125. The Little Victories of Fatherhood

There are moments – moments mind you, and in the memory they are few and far between – when I feel like I’m not a complete schmuck as a father.  I had one this week.

For LittleDavyOne’s birthday MrsDavy and I bought her a Kindle. And, following MrsDavy’s instructions, I had pre-loaded it with a swathe of the out of copyright free titles made available by Amazon: Austen and Dickens and Thucydides and so on.

What MrsDavy maybe didn’t know is that I’d also slipped in a whole lot of Rudyard Kipling. I don’t think MrsDavy has ever read Kipling, but Ned has.

And now LittleDavyOne has, too. And she loves it. Loves it, and I almost feel that my job is done.

The key thing about Kipling is his hard graft over many years: a prodigious output of poems and stories and novels.  None of them individually ever rises quite to the top in literary terms, but they are always well-written and easy to read, and collectively they are a wonderful expression of time and place. And always sitting just below the surface is his complicated relationship with his subjects: an arch-imperialist with more sympathy for the ruled than the rulers, for example.

aves5My favourite Kipling is Stalky & Co, a reminiscence of his time at the United Services College in Westward Ho! which prepared young Englishmen to go out and rule an empire. It’s a book that can be read at many levels – ripping yarns, schoolboy anarchy, imperialist manifesto – but it is first and foremost an encomium of youth.

It is the fictionalised youth of three real boys: Beetle is Kipling, Stalky is Lionel Dunsterville (who commanded Dunsterforce in the Caspian theatre in the latter part of World War One) and M’Turk is George Charles Beresford (engineer, artist).

As LittleDavyOne now agrees, it is a wonderful read. Do yourself a favour, and go and grab it for free for your Kindle, or iPad.

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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