BBC Radio 4, 24-25 May 2011
Two readings by Ian McNeice from the magazine a evoked articles of A.
A. Milne, published during his tenure as Assistant Editor of Punch, and gathered under the umbrella title of The
Pocket A. A. Milne.
The tales ("Little Plays for Amateurs," and "High Jinks at Happythought Hall") evoked
a world of bourgeois leisure in the early twenties, where people spent their evenings both during and after dinner playing
party-games. "Little Plays ..." parodied the Victorian melodrama performed spontaneously in the living-room of a great house;
four decades earlier this genre had enthralled and entertained audiences from all social backgrounds, now it was an object
of satire. "Little Plays..." ended with a piece delivered with deadpan humour by McNeice about a young man trying to beat
his girlfriend at billiards, but finding to his surprise that she kept winning, even though she had never played the game
"High Jinks..." described a series of outrageous party-games, including a competition
to find objects in a kitchen beginning with the letter 'n.' The narrator thought of "Napoleon," "Notting Hill," and "gnat,"
offering some ingeniously far-fetched explanations as to why they were relevant to that particular living-space. The entire
tale was recounted in a mock-serious tone, with McNeice describing the narrator's experiences in terms of a momentous ordeal,
rather than a series of jolly japes. Crawling under the poker made his flesh creep, while another game led to him grazing
The Pocket A. A. Milne bore strong echoes of the work of P. G. Wodehouse,
due in no small part to the similarities between the narrator's experiences and those of Bertie Wooster or the Emsworth clan.
Both authors view their protagonists indulgently; no one actively suffers, and the prevailing social order is never placed
under threat. They simply want to show people enjoying themselves (in today's parlance, "having a laugh."), and expect their
readers and/or listeners to respond in similar fashion.