Dad collected old weapons. My brother ended up with a few, but he only has so much room and he keeps a neat home, so he jettisoned a load yesterday. As with all antique weirdness they ended up in my car, along with even more random stuff for the fabulous Chelsea Junk Vortex.
It has all found its way up to my flat. From whence, who knows? There’s a fucked old cabinet which I’ll likely try and get out of here ASAP. If anybody is obsessed with Salome it’s an attempt at that story painted on the outside, but my grandmother got somebody to paint over the severed head of John the Baptist as it upset her. Probably early 1900’s. The whole cabinet needs an overhaul and the work is almost certainly not worth the value. Lockdown cabinet restoration friends apply below. I’ll send pictures.
I also now have a long blunderbuss, a short dueling pistol and a cavalry sword. And I’ve got a thing that looks like an axe but isn’t. I don’t know the word for the thing. But I do know the purpose. I don’t even know how I know it. It’s dark. Here it is.
It’s for Howdahs – for the mahout. A howdah? That’s when you put a palanquin on top of an elephant, fill it with people, and take them for a ride. The mahout tries to steer the elephant. It’s not something that happens much these days. They were used a lot during the Carnatic wars. As the Romans found out through Hannibal, an elephant is a hell of a thing to have to fight against.
More recently howdahs have mostly been for showing off in the late 1800’s. The time honoured crap human instinct: “I am weak and so I will assert myself over something bigger than me in order to momentarily forget my weakness.” Dumb Yankees posing by dead animals. Silly Brits sitting in castles on top of annoyed elephants.
Problem is, in war as in peace, elephants can fuck you up. Up in the howdah, if Algernon knocks over the hot teapot at the same time as Millicent takes a shot at a leopard and Charlie screams with shock at a fly, the elephant might suddenly decide it doesn’t want these idiots on its back anymore. You don’t fuck with an angry elephant. It’s huge and tough and very very hard to subdue or take down.
This is where, God forbid, the little decorative axe thing in the photograph comes in handy, so long as the driver (the mahout) doesn’t fall off.
The axe bit isn’t a weapon. It just looks like one. The axe bit, or feather bit etc – that’s decorative and you can use the base as a steering wheel.
It’s the stick itself that’s lethal. Or what’s hidden inside. In case of emergency, unscrew base.
If you look at pictures of howdahs there’s almost always some guy there, sitting on the elephant’s neck, holding a stick. Dad had a few of these goads at Eyreton, all very different. They do look nice.
But if you unscrew them there’s a concealed six inch stiletto hidden in the handle. Why?
Think about where the guy is sitting.
If the elephant goes bananas, the mahout can unscrew the handle of this fake axe and drive the hidden stiletto right into the brain of the elephant, stopping it dead.
It’s dressed up as something else so as not to upset the passengers. “Why are you carrying that?” “It’s my steering stick. It’s a ceremonial axe. I like it.” “How quaint.”
Attractive things are frequently deadly.