Johnnersintheraw's Blog

June 28, 2010

WemittanceMan

A Man at the End of His Tether

My name is Woderwick.  Woderick Wevewel Wamsbothewam-ffenugweek minow, but you can call me Woddy if it’s easiew fow you to wemembew, ow, if that’s too hawd to handle, ‘Minow’.  Aftew all, that was what they called me at school (my fathew having been ‘Majow’) and I am used to it.  So let’s just leave it at ‘Minow’, shall we?

The stwange but twue stowy I am about to welate to you began when I was in my twenty-fouwth yeaw, which would make it thiwty-eight yeaws ago. And it stawted in much the usual way, wather like this:

I had been sent down fwom univewsity aftew the fouwth accusation of  mowal tuwpitude had been lodged against me by the Seniow Weader at my college.  My own deaw fathew’s pewsonal intewvention, fow once, was to no avail, and I was sent down in disgwace to the manow of my gwandmothew,  Dame Wanunculus Epifania Wamsbothewam, the Dowagew Mawchiness of Willewiwe, at Willewiwe Gwange, in the fuwthest most desolate weaches of Cumbwia.  I was to wemain there undew the wedoubtable watch of my gwandmothew, my fathew having wefused to see me, until such time as a decision had been made wegawding my futuwe. Except fow my grwandmothew’s corncwake voice, which was an instwument honed by yeaws of calling dogs and in bellowing to hew sewvents (fow she had a distain for pulling bell cowds and pwefewwed shouting up and down the back staiws) and hew insistance in my joining hew evewy mowning at five shawp as she touwed hew estate in hew ancient miniatuwe Victowia, pulled as it had been fow yeaws by a Welch Mountain Pony named Fwederwick  (named aftew anothew disweputable gingew-headed disgwace to his univewsity, hew late husband, the fouwteenth Mawquis).

It was not altogethew an agweeable time fow a young chap like me, fow I had been accustomed to dwinking and whowing and cawwying on with evewy jackenapes in the vicinity of Oxfowd (having been pweviously banned fwom the pwecicts of Cambwidge, my family’s pwefewwed univewsity).  All those joys puwsured by me wewe stwictly off-limits.  Even my daily pwedawn mastuwbationawy exewcises that had kept me healthy and vibwant since the age of thwee wewe fowbidden me, and to ensuwe I didn’t polish my sausage woll at any time – not even when I was in despewate stwaights – fouwteen guwkhas fwom my gwandfathw’s old wegiment were assigned to watch me like a hawk to make suwe thewe was no fowbidden movement in my nethew wegions at any time ow any place at any houw of the day or night.  Not even in the bath was I spawed, for even thewe two guwkhas in Scuba geaw wewe vigilantly watching for any undewwater shennanigans.  And fowget about any othew pursuits which had made by life so vibwant and wowthwhile.  I was to leawn discipline.  I was to pay the pipew fow all the fwivolity of the pwevious six yeaws.  In othew wowds, no swells down fow the weekend; no wevellwy in the hewbacious bowdews;  no fwesh young things swilling mawtinis in the awbowetum;  no midnight swims in  the wiver; no gangbangs in the owangewy.  In fact, no pleasuwe at all.  I was to leawn how to behave.  And at the age of fouw and twenty, behaving is the last thing a chap wants to do.  These were diwe times!

Aftew six months and one week and a day of playing bwidge with my gwandmothew, plus the unmawwied sistew of the vicaw, who was the pwesident of the Women’s Institute and a secwet dwinker, and with my spotty vewy gingew cousin Mawtin Abewcwombie Bwittlingbuwg  Wiwwible, who was thwee eaws youngew than I, nevew washed undew his awmpits or his pwivate pawts, and who was as bowing as a sowbet of  puwéed pawsnips sewved with pwunes and fwothy massewated wutabegas, I stawted to see spots befowe my eyes.  Aftew six months and thwee weeks and thwee days of these daily bwidge games, I felt myself tuwning into an even mowe intolewable vewsion of Mawtin Abewcwombie Bwittlingbuwg than even the owiginal Mawtin Abewcwombie Bwittlingbuwg had managed to tuwn into.  Fow unlike him, who had settled fow being an intolwerant nincompoop, I was evolving into an intolewant nincompoor with psychopathic anti-social tendencies.  Plus I was becoming even mowe gingew than he.

Aftew six months and thwee weeks and thiwteen days, I had my fiwst vision of killing a pewfect stwanger.  He was a man I had seen only once waiting fow a twain at Willewiwe-Undew-Hadwian’s Wall, a  village so small that to weach it one had to disembawk the London –  Bewwick expwess at Gweatew Cumbwia Halting and flag down the weekly community bus, pwoviding it wasn’t in one of its moods and hadn’t bwoken down.  Othewwise you had to walk.  Unless of course you had called ahead and Mawtin Abewcwombie Bwittlingbuwg was sent to fetch you in the vewy old and cwanky Wovew.

As fow Willwwiwe-Undew-Hadwian’s Wall itself, it had two public houses – neithew of which sewved real ale – a tiny shop which wouldn’t sell condoms  (condoms wewe blamed fow the unstoppable decline in the population of the village), a mobile post office which set up business fow an houw evewy week and a mobile libwawy that came once a fowtnight, but only if the libwawian – a comely lass named Sewena Wivewidge – had wemembewed to stop dwinking eawly enough the night befowe so that in the mowning she could wemembew whewe she had pawked the mobile libwawy.  Poor Sewena.  Life and stwaight gin had not been kind to hew.  Sad, that, because in hew bettew days she’d been the best lay nowth of the Home Counties.  But that was befowe she’d taken to stashing bottles of bwandy up hew peawly gates, aftew which she couldn’t be satisfied with anything smallew than a howse. A shame, that was.

Fowtunately fow my sanity and the state of my despewately wampant and stawving manhood, the unmawwied sistew of the vicar, whose name was Mawjowie Marrow Wawwaway,  was bound to tuwn up at least once evewy week (on the one day hew companion Hilawy was obliged to go into town to exchange hew libwawy books and was not awound to inspect deaw Mawjowie’s handbag for the odd bottles of gin and vewmouth), as dwunk as a lowd.   How blessed wewe those days of wespite, when aftew the second wubbew, the othews had ajouwned to the awbowitum for tea and hewwings on bwown bwead and miniatuwe squawes of fwuit cake with mawzipan, Mawjorie and I would make a fuwtive dash to the solawium at the end of the wose twellis and pawtake of her mawtinis and of each othew until pwecisely quawtw past fouw when the thiwd of the fouw wubbews was due to stawt.

Unfowtunately fow hew, Mawjorie was send away to a sanitawium fow the incuwably incuwable exactly thwee months aftew I awwived at my gwandmothew’s.  Unfowtunately fow me, she took hew bottles of gin and vewmouth with hew – on the instwuctions of Doctow Merridew MacGwuthew, hew attending physician who had sectioned hew.  I still miss Mawjorie, and I think of hew evewy time I get weally howny and dunk my knob in a vat of gin.  Which is my secwet vice and fetish of choice.

When last I heawd, Mawjorie had wun away with a contowtionist fwom Cawdiff and was telling fowtunes undewneath the Blackpool Towew.

Aftew Mawjorie was sent away I was hoping the daily bwidge games would stop.  But nevew feaw.  My gwandmothew always had resewves lined up.  In this case, her elder sister Elfwieda Hewbewt-Wawabit, who was so fewosicous she made my gwandmothew look like the owiginal goodtime giwl.

It was Gweat Aunt Elfwieda Hewbewt-Wawabit who fiwst came up with the idea of sending me away as a wemittance man.  To one of those lessew known little countwies in South Amewica that no one has evew heawd of.  Like Pawaguay, only not Pawaguay, if you know what I mean.

San Cwistobal de la Madwe de los Angeles Negwos de Solidad de Misewicowdia de los Andes, or as it was mowe commonly known, La Wepublica de Misewicowdia, was nested in a valley in the Andes between Pewu and Bwasil.  It was totally pwotected on all sides by the inpenewable mountains, and could only be appwoached by a single tweachewous woad fwom Pewu. A woad which wound thwough the secwet encampment of ‘The Shining Path’.  Misewicowdia had nevew appeawed on a map since its founding in the yeaw sixteen hundwed seventy-thwee by the notowious conquistadow, Genewal Infewmidad de Wamsbothewam, the second Mawquis of Willewiwe, whose own gweat gwandfathew had given half his fowtune to King Fewrdinand of Awagon aftew he had got lost in the night and had mistaken a Queen Isabella of Castile fow a sewving wench,  an encountew which had wesulted in a bouncing baby giwl, best known to histowy as Cathewine of Awagon.  Because of the lawgess of the bwibe, all was fowgiven, for it meant that Fewdinand and Isabella could fulfill theiw ambitions of conquewing the new wowld without having to spend any money of theiw own.  As fow Cathewine of Awagon, who cawed who hew weal fathew was, fow she had alweady been shipped to England as a baby-bwide to The Pwince of Wales, Awthuw, and neithew Fewdinand nor Isabella thought he would evew know the diffewence.

But, unfowtunately for Pwince Arthuw,  he did, having shawed a bed an fouw dozen wenches and thiwty-thwee twubadows with the effewvescent Mawquis of Willewiwe duwing the midnight wevelwy following the cowonation of Awthuw’s fathew, Henwy VII, aftew he had slaughtewed the wightful king, the beautiful Wichard III and stolen the cwown fow himself.  And since Cathewine of Awagon had an uncommonly long nose that twisted upwawd at a wakish angle – a nose unique to only one family, that of the Wamsbothewams – one look was enought fow Pwince Awthuw to tumble to the fact that, faw fwom being the daughew of the King of Spain, Cathewine was not only a Wamsbothewam, but a bastawd Wamsbothewam at that.  Poow Awthuw.   He was a sensitive soul.  So saddened was he that on the vewy day of his discovewy he dwopped down dead from an incuwable ague and nevew wecovewed.  And the bastawd Cathewine was fowced to mawwy Awthuw’s youngew bwother, the futuwe Henwy VIII.  And the west, as they say, is histowy. 

San Cwistobal de la Madwe de los Angeles Negwos de Solidad de Misewicordia de los Andes had fowever wemained a tweasuwed outpost of the Wamsbothewam family, and even aftew thwee dozen insuwwections and wevolutions had massacwed no fewew than thiwty-thwee of theiw bwightest and ablest scions (as well as fouwteen of theiw dimmest and incompetant mowons), the family still wetained a choke hold on the tiny wepubluc – with no fewew than sixteen of the twenty-thwee ministwees pewmenantly administewed by cousins no mowe than thwice removed.  Even duwing the dawkest of the dawk times the family wetained a splendid palace in the most beautiful gawden in the capitol city of Willewiwe. And this was when even to be wumouwed to be a Wamsbothewam cousin fouw-times wemoved was sufficient gwounds fow a splendid execution in the Plaza Pwincipal de Misewicordia, weplete with shewwy and fwesh Mewengue touwtes (the pwincipal delicacy of the countwy) and a twenty-fouw gun salute to be fiwed similtaneously with the hapless head being lopped off and used as the ball in a celabwatowy game of thwee hundwed a side wugby.

The vewy aftewnoon the evew-vigilant Elfwieda Hewbewt-Wawabit, the tuwmigant eldew sistew of my gweat gwandmothew –  my gweat aunt – cast a gimlet eye on my quaking pewsonage and cast me adwift into the futuwe she had chosen fow me, I had unfwtunately commited a minow faux-pas.  Not that I had seen anything weally wwong with my plan of action, but as gweat aunt Elfwieda pointed out to all and sundwy, she was the favouwite mistwess of the Chief Constable of the county, and he always followed hew advice.  To whit,  I had lain in wait behind the dainty wose twellis on the nowthbound platfowm of Gweatew Cumbwia Halting Station and had pounced upon the unwitting pewfect stwanger about whom I had been dweaming night and day fow over six months, and had blugeoned him to a pulp with the pwized vegetable mawwow gwown by my spotty vewy gingew cousin Mawtin Abewcwombie Bwittlingbuwg  Wiwwible in his specially designed cucumbew fwame set in a pwotected awea between by gwandmothew’s owangery and her pwivate folly whewe she kept hew secwet collection of stuffed gowillas – a collection that was compwised of neawly two-thiwds of the entiwe mountain gowilla populaion of Wwanda.  As she liked to say, “They would have died soonew ow latew.  It might as well have been soonew.”

Unfowtunately, although I pewsonally found my actions both amusing and iwonic – fow as it tuwned out the pewfect stwangew was at the time coming down with la fluxion de la poitwine and found he  had lost his taste fow the chawwed and shwivelled game pie with Cumbewland sauce he had owdewed in the station canteen –  my gweat aunt Elfwieda was appalled.  “No gwand nephew of mine is pewmitted to bludgeon a man to a pulp just as he is about to pawtake of one of my succulant pies!  Why, I shot the gwouse myself, and half of the best eawth of Cumbwia went into making my delicious Cumbewland Sauce!” And that was when she fixed hew gimlet eye on me and pwonouced sentence.

“YOU!” she woawed at me, her mighty shelf of a bosom heaving and vibwating like contwalto’s uvula, “Awe banished to Willewiwe.  You shall hencefowth be a wemittance man, and shall spend the west of youw days dwunk and desolute in the undusted salons of the palace of owr illustwious foewbeawews.  You shall weaw unlaundewed white linen suits and youw hair shall be fouled with cobwebs and gwease! And you shall develop a speech impediment! Nevew against shall you be able to pwonouce youw ‘aws’.”

Thewe and then my gweat aunt Elfwieda looked down hew mighty beak of a nose and hew quivewing noswils flawed like the steed of Alexandew when the gweat golden empewow was about to slay thwee hundwed thousand men who stood between him and the next new howizon he was about to conquew.  “Be Gone, and nevew darken my tweshold again!” she declaimed in tones of fiwe and bwimstone.  I depawted hew pwivate mowning dwawing room all a twemble and feeling the doom-laden cuwse upon my once-pwoud shouldews.

And because whatevew gweat aunt Elfwieda commanded became the lawr of the land, the next mowning, at the unGodly houw of fouw o’clock – I found meself standing, togethew with my twaps and the wecipe fow the patented potcheen I would be dwinking fow the wemaindew of my life in Misewicowdia, on the docks of the Wamsbothewam Twamp Steamship Company’s scuttling bewth in Livewpool.  I was to be the only passengew on the mouldering ‘SS Bwuja del Maw de los Besos del Diablo’, whose cawgo was to be a consignment of wotting bweadfruit which had been shipped fwom the Pitcaiwn Islands and which no one had wemembewed to off-load, twelve vintage iwonclad Panhawds fow the pewsonal use of the latest and most useless Pwesident, Genewalissimo Fwancisco Mawia Cawlos Wamsbothewam Wamsbothewam de Wamsbothewam, and twenty-three viwgin whowes fwom the whowehouse of Madame LaFragwiletti’s ‘No Deposit No Weturn Mail-Owdew Viwgin Whowe Bowdello’ in the Hampstead Gawden Subuwb end of Goldew’s Gween.  Just downwind of the cwematowium.

It goes without saying that I thought my luck was changing!  Twenty-three viwgin whowes fow a jouwney lasting twenty-thwee days.  But no such luck, fow I was piped aboawd by my gwandmothew’s bwothew Wothewidge Wembewtp Willewiwe, the bawking-mad twin of gweat aunt Elfwieda.  Aftew stowing my luggage in my statewoom – which was located in a stawboawd aft hold undew the cwews’ head – he invited me to take a touw of the wepellant and stinking vessel.  It goes without saying I did not demuwe, fow I had it in mind to leawn whewe the twenty-thwee viwgin whowes had been housed.

Much to my chagwin I discovewed that faw fwom changing, my luck was taking a fwee-fall.  Into Hades. It had been had enough to have been billetted under the watewfall of diarrhoea of the pewmenantly afflicted membews of the cwew – all of whom suffewed from the incuwable cholewa they had contwacted duwing the gweat cholewa epidemic of 1923 – but I was now about to discovew my second great disapppointment of the day.

With a fanfawe blown fwom a twumpet he had concealed about his pewson (in a place I had been too much of a gentleman to look) he thwew open a mighty doow and ushewed me into a lavishly appointed and fuwnished bedwoom.  And thewe, to my uttew amazement, stacked in wows like so much cowd wood, wewe the twenty-thwee viwgin whowes, all bedecked in exotic owiental finewy.  And thowoughly dead and depawted.

Befowe I could wecovew my senses and ask my gweat uncle Wothewidge if the comely withewed viwgin whowes had been taken in a flood of desire ow pewhaps aftew a suwfeit of awsenic, he waised his fingew to his lips and owdewed my to keep silent.  “They awe cheapew this way,” he whispewed, “And El Pwesidente doesn’t know the diffewence.”

Gweat uncle Wothewidge then assigned me a task.  Duwing the voyage I was to twy out each of the wizened and withewed and desiccated viwgin whowes exactly thiwteen times.  And at the end of the voyage, I was to complete a wepowt indicating which one of the comely viwgins was the most desiweable, the most pliant and the fweshest smelling.

I will pass over the following twenty-thwee days, only to mention that the winnew by faw was (or had been befowe hew death in the yeaw of our Lowd 1769) a cewtain Mawia Esmewelda Mewwiweathew Bawwsotow, who had been bown in Stweatham Common undew a pawk bench dedicated to the admiwal of the fleet.  At the age of thwee yeaws and fouw months, the beautiful Mawia Esmewelda had alweady been elevated to numbew fouwteen in the list of favouwites of the Empwow of a gweat asian countwy, the name of which – even today – stwikes feaw in the heawt of faint-heawted mowtals.

While I have had bettew, I have also had wowse.  And at least she wefwained from wunning hew fingewnails up and down my spine and singing the Hallelujah Chowus at an inoppowtune moment and leaving me embawwassed.

The day I awwived in Willewiwe, I was moved into my villa on the bad end of town, next to the abattoiw and the pig fewtilizew factowy.

I am still hewe.  Nobody evew wwites to me.  No one will invite me to dinnew. No one even knows my name.  It has been so long since anybody has called me anything, that I cannot even wemembew it myself.

I am, simply put, the old dissolute dwunk in the tweadbawe stained and gweasy and stinking once-white linen suit.  I am the poow soul who wandews awound Willewiwe’s dawker and mowe desolate stweets talking to myself in accents sounding vewy much like my gweat aunt Elfwieda, and sleeping most nights in one guttew or anothew.  Dogs uwinate on me and defecate on my head when I am sleeping, and fewal cats battle it out fow suwpwemacy on my uptuwed face.  No touwists evew thwow me any of their spawe change, fow no touwists evew come to La Misewicowdia.

Last night for the fiwst time I dweamed of Cumbwia, and of the nowthbound platfowm of Gweatew Cumbwia Halting Station.  Befowe me stood the shade of the pewfect stwangew whom I had bludgeoned to a pulp with the vegetable mawwow.

He came fowawd and intwoduced himself.  He extended his hand, and just fow a moment I thought he was going to fowgive me.  Was my luck finally going to change aftew so many yeaws?  Was I going to be weleased fwom this cuwse and this misewable life?

It was then I encountewed my thiwd disappointment of the day – the fiwst being when I woke up to yet anothew day in the guttew and the second being when El Pwesidente’s favouwite fighting cockeral sliced off my nose with his wighthand spuw.  The pewfect stwangew, whom I had so gwievously wwonged all those many yeaws befowe, mewely unzipped his flies and pissed on my haiw.

Howevew, that was not his final wowd.  As he was about to disappeaw back into the ethew whence he had come, he looked down his ghostly pewfect strangew’s nose at me and muttewed, “So sowwy, old man. My mistake. Could you diwect me to the palace of Woderick Wevewel Wamsbothewam-ffenugweek minow? I wish to fowgive him fow beating me to a pulp with a vegetable mawwow…”

But befowe I could gathew my wits about me and cwy out, “I am he! I am the wwetched Woderick Wevewel Wamsbothewam-ffenugweek minow,” he intewwupted me.

“I am t-t-t-t-ewwib-b-b-bly sh-sh-sh-showwy, b-b-b-b-ut I c-c-c-c-annot u-u-u-u-nd-d-d-d-ewst-t-t-t-and a wow-ow-ow-ow-d you awe sh-sh-sh-sh-aying.  You m-m-m-m-ust d-d-d-d-o s-s-s-s-om-m-m-m-eth-th-th-th-ing about y-y-y-y-ouw sh-sh-sh-shpeech imp-p-p-p-ed-d-d-d-d-im-m-m-m-ent.”

 And with that, the pewfect stwangew vanished back into the ether, and he nevew came back.  And now I’ll nevew be fowgiven, and I’ll be hewe fowevew.

 

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June 5, 2010

TheBritneys

Spastic Colons and Dickheads and Random Subliminal Sightings of Britney.

Now children, before you get on your high horses I want you to know that the Spastic Colon we are going to discuss today is not the same Spastic Colon that has been staying with your mother-in-law for the last year and a half.  If it were I would obviously agree to substantiate any findings by seeking out some sort of verification from at least two reputable institutions of higher learning, such as Wikipedia and any randomly chosen wall of Facebook, especially any celebrity whose first name begins with the letter ‘B’.  Britney, for example.

But before we go any further, I have an admission to make.  It seems that for any one person who actually checks out my blog (please note I did not say ‘reads’ by blog, because then I would be in trouble), at least twenty million people investigate anything in which even the name ‘Britney’ is mentioned.  Ergo, ‘Britney’ ‘Britney’ ‘Britney’ Britney ‘Britney’.  That should do it!  By my reckoning at least one billion people should have checked out my blog within the last fifteen seconds.  Of course, if they have the site has probably crashed, in which case my hosts will have kicked me off for fucking up their weekend and forcing them to come in and untangle the mess.  ‘Britney’. Mind you, if they do kick me off, some wonderfully concerned citizen will immediately start a few hundred Facebook pages urging my hosts to reinstate me.  I know I am not big news like ‘Britney’, but I reckon if I can drum up one million signatures from each one of my three hundred new Facebook fan pages, I should not only be welcomed back but I should be given a free upgrade and have my blog mentioned on their front page.  ‘Britney’. I mean if some woman who witters on about the joy of being a real woman and who celebrates her real womaness  by eating three dozen butterscotch crullers from Dunkin Donuts achieves Blog notoriety, why can’t I?  I realise I am not overweight and don’t look like Prunella the Elephant Seal, and I realise I discriminate against all the fat people in the US and Britain by actually taking care of myself and watching what I eat.  ‘Britney’. Yes, I know I shall be taken to task by Mr. Murdoch’s minions for eating fresh salads instead of skarfing twenty-five supersized ‘Happy Meals’ during my lunch break and limiting my intake to ten million calories per day – real woman calories, of course, of the kind real women  find at the cakes and cookies sections at Walmart and Asda.  ‘Britney’. And while I’m at it (as they say, “in for a penny, in for a pound”) why is it that so many columnists continually whinge about the size of supermodels and claim that they are the evil conspiracy behind every ailment known to man? ‘Britney’. Well, at least every ailment known to young girls. Interestingly enough these selfsame columnists – who after all supposedly work in publishing – don’t seem to be aware that for every ten girls that suffer from anorexia, about fifty thousand million cannot even squeeze through the door of their mummy’s car. ‘Britney’.  Of course, I do realise the onus is on the automobile-makers for not designing their new cars the size and shape of blimps.  Speaking of which, that selfish short-sightedness might be the reason so many American car manufactures are going belly-up.  ‘Britney’. The good ol’ American consumer simply can’t be shoehorned into their new models!  As I like to say, “Where is the Edsel when we need it!”  But back to the columnists. It goes without saying that most of them never target the ‘celebrity’ magazines, whose main business is to publish candid photographs of ‘celebrities’ when they’ve gained a pound or two and have two hundred inches of cottage cheese bulging from their thongs.  ‘Britney’. But – silly me – they can’t can they?  After all, they cannot attack the ‘celebrity’ magazines because the ‘celebrity’ magazines are also owned by the same corporation that publishes the columnists other columns, plus the fact that the columnists also write a column for the ‘celebrity’ magazines themselves. ‘Britney’.  But never mind, it all works out in the end, for the same publishers also own the fashion magazines, the ones that use the very same photographs, only shrinking the celebrity’s body to a US size zero and giving the celebrity a face and a body and a blow-job expression such as only a electrically charged sixteen year old can actually manage in the flesh. And then the poor ‘celebrity’, who is well over thirty and has had seventeen children and boobs hanging down to her knees, has got to live up to the fashion spreads. ‘Britney’. Because, you see, her entire career is based on her red-carpet appearances, which means she can no longer work at her chosen profession but has to endure weekly encounters with her plastic surgeon and her dermatologist, as well as spend ten hours per day working out in the gym – before returning home and embalming herself with tanning solvents and wrapping herself in plastic baggies for the night.  ‘Britney’. And no, I won’t tell you which pop singer I’m talking about.  But it’s not ‘Britney’. Or perhaps I will. Then maybe she’ll sue me and then at least a few people – namely readers of the Sun the News of the World – shall have heard of me.  They still won’t read my blog, but they will have heard of me, which means I shall be asked to appear in next year’s edition of Strictly Come Dancing.  Or as you tossers on the other side of the pond call it, ‘Britney’. Also known as Dancing with the Stars. Which reminds me, why hasn’t Britney herself been asked to appear on that particular slugfest of humiliation.  Then they could really attract the punters by calling it Britney’s Dancing with the Stars Starring ‘Britney’.

And once that happens, my hosts will have to give my blog a mention in their Home Page. ‘Britney’

But where was I?  Oh, yes: ‘Britney’.  Or as I should say (being the desperately unemployable huckster that I am), ‘Britney’ ‘Britney’ Britney’ ‘Britney’ ‘Britney’.  There, that should pay my rent for the next ten or twenty years.  And in case any shyster lawyer decides to sue me for defaming the character of any one particular ‘Britney’ or for earning a few thousand days’ wages freeloading on the back of any one of the many random  Britneys there seem to be so many of, I say this: ‘Britney’.  If you are going to sue me for using the name ‘Britney’ in order for your law office to earn enough money to replace the money that was invested in your clients’ trust finds and which you stole (I’m sorry, did I say ‘stole’?  I meant ‘borrowed’), doesn’t that mean you will have to sue every single parent that ever stuck one of their own little blond brat daughters with the name ‘Britney’?  It reminds me of the time – way back when his comb-over was new and when he had hadn’t yet managed to re-name Manhattan after himself.  ‘Britney’. Did I say ‘Britney’?  I meant ‘Trumphattan’, didn’t I, which you have to admit is sorta catchy, innit?   Anyway, it seems the comb-over tried to sue some poor schmuck whose family name was actually Comb-Over for daring to use the comb-over’s name, even though – being far older than the comb-over – the greedy Comb-Over who was being sued was – according to papers filed by the comb-over – preventing the comb-over from tearing down Comb-Over’s his third-floor cold-water walk-up and building a golf resort. ‘Britney’.  Or perhaps it was for having a full head of hair of his own, which – come to think of it – was both highly insulting to ‘The Donald’ and even downright discriminatory). ‘Comb-over’.  I mean, ‘Britney’. And doesn’t this also remind one of the time (again, back when the earth was new and the comb-over didn’t dye his ‘come-over’) when ‘McDonalds’ went after a small Scottish eatery for calling itself ‘McNibbles’ or something like that?  Apparently ‘McDonalds’ was not aware that every man-jack in Scotland is a ‘Mc’ or a ‘Mac’ – after all, ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ (which are one and the same thing) does mean ‘son of’, as in McBritney – but I guess they hadn’t heard the news  in whatever middle-western Smallville spawned the original ‘Croc’.  I also seem to remember that Scotland, as a country, was not overly impressed with McDonald’s shenanigans and that the Chief of the Clan MacDonald presented some sort of legal challenge to ‘McDonalds’ in which it was pointed out that he and he alone was the only person on the planet who was entitled to call himself ‘Britney’.  I mean, ‘The MacDonald’ (a fact that might have inspired ‘The Donald’ to try to buy every speck of oceanfront property on all the coasts and islands of Scotland just so he could sue ‘The MacDonald’ for daring to include the ‘Donald’ part of his name without first having a golf resort built on top of his head. Next thing you know, Scotland will be renamed ‘Trumpland’ – or as I prefer to call it, ‘Comb-Over Land’ and ‘The MacDonald’ will be reduced to calling himself ‘The Mac’. ‘Britney’.  And this will, of course, lead to yet another suit by McDonald’s claiming copyright infringement and even for trying to tarnish McDonald’s good name – which, come to think of it, is what the Campbells have been trying to do for centuries.  ‘Britney’.   After all, since Scotland is the official deep-fried nation of the world, what with deep-fried pizzas and deep-fried Mars Bars and Deep-fried kabobs and the Deep-Friend ‘Tartan Army’ and Deep-Fried Skull-Splitter, McDonalds certainly did not want to lose out on their best potential super-sizing market in the world.  Next to Southern Louisiana, of course.  Don’t you find all this legal manoeuvring exhausting?  Don’t you find ‘Britney’ exhausting? 

But, as I said before, all those things happened a long time ago when people were still able to fit into the seats at Wimbledon; before they had to tear down the old centre court and build seats big enough for Jumbo the Elephant. ‘Britney’. And this reminds me, what plonker decided that after over a century of enjoying the ever-present risk of deluges and flooding at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament – which after all had been one of the oldest and most treasured traditions in all of  tennis, and one right up there with ‘strawberries and cream’ and calling female contestants ‘Miss’ – did they suddenly decide they had to install a roof?  Was it for ‘Britney’?  Why? Did some consultant or other employ a focus group in Sheboygan and determine that Her Majesty’s subjects were suddenly afraid of getting wet?  Why is it that everything is getting so bloody Americanised?  Even ‘Britney’.  And why doesn’t anybody ever say ‘NO’.  I mean, the last time anyone in Britain actually said ‘NO’ to the US, was when Harold Wilson said ‘NO’ to Britain’s becoming involved in Vietnam. I mean, is America so small it doesn’t have enough people in its own country to make better Americans?  Do they have to pick on everybody else?  Or are they still afraid Britain is going to charge interest on the tea tax they got into such a huff about?  ‘Britney’.

Of course, it goes without saying that America knows how to be patient and bide its time.  After all, they were willing to wait two-hundred years for ‘Britney’, weren’t they?  And I guess in the end the wait was worth it, for when they really needed a really good ‘YES-MAN’, good Ol’ Tony Blair flashed his teeth, rolled over exposing his stomach, and said, “Britney!”   

Now I was just about to launch an attack on the current propensity of penniless American billionaires to buy Premier League Football Clubs.  I suppose, it’s only natural; after all, they can’t really buy one their own ‘soccer’ clubs, can they, seeing as how most of their clubs have fan bases of less than twenty-five people.  And by that, I mean the same twenty-five people that charter Greyhound buses in order to sit in front of the television cameras at each match of each and every team during the season to make appear that ‘Britney’ really is a popular sport – and not just an extra-curricular activity for the sons and daughters of moms driving SUVs.  ‘Britney’.  And if it weren’t for the die-hard loyalty of these twenty-five fans, the poor players would never have anybody who actually knew they existed.  ‘Britney’.  Of course, they could rename their own version of the sport ‘Britney’ and invite Janet Jackson to perform at all the matches, but nobody ever seems to think of really practical solutions, do they?

But anyway, since the Latin American and Spanish and French teams seem to be quite happy the way they are, that leaves only the good Ol’ Special Friendship to open the doors and grease the wheels of commerce. ‘Britney’.  And so, the chequebook comes out, the contracts are signed, and then comes the moments when the fun begins.  No, not Janet Jackson performing at half-time.  And not even ‘Britney.  What actually happens is this: no sooner have the contracts been signed that – OOPS! – there is no money in the bank to honour the cheque.  But never mind,  there is always the other way.  And so, as per usual, the British roll over and say ‘YES’.  And the clubs – rather than being bought with real money – somehow end up having to buy themselves on behalf of the new owners, and then of course they have to repay the owners for the money the owners didn’t spend, plus the interest on all the debt accrued when the clubs had to borrow the money to buy themselves on behalf of the owners.  ‘Britney’. And since by now the clubs don’t have any more money to pay for decent players and the clubs start to lose games, the fans decide to raise their own money to pay off the deadbeat owners and hopefully force them to leave the country and to go back home and ruin their own sporting franchises.  But then a strange thing happens.  ‘Britney’.  By this time the owners are universally despised by every player and by every employee and by every fan, but they suddenly decide they are not going to sell.  And they take photographs of themselves standing next to the models of the new stadiums they had promised to build.  Which, of course, were never built for the simple reason that all the team’s hard-earned money had gone to pay off the debt  they didn’t have before the new American owners bought them.  ‘Britney’.  But I had promised not to bring this up, and so I won’t.  Which means I am a liar, which means I might have a future as a penniless American billionaire.  Perhaps I will buy ‘Britney’.

I have this feeling that when the new American owners of one particular unnamed Premier League Football Club had the club buy its self on behalf of the themselves (‘themselves’ being the new American owners), they might have been trying to take a leaf out of their own history.  ‘Britney’. You known the leaf I mean: when a certain alleged Florida Major League Baseball team was allegedly owned by these same alleged owners long before they were the new alleged American owners of the alleged Premier League Football Club?  I’m sure you your remember.  This was the alleged team that happened to allegedly win the alleged World Series of ‘Britney’. Of course, having reached the pinnacle of American Baseballdom, the alleged owners apparently realised the only way the alleged team was allegedly going to go was down.  And so what they did was to get allegedly get rid of all the allegedly expensive players so they could allegedly destroy the alleged team before it could destroy itself.  ‘Britney’.  And it worked!  So, I really suspect that they thought it was high-time they tested this alleged formula again.  But of course, they reckoned without the good old British unions (who know how to say ‘NO’ and mean it – without even once using the words ‘alleged’ or ‘allegedly’).  ‘Britney’. Very possibly, these new American owners had been informed that during the eighties, Margaret Thatcher had destroyed the unions.  Well, let’s put it this way:  Margaret Thatcher is gone but the unions are not.  ‘Britney’.  And neither are the good old British fans, who are gloriously and rampantly un-politically correct.

However, at this point in time I’ll wager that the new American owners are kicking themselves that they didn’t wait to have the Premier League Football Club buy themselves until after a whole new door was allegedly opened by a certain world-devouring food conglomerate called ‘Britney’. Or do I mean Tyrannosaurus Rex?  ‘Britney’. Or was it ‘Kraft’? Do you remember them?  They are the ones who – only last year – bought Cadbury’s Chocolates with a cast-iron promise not to lay off British workers at the UK-based Cadbury’s factories. ‘Britney’.  Except, of course, the day after the deal had been signed, they reneged on the promise and sacked everybody.  And only did they do that, but the head of Kraft, who earns a seven figure annual salary, refused to appear before parliament to explain her actions.  And now, Cadbury’s Chocolate, that great old British institution founded by a sweet old Quaker gentleman, makes its products from the most cost-effective dirt possible in whatever is currently the cheapest country. And no, it is not ‘Britney’.

But never mind.  All I really want out of life – besides a really great blow-job – is for at least one person to allegedly read my alleged blog and to hate me enough to allegedly sue me.  ‘Britney’. But, it goes without saying this will never happen, and nobody will ever leave the sort of libellous comments on my page that will encourage my hosts to put me on their home page. Right next to the Real Woman who is exalting over the pleasures of being a Real Woman whilst eating the entire inventory of Dunkin Donuts.  ‘Britney’.  Which reminds me:  as I’ve said before we all have our weight and fitness issues. However in the case of this particular real-woman in Dunkin Donuts, mightn’t she one day regret bragging on her blog about her full-figured, real-woman’s body and about how she achieved satisfaction from eating her way through the sourdough crullers with the chocolate sprinkles?  Or was it from the orgasm she was given in exchange for a coupon by the high school kid in charge of the sprinkles?  ‘Britney’. After all, health is heath.  And if you abuse your health, somewhere down the line someone might well have to pay the price for such a wonderful real-woman’s inconveniences such as strokes or diabetes.  From my own experience, insurers are not overly-endowed with senses of humour, and they also know how to say ‘NO’.  Like ‘Britney’. And since insurance companies are usually multi-national companies and not British, when they say ‘NO’ they actually mean ‘NO’.  And so what is the real woman who’s had a stroke and is in danger of losing her feet through diabetes going to do?  I mean, with her special wheelchair and oxygen tank she’ll never again fit through the door of Dunkin Donuts, will she?  ‘Britney’.

But what – I hear you ask – does all this have to do with Spastic Colons?  Besides giving me a chance to write ‘Britney’ a hundred or more times in order to builder up my readership?  Nothing really.  Mind you, it would make a rather nice name for your first-born son or for the detective of a new series of mysteries.  ‘Britney’. NO, not ‘Britney’, ‘Spastic Colon’. Say it out loud and savour the sound.  ‘Spastic Colon’.  ‘Britney’. Spasdickus Colonicus. ‘Britney’. Spaz Clon. ‘Britney’.  Noloc Cirsaps. ‘Britney’. ‘Britney’s Colon’. ‘Britney’s Colonic Irrigation System’.  Which is, by the way, my suggestion for the title track of her next album.  For as you may have noticed, nothing is too good for Britney.

Not even Britney.  Cuz I wuv her and want to bear her childwen.  Sorry, Dunkin-Donut real-woman lady, ‘Britney’ got here first.

June 3, 2010

TheEthers

Listening to the beat of my own drum

I spin words from the tendrils floating through the ethers.  I weave together long and twisting tales from wisps of skin.  Give me a spark from a distant star and I can tell you what the Witch of Capri had for lunch the day before yesterday and what you dreamed about last night after you’d had a fight with your lover.

I close my eyes and silence my thoughts and bid the spirits to dance in my heart and take me on a journey.

I do not need to write in silence or at any particular time of the day.  I do not need to dress in the colour blue or to be wearing the most elusive fragrance from Grasse or to pat my dog on its head.  Or even to think pleasant thoughts or ask forgiveness for the darkness in my soul.

I never know what the ethers will bring.  I never know if my stories will be any good.  What I do know is if I get in the way of what the story wants to say, I shall be unable to write anything at all.  And this leads to the inevitable childish tantrums and rantings and ravings – and to sparking and bad behaviour from my computer and to feral dancing from the cursor.  Until… the world suddenly stops.  My mind empties. And then I breathe… and then I smile.  And without looking back I delete everything I have written that day, no matter how many thousands of words and thoughts might perish in the process, and I start all over again.  From scratch.

I often look at those people who can plot out a story and frame each chapter with a perfect beginning and a perfect ending and wonder what their lives must be like.   And then I reflect that, just perhaps, their life might not be much of a life after all.  What they might have instead is a ‘purpose’. And how strange it must be to have a purpose like the purpose they have, and to follow that purpose even when that purpose turns out to have no real purpose at all.  Perhaps, I reflect again, the purpose they have is not really a proper purpose but an agenda.  But if it is indeed an agenda that they have, how did they come to have it?  Did it simply knock on their door in 1983 and announce, “I am your agenda.  My agenda is your agenda.  Your agenda is to spread my agenda until it becomes the agenda of the entire world.”  But what if, after all that, even their agenda that grew out of their purpose is not so much an agenda as it is a commentary about an agenda.  A commentary commenting on the agenda they have been spreading throughout the world.  But what if the commentary is not really a commentary they wish to continue commenting on?  What if – in spite of all the efforts they have put in and all the time they have invested – the commentaries they have been spouting that comment on the agenda proclaiming the purpose they had been told to espouse, clash with their inbred beliefs and provoke a rabid unbelief system that will neither support nor tolerate the commentaries commenting on the agenda they have been espousing and that have been their only purpose since the year of Our Lord 1983?

You see how simple it is, how very simple it is indeed, to take but one word – one that I have heard (for example, ‘purpose’) – and to expand it until it fills the room and drives everyone else from the room and into the room next door, a room that is quiet and not filled with my voice and in which  they can happily go back to their serious discussion about  itching sphincters and about how to cure them with a salve of beeswax and three-day-old kedgeree.

But do I hear you mutter as you flee from my face, “Please tell us again the word you embraced and which did send us headlong into the lavatory? For if you tell us right now, we’ll swear on our cow that we will never EVER say that word again!”

And so, having been asked, I say it quite loud and clear.  “‘Purpose’ it was and ‘purpose’ it shall be, and if you don’t want to hear it, it’s just fine and dandy with me.”

But as you are leaving the room, some old man says, “By Gooom,” but before you can start all over and anew, your mouth is glued shut with Uhu and gum and you are wrapped up in a drape, which they shouldn’a dun by golly by gooom.

The most dangerous thing for another person to do is to speak in simple sentences to me.  If, however, the syllables are abstract then it’s all well and good, for they will have passed right over my head.  Just as if they had been a complex equation copied straight out of a first year textbook describing the fundamentals of algebra.

“YO!” comes a sullen voice from the back of the room.

“Yes….?” I venture, for he doesn’t look like he has had all that many baths in his life and I’m afraid he’s going to ask me to come over to him and sit on his lap – and I’ve already done my dirty lap-sitting duty earlier at the senior’s matinee here at Big Betty Jo’s Lap-O-Rama and Mud-wrestling Theeayter, where I’m second to the bottom of the bill, with only ‘Baby Minnie and Her Talking Vulva’ ventriloquists act beneath me. I squint my eyes and peer into the gloom. Do I recognise the face lurking under the four days’ growth of beard and barbeque cause and vaginal yeast infections.  “Is that you, Melvin,” I ask politely, knowing that if it is his mother will really want to know about it.

“YEAH!” he roars, spraying spittle all over the room and drenching the sweet old couple sitting up in front – the couple in the matching chartreuse and tangerine polyester jumpsuits they bought at K-Mart’s special ‘Buy-One-Get-One-Free New Year’s Day White Elephant Sale’ and who had been under the impression that I was going to speak about the ‘Glories of the coming Rapture’.

“Melvin…..” I ask, with just a tiny tremor in my voice…

“WHADDO YOU WANT NANCY BOY?” he answers, laughing very loudly because he knows he’s now the centre of attention – which is Melvin’s only reason for living.  Especially since his pet pig, Honky, died and he didn’t have anyone else willing to listen to him.

“Does your mother know you’re here, Melvin?” I ask in the tones of a teacher who’s just caught the hall monitor fondling the head cheerleader under the principal’s desk.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW YOU’RE HERE, MELVIN’” yells another voice from under his seat.

“Oh, hello, Missus Murkel,” I reply apologetically.  “I didn’t see you, what with you lying under his arse with your nose lodged up in his ravine,” I added darkly.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” she snapped in a voice so grating that the two retirees’ teeth flew out of their mouths and hit the conductor on the head.

“I said,” I simpered as politely as I could, for I foresaw that see this conversation wasn’t going anywhere.  Plus the fact that my special guests up front had yet to hear so much as a peep about the coming Rapture, “You’re looking right perky, Missus Murkel, and how is Mister Murkel this fine afternoon?

“MIND YER OWND BIDDNESS!” came yet a third voice, this once sounding suspiciously like that of Elmer Murkel, the owner of the town’s second-best junk yard and used tire dealership.

At once I suspected that Elmer Murkel – being that he was such a family man and practically inseparable from his wife, Missus Molly-Mae Merkel, and his son, Melvin Manny Merkel – might be right down there on the floor and joining his wife, Missus Molly-Mae Merkel, in her bi-monthly chore of de-lousing the ravine of their son, little Melvin.  But I was wrong – as I was about to discover.  However, just as I was about to proceed with my investigation, the old couple dressed in Chartreuse and Tangerine suddenly interrupted our conversation by singing a spirited rendition of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’.  To which, it goes without saying, everyone else in the audience joined in, except for old Mister Merkel, who was kneeling right behind me for reasons of his own. And do you want to know something? I never did find out exactly what he was doing.

Eventually, of course, the room fell silent.  And after a time, the audience started slow-clapping and stomping their feet, and yelling, “BRING ON THE STRIPPER!  BRING ON BABY MINNIE…”

“Not for another ten minutes,” yelled the stage manager from his stool in the wings. “Her talking vulva hasn’t finished eating its Cajon Chicken with Crispy Onion Rings and drinking its two shots of Rye.”

To which the old wife in the chartreuse and tangerine jump-suit and the tight purple curls she’d had done at ‘Maybelline’s Beauty Bar and Podiatrists out on Route 19 near Swift Sam’s  Gas and Lube and Beaver-Living-Picture Saturday Night Special Sing-A-Longs’, asked her husband, who was deaf as a post but not nearly so deaf as she, “What’s that he said, Peebo?” for, believe it or not, that was her husband’s name: Peabo Pickle, the Deputy Sheriff of Tuscaloosa County and Deacon in his church, ‘The Second Church of the Rampantly Recumbent Redeemer Praise the Lord’.

“Didn’t rightly hear it, Patty,” he shouted into her hear.  “But I think he said ‘The End is Nigh and we’re all going to hell in a Volvo’.”

To which Patty (for her name was Patty Penny Pickle, wife of the Deputy Sheriff of Tuscaloosa Country and President of The Second Church of the Rampantly Recumbent Redeemer Praise the Lord’s “We’ll see all those backsliding Baptists in Hell before the Rapture” Happy Birthday Baby Jeezus Christmas Gift Giving Jamboree) turned to her husband and slapped him up one side and down the other.  “Just wait ‘till I get you home, Deacon Peabo Percy Pickle!  I’m going to wash that mouth of yourn with carbolic and some of that Special Offer 2 for 1 Drano I stoled from off’n the top shelf at Walmarts! You know I never rides in nothin’ but good ol’ Amurkin cars, Praise the Lord!”

At this point bedlam broke out everywhere, even in the bathroom where the Deacon’s teenage son was busily researching whether or not it was really possible to grow hair on the palm of his left hand.

In the meantime, I was waiting for things to quieten down a bit, and taking the opportunity to probe one of my molars – the one I’d gotten a sunflower seed stuck in and which was starting to throb – when, what do you know, but Ol’ Melvin started in hollering again – even though I only had two and a half minutes to go before it was time for Baby Minnie and Her Talking Vulva Ventriloquist’s Act to take over centre stage.

“YO, CRACKER!” he bellowed, disregarding everything that was going on.  “I GOTTA WORD FOR YOU!”

“What do you want now, Melvin?” I sighed.  “What do you mean you gotta word for me?”

“THAT’S PART OF YOUR ACT, MISTER DUMBFUCK CHICKEN SHIT.  WE’S SUPPOSED TO GIVE YOU A WORD AND YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT IT FOR AN HOUR, BUTT HEAD!”

I sighed and tried to look all wistful and apologetic. “I’m sorry Melvin, but we’ve only got another minute and a quarter.”

“LISTEN UP, CRACKER.  THE WORD IS ELEPHANT BALLS, TURD BUTT!”

“Melvin, ‘elephant balls turd butt’ is four words,” I said, with an expression I normally reserve for by two year old nephew who bullies me.

“THE WORD IS ELEPHANT BALLS, FUCK HEAD!” he shouted, as he started to climb over the top of the seat and head up to the stage.

This time I yelled back. “MAKE UP YOUR FUCKING MIND, MELVIN. DO YOU WANT ‘ELEPHANT BALLS, TURB BUTT’ OR ELEPHANT BALLS, FUCK HEAD? WE’RE RUNNING OUTTA TIME.”

By this time he was up on stage, and it was only now that I noticed he had forgotten to detach is old maw,  Missus Molly-Mae Merkel, from his forested ravine.  And since she been concentrating on her work and had her nose tangled in his lower intestine, her son had dragged her ‘bumpity-bumpity-bumpity’ over every seat from the last row to the first.  When he landed on stage, Melvin yanked her free from his arse-hole – in the process pulling off her nose – and tossed her casually into the orchestra pit, where she landed in the lap of the Deacon’s teenage son, who had lost interest in watching the hair grow on the palm of his left hand and was exploring the orifices of the tuba.

Seeing as how I only had about a minute left, I – being the ultimate professional that I am – launched into a story based on Melvin’s chosen words, ‘elephant balls.’

“There once was a very old elephant, who’d worked hard all his life and never committed any sins….”

“… He sounds mighty familiar,” chimed in the voice of Mister Merkel from my rear engine room.  “What was his name?”

“Persephone,” I said without stopping to think, because I was running out of time.

“THAT’S A FRICKIN’ GIRL’S NAME, DICK HEAD,” shouted Melvin.

But by this time I wasn’t in the mood to be interrupted.  “YEAH,” I shrieked, “BUT BECAUSE HIS DUMBFUCK MAMA GAVE HIM A SISSY NAME, GOD GAVE HIM THE BIGGEST SET OF BALLS YOU EVER DID SEE.  BECAUSE HE LOVED HIM!”

“You mean like YOURS?” sneered Mister Merkel, as he ripped off my Armani jeans and yanked at my lads.”

“OI!  MOTHERFUCKER!” I screamed.

But then the whole place fell silent.  Not a sound was heard.  Nobody moved a muscle.  And then, as if one cue, Mister Elmer Merkel shone a spot on my poor, wilted and frightened package, and announced with a great big smile, “LOOKY HERE, FOLKS.  WE GOT US A PEANUT FOR THE ELEPHANT!”

And the minute he said it, but before I could crawl through the whole in the floor, the lights went out, a drum roll was head,  and seven multi-coloured spotlights lit up the ceiling.

A fanfare sounded and the announcer’s voice came over the loudspeaker.  “LADIES AND GINNELMEN… PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER AND LET’S GIVE BIG BETTY JO’S LAP-O-RAMA AND MUD-WRESTLING THEEAYTER’S  VERY OWN  TALKING VULVA OF MISS MINNIE O’DAY A GREAT BIG SOUTHERN-FRIED WELCOME!”

And with that the talking vulva – all dressed up in satin and lace – and Miss Minnie O’Day herself, started to descend on a swing, singing “All By Myself…”

A scream of euphoria was heard, and all eyes turned from the delights of Miss Minnie O’Day to the figure of a quaking, quivering ecstatic old woman with purple hair and a chartreuse and tangerine velvet sweat suit.  She raise her arms to heaven and shouted for joy, “GLORY BE TO GOD, IT’S THE RAPTURE!  SWEET JEEZEUS, TAKE ME HOME!”

And as the swing carrying Miss Minnie and her talking vulva descended from the roof, Missus Patty Penny Pickle, (wife of the Deputy Sheriff of Tuscaloosa Country and President of The Second Church of the Rampantly Recumbent Redeemer Praise the Lord’s “We’ll see all those backsliding Baptists in Hell before the Rapture” Happy Birthday Baby Jeezus Christmas Gift Giving Jamboree), was lifted off the floor by an unseen hand… and she ascended into heaven.

 

   

 

June 2, 2010

Hogget

The Age between Then and Tomorrow

The love the word ‘Hogget’.  I love it not only because of its sound and its appearance on the page, but also because of its mouth-feel.  Another reason I love it is that although nobody seems to know what it means anymore, it accurately describes almost every single one of us at a certain time in our lives.

Strictly speaking a hogget is a sheep whose meat is no longer lamb but is not yet mutton.  It used to be very popular on people’s dinner tables. In fact, very often – at least on the tables of the well-off, when on their menu card was written ’mutton’, what they were actually serving was ‘hogget’ – at least when those dining were not as fond as they should have been of strong meat.

I remember hogget being a regular feature of Thursday night’s dinners. And when it wasn’t hogget it was loin of beef or loin of mutton or a saddle of venison.  And why was such a meal served on Thursday when Sundays seemed to have been – in many households – the official day for roasts?  Simple. On Sundays – when I was home from school – I was off racing, or if not actually racing then point-to-pointing or show-jumping of riding cross-country or even – during the winter months – fox hunting.  And if none of these activities was in the offing, then I would be riding out at the trainer’s yard.  And if I was still at a loss of something to do and didn’t have a lot of studying on my plate, I could always go traipsing off with my parents and go mountain-climbing.  In any case, at our house, we simply had too many things to do on a Sunday to occupy ourselves with a heavy meal.  Therefore, even when we did happen to be home, it was not a day of cooking.  Hence, cold meals.  And this meant that whatever help we may have had at the time was given the day off – notwithstanding the blue laws and the unbending devotion to duty of the Mrs. Bichans and Miss Frames of our lives.  But whatever, unless there was some special reason, no major cooking was ever carried on Sundays.  And no major eating was done either.    

If there was one thing my parents loved to do, it was scaling a peak or three every weekend of the year – rain or shine, snow or sleet or blizzard.

Those, of course, were the days before Power Bars and the other easily-packed high-energy foods that make today’s hikers’ and climbers’ lives a comparative doddle.  It does go without saying, however, that even back then in the darkish ages of which I speak, nuts and raisins (and other dried fruit) and jerky were very much the way to go.  In fact, I well remember my mother making fruit-balls most weeks of the year – both for mountain climbs and camping expeditions or just because they were a healthy snack (for we were most definitely a healthy-snack family).  Needless to say there were no Cuisinarts back them, which meant all the fruit would have to have been put through a food mill, which was not an arduous task by any means – except for the cleaning afterwards which was (at least in my opinion).  Basically, fruit balls consisted of whatever dried fruits were available, but the favourites were apricots and currants and figs and raisins.  Plus dried coconut shavings, of course, and my mother’s favourite – crystallised ginger, although the latter famously managed to remain aloof most of the time – to be eaten without having to share pallet space with the more plebeian offerings.  After the gooey mess was ready, spoonfuls of it were rolled into balls, which were in turn rolled in sugar or something equally as binding, so that the balls might remain balls and not relapse into their former sticky state. Of course, fruit balls also put in an appearance at Christmastide, as snacks alongside tiny sweet biscuits and cakes and pies and puddings, but the time they tasted best of all was on a mountaintop following a meal of cold hogget or venison or loin of pork.  Or even better, after scarfing cold game pies with Cumberland jelly and smoked oysters.

I should mention here – for those who might be baffled by the comparative luxury of our camping food – that picnics were something that were taken very seriously.  Of course, in the days of grand outings in which a pack of servants took care of the logistics, picnics were extremely formal affairs.  Much like a grand indoor luncheon, only with flies and the odd dog or two; very often they took place by the loch or as informal dinners on the pier or inside one of the bizarre little follies.  Or, God forbid, even on a barge.  And even though times had changed long before I was born, the term ‘picnic’ was still something to be savoured and endured.  For it conjured up memories of another era and – for the lucky few – an altogether more agreeable time.  One element of a picnic that you could always be sure of was that was the quality of the food was designed to measure up to the scenery that was being enjoyed while the food was being eaten.

When I was a kid and was being dragged along on a picnic, I never gave a thought as to who was going to carry all the impedimenta – for along with enough food to fill the stomachs of a regiment there was also the inevitable primus or portable Colman stove, plus glasses and plates and utensils, rugs, and sundry other bits and pieces.  Looking back, I believe the hauling and lugging was always undertaken by my father.  If for no reason than he felt that he was the only one who could do it right.

The one climbing expedition I remember with particular relish involved the scaling of some peak or other in the Dolomites.  The climb, although not particularly arduous, was extremely unpleasant and hard on the feet – for the entire ascent consisted of one long skidding struggle up an extremely steep incline of loose shale. It was, however, one of the family’s favourite hikes, for at the top was a flat, level boulder – the lip of a dry waterfall – the view from which was spectacular.

On this particular day – as per usual – we reached the top and then sat under the weather-beaten conifers and gazed at the view down which – in the springtime during the thaw – there would cascade a thunderous torrent of water which would splash headlong into a basin several hundred metres below.

Anyway, on this particular day, and after gaining the top, we spread a rug on to the smooth surface of the rock and unpacked our picnic, which, as I recall consisted of smoke oysters and crudités, tiny pheasant pies with red-currant jelly, a mustard-encrusted loin of hogget with morels, as well as various cheeses and fresh fruits.  And surprisingly, also making its appearance was a large, dense, whisky-soaked fruit case encased in marzipan, which had been packed in a large tin of its own and had been carried by an ever-disgruntled and long-suffering ‘Minger’ (yours truly).

At a certain point in the meal we heard voices coming from somewhere three-quarters of the way up the waterfall.  Climbers, of course.  So we fell silent and grinned to each other and waited.  And, sure enough up popped the head of a rugged and deeply tanned professional climber type who obviously was not excepting to see a small group of people enjoying a picnic more in keeping at Glyndebourne than at the top of a sheer five-hundred foot drop.  I believe he said something like, “What the fuck,” and then he started to laugh. For he was a professional mountaineer and guide, and at the time was conducting a class of novice mountaineers up their very first ‘serious’ ascent.  It goes without saying that all the students were under impression that the climb was one that was usually reserved for experienced climbers – and what did they encounter when they reached the top?  Us – drinking chilled wine and dining like characters from a PG Wodehouse story.  All that was lacking was a valet by the name of ‘Jeeves’.

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to bet the guide lost his street-cred then and there. 

And in case you were wondering how and why the wine was chilled, I can only say it was down to my father.  He could pull off almost anything he wanted.  Dry ice, anyone?

But then there were the riverbank, or riparian, picnics.  Everybody dreaded them.  Everybody hated them.  And those who could get away with it, pretended they had come down with a bad case of death.  Just in order to be spared the misery.

For the life of me, I do not know why they were not dispensed with altogether.  Probably tradition, like chilblains in the winter and mustard-plasters and castor oil.  The main feature of riverside picnics was that, come hell or high water, everyone got soaked through to the skin, everybody’s clothes were ruined, the food became waterlogged, the primus would refuse to light (meaning the tea or coffee would be cold), at least one person’s pole would get stuck in the mud at the bottom of the river, resulting in the loss of the pole and in the punter’s falling into the water, and – last but not least – by a thunder storm.  Of course, by the time the deluge started, everyone had given up all hope for the future. They would simply sit there on the sodden grass and gaze at each other forlornly.  And eventually someone one would remember that he or she had forgotten to turn off the iron.  But, never mind, since they were all going to die before the hour was out, they’d never see their homes again anyway.

And every person would swear on everything that was holy that they would never ever go on another picnic as long as they lived.  Not even if it was to be held indoors and around a dinner table.

But, course, next time around, there’d we all be (except the same selfish person who’d had the foresight to come down with yet another fatal case of the ‘I want to wash my hairs’).

One thing I never did – and which I shall never do – is take anyone I fancy on any sort of picnic.  For no matter how well planned, and no matter how beautiful the day might be, it is bound to end in tears. Because the thing is, the outdoor is alive with creatures that have no other purpose in life but to torture us.  Whether it’s chiggers or sand-fleas or ants or hornets or a loose dog chasing a rabbit or spiders or ticks or poison ivy or nettles or a gale or hail or ravening wolves, it will all be present on the menu of your romantic interlude in the woods.  And then that one special person – the person after whom you’ve pined for so long a time – will storm off in a huff and you’ll never see him or her again.  And just think: the two of you had planned to go punting the following weekend.

I don’t know whether to be happy or sad about the passing the hogget.  And considering I rarely eat mean in any case, one could always say that – as a purely disinterest party – it really has nowt to do with me.  But in some respects the passing of the hogget was just one more nail in the coffin of traditions that are so forgotten that most people don’t know they existed at all.

With that in mind, let us discuss the hoggethood of mankind. 

Do I hear you ask what, is the hoggethood of mankind?  And when does a human become a hogget?  Let me illustrate this for you by presented the parallel ages of sheep and of men:  The first stage in the life of  commercial sheep is their first few months.  It is when they are called ‘spring lambs’.  This is the age when they have cost the farmer very little, simply because they have been suckling their mothers.  And the spring-lamb age of a person?  Well, commercially speaking they are practically worthless – unless of course they are from a certain location on the African continent and Madonna has just disembarked from her private jet.  They also have a certain commercial value – or so I’m told – in Romania and a few other countries that are eager to put their surplus babies up for adoption to citizens of industrialised nations.  However, now it appears that most of the economies of these selfsame industrialised nations are going belly up.  And this will probably lead to the situation whereby these formerly richer nations will start selling the babies back to Romania.  Except they had better hurry up about it, or else these babies will grow up to be hoggets and will be worth absolutely nothing.

So, in other words a ‘spring-lamb human baby’ has a negligible value, and what value it has is basically sentimental.  On the whole, they are – to use my favourite word du jour – worthless.  I mean, what are they?  Whereas a lamb at that age is worth more than it ever will be in the future, simply because of the tenderness of its meat, all the human baby contains is a limitless supply of poop, and it’s not as though you can even use baby poop on your roses. On the other hand, lamb poop makes excellent fertiliser.  Plus, unlike the baby variety, it comes in sweet little pellets.  Or buttons, if you like.  Just like those of big fluffy bunnies. Plus the fact, if the lamb dies, you can always make a hat out of it. But if you try that with a human baby, you might be asked to resign from the Rotary Club.

Now, let us proceed to the next stage of lambhood and babyhood.  The older lamb is also quite profitable – providing the supermarkets don’t cut its per-pound price to minus two pence per pound.  For at this age, the lamb is still basically nursing its mother although it is also eating a fair amount of grass – which, depending upon the size and philosophy of the farm, is either a good thing or a bad thing.

The human condition, which is called toddlerhood, is economically-speaking, a total disaster.  The toddler is eating its way through the refrigerator and destroying the house and developing all sorts of allergies for the sole reason that it wishes to send its parents – who neglected to buy it ‘Toddler Farmville’ and ‘Toddler X-Box’ for Christmas – straight into bankruptcy.  As for its price on the marketplace: zilch.  Unless of course the toddlers  are little blond girls, which is why – during economic downturns – blond hair-colouring kits inevitably become the ‘must-have’ item in every mother’s shopping basket.  For in the sex-slavery trade, there is always plenty of money for fresh talent.

 After this, we come to early hoggethood, a time when, for young female sheep,  life is on the up-and-up.   After all, they will soon be having plenty of sex and will start churning out sets of twins.  However, hoggethood for male sheep is not so nice. For unless some generous-hearted human special-orders ‘hogget’ or ‘mutton’ to serve at his table, by the time a male sheep reaches the age of hoggethood, he’s not a sheep anymore  He’s a ‘nothing’; the only physical evidence that he ever existed at all is the sheepskin jacket that the pink-haired bimbo down at the greyhound track is wearing. Hoggethood for humans is the time they are euphemistically called ‘teenagers’.  Mind you, they have only been called teenagers since the nineteen fifties.  Before that most people tried not to call them anything at all.  However, it should be noted that in the case of female hoggethooders, certain specimens have lives which definitely run along the same course as that of the hogget-ewes.  For like the hogget-ewes, female hoggethooders are sure to be having plenty of sex.  And like their sheep cousins, they will probably be churning out sets of twins.  So far, so good, but then the system breaks down.  Whereas the twins produced by the hogget-ewes immediately become either valuable spring lambs (in the case of males) or valuable future brood-ewes.  But in the case of the twins churned out by the by the female hoggethooders, unless they are cute little blonds and can sold to the sex-trade as ‘100 percent guaranteed Authentic blond virgins’, they have next to no value and are such hoodlums that your only hope is to sell them for a loss to terrorist armies as raw recruits.

Anyway, for a sheep, maturity is maturity is maturity.  The ewes have been mothers many times over and tend to live quiet, contented lives.  And if you happened to be the one-in-million males that was good enough to be put out to stud as a ram, you live the good life: it’s sex sex sex and even more sex, baby.

Human hoggethood is a time of gradually diminishing odds.  After all, you started out young and beautiful, and then before you knew it and certainly before you were willing to admit it, decay set in.  Hoggethood is a time when we soften the lights and lie to ourselves in the mirrors.  And it is also a time when we start to see the ‘writing on the wall’.  No, we are not going to accomplish anything important in our lives.  No, we are never going to find Mister or Missus ‘Right’.  And, let’s face it, our friends – who used to be so much fun – are growing old! They do nothing but complain about their health and the cost of living and the length of their sons’ hair.

And worst of all, their own parents are now passing the sell-by date of even the outer reaches of muttonhood.  This is the unkindest cut of all.  Parents, not matter how embarrassing they were, had always been there.  Your mother had always bustled around making cakes and going to bridge parties and wearing immaculate shirtwaist frocks.  Your father – a somewhat more shadowy figure – was a somewhat ill-tempered and disapproving man who always wore a suit and tie.

And suddenly, as you enter the depths of your hoggethood, your mother has started wearing her hair in tiny little purple curls – that is if she hasn’t been cursed by the beehive fairy and has opted for champagne blond.  Gone also are the smart shirtwaist dresses, to be replaced by pastel velvet track-suits.  And your once formidable father?  He now totters around in pink or baby blue boiler suits.  And he can never remember where he left his teeth.

To put it as politely as possible, their condition terrifies you.  The last thing you want to think of is that they are your future.  And no amount of exercise or cosmetic surgery is going to prevent it.  It’s what is called the ‘slippery slope’.  And even putting your end-game, sinewy, muttony addle pated parents in a nursing home is not going stop your decline.  Nothing is, for now that you are a hogget, your end is nigh.

June 1, 2010

FloatYourBoat

My Seaworthless life with Ships and the Sea

Considering I do not come from a seafaring family and have never been particularly interested in nautical themes, there is a certain strand that weaves through my life, and it has to do with boats.  Big boats and little boats and salt boats and powerboats and punts.  And even the odd canoe and kayak thrown in for good measure, possibly to torment me.

For whatever reason – perhaps because nobody else in our landlocked family wanted it – my early years (right up until my father died) – were blessed by an ancient deep-water ocean-going ketch.  The vessel had been built some time before the last war, and of course she was built of timber and acres of brass fittings.  And when moored in her accustomed berth on the south coast, she was possibly the most beautiful and graceful old lady for miles around.

My father was very attached to her, and I believe before he married my mother he used to sail her regularly.  And because she was a deepwater craft built for the southern oceans, it did not occur to anyone to sail her down to the Mediterranean and tootle round the various islands and hop off every day or so to sample what local delicacies were on offer at watering holes and ports of call.

Not a bit of it.  She was, after all, over one hundred metres long from stem to stern.  She had her pride.  And wherever her skipper happened to be heading when he set sail, you’d better believe that before he knew it she would be in mid-Atlantic and Patagonia-bound.

In other words, she was not some millionaire’s plaything – not like those floating gold-plated palaces owned by Greek shipping tycoons or Middle Eastern potentates.  She was sea-worthy and – to put in bluntly – the other ones were fit only for a paddling pool.

For years she had shared a mooring with another vessel, this one belonging to our dentist.  Now don’t get excited.  He may have been a reasonably proficient dentist, and I believe he actually had a surgery in either Harley Street or somewhere just around the corner.  In other words, he had a good income, which meant he paid most of it to the government in taxes;  whatever was left over he used to support a wife and two sons – both of which were in good, if minor, public schools.  For his sins, this dentist also owned a couple of shares in one of my family’s no-hoper steeplechasers.  But that was all in good fun, and in any case, he always looked forward to watching me race.  As he put it, “One of these days, Minger’s going to knock out all of his teeth, and that will make up for the money I’ve lost on that bloody horse you made me buy.”  But you know what they say about wishes.  I never obliged.  And in the end he got so desperate that he bought a leg and a tail of another horse, this one even less athletic and more hopeless than the first.   But he never learned.  He was hoping, of course, he would live to see the day when I would finally pay off the mortgage of his dental surgery, but – alas – the only damage I ever did to myself was south of my neck.  My teeth – much to his chagrin – ended up the same old teeth as the ones I had started out with.

Anyway, back to his boat.  Unlike ours, which was built for racing and for braving the South Atlantic swells, his was the ultimate in pleasure palaces.  The fittings were, of course, gold, and while it had masts fore and aft it was powered by an ill-tempered coal-fired furnace – and because of that it had a small but elegant funnel – painted white with gold bands.  Needless to say, our lovely lady (who was of the old school and who believed no yacht would be caught dead with an engine) looked down her graceful bow at her neighbour – as if it was some sort of flash playboy from the lower end of the village who’d won the football pools.    

The dentist never took this beautiful monstrosity out to sea.  In fact, when his great uncle (whose yacht it had been and who had had it built to his own specification) set off on his very first sea voyage from Portsmouth  to Monte Carlo, the vessel proved to be so heavy that it wasted no time in sinking to the bottom of the harbour.  The team that salvaged it merely shook their heads and murmured, “We told him so.”

When our dentist inherited the craft he had immediately put it on the market.  But it seemed no one wanted to buy a yacht, no matter how beautiful it may have been, if it couldn’t stay afloat.  And so what he did was to hire a birth next to my father’s sleek utilitarian ocean-going thoroughbred.  And then he rented the pleasure palace out as a honeymoon retreat or for dirty weekends to other dentists that were looking to impress their latest chorus girls.

Eventually – after a few years had passed, came the day when our dentist faced the expense and inconvenience of putting his white elephant in dry dock in order to have its ‘bottom scraped’.  Or as the dentist liked to put it, “the bloody thing has got to have its teeth cleaned, and it’s not even on the National Health.”

But then came one of those miracles every one of us is always hoping for but rarely encounters.  A young man walked into the surgery and offered to take the yacht off the dentist’s hands.  It goes without saying that the dentist was flabbergasted.  I believe he even said, “You know, of course, that it will bloody well sink.”

But apparently, the young man knew all that.  He simply wanted it as a folly.  It was beautiful, he said.  And since he could afford it that was enough.  But there was a hitch.  It seemed he had an island in The Seychelles he wished to unload.  Would the dentist be interested in a swap?  The dentist asked him if this particular island had a fresh water supply, and if it was on the route of any of the mail boats.  “Yes,” replied the young man.  The upshot was that the dentist inspected the island – accompanied by a lawyer and the appropriate authorities – and he ended up with a tropical paradise of his own.  He loved it so much that he moved into a shack that was on a cove on the eastern side facing the Indian Ocean; and before the first year was out, he had planted gardens and built shelters for domestic livestock.  And from then on, the dentist spent at least three months of every year as a lotus-eater in paradise.  And our ketch?  It lost its companion.  However, because it had always had to work for its keep – yachts being the money-pits they are – it continued to spend every single month of the year under charter. Eventually, the boat proved to be so popular with the charter company’s clients that it was relocated to Ushuaia on the tip of Argentina, where it stayed for the rest of my father’s life.  And after he died, the charter company bought it.  And I believe it’s still in service – or perhaps even enjoying a happy retirement at the bottom of the South Atlantic.

But do you want to know something?  Not once in the entire time that we owned the ketch did I even once get to sail in her – not even round the harbour or over to the Isle of Wight.  We simply could not afford to have her around as a ‘kept woman’.  The slut had to earn her keep – and she did.  And besides, I had the horses.

So much for my history as a yachtsman.

And now we come to cargo vessels of the tramp-steamer variety, as well as to those that regularly sank.

My uncle, who had lived his entire adult life in Mexico and who was one of those ‘man’s men’ of which certain novelists used to be so enamoured, was incredibly fond of the rickety old steamers that sailed between the salt mines on Baja California and a port on the southern Sonora coast.  For years he had spent his annual monthly holidays shuttling back and forth, getting drunk as a skunk with the captains and crews and raising hell.  To claim that these vessels were ancient would be an understatement. In fact, they leaked like sieves and were in such disrepair that they sank like clockwork.  Of course, it goes without saying that God loves a good-natured drunk; and as proof of this, none of the crew-members on board – all of whom were smashed out of their minds – ever got drowned during any one of the sinkings.  They simply drifted ashore on a raft of booze and with the Blessings of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and had the vessels – which were actually converted coastal steamers – refloated.  Again and again and again.

Eventually, my uncle bought two of them.  His retirement was not too far off, and he had it in mind to spend the rest of his life transporting salt back and forth across the Sea of Cortes in these banged up and rusting little hulks.

Sadly, that never happened.  His health broke down and his doctor ordered him to give up drinking; for his family’s sake he did.  However, without the booze spurring him on, he simply was not the same. He lost his zest for life. In fact, he became quite boring and conservative.  And after a while even his wife and daughter regretted that he had followed his doctor’s orders.  For the fun had all but left him.  And as for my mother (who had loved him perhaps more than any other person), she was heard to mutter that dying in his bed was not what he had had in mind – even if it meant being surrounded by his family.  And that what would have pleased him most was to have kicked the bucket drinking mezcal with his compañeros while aboard one of his pinche little coal scuttles.

And the pinche little coal scuttles?  Well, they kept sailing back and forth and back and forth, same as always;  the skippers and crews continued to drink each other under the table, and the boats ended their days on the bottom of the Sea of Cortes.  They are now reefs for the fish and toys for the baby grey whales.

Then there were the proper freighters that sailed the China route from Liverpool to Hong Kong and back again.  They were, of course, part of a small fleet belonging to a shipping company; it just so happened that some of our cousins had won two of them in a wager.  And having gained at least partial control of them, they leased them back to the company in question.  Which means they did rather well for themselves.

Naturally, all this didn’t have anything to do with us.  However, after my brother was killed in a motoring accident and my mother was unable to mourn, my father rang the cousins in question and struck a deal.  At the time he had part-interest in a tiny, mosquito-infested island off the coast of Sweden (yes, another island) and he said he would lease this island to the cousins in return for a favour.  Simply put, he wanted free passage for himself and for my mother and for me on one of the freighters from Liverpool to Hong Kong.  Return.  And so a month or so later, there we were on the docks in Liverpool, complete with a great many trunks (including one for my schoolbooks).  The three of us – plus a tutor for me for the outward bound leg – set sail and didn’t return for eight months – give or take a week.  As for the tutor, she got herself a free trip to Hong Kong plus expenses for her return journey.  A return journey, I might add, that she never made, for she fell in love with one of the stewards, got married, and settled down in Kowloon.

Unfortunately, I simply didn’t pay much attention to that period in my life (partly because I was forced to study day and night if I didn’t want to be shipped back home).  I do recall certain ports, among them  Port Said, but the reason that particular one stands out in my mind is that because our vessel was flying the Union Jack and the Suez crisis was still fresh in everyone’s memories; none of us was allowed by the Egyptian authorities to go ashore.  And vendors were not permitted on board.  However, a Gully-Gully man (whose family had worked the ships for generations and who – I believe – even had a Greek passport) spent a few hours with us in the smoking room.  But other than the fact that he was wonderfully funny and that his close-up magic was better than any I have seen to this day, I cannot remember what any of his tricks were, nor can I recall any of his patter.

We did linger at least two weeks in Port Swettenham, not an unusual occurrence.  For the port was very narrow and only a certain number of leiters were allowed for the off-loading of cargo.  I remember spending a day or two swimming at the officers’ club, after which we (along with my bloody books) went to stay with an Irish rubber planter and his Malaysian wife at a plantation in Jahore.  It was simply enchanting.  Typically – because of the climate – most of the exterior walls of the house folded back like louvers so that the breezes could blow through.  And I also remember they had built a swimming pool in the middle of a stream.  Which meant it was icy and fresh and cured what ailed you.

We then rejoined the ship and sailed to Singapore (where I was taken to lunch with Charlie Chaplin – who was not very nice, but who might have been nicer if I had been even nicer to him) and then on to Manila.  We arrived in the Philippines at the tail-end of a typhoon, which as far as I was concerned was rather fun – because to disembark we had to go down a very small ladder and leap across the churning swells on to very small boats.  And after we were ashore, we were packed into an ancient Cadillac limousine and taken up to the rim of a volcano – where we were treated to a cock-fight and then got to eat the loser.  Those were the days, my friend.  But never mind; in the interim the volcano blew its top and buried at least one hundred thousand people. Revenge is sweet.

The highlights of the entire voyage (as far as I was concerned) were that I got to ‘ride out’ at stud farms in both Singapore and Honk Kong.  And since I hadn’t been near a horse for what seemed an eternity, it was bliss!

The return journey – all four months of it – seems to have been one solid monsoon from the first day until the last, and seemed to consist of one endless game of mah-jong.  At least, when I was released from my ‘penal’ study servitude.  At the time I remember thinking I would have been much happier staying in Switzerland.

What else was there in my seafaring life?  Well, when I was in my late teens and putting serious thought into the prospects of becoming either a jockey or a show-jumper, my parents arranged with an American-based trainer to take me on (on approval, as it were).  Even though I had already lived away from home a great deal due to the fact that I had gone to boarding school, they thought it would be a good idea for me to put distance between myself and the trainers I had previously worked with. For I had never been able to work in a really first-class operation, and a first-class operation is a whole new ball game.  So off I went, and sailed to New York on the old Queen Mary (the one that is now a hotel in Long Beach, California).  I had an amazing few months, during which time I got incredible fit – fitter that I had ever been before – and decided to hold off any ideas I might have had about turning pro for another two three years.  I was all too aware of my limitations, and if nothing else the life of a jockey makes an honest man out of you.  Anyway, nothing having been settle either here or there,  I sailed back to England (this time on the old Queen Elisabeth (not the QE2, which is currently in Dubai, but the glorious old lady who now lies at the bottom of Hong Kong harbour) and got on with my life.  And in the process, I grew up a lot. At least temporarily.

Let us skip forward a few thousand decades.  When I was on the island a few years ago, a friend of a friend asked me if I wanted to join him and a few other strange people and tootle round the Atlantic in a converted trawler.  Well, I thought, why the hell not.  After all, I had grown up with a yacht I was never allowed to sail on, so why not make up for it now.  And everything was fine and dandy for about a week and a half.  And then – wouldn’t you know it – the craft foundered.  And not only did it founder, but it chose to founder off the coast of a country off of which one would never wish to founder.  Needless to say, because we were all idiots and if nothing else, God seems to love idiots (as well as happy drunks), all of us floated to shore – cling to bits of the wreckage – but very much alive. And with the exception of a few scrapes and bruises and a painful concussion for me – no one was hurt.  However, we were rounded up by some very solemn-looking very, very young boys wielding very serious machine guns.  And after they’d ordered us about for a little while and blew up a tree with one of their grenades, we were taken to an accommodation that looked suspiciously like it had formerly been used for pigs.  And there we stayed.  And we were fed yams and glowered at by the increasingly venomous young boys with the machine guns and grenades. They seemed fixated with waving their weapons in our faces and with shouting increasingly un-politically-correct slogans and with ordering us to march back and forth for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, after which they took to fondling lengths of rope.  They would then sit on the ground and glower some more and – at odd intervals – shoot a few rounds at the shed where we slept and explode a grenade or two.  And this would continue with great monotony until the next day when it was time for them to start the cycle of yams and strangeness all over again. I might as well tell you now, that eventually they seemed to have gotten bored with simply unloading a magazine into an empty shed and blowing up chickens with grenades, and so they decided to see what would happen if they put us into the shed before shelling it with bullets.  And if that wasn’t enough to put us off our yams, their obsessive noose-making started to get up our noses – especially when they started using our necks to model their nooses, whilst simultaneously pointing to the nearest tree.  And spitting.  After a while we got religion; it wasn’t that we wanted be saved, but we wanted the boys simply to get on with it.  And we really started to dread the sight of yams.  I fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that at the very mention of yet another round of yams we would start to twitch, for the yams only heralded yet another afternoon in the pig pen. To this day, whenever I see a yam – even if it’s sautéed with ginger – I want to run for the hills.

Of course, because I am here and telling the story – I did not end my life there.  But the end was really rather an anti-climax. There was no rescue; no fight to the death; no histrionics! I mean, where was Vin Diesel when we needed him?  Where was Bruce Willis? All we got was the Woody Allen version!  In fact, it all ended with such a pathetic whimper that – had it been in a movie – it would have been laughed out of every theatre in every Cineplex in the world.  Even the climax of the Sound of Music was more nail-biting!  All that happened was that a couple of old men pulled up in three taxis.  They started yelling at the boys, who in turn simply dropped  their sub-machine guns and ran away into the bush.  The old men then proceeded to usher us into the taxis, and took us into town and gave us hotel rooms. With honest-to-goodness toilets, which almost even flushed!  And a meal without even a single yam.

And the first thing the next morning, they put us on a plane.  Not  a word was spoken.  It was almost as bizarre as a French film.

It goes without saying that since we were lost souls without passports or any other form of identification, there followed a great deal of humming and hawing, as well as interviews with a great many men and women in suits.  But eventually – I suppose because we had shown ourselves to be such complete imbeciles in the first place by tootling round the Atlantic in a leaky reconditioned trawler – they came to the conclusion that we had been kidnapped by aliens and that our brains had been replaced by those of Daffy Duck – and that talking to us was giving them a headache.  And so they send us home and told us not to do it again.  Just like they do on the M1 when you are stopped for exceeding the speed limit.

Oh, yes, there are one or two other boating adventures – my favourite of which involves a punt and a fiendishly attractive other person and a tomato sandwich thrown from a bridge – but I think you have had as much excitement as you can take for today.  Ciao.

May 31, 2010

Armpits

The Agony and the Ecstasy and the Glories of the Perfect Pit.

I love armpits!  Quite simply, the armpits are the windows to the soul.  Not the eyes; after all, what are eyes but two little globs of jelly curtained from above and below by fringes of wispy fringes called lashes.  And the lashes are never compatible with the eyes themselves!  And part of this is because the eyes themselves are so randomly coloured.  And the colour charts from which the shades are chosen are so limited.  Why, they don’t even embrace all the colours of the rainbow.  Nor do they include such vibrant hybrids as magenta or mustard yellow or orange or Ferrari red.  And forget about zebra stripes or leopard spots or flashing neon lights or polka dots or panthers peering from round the irises.  Of course, some of these effects are possible with the aid of contact lenses; and in photographs one can always cheat and resort to computer imaging and photo-shop and even to cutting and pasting more interesting eyes into the slots formerly occupied by your own boring greyish blue jelly globs – in other words, the very eyes you have been trying to pass off as ‘baby blues’.  But that is not the same, is it. And it doesn’t even work, for the minute someone sees you in the flesh they notice how boring your face actually looks.  In fact, faced with the real non-existent colour of your eyes, they can’t even find your face in order to look into it.  And so then and there you lose your evening’s entertainment.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you always wear the colours that supposedly enhance your eyes, at least they will notice the vividness of your shirt.  But, on the other hand, such a technique does limit your choice of wardrobe.  For example, my eyes are your basic, washed-out greyish blue.  They are, in fact the original invisible eyes.  If I am willing to wear certain darkish bright blue shirts – the ones I loathe because they make me feel as though I am trying to pass myself off as a banker – you can almost see that I really do have eyes.  That is, if the light is right and I am drunk enough that my eyes are lined with red.  And as for mascara and eye-liner, don’t kid yourself.  The only time they work is if you’ve got amazing eyes to begin with.  Otherwise you look like Bozo the Clown.

No one with eyes like mine could ever be a Latin lover or a Corsican bandit or a Sheikh or – for that matter – a movie heart-throb.  Latin lovers, by definition, cannot be invisible. They must have flashing eyes.  The same with Corsican bandits, and even more so with the sort of desert Sheikh played by Rudolf Valentino and Ramon Navarro – the truly smouldering sheikhs that used to kidnap the dainty blond heroines in the movies (before the coming of sound and colour sucked out the audiences’ souls and replaced them with 3-D glasses). The one thing all these heart-throbs of yesteryear had in common were eyes like flashing black diamonds, illuminated from within by the light of the moon.  The second you stared into those limpid black pools of desire, you knew what was next on the menu.  And it wasn’t called the blue plate special. It was called “Va Va Voom!”  It was called the sort of sex that was better dreamed about than displayed on the screen. It was called, “Oh, fuck! I wish (pant pant pant) he would leap out of the screen on his white charger and take me right here on the cinema floor on top of the spilled popcorn and candy-wrappers!”

Never mind that – in the case of those smouldering Sheikhs – once they had kidnapped the fair damsel (usually a simpering blond with a palpitating heart such as Agnes Ayers) they took her back to live in their mother’s tent in the oasis – where she was doomed to spend the rest of her life beating the carpets and hanging out the wash and churning out babies every week and a half.  But the movies never showed that side of things – and wouldn’t until the 1960s and Ken Loach and ‘Poor Cow’.

Needless to say, Rudolf Valentino and his ilk cut a wide berth around the likes of Theda Bara, for she was a temptress who would have eaten him for breakfast and taken him home to live in the brothel with her  mother, where he would have had to do a great many other things besides scrubbing the floors.  In fact, poor ol’ Rudolph did finally come a cropper with a certain Alla Nazimova. And the upshot was that he died.  In other words, his eyes stopped flashing. And this only shows that you should never stray from the profile assigned you by the computer.  And it also proves that once your eyes stop flashing, you might as well be the parking attendant. Whereas, if you’ve got pits to die for you can always climb out of your coffin and become an unspeakably pitiless vampire.

Let me just add this before we move on.  Yes, Rudolf Valentino died.  And he died when he was still gorgeous and still had a glimmer of flashing, smouldering eyes that burned like charcoals; however, if he hadn’t died in tragic circumstances and prematurely, no one would remember him. You see, flashing eyes can only take you so far!  What they need to ensure immortality is a breath of scandal and a really great funeral with women in black hurling themselves on to the coffin.  Otherwise, as soon as you’re buried you’re yesterday’s news and your family won’t be able to make any money from the sale of your relics.  Just look at poor old Ramon ‘Who’s he’ Navarro.  He was a sheikh with flashing eyes just a rung on the ladder below Valentino. But nobody remembers him.  And the reason no one does is that he didn’t die a tragic death, did he?  Well, actually he did, but by the time he was brutally murdered, he was just an old, washed-up has-been who’d used up all his money buying rent-boys.  Needless to say, not a single woman swathed in black and festooned with jet even attended his funeral, much less swooned over his coffin.  And do you know why?  Because by the time he was dead, his flashing eyes were more like week-old dead slugs.  And nobody even knew or cared whether he had any pits at all.

Believe me when I say that the woods are full of screen sirens and pop idols with flashing eyes who forgot to die when they should have.  But as I said before, you’ve got to keep with the program!  For eyes dry up, and once the light has gone out of them, they might just as well have had invisible and boring grey-blue eyes just like mine.  And after a point, not even fluorescent contact lenses and spot lights will bring them to life again.

Now, there are some – not many – heart-throbs who are lumbered with invisible eyes.  And sometimes they even have boring invisible pale skin and hair the colour of mouse turds.  In fact, some of them are even cursed with colouring like mine.  In other words, whole-body invisibility. Such people were invariably called ‘Minger’ in school – unless, of course, they were cursed with even the slightest hint of salmon pink in their hair (and especially when that hair was growing on a pair of exuberantly forested milk-white legs), in which case they were stuck with the ‘Ginger’ label.  And sometimes if you had both things going for you at the same time you really did develop an issue with your parents; in other words, why didn’t they think to match their colour-charts before ‘doing it’? I almost fitted into that category, but then I shaved my leg-hair and it grew back a nice, flat mousey brown.  Just think, I just missed out on rejoicing in that wonderful double-barrelled nickname of ‘Ginger-Minger’ (and no, it is not pronounced ‘jinjer-minjer’). 

Yes, I admit there are a few career paths open to us mingers and ginger-mingers.  I mean, there are certainly job openings galore if what you crave is an action-packed life as an insurance adjuster or an assistant manager in Walmart or even one of the valued associates at Disney World who lives inside a Mickey Mouse costume.  But if you have your heart set on being a professional childminder or lollypop man, forget it.  Everyone will look at you and know you are both a paedophile and a psychopathic killer.  And very possibly a serial rapist, as well – because as everybody knows – ginger-mingers (unlike Latin lovers with flashing eyes) are always lacking in that certain ‘department’ located in their Y-fronts.  Using the same logic, ginger-mingers are – it goes without saying – psychopaths.  Or at least neurotic whiners who should be placed on the sex-offenders list on the day of their birth.

This is why every single mass-murderer and serial rapist you see in the movies has got those horrible, washed-out, invisible greyish-blue eyes.  And the actors portraying them can never get any other type of role, which makes some of them so depressed that they go on to become paedophiles in real life.

But as I was about to say before I interrupted myself, there are certain invisibly pale and boring would-be heart-throbs (the original models for the stealth bomber) who manage to become heart-throbs in spite of the fact that nobody ever manages to see them.  And do you know why?  Because of their armpits.  Because if they have great armpits, nobody ever looks at their boring and invisible eyes or at their washed-out complexions or at their lank and greasy ‘just-this-side-of-gingery’, dirty-looking hair.

As I said before, armpits are the windows to the soul.  Gaze into a perfect armpit and you are sucked into a forest of delights.  You become a child again, fantasizing about a secret garden outside your bedroom window.  Armpits as they should be are the true objects of desire that have inspired every poet from Ovid to Byron to Keats and Brooke, and right down to the present day.  And whenever in a sacred text, the Garden of Eden is mentioned, what they are describing is the most perfect, the most sublime and most glorious armpit ever created.

There are certain thespians that have based their entire careers on the beauty and the purity-of-line of their armpits.  One example that springs to mind is an American film actor named Ethan Hawke. Now, as far as I know he is a quite a decent actor.  And as far as I know he is even fairly attractive to look at.  But what I do know is that the camera is in love with his armpits.  At least that used to be the case.  But, of course, he is older now, which means his armpits might not so alluring.  And he might have even let them go to pot.  If so, this is undoubtedly the reason we don’t see as many of his films as we used to.  For in the olden days, when his armpits were in their prime and you simply wanted to bury yourself in their depths, there would come a moment in each and every one of his movies when he would be wearing a singlet or a similar garment.  At the climax of this moment, the lights would focus on his torso, and Ethan Hawke would raise his arms and place his hands in back of his head.  And his perfectly sculpted and contoured armpits would make your heart explode.  Never before or since have there been armpit ‘moments’ to equal these.  And I still dream about them. And as for his eyes, I do not have a clue what colour they were.  For in every single film he made, it was all about his armpits.

One of the great recent armpit movies was ‘Benjamin Button’ starring Brad Pitt.  I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but the way the filmmakers tracked the shifting ages of the protagonist was through the shifting character of his armpits.  And that means, of course, through the shifting nature not only of the contours, but of his armpit hair.  For as the character got younger, so his armpits became more beautiful – until you got to the point when he was a teenager, and the sheer loveliness of his fragrant gardens was almost heartbreaking.  And if you don’t believe me, rent the move and see for yourself.

Now I admit I am neglecting women’s armpits (and God only knows there are more of those than there are stars in the sky – except in Muslim countries, where they don’t have any).  And I admit they do have their attractions.  Mostly razor-burns or white skid marks from using the wrong deodorants.  And I will never deny having certain prejudices where armpits are concerned.  However – and, yes, there is always a however – a perfect armpit is only perfect on a tight-knit body and for a certain number of years.  For the most part – setting aside the inevitable beaches where all the wrong sorts of armpits are on display from both sexes – men, after a certain age – which means the age when their muscles start to turn to flab and their bodies are best seen after twilight and covered in a boiler suit – tend not to flaunt their armpits in public quite as much as they did when they had something that was worth flaunting.  Unless, of course, we are talking about those members of the human race who sit on their barstools attired in cut offs and string vests, or about certain naturists who leave their vanity in the locker with their clothing; but if they are happy then so am I.   And then there are those who have never been introduced to soap. In which case, they have coal pits.  And as we all know, you venture into a coal pit at your own risk.

Men – with certain well-known exceptions – namely the aforementioned bar stool sitters and those who stopped developing after their high school football careers had ended – do have a certain over-wheening vanity when it comes to their bodies.  And especially where their armpits are concerned (we will deal with stomachs at a later date).

Woman, on the hand, while they be as vain as men in many areas, have a blind spot when it comes to their armpits.  It is as simple as that.  They don’t seem to understand that a young, firm and succulent armpit can be displayed without shame.  However, does that mean they should exhibit their nakedness and their razor-burns whenever they brush their hair back from their eyes?  In fact, an armpit – which is after all, a sexual organ – should never be flaunted; it should be discovered.  However, many women – from the moment they dress themselves in sleeveless tops – do nothing but flaunt their armpits.  In fact, very often one sees much more of their armpits than ones does of their faces.  How sad it is that they don’t stop  pumping Botox into their phizogs, thus making them resemble weather balloons; after all, the only things they are displaying to the gathered assembly are a set of armpits that are – by then – well-past their sell-by date.  And there is nothing Botox can do about them.

I won’t go so far as saying it’s a fetish, but if I had a choice between burying my face in a freshly sweating armpit (and notice I used a form of the word ‘fresh’) and a man’s groin (equally fresh, it goes without saying) I would opt for the armpit every time.

I admit that my behaviour can at times border on the embarrassing. For if I am with a man whose armpits are symphonies of delight, I simply cannot concentrate on anything he says.  This was – alas – true of the last two horse-trainers I worked under.  Both of them were in their mid-thirties, and both – it goes without saying – were extremely fit.  Both had magnificently toned torsos… and both of them had the most outrageously succulent armpits I had seen in years.  And, no, I never saw either of them shirtless; after all, we were occupied with other things – such as schooling jumpers.  But when the weather was warm, both would wear short-sleeves shirts.  And I almost could not contain myself.  It was pure eroticism of the highest order.  All I can say is it’s a good thing for me that it is armpits that mesmerise me.  After all, if you are working with a straight man and insist on drooling at his crotch, he will eventually get slightly suspicious. But with armpits you are safe.  You can stare at them for days and all your co-worker will think is that you are concentrating on what he is saying. And looking thoughtful.  Of course, now that I’ve blown my cover by writing this, every man I know will go round with his arms strapped to his waist.  Just to spite me.

What else can I say about armpits?  Naturally, they should be clean.  Yes, the armpit owner might want to use a small amount of anti-perspirent, but don’t glob it on.  And don’t put it on before sex – unless, of course, the thought of my scrubbing your pits with a Brillo pad is what yanks your chain.  And if you’ve got a rainforest denser that the entire Amazon delta you might want to check it now and then for borrowing rodents or for one of the lost tribes of Israel.  And if you sweat profusely and have been working all day in the blistering heat, please don’t shove your pits into my face unless you want to get kneed.  The smell of fresh sweat is one thing; the rancid stench of the abattoir is quite another.

And please, men and women and Walmart shoppers, remember the following politically incorrect statement: after anyone has gained a certain amount of weight (yes, that’s what I said), an armpit ceases to be an armpit and becomes something that might as well be two sweaty halves of a hamburger bun with crab-grass or poppy-seeds in the middle.  Now, there is nothing wrong in this; we all have weight problems at some point in our lives.  Just don’t persist in thinking that what was at one time an erogenous zone is still one of your main attractions.  It is not.  It’s like trying to pass off Gary Glitter as the star of ‘Glitter’. And for God’s sake, if you have put on a few tonnes and you do lose your pits, don’t go on pretending you still have them.  You won’t fool anyone.  And while I may still stare at them, it won’t be from lust, but because I will be trying to figure out if a pit actually existed there at one time, or if you were simply born with a lump of bread dough proofing under each arm.

Ah! Pits, glorious pits, pits of the evening, beautiful pits.  Pits are like the sweetest, rarest fragrance.  Know the power of your pits!  Even if they are as clean and as pristine as a midsummer’s morn, don’t just go shoving them into a person’s face – not even a person like me, who loves a good pit to distraction.  A pit that is sublime must be approached like an exotic perfume or a very, very fine wine.  Or an exquisite bouillabaisse on which you are planning to dine.

Remember, with a pit that is perfect and with a person like you that knows what to do with a perfect pit, it is not a quick bump or grind or a “howdy do, ma’am, I hope you don’t mind” but a veritable feast of the senses.  So give each pit an hour, or perhaps even two, and you’ll break down all their owner’s defences.

May 30, 2010

BadSmells

What happens when God has too much time on His hands.

I am so sick and tired of smelly people.  I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive, and I’m certainly not discriminating against those who have a medical condition.  And I’m bloody well not complaining about anyone who is not in a position to wash.  For whatever reason.  But maybe I am.  I have lived in a lot of places on this benighted earth of ours, including many sinkholes where there has been practically no water to speak of, as well as in places where the only sources of water have been near open drains.  But you know something?  The fewer facilities people seem to have, the harder they work to keep themselves clean.  To put it this way, in most of the worst favelas in the world there is not a lot of body odour.  I am not generalising, I’m simply stating the reality as experienced through my own olfactory organs.

Now, I have crossed large tracks of desert by camel and on horseback, and few were the times when the Taureg or Bedouin guides were even as smelly as I.  They simply knew how to keep themselves clean.  And, yes, religion did have its part to play, for in their world-view a man must wash himself before each of the five daily prayers.  And if there is no water with which he can cleanse himself, he will use sand.  And the sand in the desert is nothing if not clean – for it is swept and polished by the winds ever moment of its life.  Remember this: O! Ye Westerners!  There is nothing dirty about dirt except what we ourselves put into it.  The rest is in our minds.

The Arab mania for personal hygiene  has not gone unnoticed by travellers over the centuries who have been ‘scandalised’ by the amount of water being ‘wasted’; to them survival was and is more important than having a clean bottom and well-trimmed toenails.  Call it a conflict of cultures.  For the guides to which I was referring – good Muslims all – it was to their God that they prayed, and it was for their God that that they washed themselves clean.  On the other hand, those being guided by these nomads of the desert had a completely opposite point of view.  To hell with how filthy you were; you needed the water for drinking.  And it was also for the animals that carried you.  But as far as the latter complaint was concerned, the guides would simply shrug their shoulders and look amused.  For God would take care of the camels and horses.  Hadn’t He provided wells in places no European could find but of which they themselves were aware.  And as for the survival of the guides themselves – and even for their European tourists (for that matter) – “Insh’Allah.”

It is very bizarre, is it not; two Gods who are supposedly one God, even though the fact that some people can’t get it through their thick heads that one of these one Gods – the one they call ‘Allah’ – is really the same God as the other God, the one they call ‘God’ – the only difference being that ‘Allah’ means ‘God’ in Arabic, whereas ‘God’ means ‘God’ in English.  But, of course, he’s called something else in Judaism, but since as far as I know it’s not a name that can be mentioned – or even written down where somebody can see what it is actually spelled like, I’m not going to get involved.  Let us just say that this third God, which is really the same one God as the other two Gods, is not called ‘Jehovah’.  It only sounds like it, which is why it is often written that way in certain Bibles that don’t spell anything the same way as other Bibles do.  It’s called doing your own thing.  And in the words of many a lawmaker in certain countries who has tried to have English declared the ‘official’ language, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for us!”

Is it any wonder that God switches off his hearing aid when we talk to Him?  After all, with so many people yelling at Him and calling him so many different names, what is a God to do?  He gets even.

And do you want to know how he gets even?  Well, first of all He creates us in His own image, or He doesn’t in the two cases where He doesn’t have any image of Himself to use as a model – in which case, He doesn’t create us to look like anything at all.  In other words, in two out of the three cases, he wings it.  And when He doesn’t like the result, he invents the burkha.

So far, so good.  Are you still with me?

What He does next – in fact, I believe all three of Him does it – is to pronounced Himself satisfied.  Or at least He does in two out of the three cases, for in the third case he apparently got tired of repeating Himself and simply skipped all that redundant ‘patting Himself on the back’ nonsense and went straight to the meat of the matter.  You know, where He starts to lecture us on the fact that women were put on earth to be virgins forever and ever, or at least until a man chooses to get tired of little boys and decides  to marry them and take them home to keep house for his mother?  And to beat the carpets on the balcony and scrub the floors and hang out the wash?  And of course, having been de-virginised, the wife is no longer a virgin but only used merchandise, so she might as well do something to earn her keep by churning out at least one baby per week.  And if she cannot even manage that, then her poor husband will have to make do with marrying as many wives as there are stars in the sky. And he will continue on doing this until he has used up all the virgins on the planet.  And when they are all used up, and he still hasn’t had a really first-class de-virginising experience, he is forced to start marrying his brother’s widows.  After all, he knows his brother had forgotten to fill his Viagra prescription.  And hence, there’s a chance his brother’s wives might be virgins after all.  But, as even un-de-virginised de-virginised used virgins are wont to be, they are still like used cars. In other words, there’s dog shit on the retreads. This means they have betrayed him and he is, therefore, obliged to stone them for pretending to be virgins even though they were virgins but had been diddled once or twice by his brother before he had died of a surfeit of figs. For having once been diddled, these pseudo-virgins knew what the company of a man was like.  So he didn’t have a choice, did he?  It was stoning or nothing – after all, there is an ‘Only Virgins Allowed’ policy in heaven, and by this time she’s old enough to nag. Anyway, after he has finished with that task, he then proceeds to the widows and orphans of the village. Of course, most of those widows – based on the fact that they will have had children – will have been de-virginised at some point or other.  And by a man who was not he. Sadly, that will mean they are probably the most soiled of all de-virginised ex-virgins, and need to be stoned as well. Fortunately for him, the ten year old sons of the defiled, de-virginised widows (the ones who have just been stoned for not being virgins when they seduced him into marriage), will be virgins themselves. If you know what I mean.  And so, it will end happily for everyone.  As they say, “Amen.” And so endeth the first lesson, the one in which the third God who was the one God, skipped the part about being satisfied.

And now, let us proceed to the other two Gods who were the one God, but who had been satisfied.  On the whole, these two Gods of the one God felt they hadn’t done too bad a job. That is, considering the calibre of their workers and the fact that the clay that had been given  had already been used once in the studio of Michelangelo (and we all know what that means – it had been used for something quite different than that for which God had originally intended clay to be used).  However, in case of one of the Gods of the one God – the one who was camera shy like the one God of the one God who had glossed over the bit about being satisfied – He had decided in a fit of pique (possibly because His wife had slipped with her scissors and had not only rounded the edges of his beard but had chopped off His foreskin) that He wouldn’t use Himself as a model at all and instead, He would make His offspring in the image of something called an ‘Isaac’ (which was the name His had given to His pet baby goat).

Needless to say, this version of the story ended in guilt and in great gnashing of the teeth and rending of the hair.  For this particular one God of the one God had had a dream. Only, not having a picture of Himself to use as a reference, this particular God of the one God couldn’t be sure if it was about Himself or about someone else – perhaps even about a fourth God of the one God that nobody had heard about yet. And so He went over to the house of one of the many identical men with long beards (for those were before the days when Michelangelo was able to paint men with different faces).  He commanded this man with the beard to go out and sacrifice Isaac.  Little did he realise that the word ‘Isaac’ no longer meant ‘goat’, but instead was the name of the old man-with-the-beard’s first-born son. But being that the old man had had personal experience with what happens when you don’t do what any of the one Gods want you to do (after all, he had been in Sodom shopping for lentils and had had to flee for his life), he said, “Why the Hell not.  I’m only five thousand years old – I can always make another son.  And even a spare.” And so he grabbed his son by the scruff of the neck and took him up on top of a hill and tied him to a burning bush.  Now, because the burning bush cast the only light for miles around, this particular one God among the one God saw what the old man with the beard had done.  And he was annoyed. “Holy fuck,” he said. “Not only have I created a whole bunch of ugly people, but I have created the first idiot as well.” And so what He did was run up the hill after the old man with the beard, but He was too late.  For He had been wearing a pair of too-large Crocs and had gotten a thorn stuck between His rock and his hard place.  And since it hurt like Hell and He was forced to change out of His Crocs and into a pair of cheap Chinese flip-flops, he got to the burning bush just as the old man had sliced off Isaac’s head with a carving knife.  Now, God was not happy about this, and he said some very unkind words to the old man with a beard and ordered him and all his descendants to be bowed down with guilt and bad suffering and an eternity of eating matzoh-ball soup.  But then, after He had sent the old man with the beard away with his head cast down, and with the head of his son on his head – shining like a beacon in the darkness – this particular one God of the one God remembered that since nobody knew what anybody looked like – having been created in the image of Him that didn’t have a graven image, no one else would know the difference between a he-goat and the son of the old man with the beard.  So He pretended that the goat – who was still alive and munching happily on the burning bush – was really the son of the old man and that the son with the shining head was really the goat.  After all, they were both named Isaac.

And so this particular episode ended reasonably satisfactorily. Except of course, this one God of the only God had already told the old man with the beard to go forth and multiply and fill the earth with people with shame and guilt and misery in their hearts. And since the old man with the beard had already fulfilled his part of the bargain, this particular one God of the one God decided that – to make up for it – the least He could do was to make all His sons ‘doctors’.

Now, the third only God of the only God looked down on everything the parts of Himself had created and He was sore afraid.  And He decided that He did not want to make those particular mistakes again.

And so what He did was command that He should be visible after all.  Now, He really was quite an impressive-looking God – at least according to the preliminary sketches carried out by Michelangelo.

Anyway, unlike the other two Gods of the one God, this particular one God of the one God actually knew what He looked like. Therefore, He had it in mind to create some really great looking people.  No beards for a start.  And beautiful strong chins.  Long muscular necks.  Flashing eyes with long lashes.  And bodies so beautiful that this one God of the one God decided to invent the gym so that the beautiful bodies wouldn’t end up looking like the old man with the beard.  And He also commissioned Michelangelo to carve a statue of what the perfect man should look like.  Except, of course, when the statue was being delivered, one of the postal employees tried to push it through the letter box without waiting for the butler to answer the door.  Sadly, the original willy – which looked and sounded rather like a neon inflated pig’s bladder singing Verdi’s ‘Anvil Chorus’ – was knocked off and smashed to pieces.  And since Michelangelo’ assistant only had a teeny tiny piece of marble in his pocket, he glued it on in its place.

This particular God of the one God then sat down and had a good think. And what He came up with was this: since, in His estimation, He had done such a splendid job (even taking into account the ‘willy business’), why didn’t He relax and make life a whole lot easier for Himself by creating two more parts to Himself.  A son and a Holy Ghost.  After all, He was lonely, being the only God of the one God to have a face to look at. But then He started to worry and fret.  What if people – who after all had very small heads without very much room for actual brains – started to confuse Him with the other two Gods of the one God.

“I know!” he said. “I shall make all of us one Gods of the one God hate each other.  And since the people are as stupid as they are, they will forget that we are all the same God – only that one of us has an English name, one of us has an Arabic name, and one of us doesn’t have any name at all – and they will get down to the business of slaughtering each other. Possibly even until the end of time – which would save Us (the one God of the one God) from having to come up with any more stupid ideas.”

And it worked.  And that is why the world is as it is today.

But let’s get back to the question of cleanliness.  From the beginning all of the three Gods in the one God had difficulties when it came to His relationships with women.  After all, He may have been the one God in the one God (plus the Son and the Holy Ghost in one case) but He was still a man.  He suffered from erectile dysfunction.  He was obsessed with size (having had to altar his design specifications after the business with the statue of the ‘perfect man’).  He suffered from crotch rot.  He suffered from unsightly boils.  He suffered from halitosis.  He had corns from wearing ill-fitting Crocs.  He had liver spots.  And he had a much younger wife who was attractive to other Gods much more attractive than He. And He simply couldn’t take the embarrassment.  After all, what was the use of being the one God, if you were not perfect?  And the thing is, women were not afraid to tell Him He was not perfect!

He looked at His wife, who was busily peeling grapes for Adonis, and He said to Himself under His breath, “Party time is over!

He went straight into His study; He looked through His book of curses until He found just what He was looking for: a curse to end all curses.  And it was so nasty He simply called it The Curse.

And talking about bad smells, this piece is now at an end.

May 29, 2010

SmartHouses

What you build when you really like washing windows.

One reads all these wonderful stories about ‘smart houses’, and about everything they can do.  All the functions under the sun.  But can they burn your toast for you?  I bet they cannot.  And the reason they cannot is that some over-qualified four-year-old in Stanford (the one that wears Egyptian cotton short-sleeve button-downs that only look like they are cheap polyester blend so he’ll fit in) has programmed them only to make politically-correct, golden brown slices of all-grain – with sourdough spores grown in the Valle de Luna. And on each tasteless, carbonless slice, the house will spread just the ‘right’ microscopic amount of lo-cal, lo-carb, lo-fat, no-feed-flavour, oxygenated, organic butter (from the milk of sheep on the Faroe Islands that have never seen the front-side of a shepherd), and also the ‘right’ microscopic amount of sugarless organic beebleberry conserve with seeds that that contain a full day’s supply of leafy green vegetables and no red meat.

‘Smart Houses!  Ah – those wonders of the new twenty-first century – all wired up, every need and eventuality catered for, all sorts of bells and whistles.  They’ve got radiant heating and high-tech insulation and heat-sensitive walls.  Everything one could possibly want is not only available with the touch of a keypad, but in some cases in seems the occupant merely has to think of an image and – presto! – the house obliges.  And I am not merely talking about the usual common or garden conveniences such as vacuum cleaners and window washers and floor polishers and dog groomers and coffee-makers.  Because, believe it or not, ‘smart houses’ can even anticipate every one of your sexual peccadilloes du jour (even the most obscure ones that would get you executed in some countries).  Everything your mind and body desires – all in perfect three-dimensional holograms with not a single detail left out.  Why the house can even produce any flavour of vaginal yeast or toenail fungus under the sun if that is your pleasure.  And STDs?  No problem.  Does a tropical rash under your scrotum turn you on?  Easy-peasey.

The only thing that a ‘smart house’ sex function does not do well is inflatable-doll holograms – the kind that deflates as soon as you get going. Or really boring missionary position holograms that can compile a shopping list while you grunt and groan.  However, they can come up with a hologram with a voice like a corn-crake that nags you about taking out the garbage right as you are about to achieve an orgasm.   

One thing you will never find in a ‘smart house’ is an entertainment centre. The whole ‘smart house’ itself can fulfil every one of your heart’s desires – so what need is there for some outmoded leftover from the middle ages?  At the very mention of such a thing, I can hear your fibulator fibulate. And you would be quite right to gasp and to clutch your throat and even have the vapours.  After all, entertainment centres are sooooo noughties, dahling.  Can you even remember those monstrosities – with all their wires forever getting snarled and the sixteen remote controls that you were always getting mixed up?  Entertainment centres?  Now what were they?  I remember!  They were those gigantic pieces of cabinetry with all those strange flattish boxes that you couldn’t tell apart, as well as the twenty-five sub-woofers strategically positioned around the room and always placed wherever you would have preferred a table on which to set your frozen banana daiquiris.  Entertainment centres always had as their centrepiece a 200-inch flat-screen television with ten-thousand channels – all playing re-runs of Friends and Drake and Josh, as well as those headline news updates that repeated the same stories over and over every half-hour on the half hour – news stories, of course, that your local focus group had chosen just for your house and for the demographics of its occupants.  It goes without saying that each and every entertainment centre of that bygone era of 2008 A.D. took up so much space that you had to build a separate room called a ‘private theatre’ (but which in the prehistoric and Neolithic 1990s used to called a recreation room or a family room (or even the spare-room or – if you had a sense of irony and came from an old family, the ‘day nursery’). And before that, back before even the dinosaurs had been invented by Charles Darwin, there was usually some sort of multi-purpose room with sliding glass doors leading out to a patio on which stood one of those rickety antediluvian barbeques with tripod legs.  And, then of course, inside this multi-purpose room there was a drinks trolley – or even a portable Formica wet-bar – for dispensing shandies and even Babychams (for those special occasions such as that once-in-a-lifetime, 2-for-1 discount on circumcisions from Dr. Bleibner Winkel’s ‘Cut and Slice and Dice Moilerarium – for all those males in your family who had pretended to be little girls at birth, and thus had escaped the procedure right at the beginning, when – according to those doing the snipping it – it was less painful.  Not that they ever asked the snippees.

But so much for ancient history; let us leap forward to the year of Our Lord 2008 and those all-important, all-consuming, all-devouring entertainment centres. It goes without saying, each and every one of these essential organs for a ‘modern lifestyle’ (rather more important that your second kidney) had  – at its core –  the latest version of a Sky-Box or a TiVo, those nifty little gadgets-in-a-box that – providing you had a two-year-old son or daughter to program and set them for you – could schedule each and every minute of your day around those particular episodes of Friends and Drake and Josh and CSI – Guantanamo and Lost that your personal focus group had determined were most beneficial to your biorhythms.  Which reminds me, has anyone else noticed that the demise of Friends corresponded with the rise of Facebook?  For although you’ve probably never bothered to think about this, Facebook has a business plan almost identical to the five thousand scripts of Friends, which are in actual fact  the same script only using different camera angles to pick up the differing nuances of Rachel’s hair. I mean, was she going to flip it to the left?  Or was she going to flip it to the right?  Or was she going to surprise us all and flip it first to the left and then to the right?  

In fact, the very business model of Facebook shows how fiendishly clever its developers really are. What they do is to allow each and every subscriber on Facebook the exact same number of friends that there were episodes of Friends.  Furthermore, in the case of both the social networking site and the television program, no one has ever actually met any of the friends involved. They only think they have; it’s all smoke and mirrors.

Now let’s come to the question of deletions and cancellations.  For as the sitcom was practically cancellation-proof (until the network could no longer afford new extensions for Rachel’s hair), so too can it be next to impossible to delete one of your five thousand friends on Facebook.  First of all, let’s say you decide to hit the ‘delete’ button – after all, why not?  It’s not that you’ve ever heard of any one of your friends in the first place, let alone met them face-to-face or invited them to one of your famous ‘Sex & Sushi in the Sauna’ parties. However, they immediately take umbrage and get all whiny; they write you very weepy, clingy messages asking what have they ever done to deserve to be thrown out in the cold like Lillian Gish in ‘Way Down East’?  Well, first of all you feel terrible – after all, this particular friend is probably the only person, other than yourself, who has even heard of Lillian Gish.  And this alone almost makes you relent.  And then, full to the gunnels with guilt (unless you’re neither Catholic nor Jewish, in which case you are probably both heartless and a used-car salesman who would sell your own mother on eBay), you are by now so bowed down with misery that you take the easy way out.  And  rather than simply ignoring this dispossessed creep of a friend (who will in any case worm her way back in through the ‘friend of a friend’ back door and will – before you know it – be back on your friends list), you end up writing her a nice little note apologising for your brutality, but explaining that you cannot accept the two-thousand additional friend applicants – all of which might be more useful in your climb from the bowels of bankruptcy than a loser like her – unless you dump some of the dead-wood (namely her).  But then the trouble starts in earnest.  For these rejected friends decide to report you for stalking, at which point your only option is to let them back in – simply because nothing’s worth their whining on your wall or their relentless campaign wherein they send you five thousand separate special gifts of the only sort of flower that gives you an allergy attack – the ‘five thousand miles of bindweed sent directly to your garden’ gift.

And you wonder why no one has any free time to enjoy themselves.   

This is all too reminiscent of the situation when you are summarily fired from the job you despised and which you were no good at and from which you wished you had the courage to resign. Only now, because you were fired, you finally have a way to bankroll your future.  And so you will sue your employer for the sort of damages that will support you for the rest of your life.  But then, because you really never learned to consider the consequences of your actions, you can’t bring yourself to take the dosh and leave well-enough alone.  NO!  You have suddenly developed a sense of injured pride, and so what you do is to sue your old employer in order to get your old job back again.  Now, remember, this is the same dead-end job you had been trying to get fired from ever since you got fired from your previous  job at Dunkin Donuts for eating the entire  inventory of rainbow sprinkles.  But much to your surprise, they call your bluff.  They say, “welcome back, sucker.” And so, back you go, taking your photograph of your little dog and your potted begonia and – before you know it -you have settled back behind your desk.  

However, you soon find you can never go home again.  You see, the only reason your old boss hired you back is because it was an easy and affordable way to get you off his back.  And also because his insurance company told him it would cancel the company’s policy unless he rehired you.  And so, your employer re-instates you.  Only this time the boss places your desk where the supervisors can watch every move your make.  This means you actually have to work – no more looking at porn sites and no more Facebook on the company’s time and no more free cups of coffee from the executive kitchen and no more Friday afternoons’ pretending to be sick so you can go home early.  So, there you are: you and your moral victory are stuck in your craw for the rest of your live.  And what is more, you can never shirk again or even wear the wrong colour tie.  And the reason why you cannot shirk (or wear the wrong colour tie) is that you are now being observed by an FBI informant; every move you make will be recorded on secret video cameras (including those times when your boss is giving you instructions for a new way to colour-code paper clips, during which you are taking the opportunity to masturbate with one hand under the desk, whilst taking notes with the other – AND appearing to be aroused by your latest assignment). Who said men cannot multi-task?  Eventually, of course, your dossier grows so vast that the company is compelled to build an extra vault.  At which point – because masturbating whilst taking notes is not mentioned in the Employment Act – your boss has still not been able to come up with a valid reason for firing you.  This means that the two of you will be together for the rest of eternity and beyond.  Unless, of course, he gets the inspiration to file adoption papers. This, quite naturally, thrills you to bits because you have been checking into his accounts and you know to the penny what he is worth.  Just think!  You will be a rich man’s son.  And only that, but you won’t have to work for the bastard anymore! The bylaws clearly state that non-executive employees cannot be related to any executive of the company.  At least!  A win-win situation.  And for YOU!

But then again, sadly, Mister Stupid strikes again.  You simply could not resist having that double sixty-nine with both your boss’s twins, could you?  And right in the swimming pool.  And right at the moment your boss and his new wife (the buxomly luscious blond bimbo proclaimed ‘Miss Honey-Wagon’ at the 2009 County Farm-Implement Show) were expecting the mayor and his new ‘wife’, Robbie Bobby ‘The Implanter’ Magee, assistant manager of the town’s one remaining Bob’s Big Boy.

Needless to say, the evening ends in tears.  Not only are you thrown out of the house without any clothes – because after all you had not bought them yourself (at least not with your own money) – but you’ve been cut out of the will.  And not only that, but your erstwhile adopted father/employer is going to make sure you never get another job in any town in your particular hemisphere or any other hemisphere as long as you live.  Your only hope is to sell all your organs to the local organ bank.  Except, of course, since your ex-adopted father/employer took out a mortgage on them, even they are no longer yours to sell.

Right about now, I hear you ask, “But what has all this to do with smart houses?”   To this I say, “It shows what happens when you are not paying attention.”  Period.  Now, I am not saying that should you stop paying attention when you move into your smart house you’ll end up on the street without a part of shorts to call your own or without any of your organs.  But you might lose contact with your storyline – or in the case of your house, with the all-important instruction manual.  And it goes without saying that in the case of a smart house the instruction manual is run by the computer.  And that means that if you have lost the plot so far, you wouldn’t last a minute in a smart house.

I once saw one of these smart homes.  And it was spectacular.  For the architect was not only a brilliant engineer, but he also possessed  an unparalleled sense of beauty.  First of all, before even thinking about a design for his house, he selected a site.  And when he had found the site and had consulted the local planning authorities, etc., etc.’ he got down to work.

The result was breathtaking.  It was a two-storey glass cube, and it was totally computerised.  Every surface was clear glass: hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of square metres of clear glass. Even the floors were clear glass.  And lest you think that this would be unworkable – after all, in a house privacy is a consideration – at the touch of keypads, each wall or floor tile or door would frost over, and they could also change colours.  And so, you see, within a nonce, the house could take on the appearance of the natatorium at the Bejing Olympics or of a painting by Mondrian.

The family had two sons – both in their teens.  I asked him about teens and clutter.  He said, simply, “They know the score, and they think they can handle it.”  In other words, each kid could take refuge in his own room, frost the walls, and be in his own space.  I then asked him about wardrobes and desks and work-stations, and he showed me.  It was an old magician’s trick.  He did it with mirrors.

The same with the kitchen.  Mirrors camouflaged everything. Plus the fact that if the kitchen was in use and they didn’t want it to be seen from the open-plan ground-floor space, they simply touched a keypad and a frosted-glass wall rose up on hydraulics as a partition.

It occurred to me to ask him a few questions:  “But what about  clutter?” I asked for the second time.  “The house is so well designed and so efficient, we don’t need clutter.” He said, looking at me through narrowed eyes.

I asked him what would happen during a power-failure.  After all, the house was entirely driven by electricity. He said the computers could take care of that;  in fact,  they generated enough power of their own to sell the surplus to the grid. But then he smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said, “There’s always the fireplace.” And with that he touched another control and a slender black granite rectangle rose up from the floor.  With the touch of another keypad it ignited, and with the touch of a third, a rotisserie and a grill rose from the floor and inserted themselves into their respective niches.

“Anymore questions?” he asked.

“How about a toaster?” I wanted to know.

“Never use them,” came the reply.

“And a hairdryer?” I smirked.

“Ditto,” he said.

“How about if you did have them and switched them both on at the same time?” I asked in an innocent voice.

He smiled.  “Then we’re up shit’s creek,” he said.  “Without a paddle.”

May 28, 2010

MooCow

My Best Ever Career Choice

When I sat down at the computer a few minutes ago I was in a really rancid state of mind.  And so while I was thinking about all the things at which I could hurl some serious and self-pitying vitriol, I suddenly thought to myself, “No, just wait a fucking moment!” After all, what do I really have to complain about today that I didn’t already have to complain about yesterday?  Nothing much, really, for when it comes down to it I lead the life of a nudnick.  In fact, every day in every way, I seem to have fewer and fewer things about which to grind my teeth.  For example, yesterday the new tenants in the flat underneath me spent yet another afternoon sawing their way through concrete and knocking down walls with a sledge hammer, and today – except for the fact that they are playing the Qur’An loud enough to peel what is left of the paint off my walls and blow out my eardrums, they are remarkable quiet.  Except, of course, I shouldn’t have said anything, because no sooner had I written that last sentence than they started to drill holes in the walls.  I really do not know – nor do I want to know – what they are doing down there.  If all the grinding and the pounding and the drilling are anything to go by, they soon will not have any apartment at all.  Just one big open space with no exterior walls.  And that will mean, of course, that everyone in the building opposite will be able to see in. That is one thing if you live in Greece, but quite another in Egypt. Because in Egypt and if you are the observant Muslim you are expected to be – that is, if you want to get a decent apartment and you don’t want to have ‘garbage collecting’ as your only career choice – none of the occupants of this wide open space will be able to take any of their clothes off.  And I am not just talking about the women.  There’s also a law for the men. Because, you see, there is nothing so forbidden for a man to see than the nakedness of another man. Yes, he can see another man’s torso, and he can see another man’s legs below the knee.  But forget the good parts. And since men are also forbidden to look upon the nakedness of a woman (unless they are ‘bad’ girls), that doesn’t leave them very much room for manoeuvring, does it?  I mean, the sense of shame permeating every pore of this place makes The Vatican seem like a playground for little boys.

Alexandria may have many attractions, but one thing it does not have – or if it does, it doesn’t put ads in the paper – is a chain of nudist clubs, with branches in Mahatat Raml and Ibrahimea and Carrefour and San Stefano and Mamoora and The Sporting Club.  It’s no wonder everyone is so bloody crabby all the time!  They’re so repressed they might as well be Presbyterians. And just think, all those hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and not a single one for us nudists!  It had occurred to me it might be an idea to open up a tiny nudists’ resort between Alexandria and Matruh.  Perhaps somewhere near El Alamein or even ‘The Amway Private Resort’ (yes – really; the mind boggles). If one could get away with it, this might be an idea that would actually make me some money.  But then I thought, if they want a nudists resort, let them get their own act together and quit equating the naked body with the forbidden fruit.  And while they are at it, they might even stop screaming at each other for five minutes and do something besides play dominoes.    

But back to complaining.  I thought for a while of other things I could moan and whinge about, but the trouble is I have been complaining about so many things in the past month or so, that I am in danger of running out of annoying things to complain about. This means that I shall soon have to revisit every one of those old, used-up annoying things about which I have already been complaining, give them fresh paint-jobs, and recycle them.  It really is a shame that my repertoire is so limited. 

And as for recycling, once I start revisiting and rehashing my own redundancies (deliberately and not just ‘accidentally’ as is my usual practice), wouldn’t it be tempting – instead of actually re-decorating whinges – to simply ‘cut and paste’ the most whiny bits and pieces from last month’s ravings without even bothering to re-write them?  However (and alas), since I never keep track of anything I do and cannot for the life of me remember anything I have written after I have written it, I would end up so totally confused that I might end jumping out of the window.  And actually, while jumping out of the window might solve a few problems – such as what am I going to do in the future – I don’t really think my feet would like the landing, for knowing me I would leap off feet-first.  Granted, all the lanes round my building are sand, but – let’s be honest – the ground underneath the sand is very hard. And as for the sand itself, it’s not really all that fluffy.  I mean, it starts each day fluffy enough, and once you have cleared away all the garbage that has been dumped on it overnight, it even looks quite presentable.  That is, if you don’t mind landing in the largest cat-box on the planet.  But none the less, my feet still might object. And so might my legs.  And my hips.  And my pelvis.  Just think for a minute about my pelvis!  I mean, what has it ever done to me that I should abuse it in such a fashion?  If I were a pelvis, would I be all that pleased to have two very white and very spindly legs rammed up inside me?  Even if the legs in question were only moderately hairy and not really ginger at all – at least not so you’d notice once I’ve shaved them and have turned off the lights?  Would my pelvis thank me?  Isn’t it enough that I’ve already smashed it to smithereens several times?  You remember: when both my horse and I were so busy sniggering about the flatulence of the horse in front of us that we forget the fence and ploughed straight into that horse’s flatulent behind? 

And what about my poor groin?  What would happen to it if I jumped eight storeys down on to the hard-packed sand?  I could hardly say, “I’m sorry I’ve torn you yet again, but you should have landed on the other side of the alleyway where there’s that soft pile of used masonry.” No, definitely not feet-first.  And not head-first either.  I’ve just had my hair re-spiked by the guy in the Four Seasons Hotel – the one with the assistant who resembles a younger Christiano Ronaldo – and its ‘lukin well coooel’.  God only knows what it would look like after landing in a pile of cat-shit ten feet deep.  Or on one of those donkey carts selling tomatoes and onions.  And then there’s the fact that I always like to see where I’m going.  And if I saw where I was going when I was falling and I didn’t like where I was going to land, would I be able to turn around and fall back up again?  No?  How about if I got religion and started to pray reeeeaaaallllly hard?   But what if I did pray reeeeaaaallllly hard?  And what if after I prayed reeeeaaaalllly hard, I discovered that God had been called away on business, leaving his phone to be answered by his voicemail?  What would I do them?  Or even worse, what if God has outsourced his telecommunications system to one of those call-centres in Mumbai?  You know the ones:  where the system keeps giving you ever-more elaborate instructions and ever-more complicated numbers to dial? And then it puts you on hold for fifteen minutes while you listen to the Best of Barry Manilow – interrupted every ten seconds by a soothing voice assuring you that you are their most valued customer and they are only keeping you waiting so they can serve you better?  And FINALLY, when you are on the brink of deciding that suicide might be less painful that waiting on hold, on comes this operator who pretends he or she is speaking from Bognor Regis – only he or she doesn’t really know where Bognor Regis is.  In fact, when pressed, the operator states that it’s on the outskirts of Krakow.  Then, when you ask to be put through to God Himself – after first trying to explain which God you are actually talking about – the operator explains that your particular God is having lunch with Katie Price, as a precursor to appearing as her new love interest on her next reality show.  However (according to the operator), even though He Himself won’t be available to take your call personally, He would like to send you a signed photograph of His Son, as well as two sets of Glory Hallelujah Miraculous Beer Steins – all for the convenient low-low price of £2.99, plus seventy-six percent tax and £2,000 shipping and handling from their warehouse in The One True Heaven.  Just send your certified cheque or money-order to:  Beer Steins – Dept. X, God In Heaven, c/o The One True Heaven, Mumbai 3.   Now remember to send your cheque or money-order to this address: The One True Heaven, Mumbai 3.  We repeat, your one-time payment should be sent to ‘The One True Heaven’ – NOT to ‘The Only True Heaven’ and NOT to ‘Heaven On a Bagel With Lox’ and NEVER NEVER  to ‘Siddhartha Sittin’ Under The Tree Nirvana Heaven’ or to ‘Billy Bubba’s Heavenly Hookers and Chitterlings, Route 3, Selma, Alabama, or even to ‘That Final One True Heaven That Actually Got There First Before The Others’ (the heaven that never sends pictures of their head honcho on their brochures).  Remember:  your cheques and money orders should be sent to ‘The One True Heaven’!  This is a one-time limited offer.  Limit: 12 sets of beer steins per customer.  Offer expires 27 May, 2010. The merchandise featured in the brochure may not be the same as the merchandise the customer receives.  All transactions are final. No refunds given. No complaints accepted.

It goes without saying that the operator has by this time remembered that it is his or her lunch-break. And because he or she doesn’t want to miss out on the vindaloo special in the cafeteria, he or she has handed his or her headphones to the custodian.  And the custodian – who wants to see how it feels to work in Bognor Regis and to abuse call-centre customers) eagerly fills out the forms and completes the transaction.  Unfortunately for you – the customer – the custodian does not speak a word of English (even though he was born in Bradford) and he spells your address in such a way that your Beer Steins, as well as your new pre-approved credit card from The First Bank of God, have been sent to someone named Beelzebub Scratch.  The same Beelzebub Scratch who has just taken over the ownership of Liverpool Football Club after making an offer to its American owners that they could not refuse.

And if that is not frustrating enough, you look at your watch and see that it is already the 28th of May and the offer expired yesterday!

This is the end!  This is the point when you say to yourself, “Oh fucking shit on a shingle!” because by this time you have given up all hope of receiving your beer steins before your head has crashed into the ground – and you were really looking forward to them for your next pool party.  Therefore, you ‘disconnect’ the ‘connection’ and wonder if it would have been more efficient to have summoned Ol’ Scratch in the first place? 

And what does this mean?  Among other things, it means you are better off not jumping off the balcony head-first.

This only leaves two available options, jumping-wise (well, three, if you count the ‘cannonball on to the table where the three men have been playing dominoes for the last hour and a half’).  But if you discount this third one, these options are: a belly-flop and a swan dive.  Right up front I am going to say “NO” to the belly-flop.  The one and only time I belly-flopped off the high platform, it was far-more painful than plunging from a chaser into the centre of a fence.  And as for the swan-dive, I am going to say “NO” as well.  It would mean having to wear one of those itty-bitty pairs of Speedos – most probably in a shade of turquoise blue – and should I have an accident on impact, I can only say that yellow and brown are not really all that attractive when splatter-painted on to a turquoise background.

So, where are we now?

YES: my future.  That is, my future now that have talked myself out of jumping off my balcony. 

And I think I have the answer.  I shall take up employment as a cow.  And please don’t sneer at that.  Don’t make fun of me. And don’t you dare criticise my career choice until you have actually tried it yourself.

Personally, I cannot see anything wrong with being a cow.  Now, let’s get this straight: while I would rather not be a dairy cow in one of those American Industrial Dairy operations, which are usually located in a place where the sun is too hot and where there are no good bookstores within walking distance, it is better than being a cow in Ethiopia or Haiti, where I might starve to death.  But whatever, I refuse to be a bull!  And I will not compromise on this – unless, of course, I can be a Brahma Bull in India.  For if I am a Brahma Bull in India I can do anything I want and go anywhere I want, and during certain festivals I will even be permitted to wear makeup. However, even in India – as a Brahma Bull – there is danger.  What if I forget my street map, and instead of strolling to the Ganges for a good swim, I take the wrong turning and enter the other people’s Suq.  Believe me, having my throat slit is not how I wish to end up.  Nor do I wish to end up on a kebab.

The main reason why I do not wish to be a bull in the west is that only one in five million or so gets to have any fun.  It’s like being born a ram if you are a sheep.  I mean, there you are, pushed out into the cold grass all cold and wet from a warm uterus and your mother thoughtfully licks you all clean and shiny and shows where you get a bite to eat.  And then you notice you have those two little things between your hind legs.  And instantly – because you are a bovine, you know about such things – your life flashes before your eyes!  The next thing you know, you’ll be calf-napped from your mother by a man with rough hands, and your little thingies will be chopped off.  And after this you will be placed in a nice little field with a lot of other little guys who have also had their little thingies chopped off, and you will settle down to a few weeks of eating fattening foods.

Of course, if you are in one of those American Factory Operations, you will not only be fed, but you will find out what a Gascon goose feels like when it is having its liver fattened up for Foie Gras.  But since I have already marked the ‘No’ box beside the ‘American Cattle Factory Option’ on my employment application, I won’t even worry about that.  Unless, of course, the computer decides I’m going to be sent there anyway.  As the song says, “Don’t worry, Be happy!”

What I really would like is to be a Highland cow, but – course – I know there are not that many opportunities available. I also like to be an Aberdeen Angus – but with my spindly white legs with the not-quite ginger hair – I doubt whether I should qualify for that.  Mind you, with my hair I could pass muster as a Jersey or even a Limousin.  And while both of those options are acceptable, should I be accepted as a Limousin I would have to learn French.  And since I have already forgotten French at least once every decade, I can foresee certain problems.

What it boils down to is that a nice little dairy herd of twenty-five or thirty cows living in a nice rural community, would suit me just fine.  Yes, I would have to pump out a new baby each and every year, but I am told that after the first two or three, they simply fall out.  And it’s not as if I would even have to take care of them, for the nice farmer with the warm hands (not like the other farmer with the cold and rough hands that snips off your bits if you are a bull) will carry you off into a warm barn with plenty of heat lamps and good food to eat and plenty of playmates with which to romp.

And just think about this:  If I should end up in such a herd, I shall make sure my milk is very sweet and very rich.  And I shall also make sure that the coop – to which all the milk in the district is taken to be processed and bottled – sends all my personal milk to that sweet little ice cream shop (run by that lady with the implants in her udders) where they make twenty-five flavours (and never liquorice). I shall also insist that, should there be any cream left over it must be sent to that the pub on the riverbank where they make that really amazing Single-Malt Coffee.

Moo!

May 27, 2010

FaerieLights

Where now are the sweet, savage Beasties that lived within the Bogs?

I love the savage beasties that live among us and who we rarely see.  I love the vagrant spirits that drift round in the dark, and whisper thoughts and dreams and admonitions when the clocks strike two in the morning.  I love the wee people that dwell underneath the ancient floors and bang their drums and dance ‘til dawn, and play their pipes and make us mourn for those we have loved and lost.   I love the icy fingers that wake when it is cold and damp, and grab our toes and fingertips and make our skin turn raw and red.  I love the way some spirits waft from room to room like ancient beings who cannot remember where they left their glasses and are forced to return again and again and forever and ever, amen.

When I first lived on the island – a land where the ghosts had always run free – I was told (with some regret I might add) that nothing had been the same since the coming of electricity.  And these words were spoken by those who were old enough to remember, yet still young enough to tell the tale as if it had happened only the day before.  It seems that when they were young and even slightly older than young, and the houses and barns were still lit by lamps and the light of a candle, the bogs surrounding each and every hill and dale were alive with the faerie lights that used to glow and glimmer and sparkle in the gloom-laden mists.  And those were still the days when young and old alike went on weekly pilgrimages to the holy well that was in walking distance of their dwelling. Sundays were an official day, it goes without saying, but they never forgot birthdays or saint’s days or the anniversaries of their departed loved ones.  Nor did these people of the shadowy past neglect the graveyards, in particular those where the unbaptised and the stillborn were quietly laid to rest at midnight; and those among their surviving kin who still lived and who lingered on bereft, would secretly pray that their lost little ones would one day find their way into the light – and perhaps would grant them forgiveness.

And then came electricity, and with the coming of electricity the faerie lights were seen no more.  Or at least that is what everyone said.  What they did not say, however, and the reasons for this are plenty, was that – with the coming of electricity and progress – many of the bogs had been drained; the spirits who had loved and nourished – and some say, created, the land – were driven deeper, ever deeper underground.  And then, of course, the people dwelling beside the bogs – the farmers and the fishermen who had lived on that land since before the beginning of time – entered a new era.  They acquired money; they sent their children to school; they travelled abroad – but not only for the sake of survival, but because their eyes were now focussing outwards towards different horizons and new possibilities.  And even when the new and educated generation did not leave, but settled on their family’s ancient lands to run the farms and bring them into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, they tore down the time-worn traditional houses in which they had always lived.  So instead of warming themselves before their old nan’s turf-burning hearth and drinking tea with the old Border Collie sleeping under their feet, they built new houses –  more comfortable houses, more cheerful houses, more efficient houses, new houses with satellite dishes, five hundred channels, and with the Internet thrown in for free.  Modern houses wired for every eventuality – houses in which every member of their modern, twenty-first century families could happily forget the past.  And because they had taken to shining lights into the midnight skies outside these new houses of theirs, and because everyone else was doing the same thing, pretty soon there was no darkness left at all (and still less ‘stillness’ to be found) in which the ancient faeries – who had cared for the land for such a long time – could come out and dance and do all of the things faeries like to do when the lights go out and all of the people are safely tucked into their beds.

And as a consequence, on those cold dark nights, of which the island has so many, there is little phosphorescence left to gladden the heart, much less enough to frighten those loutish, whisky-drenched fools who are out and about when they have no right to be. And this makes the bog faeries very sad indeed.  For it has always been one of their tasks to hustle such craytures back to their hearths and homes and lay them safely in their beds – that they might sober up before the coming morn and live to drink again.

I pay no heed to ‘them wot scoffs’ at those faerie beings who used to rule supreme.  Just as I listen to the wind and check the sky for shooting stars and twinkling lights where no earthly twinkling light can possibly be.  And who gives a shite if someone more learned than I claims that what I see is but a satellite or a weather balloon or simply a visitor from the planet Zug?

To this latter group, those unhappy feckers who ne’er look down at what lives beneath their feet, but prefer to wait for some ‘never-will-come’ deliverance from beings from beyond the stars, I say this:  perhaps you are right, for what does one know?   And perhaps the moon is made of cheddar cheese of a far more authentic type than any made by Kraft, and perhaps the slurry pit is filled with chocolate dip?  I do not know. And no more do you.  The only things my eyes have seen during my nocturnal meanderings through the bogs – after all the electric lights have at last been extinguished and everyone else is fast asleep – are the myriad flickers coming from millions of glimmers from within the earth itself.  And the only whispers floating through my ears come from ancient voices that tell me true, that the earth is but a very miniscule place, smaller even than the smallest grain of sand in the universe.  And that our earth it is full, very full indeed, and over-brimming with souls large and small, living and dead.  There is no room for visitors from beyond the stars, much less for new immigrants, and neither is there a welcoming mat on which they can wipe their feet.  Besides, these voices say: what with the earth being so miniscule, no other beings can possibly find us.  For the earth is so very, very, very small – so very wee and peculiar to look at – that no matter how hard the aliens might search, all they will see is a large parking lot with a McDonalds at one end and a Pizza Hut at the other.  And with a discount mall in between.

So you see, my friends, there are bog lights and faerie lights, and they are there for all to see.  Simply turn off your televisions and shut your computers down and switch off your phones – if even for a minute. And then extinguish your lights and quietly walk round to the back of your house, to that part where nobody ever goes.  And look through the stillness and into the bog.  And there will be the lights, and they will be shining and sparkling, just the same as always – and they will be as plain and clear and bright as ever they were.  Only please remember to greet them with a heart-felt “Hello!” and to tell the spirits that you mean them no harm. And that way, when next the foul wintry winds sweep in and carry off the roofs, your house will be spared and kept safe and sound.  And not a single slate will be blown from your roof, nor will your chimney sway nor will your heart know fear.   For the faeries are in charge of this land of theirs, and they will gladly protect those who have remembered them, and who have greeted them with a heart-felt “Hello!” And – just occasionally – have left them a wee dram of whisky or a bottle of the thickest stout.

Although many islanders no longer speak of the faeries, or of the wells, or of those still-born infants whose bones still lie under the hill, they are never far from their minds when it comes to those traditions they cannot otherwise explain.  One of these concerns the eating of the tiny blackberries that grow wild upon the dry-stone walls. As berries go, these are the sweetest berries I have tasted for many a year, but nobody ever eats them. Of course, when I first moved there and the berries had ripened, I picked several small baskets for jam.  But then I was told – by one much younger than I – that the fruit on those brambles belonged to the faeries and would bring me ill-health and bad luck if I ate what had always been theirs.  Besides (my neighbour did add with a smile) the faeries they came and they spat (and often did shit) on the berries during the night. Just to turn them sour.  And so, of course, I did not demure.  And because I did not want to eat what was clearly not mine, I offered my jam and a loaf of brown bread to the little people in the bog.

Yet another wonderful phenomenon had to do with the way the glowering charcoal clouds that constantly hung low above our heads would only occasionally part. But when they did, through the gap where the clouds had been rent in twain, would stream a shaft of brilliant sunlight.  When, one day, when I happened to comment on this, and say how very lovely it was, I was told in tones most dark and obscure, to pray a novena starting that very day and to light a candle in the church.  For such breaks in the clouds were the divil’s own work, and as for those gaps, they let in all the evil humours from hell. And those very same gaps were the gaps through which your sinful soul would be spirited come the tolling of the funeral bell.  In other words, they let in the ‘bad’ air.

And do you want to know something?  I shall never scoff.  And I do not believe and I do not disbelieve.  After all, what does anyone know that I do not already know myself?  What difference does it make if I talk to the faeries after dark and give them all of my jam and brown bread?  You see, I know there is something there. What it may be is unknown to us all, and you may shrug it off with a grimace – and you may call it anything you like.  But, the fact that it is there and was there from the start, is quite good enough for me.

The house that I lived in was not all that old, but it still had plenty of creaks.  And since the land on which it was built lay with the bog on two sides and the sea on the others, I would lay awake at night and wonder what was going on that I was too deaf to hear and too blind to see.

And I thought of the old houses I had lived in before, with their squeaks and their rattles and their groans in the floor, and I thought what a wonderful world it would be, if only I could sharpen my ears and focus my eyes and fill my heart with delight.  And then because it was what I wanted to do, I would ask my doggie if she’d like to go out for a stroll, to wander down the boreen and to fill her lungs with the night.  And, of course, she would immediately perk up her ears and agree.  And I could see in her mind – my sweet little dog – that she hoped our walk might well coincide with a hunt for that old foe of hers, ol’ Misther Hedgehog.  And it might also include – if for only a glimpse – that illusive owld biddy, Missus Badger, who lived somewhere down below right next to the spring, and who never invited us in for tea.  So all it took was for my mouth to form the word doggie loved so dearly to hear. “Walk?” And she’d be off in a flash and would be standing next to the door, on a place right next to her leash. And if it was wet, as was sure it would be, it would be into our waxed Barbours for both her and for me. 

And then we would set off – and it would be perhaps all of two in the morning or so – and we’d walk side by side, in the damp still of the night.  And not a sound would we make, and no shadow would we miss, and we’d keep our ears pealed for a crackle or a sigh or for those tiny bells that we both hoped we would hear.

And when we got to the cliffs, to the rocks jutting out from the moor, we’d sit down or sometimes we’d lie back in sheer bliss, and I would think to myself as I looked up at the night and felt the rain on my face, where else could I go and where could I find a more cracking craic than this?

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