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 before.
"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 his shins.
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.