Frederick Parker-Rhodes 1914 - 1987 My father told us these stories while he washed up, and my brothers and I dried and put away. I think some were actually at bathtime. When I, the youngest, asked for a story just for me, Daddy would ask, What about? I asked for one about a Princess, and fairy godmothers stories. They are listed in the Archive, below. If you have anything he has written, or about him to share, it's most welcome.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


In the bar of the Pig and Poke, the Tripper had just finished a long and dull account of his day in Ostend. “What I always say,” he said, saying it, “Is that travel broadens the mind.”

“Ah,” put in the Traveller, “it does indeed: and further you travel, the broader your mind gets. There are things in distant regions which the inhabitants of this country would never believe, even if our friend here told them.”

“How far have you travelled, may I ask?”

“I’ve been as far from here as anyone can get. Why, I've visited the Antipodes. Men of science, whom I've consulted, tell me that the Antipodes are the remotest place on this earth. It has been worked out by mathematicians – not that I understand such things myself, mind you – that if you go on travelling after you have reached there, you are really on the way home. Not that I’d trust such theories myself, mind you: I came home the straight way, same as I went.”

“In that case,” said the Tripper, “you must have the broadest possible mind. I'm sure I’d be interested to know what things are like in the Antipodes.”

“Well, I warn you, you won't believe me.” Replied the Traveller “I've tried it on lots of people, and I'm afraid their minds aren’t broad enough to understand what goes on so far away. But if you’ll listen I’ll tell you what I can.”

We waited in a respectful silence for the broadminded one to proceed. “The first thing people find it hard to believe,” he began “is that the folk there are differently formed from us. The most astonishing thing is, that they have their faces at the back of their heads.”

“Impossible!” said the Tripper, “why, even the Belgians have their faces at the front.”

“It’s the truth I'm telling, and didn’t I say you wouldn’t believe me? Now that’s only the beginning; for those Antipodeans have their legs turned round the wrong way, too. Of course this deformity obliges them to walk backwards. It is even said that their private parts at the back.”

“What an extraordinary thing: a whole nation of people back-to-front. How do they manage to live then?”

“Oh, they manage. Of course they have their life arranged to suit their conditions in all sorts of ways. In the towns the streets for instance all run the opposite way to what they would over here; and their houses have their back doors at the front and their front doors at the back. And so forth. Once you get used to it it’s no harder, for example, than driving on the wrong side of the road.”

“Ah” said the Tripper “I see what you mean. I've noticed that myself, foreigners drive the wrong side of the road. Of course, for them it’s the right side (perhaps they have their eyes on the opposite sides from ours) but it’s surprising how one gets used to it.”

“But this business of walking backwards isn’t the only queer thing about the Antipodeans: not the most talked of either. There’s something even odder, which I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t been there and seen it done.”

“What’s that?” the Tripper asked.

“This is nothing to do with the people themselves: it’s a fact of Nature. In that country, the sky is below you, as it might be this floor here, and the ground is up above, like the ceiling.”

“It may be that Ostend isn’t far away enough to broaden my mind, but I really can't believe that,” replied the Tripper, “it’s obvious that it it was as you say, the people would fall off into space, and if you’d ever been there as you say, you’d have fallen off too, and we can all see that you haven’t.”

“Now I'm afraid you’re showing that you have no knowledge of science.” Said the Traveller. “Not that I understand these things myself, but mathematicians have proved, by mathematics (and you can't get round mathematics you know, not if you understand it) that at the Antipodes the force of gravity works upwards instead of downwards. So it turns out to be a wonderful arrangement of providence that the earth and sky are arranged there as I said; for if it weren’t so, then indeed all the people would fall off, because they’d be pulled upwards by gravity, just as surely as we’re pulled downwards here.”

“I see,” said the Tripper put in in a puzzled sort of way, “at least I think I see, that if gravity were turned round as you say, the people wouldn’t fall downwards into the sky. But I must be very strange to visit a country where everyone walks backwards and upsidedown. Surely it takes you long time to get used to that.”

“Well, when I was on my way there, and I was told about all this, naturally I didn’t believe any more than you did. But when I got there, I found out a very extraordinary thing, which no one had explained to me. And the effect of this was to make it much easier than you might think.”

“What thing was that? The Tripper asked.

“It has to do with the way we stand up. Mostly one never thinks about how one stands up, one just does it. But that’s just one of the ways travel broadens the mind, as you so wisely said just now, when one gets into a queer situation, an unprecedented environment, one just has to think about things one has never thought abut before.”

“How do we stand up then?”

“I’ll try to explain. You see, we don’t, as you might think, set about it by poking our heads up and keeping our feet down, though, as a matter of fact if we did it would work all right in this country – and for that matter in Belgium too. What we actually do, quite instinctively , is to get into a position where the force of gravity presses the weight of the body onto the feet. You see how wonderfully we are adapted to live in all parts of the earth; this method of standing up works just as well in the Antipodes as here, but the other way , head up feet down, would work here but would get people standing on the heads in the Antipodes.”

“So all you have to do is to trust to your instincts and not to think about “up” and “down”, and a traveller from her can manage all right, even over there?”

“Precisely so; it takes far less trouble to get used to the situation than one would think. Actually, I was quite disappointed to find how ordinary things seemed.”

“Well, you’ve certainly told us an astonishing thing,” said the Tripper,“and even persuaded us a little to believe it. I certainly never saw anything like that when I went to Ostend. I should very much like, one day, to have the opportunity of visiting the Antipodes to see it for myself.”

“You just might,” said the Traveller, “be a little disappointed.”

After a while, the Tripper suddenly said “Ah! I see it all, I see it all! If the people are all back-to-front and upside-down, then everything would be exactly the same as it is here. Ha, ha, ha, nothing extraordinary at all! Lucky thing I've travelled too, or I’d never have seen through it! Very clever, very clever indeed. ”

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