society.

Killing was not what Pilkington had in mind on a spring morning in 1940 as he and a colleague, Jim Beech, walked along a country lane approaching the small town of Bodo. Both were dressed in what somebody in an office back home had said was correct Norwegian clothing. An elderly, grey-haired lady with a pleasant smile approached them. "Good morning," she said, in English. "I think that you are British, is that so?"

"Yes," Pilkington replied.

"I can always tell the British. If you will come to my house, I will give you breakfast. We are allies in this terrible thing that has happened to my country. Come with me."

The woman led them to her house in which was her son, a teenager. "Ingvald," said the nice lady in Norwegian. "These are British spies. Go out and telephone the SS that we have them here."

Ingvald began to put on his boots.

"Do you have a toilet?" said Beech.

"My boy will show you," said their hostess. Then, to Ingvald, "Show him, then get off quickly."

Beech followed the youth round to the rear of the house. There he drew his knife and, with a swift, professional thrust, stabbed Ingvald through the back and into the heart.

In the kitchen, the lady turned from the stove and Pilkington said in Norwegian: "Madam, you should have found out first whether we spoke your language." Drawing his revolver, he shot her as Beech returned wiping his knife. In later years, whenever he was asked if he had killed anyone in the war, Pilkington would reply: "Yes, I shot a nice old lady who was just going to give me breakfast."

-- Independent News obituary, 08 September 2004

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