Friday, 4 March 2011

Turnips and taters



I once worked on and off for B., a retired RAF Squadron Leader, who has now been dead for twenty years at least. In addition to many other foibles he used to give his occupation, for reasons best known to himself, in hotel registers and the like as 'Domfosticator'. Sometimes, returning to the same hotel after several years' absence, he would be found to have promoted himself to 'Senior Domfosticator'.

I got to know B. a year or two before I was first married. Retired from the RAF, he ran an outdoor education centre on Southampton Water, where I worked occasionally. By one of those very curious and gratifying coincidences that keep cropping up in life, he was my uncle Roger's CO in the early days of World War 2: my uncle's first RAF posting was to the barrage balloon unit covering Southampton docks, a unit commanded by Sqn Ldr Domfosticator. Unknown to each other, many years later both he and my uncle attended my first wedding, but the coincidence was never sprung, and I only realised it when details of my uncle's RAF career, about which he rarely spoke, came to light after his death in 2008.

Shortly after their service in Southampton, both went their separate ways in the RAF, my uncle to become a Flight Lieutenant (Navigator) in 488 (New Zealand) Sqn - although he had no connection with New Zealand - and Sqn Ldr Domfosticator, profoundly deafened by anti-aircraft fire, was posted to the RAF Provost Marshal's department in Italy.

He used to say of the people of Naples, where he was based after its capture from Hitler's and Mussolini's troops by the advancing Allies, that whenever an air-raid siren sounded, they would wait in the street until the Allied bombers actually appeared overhead. If the markings were American, they would scurry for the shelters as fast as possible. If they were British, they carried on their business normally: RAF bombing, limited to strategic objectives, was pin-point accurate.

B. was a fine man, although not without certain inexplicable traits. (Why would a man pretend his wife was his cousin? Why would he walk away when the name Chaliapin was mentioned?) Until his death he remained a firm family friend. When they were 5 and 7 or thereby my children took the word 'domfosticator' under their wings. We used to sing in the car - but only along a certain lane in Scotland - 'Turnips and taters and domfosticators' over and over again to the same three notes. (G,A,C rising, for the myriad of musicians who come here every day.) Happily the lane wasn't very long.

If you've read so far and wonder what the word 'domfosticator' means, I'm sorry. I don't know. Perhaps you do?

But I didn't invent it, Rosie.

12 comments:

Vicus Scurra said...

Yes, I do.

Christopher said...

B*m?

Dave said...

Mr Google has just one entry for the word 'domfosticator'. There is a word for that, where Google give a single, unique hit, but it's eluded me at the moment.

'Why would a man pretend his wife was his cousin?' Because Pharaoh fancied her, perhaps?

Rosie said...

Thank goodness you posted this. I can now return to normal life.

Vicus Scurra said...

I think that Dave is thinking of "googlewhack" where inputting two words produces only one result. If one word produces only one result, then it is probably a made-up word, or typo. Or, in this case, evidence of the pitiful lack of people reading this blog.

Dave said...

Thank you Vicus. That is precisely what I meant.

Sarah said...

Turnips are only fit for sheep consumption. Hateful root.

It sounds rude.....something he shouldn't aught to have done in the men's dorm perhaps?

hope this helps.

Tenon_Saw said...

I came looking for Through a Local Lens 8 which appeared in Google Reader - but it has gone!

Z said...

I like turnips, even raw. Not raw potatoes though.

I'd just got Oh Happy Day out of my head and now you have given me something new to sing. Thank you, dear boy. I shall try to return the favour one day.

Rog said...

I'm going to put my occupation in the forthcoming census as Domfosticator. And probably my religion as well.

Christopher said...

I'm glad that's settled, Davicus.

Rosie: Your 'normal' life appears to be one long fantasy. V. envious...

Sah: I am not going to ask what experience you can possibly have of men's dormitories.

TS: Yes, there was a problem: I'd scheduled the post for a day or two later, but the post-dating didn't work, or I didn't process it correctly. Imagine my horror when it published immediately. Imagine the panic-stricken speed with which I deleted it. Imagine my chagrin that it was too late to prevent it appearing in others' side-bars. Imagine my frustration at having to do it all again, not having kept a copy. Imagine my anguish at thus raising reader's false hopes, about a post that was only about a hole in the ground.

Z: Mashed turnip (champit neeps for the Scots among us) yes, potato in any form except the occasional non-soggy chip, no. As for the song, I might have unintentionally misled you: it should be |: Tur-(A) nips(C) and(G) ta-(A) ters(C) and(G) dom-(A) fos-(C) ti-(G) ca-(A) tors(C):|

Rog: Surely you must a Senior Domfosticator by now?

Z said...

Thank you, Chris. I had felt it could be improved upon, but now it is perfect.