Not all the good stories are new stories, but there are few good stories about poets. Knocklofty has in its library a small store of such treasures and the board has decided that it might be of benefit to this scurvy and disastrous world if they were retold, merely to lift the spirits of literary folk and remind everyone that literature is, thankfully, not always as serious as it likes to pretend.

In the deserts of North Africa in World War II, Private Spike Milligan was a member of an artillery unit. Their war was characterised by very short periods of intense and confusing action between extremely long periods in which absolutely nothing happened.

Milligan relates that commanders became concerned about the effect of boredom on morale and feared outbreaks of what the French Foreign Legion called cafard – a condition best described as terminal boredom which led its victims to commit compulsive acts of spectacularly intemperate violence just to break the monotony.

To distract the troops and in the hope of giving them something to think about, the commanders of Milligan’s unit decided that the junior officers, most of whom were university men, should deliver a series of talks on cultural subjects after the evening meal.

Milligan’s sergeant paraded his men to announce this innovation thus: “Right, you lot – tonight Lieutenant Wilson will be giving a talk about Keats – and I bet not one of you ignorant bastards knows what a Keat is.”