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 10, 2010

InMyBox

Where it’s warm and safe with lots of corners in which to Hide

When you are very small and the world is very big and everybody is taller than you and you are shorter than everybody else, there is only one place to be if you want to be very very safe:  inside a box.

It does not really matter how large the box is – although it is nice to be able to stretch your legs and stomp your feet and dance a little dance whenever you have a mind to.  And when is it that you might have a mind to?  Whenever the mood strikes you.  And what is this mood that might come and strike you?  This mood that might come and strike you and give you a mind to stretch your legs and stomp your feet and dance a little dance?  Myself, I do not know what exactly it is, but whatever exactly it is only appears when the time is right.  And when – if I might be so bold as to ask – when exactly is the time when the time is exactly right?  The answer is simple enough – as only a child of three or a kitten or a puppy or a tiny mouse can tell you.  You see, the time is only exactly right when there are no very big people outside the box a’thinking that the very little people inside the box are in need of something to do and what the very little people must do is something that only the very big people outside the box are big enough to ask the very little people why it is they were not already doing these things they were supposed to be doing?  At which point, the very big people who never seem to have anything else to do except tell very little people what to do, proceed to ‘remind’ the very small people (in a very bored voice) what it is they were supposed to have been doing and how they were supposed to have been doing it.  So, you see, the minute the very small people hear the very big people coming into the room where the box is sitting minding its own business in the middle of the floor, and the very big people right away demand to know what that dirty great box is doing right in the middle of the room, the very small people grow very much smaller and hide in the corner of that dirty great box and pretend not to be there at all.  And if the box could talk, but of course being a box it is unable to talk – at least not in a language that is known to anyone who is not a box, it would have said right there and then, “Oi!  Very Big People! Why do you shout at me in such a cold, impatient voice?  I am only a box. I sit wherever I am put.  For you see, unlike the very big person-self that you happen to be, I have no legs and no feet.  So by myself I find I cannot leap or frolic.  In fact, I cannot go anywhere at all. As it so happens, I am sitting here contemplating the meaning of life (since you asked), but don’t you have anything better to do than come into an otherwise empty room and say unkind words to a box?  Or perhaps what you are really looking for is your own very big person – a big person even much bigger than you – to come in here and tell you what you must do.  But if this is in truth only what you are pretending to be looking for, whereas – in fact – what you are really looking for is a very big box of your very own, I am sorry to have to disappoint you, but I am not that box.  For while I am a very big box, I am not nearly big enough for you!” And what this box could have also said to the very big person who was only pretending to look for the very small person but who – in actually fact – was only looking his own very very big box – a box very much bigger that even the biggest box that had ever been made – is that the very big person has let himself grow into a very big person without letting the very small person who was living inside remain the same happy small person he had always been meant to be.

It is a blessing for all very small people that very big people cannot help but make a racket and a rumpus when they go about doing their very important big people things. That being the case, the very small people hiding in the box are never caught unawares (unless, of course, they are so busy eating all the chocolates they stole that their minds are in a fog). But when their minds are not all fogged up as they are usually not except when there are stolen chocolates to eat, they always can hear the very big people before the very big people come ‘clomp clomp clomping’ into the room, if only because the very big people (by the fact that they are so very big and have forgot how it is to be small) have forgot how to creep and crawl and sneak up on a box without making any noise at all.  Rather they go ‘clomp clomp clomp’ and they blunder and trip and mumble under their breath, and mutter such very big people mutterings as, “Where is the little beggar, and in which box is he hiding at this particular moment in time? And do you think he’d like to be shaken and stirred before tea?  Or perhaps I shall hurl this one particular very big box – this one particular very big box that reeks of chocolate that was swiped from the plate that was set out for my own very big person, my own very own great aunt Missus Esmeralda MacFittie MacSprat who lives in a bog and dines off roast hog – the hog she calls “if only my late husband tasted half as tasty as he.”

Such a big person’s intrusion as this, my dear friends, is one of those very particular times when the little person inside the box will not be gallivanting and skiing and dancing and practising his jumping jacks, so sirree. In fact, the very little person will be quiet as a mouse and less noisy than a grouse, for a very small person does not want to be found at such an inconvenient big person’s time as this, especially not by a grumbling and mumbling big person who is all ‘clomp clomp clomping’ about and thinks he is being funny “tee hee tee hee tee hee.”

Why do you think it is that when there is a very little person inside a box and it hears the ‘clomp clomp clompish’ tread of a big person searching for the box in which that little person is hiding, that the little person holds its breath and raises a sticky, chocolaty smudgy finger to its lips and says, “Shhhhh!” to the ‘invisible’ friend who is also hiding right there in that very same big box with the very little person, and who has fingers that are even more chocolatier smudgier than those of the very little person with whom it is keeping company?  Is it perhaps because the very small ‘invisible’ friend of the very small person inside the box cannot be seen by any very big person, not even if that very big person wishes he could find his own very very very own big box in which he himself can hide – together with his own very very large ‘invisible’ friend.  But, of course, being so very very big and having forgot what it was like to be so very very small, this very very big person can no longer remember where to find such an ‘invisible’ friend, and so he sighs and laments and forever remains a very very big person after all.

It goes without saying that the very big person is so very very big – having given up his wish to remember what it is to be very very small, that he has forgot how to be anything but very very big and that, in fact, it is only the very small person who is inside the box and seeing the ‘invisible’ friend as plain as the nose on its face who is the only person on earth who can actually see that very very small ‘invisible’ friend at all (except for the horse and the dog and the cat and the parrot, of course).  This is the particular time when the very very big person gnashes his teeth and starts in to frown and even to shed a tear or two.  And every very very small person on this very very big and very very round earth on which we live knows as well as he knows how many fingers and toes he has on the ends of his very very own very very small person’s hands and feet, that the very very big person is the unhappiest very very big person on this very very big and very very round earth in which we live.  For, you see, the very very big person – who the very very small person loves more that he loves even the chocolates he stole from the plate set aside for the very very big person’s very own very very very big person, the big person’s own very own great aunt Missus Esmeralda MacFittie MacSprat (who has a shelf that juts like a prow of a ship and twelve quivering chins and eyes like two gimlets that don’t miss a thing) –  is doomed to always live forever and ever outside the box.  And as such, he will not like his own very small person to be hiding in a box with an ‘invisible’ friend that the very large person cannot see.  For very, very perhaps – and even every problematically maybe – the very small ‘invisible’ friend they cannot see but who is inside the box with the very large person’s very own very small person might not be such a nice sort of small ‘invisible’ person to be in a box with a very small member of the very large person’s personal family.

And so, the very very small person who has been eating the chocolates he stole from the plate set aside for the very very big person’s very own very very big person – his great aunt Missus Esmeralda MacFittie MacSprat – and who also was drinking pretend hot chocolate he hadn’t stole from anyplace and a dozen or so real chocolate biscuits and a plate of Marmite soldiers that he snuck out of the pantry after lunch and hid in his hat so nobody but he would know it was there, is suddenly gripped by the fear that the very, very large person will find the right box in which he is hiding and see that the very small person is smeared with chocolate from the biscuits and from the plate set aside for the very very big and very very large great aunt Missus Esmeralda MacFittie MacSprat.  And not only that, but this very small person also has Marmite all over his socks from dropping the soldiers when his little ‘invisible’ friend – the ‘invisible’ friend who is invisible to all those big persons who not only dislike and distrust all those very special ‘invisible’ friends of their own small persons but who just washed out those very selfsame socks the night before after their own very small person had taken them off to wipe up a mess it had made when using a can of shaken up Irn Bru it was deploying to fight the enemy and had thrown it across the room thinking quite rightly that it was a perfect very perfect grenade.

But alas and alack for the very small person who is eating up the rest of his snack, for some reason or other the very large person always comes to the very right box and launches an attack. 

“What are you doing there?” the very large person will say.  “And why did you not answer, my own naughty son, and what is it you have got on your chin?”

And the very small person, who’s got the wits of a sprite, answers back as quick as you please, “But papa what do you mean?  The only thing stuck to the end of my face is my very own very small and very pink chin. The chin with a scar from where I fell down and split it open on that very old garden rake, and which is also the very red and very raw little chin that was bit yesterday by my pet snake, ‘Arithmetitica’.”

 The very large person, who like all very large persons has very little humour indeed, then lifts his own small person right out of the box and holds him up in the air.

“And  in addition to being so very raw and red, is your chin made of chocolate, as well,” the very large person asks with a scowl and a sneer and two thousand very superior grunts.

“Oh, yes, papa, oh, yes indeed. It is of chocolate I surely am made.”

“And what of those Marmite socks on your feet?”

“It’s not Marmite, papa.  The brown on those soldiers is something that was dropped by the dog when you were too lazy to give it a properly good run in the night.”

The very big person then starts to yell. “You sonofabitch, all liars go to Hell.”

And the very small person says with a grin, “Will you be so kind so very very kind as to say that again even louder? Right over by my window, for I am sure from where my mummy  is sitting on the garden bench she will be glad to know more of the words you’ve be putting into my sweet and innocent little head.”

And this is the moment the very small person has either won or perhaps he has lost.  It all depends on where his dear mama – who knows what all the bad words really mean and where they were made in the first place (for she regularly practises them herself). Oh, yes, indeed, she is well aware whence on the earth they came and how not to use them at the W.I. or when the vicar comes to tea.  But she is always willing to learn many more, and for that very reason she has been hiding herself all this very time (not in a box but on an old garden bench, which when you think of it is very much the same thing, that is if you are a mother and can sit very still and listen without disturbing so much as a plant or a twig.  So, if the mother is indeed on her bench which is very very much like her own private box, or else in the house or out in the rockery killing the rats and pulling up bindweed, she will not be in a very good mood to hear what her dear husband has been saying to her beloved first-born son – at least if the new words are neither very new nor very inventive. However, but if the mother is out gallivanting with her secret lover or even with one of her own ‘invisible’ friends (sometimes also called ‘the second gardener), then papa can call the very small person’s wee little bluff.  And since no very very big person likes any bluff whatsoever to be called either by himself or by his own very very small person – especially not by the very very small person who has stolen the plate of rich very rich very dark Belgian Chocolates that had been set aside for the very large person’s ferocious and formidable own very big and very large great aunt Missus Esmeralda MacFittie MacSprat.   And this, if I may, spells a very very unpleasant end to an otherwise very very pleasant day for the very small person and his ‘invisible’ friend in his very big box.  For, alas and alack, the very big person sends the very small person to his room without so much as a snack, and he then vents his spleen on the innocent box that has been sitting in the middle of the room and minding its own business and enjoying the fun whilst thinking on themes by Proust and by Joyce and by a certain good-looking rascal in Gounod’s opera ‘Faust’.  The very big box that has been so joyfully used is now torn into bits and taken downstairs and thrown into the boiler.  And so endeth another day in the life of a box, a life that is uncertain as a pigeon of clay.  But as the smoke arises from the chimney, it whispers a very few words of farewell to the very very small person who has given it so much fun.  And as it floats up past the window, all it manages to say is “Next time find another room in another part of the house and don’t be putting your very new big box in the middle of the room like you just did with me.  Nooooo… if you can fit it in and if it is not too very large, hide it in a wardrobe… or even in the boot of your father’s very very big car.  For, you know don’t you know, both places are safe.  Your father – like all very very big persons and especially those big persons who like to call themselves ‘men’ never think to look in wardrobes (for they are for women) and a boot of a car is never ever looked into at all.

In the meantime the very small person is taken to his room and put in a chair with a book.  A book with no pictures or even a joke, just a lot of words like how many apples do you lose from your bag before you will finally go broke.

While there are, of course, may many reasons why very small people hide out in box, and all of us who in our hearts are still very small people and still take up a very small place, can only be truly ourselves when we let ourselves go and climb into a box that is just the right size for the very person we still wish to be.  What better place is there than a box for telling your ‘invisible’ friends all about the troubles you are having inyour life.  And is there a better place to take that one piece of cake that had been set aside for your auntie you hate, only the cake leapt into your pocket instead?  And what about the times when open warfare breaks out between those very large people you hold so very dear?   And how about those days when – for no reason at all except you are alive and you don’t even know why you were made alive but you wish you were not alive anymore?  And then, there are those days when the clouds disappear and the sun shines all over your mind.  And everything’s clear and you love those you hold dear and you’ll simply explode if you can’t tell a friend – an ‘invisible’ friend – the only true friend you have had since your birth.

And then you grow older and things start to change and you need to be all by yourself.  The bathroom is fine, but only for a minute or two, because one of the big persons will knock on the door and ask how much longer you’ll be, because for some reason big people simply do not understand what it’s like to be a very small person and then a not-so-small person and then an almost-grownup person. It is as if from the day they were born they have been a very very big very grownup person weighed down with that excuse and that curse called ‘responsibility’.  These very very big persons cannot or will not look back at their youth, nor can they remember how very very much fun they had, or what it was like to be free.  To be a very very small person who only wanted to live in a box.

I despair for those ‘grownups’ who reach a certain age when they take on the world and then they let the world beat them down.  They see a small person having a great time and they yell at it to “shut up and sit down.”  They are always telling the very small persons to grow up and act their age, but what is that small person’s age he is supposed to be acting when that small person has only eight or eighteen years on his very young clock?

Why do so many very very big persons forget what it was like?  Why do they let themselves forget?  Was their own very small personhood so painful and cramped that they are glad it is buried and they wish not to live it again through their own small persons?  Did their own very very big person back when they were small beat them and scold then and never ever gave them a smile?  What is past is past.  What is gone is gone.  But not to so very very many big persons, who , instead of rejoicing in the small persons who are new, these soured and bitter and cantankerous very very old fools set about to create in their own very very small persons in the image of their own miserable selves, thus creating yet another generation of soured and crabbed and cantankerous old fools.  And then they wonder why they are left all alone in nursing homes or left in a ditch; and then bereft and forgot, these very very big and now dying persons demand to know why it is that none of their formerly very very small persons ever ever stops by to say farewell, and to whisper ever so softly in their ears, “I really do love you and I thank you for just being you.” 

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.

 

   

 

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 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 26, 2010

ElChapulin

The Mad and Mean Mexican Green Papagayo Machine

His name was El Chapulin Papagayo; at least that’s what he told me it was.  But what was I to know?  After all, I didn’t know who he was; as far as I was aware, I hadn’t even noticed him. And although I never told him so, I’d never given him a thought – much less a second thought.  But then again, it’s hard to think of someone when one hasn’t even heard of him.   I’m not even sure he had ever been where I was – much less in my field of vision – when I was somewhere and in the mood to notice things.  After all, my eyes can only notice those things that happen to be within a noticeable distance.  But if this Chapulin character did happen to be in the same place as my eyes, one possible reason why I hadn’t noticed him was that he had been lying low, sussing me out, and deciding if I might make a suitable pet for him to train.  I can hear him now:  would this human creature be the type who would buy him the sort of cage he wanted – a cage with plenty of roosting possibilities on top, and with plenty of room for his toys inside?  Would he be reliable?   Could he depended upon to be at his beck and call, both in the day and in the night?  And would he buy him an amazing assortment of fruits and nuts (and even a grub or two) and not just the boring old stand-by, sunflower seeds?  Would he buy him a different toy every other day, so as to save him from ennui?  And could he prove – with no room for a doubt – that he wasn’t a cat fancier? 

On this particular point Chapulin would not compromise: NO CATS!  For he was convinced that even the tiniest kitten was sure to eat him.  And being eaten by a cat was not on Señor Papagayo’s thirty year plan.

It goes without saying that this cage envisaged by Chapulin Papagayo should be in close proximity to the place on which my bottom was most likely to perch – in other words, at the end of a sofa where I was accustomed to sit when I was sitting awaiting his pleasure – and such pleasure as he had would always be at his discretion, depending on his frame of mind.  

The particular cage he had in mind for me to buy for him would be large and high – but not too large and not too high.  After all, a parrot in the wild is prey, and even in a domestic environment, security is uppermost in its mind.  It knows to the millimetre exactly how large a cage should be:  too large and it feels unsafe; too small and the parrot feels like a poor relative, or like you have mistaken it for a canary.  

In addition to standing next to my sofa, the ideal location for a cage should be – according to Chapulin – nestled  into a cosy corner and next to a curtain on which he might take his exercise – climbing up and down and up and down and then all the way up to the ceiling. And, it goes without saying, at this particular place under the ceiling, there should be a nice, safe roost on which he could perch and preen and – if possible – shite upon my head.  El Chapulin Papagayo always enjoyed that part of it.  I could tell; for he spent a great deal of time perfecting his technique, hoping to make his aim perfect.  It also goes without saying that the curtain he wanted placed at his disposal should be the kind with tiny holes that required a parrot’s attention.  Such ‘attention’, of course, involved a great deal of rending and shredding.  For on his list of favourite activities, shredding curtains was very nearly Number One.

As I mentioned, I am not altogether certain ol’ Chapulin had been in the shop during the weeks preceding our first close encounter.  And I was by way of being a regular customer.  However, knowing him and his love of intrigue, if he was not there at the beginning, then he was somewhere else plotting and planning to be in the shop when the right moment came.  For even if he wasn’t yet there physically, in his mind’s eye a part of him was already lurking in the shadows: sitting lost and lonely and despised in a dark mouldy cage shoved up under the ceiling and between an iguana and a baby pecorino.  From this miserable and hidden-away spot, his mind’s eye would be spying on me and plotting and scheming and planning to overthrow that particular government which lived inside my head.  For parrots – as anyone who has ever been owned by a parrot knows – are firm exponents of regime change.  And like all regime changes, this particular one had been mapped-out long before the parrot has ever met its quarry face-to-face.  You see, it has “had a dream…”    

In any case, wherever he was, Chapulin was somewhere watching me, checking me out from his parrot-like sleep (the one where they keep one eye pealed and only pretend to be sleeping in case you start doing something interesting that requires their input).  But how is a human to know what the parrot is up to?  For isn’t his sweet little head tucked into the feathers at the scruff of his neck and isn’t he all fruffled up just like he is at night?  Don’t you believe it! For the more innocent he looks the more effective he is as a ‘stealth weapon’.  Totally invisible to a human’s naked eye.  For, in this camouflaged state, even a single parrot in a room can seemingly transform itself into but a single parrot in the middle of a rainforest (complete with sound effects and jaguars) – one amongst hundreds of green parrots, all of which have more or less identical markings. And before you know it, right in front of your blurry eyes, the hundreds will multiply a hundred-fold more, until – right up there roosting with the howler monkeys and the flying squirrels – there are literally thousands of more or less identical green parrots with the same red spectacles and the same white bangs. And with the same What? Me? expression.  But even there – in your hallucination – you can sense that, although they are all superficially alike to the non-parrotized layman, each parrot knows how to make itself felt when it comes to the human of its choice.  What it does is this: it clamps its mind on to the more feeble mind of its prospective human servant, zeroing in on its subconscious until its chosen human is overcome by same feeling of impending dread and unspeakable doom that he otherwise gets only when a pickpocket in a darkened alleyway is closing in on the bulge in his trouser pocket – on the one day of the year when that pocket is actually containing a wad of bank notes. It is the feeling of inevitability. You see, the parrot has the same magnetism as a master criminal, as well as the same allure and the same tendencies. Both have identically devious and suspicious auras of sweetness and innocence, and both are prone to wear them as permanent parts of their arsenal.  And yes, any parrot can pick any lock invented by man.

And if you do not believe me about the innocent expression, ask any parrot owner to describe their bird at the moment it is preparing to defecate.  You know you are already in trouble when the bird suddenly looks at you with a soft and loving expression.  It will smile, and sometimes even cock its head.  Its eyes will dilate in ecstasy, it will fruffle up its feathers.  And then you will regret putting on that new black Armani suit you were saving up for your internment.  

Now, when I went into this particular pet shop near the Mercado Central, I had originally gone in as part of a local effort to round up captured kestrels and burrowing owls in order to rehabilitate then and – if possible – to return them to the desert.  At least, that’s what I thought I was doing there.  But the moment I started talking to the owner (who had a clutch of burrowing owl chicks and a brace of kestrels in his back room, ready and waiting for me), I became aware of a certain feeling of enchantment.  And I thought, “How very strange!” And then my ears gradually tuned in to a particularly lurid whistling – quite unlike anything I had ever heard before. And this whistling seemed to be coming from one of the cages where the parrots were kept.  In my enchantment – for that is what it was – I instinctively knew that this whistling sound was not one of your ordinary, common or garden whistling sounds.  In fact, it was a singularly irritating, strident and grating ‘Enchanted Whistling Sound’.  And when I pretended to ignore it, the owner of the whistling sound started to rattle its food cup and to sing like a demented soprano – with a wobble that would give an opera-lover nightmares for the next twenty years.  And when even this didn’t seem to penetrate my cabeza, it started to yell like a navvy.

The owner of the pet shop laughed.  “Looks like you’ve got yourself a parrot,” he smirked.

And that is how I met the bane of my life, a certain smallish green monster with red spectacles, a white fringe with blue feathers on his cheeks, and the most disreputable set of red tail feathers ever grown by a bird.  And as I carried him out the door this bird told  me – in no uncertain terms – that its name was Chapulin.  El Chapulin Papagayo.  And that, henceforth, my name was to be ‘Tu’!

Now, anyone who is under the misguided impression that this green Chapulin autocrat even so much as deigned to speak to me in Spanish or in English, has never met an Amazon of his variety (every single reference work I studied on the subject liked to stress that this particular species is ill-tempered, stubborn, arrogant, and that it is not interested in learning a language other than their own – come hell or high water.  They are not cooperative. In short, they make lousy pets).  And if this wasn’t enough, I knew that Chapulin – unlike parrots one buys in the US and most of Western Europe and which are born in captivity – had not been hand-reared, but rather stolen as a nestling from his nest.  In other words, I had ‘adopted an orphan’ (which places me in the same category as Madonna when she goes to Africa to buy a new baby).  And not having been hand-reared, he did not like to be handled, unless it was he who was doing the handling.

Yes, Chapulin did have an enormous vocabulary and could mimic every city sound he had ever heard – and even some of those he hadn’t – but it was all in parrot-speak.  The way he saw it was this:  since his vocabulary was so large and he was so eloquent, why on earth should he sacrifice it in order to learn a few childish phrases such as those used by the majority of human pets, who are – as every parrot knows – extremely thick.   “NO!” screams the much superior Amazon!  Let the lowly humans – who are after all several steps lower on the evolutionary chain than the average papaya – be the ones who are taught a few words of parrot-speak?  Nothing complicated, you know.  Just a few basic words and phrases, so when the parrot wants something it doesn’t have to waste a lot of time explaining to his human that when it asks for a Brazil nut, it is not asking to have his water changed, much less being treated to the dreaded “Polly Wants a Cracker” phrase that makes it want to bite off the human’s nose.  Needless to say, every single parrot is resigned to the fact that – in almost every case – teaching a human being is a fulltime job that requires an entire lifetime.  But so what?  The lifetime in question is the human’s lifetime – which, as every parrot knows, is significantly shorter than the more valuable parrot lifetime, which can last until the end of creation.  So, as long as the human is reasonably well-behave and obedient, what are a few wasted years more or less, for there are usually other fish to fry in the owner’s house.  Such as live-in lovers and new spouses and, last but not least, dogs – which are great for tormenting.  In other words, a parrot can always find more devilment to liven up its life.

A good friend of mine, who was on the cusp of thirty, had been the owner of an African Grey since her twenty-first birthday.  She had been its only owner and had helped to hand-rear it; in other words, she was the only flock it had ever known.  Now, there came a point when she was thinking about getting married.  And so – being a parrot owner – one of her major concerns had to do with the bird, and about how it would take to sharing its human with an outsider.  For, you see, parrots can be outrageously jealous creatures and have been known to break up marriages and inspire children to move away from home prematurely.

Although this friend of mine loved her parrot dearly, she loved her fiancé more, and was not about to sacrifice her future happiness for the sake of a bird.  In other words, she was being a self-centred cow.  But as she saw it, she knew the parrot liked her mother – and had, in fact, stayed at her mother’s house on several occasions.  And so it was agreed that should the African Grey object to the fiancé, then it would be the one to move.

And so the fiancé moved in.  And everything appeared to be fine.  The parrot took to following the fiancé around the house; it seemed to be studying him.  And when the fiancé was taking a shower before bed the very first night, he looked down between his legs and – behold – the parrot was down there looking up at him.  And smiling.

The next morning the parrot had made a decision.  He loved the fiancé and had developed a seething hatred towards the woman who had cared for him his entire life.  And he was implacable.

The upshot was that the engagement was left in tatters.  The parrot left with the fiancé, and my friend was left both parrot-less and fiancé-less.  Let that be a lesson to you.  For this is not an uncommon scenario.

The fact that my Chapulin was not particularly ‘user-friendly’, meant that I was not subjected to the usual preening routine so familiar to parrot owners – where the bird walks around the back of your neck and rearranges you hair for hours and hours and hours on end. And I never asked him to perch on me; he was easily spooked, and I didn’t particularly want to have one of my ears chomped off if and when something startled him.

One game he adored, however, and one he had invented himself, was ‘fetch’.  Only, unlike the regular game one plays with a dog (in which the human throws an object and the animal retrieves it), in Chapulin’s version, it was Chapulin who tossed the object… and yours truly who ran and fetched it back.  His favourite toy for this activity was a little rubber ball with a bell inside.  And he would throw this for hours and hours and make all sorts of funny noises (and his happy noises consisted of squeaks and burbles and chortles, and almost made you wish you were a parrot).  The only trouble was, he wouldn’t stop until he had decided to stop.  And if I tried to stop prematurely, he would have a fit.  And nothing on earth is quite like a parrot’s fit.

Now, as we all know, a parrot can live quite a long time, say thirty or forty years.  Parrots are extremely monogamous, which means their first love will truly last a lifetime.  In other words, if you buy one you will be stuck with one.  Forever!

The other thing to keep in mind is that a parrot is extremely intelligent.  And not only is it intelligent, but it knows that it is a great deal more intelligent than its owner.  And furthermore, unlike a dog or a cat or any other pet, a parrot is simply not intimidated by a human.  And this means you cannot win an argument with a parrot.

The other thing to consider is that a parrot is in many ways very much like a two or three year old child, only it doesn’t grow out of it…. rather, it grows into it deeper when it itself reaches the ‘terrible twos’.  And while I’m at it, let me remind you that a parrot can crack open a walnut without breaking into a sweat.  That means, of course, that if the parrot is not in a good mood (and they make their signals clear) it is not the best of times to reach and touch its topknot.  Unless, of course, you have an extra unwanted finger to spare.

The only time Chapulin got lovey-dovey with me was when I was in the shower (and I always took cold shows).  Parrots, like all birds, love water.  They absolutely adore bathing.  So very quickly, once Chapulin had settled in and decided I was a pretty good owner after all, he established a bath-time routine. And while he added to it whenever he felt like a change (for parrots, being intelligent, get bored very quickly), it always started off the same.

He would wait until I was in the shower and the water was running, at which point he would burble a few happy noises. And after he had talked for about thirty seconds, he would whistle. And after he had whistled, he would scream.  And then he would fall silent.  That was when I would count to five – because I knew he would be waddling across the floor to the bathroom.  On the count of six I would turn round and,  sure enough, there would be Chapulin peering coyly round the door and looking up at me. I would then call his name, he would whistle once, and then skip across the floor and into the shower.  And when he was standing between my legs and being drenched by the torrent, he would tilt back his head and look up at me (or at some familiar spirit), and then go into a little dance.  It was magic…. needless to say, when he was standing underneath me in the shower, it did cross my mind that at some point in time, just out of devilment (or because he had mistaken it for an exotic fruit – or perhaps a grub)  my sweet little Chapulin Papagayo he would chomp off one of my toes. .

May 24, 2010

The Knackers

An old house, an old Horse, and a very young Turnip

Quick, scampering footsteps echoing from high above their heads, after which – as though they were the rhythm section bringing up the rear – there followed the heavier, more ponderous footfalls of something larger and slightly ungainly. With clompy feet. Sometimes the larger of the beasts – the one with the clompy feet – was prone to lumber, and perhaps to limp just a little bit.  But at other times its gate was spritely, like a dancer, and well-collected as though the beast was preparing for a race.

“What is that, papa?” asked the little boy, cocking his head to one side and gazing up at his father.

“It is a ghost,” replied the father in a quiet, thoughtful whisper.  And he gave the little boy a fatherly hug.

“What sort of ghost?” demanded the child. “And may we go and see it?”

“No,” whispered the father, in a voice so low that not even the ancient walls of the house could overhear.

“But why not?” demanded the little boy.

“Shhh…” interjected the father.  “Let me put you to bed and I shall tell you a little story.”

“Please, papa,” whimpered the lad. “Not another story!  Not when there are ghosts about, and in the rooftop of our very own house.”

The father hugged his little son to his chest and lifted him into his arms. “Come along, my son. Time for bed.”

The little boy started to whine, but his father put his finger to his lips, “Shhhhhhh,” he murmured mysteriously, and then with his forefinger he pointed towards the ceiling.  “You don’t want them to hear you, do you?”

The father carried his son, wrapped in a blanket against the chill of the evening, and climbed the old staircase up to the next floor.  “Where are we going?” whispered the boy.

The father merely shook his head, and walked to the far end of the first floor gallery and to a small, green baize-covered door.  He inserted an old skeleton key into the lock.  And, surprisingly – for it looked like it hadn’t been opened for fifty years or more – the door swung open (silently, with but a whisper) on well-oiled hinges. The corridor beyond – a high narrow passageway such as those the housemaids might have used in bygone days to carry copper urns of boiling water up to the bedrooms – was surprisingly free of dust.

The little boy craned his neck to see where they were going, but his father held him close and shielded his eyes.

“Keep your eyes closed, my son.” whispered the father.

“But why?” answered the son in rebuke.

“Because this part of the house belongs to the ghosts,” replied the father solemnly. “And if you open your eyes, you might frighten them away.”

“Oh, very well.  If I must!”  said the son impatiently, for he was a curious bright-eyed lad and didn’t like to be kept in the dark.

On and on along the dingy passageway they walked and walked and walked, and the father was careful to make no noise.  He even avoided those places where the floorboards creaked.

The little boy looked at him in wonder.  “Why are you walking in such a funny way, papa? Are you playing hopscotch?”

To which his father whispered in his ear, “Parts of the floor are asleep, my son.  And if I step on their heads and wake them up, they will rouse the whole house.”

“You mean they will scream the house down!” trilled the little boy.  But then catching sight of his father’s pained expression, he thought of the punishments in store if he didn’t mind his manners.  “I don’t really fancy one of father’s spankings,” he said to himself.  And so to save face, he looked gravely up at his father and frowned.  “You’re silly!” he scowled in a gravelly voice.  After that, they continued walking down the hallway of shadows in silence.

At the end of this very, very long and high-ceilinged corridor they came to another door – a tall, narrow door – and again the father took the old key from his pocket, and put it into the lock.  And once again, the door opened like butter.  And when it had swung open it revealed yet another long corridor – this one as clean as the last – only, unlike the passageway they had just left behind, this one had a steep and ancient staircase leading up from the opposite end to the attics above.                                                                           

The house in the woods was a very old house, with gables and chimney pots and ill-fitting leaded windows with hand-blown panes cut like diamonds.  Windows – so many windows – all of which rattled and slammed both from the wind outside, and from the howling draughts within that prowled the vast, empty spaces like ravening wolves.

The house had – not counting those chambers and offices that did not count as rooms themselves – forty-four rooms – big and small.  And in each one of these forty-four rooms was a fireplace – plus two fireplaces in the hall and three in the ballroom.  And in even those rooms which did not count as rooms – such as the servant’s hall next to the kitchen or the servants’ bedrooms themselves – there were smaller hearths.  In the servants’ bedrooms, they were not really large enough to combat the winter’s gales, but sufficient to break the chill and for warming a body slightly before climbing into bed.   

The wall-to-wall hearth in the large, vaulted kitchen had long-since been bricked up and in its recess was a combination coal-burning/gas-burning range – powerful enough to heat the water for the house’s needs and to fill all the housemaids’ pitchers four or five times a day.  However, even this giant of an Aga had been rendered redundant with the passage of time;   in the more modern sinks and showers installed to meet the more modern trends, this method of heating water had been supplanted by the more economical and convenient ascots.  And a cooker – a smallish, chrome-plated, arrogant post-modern appliance that cocked its snoot at the ancient range – was used for most of the cooking.   

The family that lived in the house, unlike so many of their generation, were sentimental when it came to both the cavernous kitchen and to the many other rooms that fanned out from it in every direction – rooms (that were not really counted as room) such the pantry and the larder and the bakery and the silver and china vaults, as well as the high narrow chamber where the glassware was kept.  Adjoining the vaults was the Butler’s pantry, a good-sized sitting room-cum-office which had served the house as both a ship’s bridge and its engine room; for if it was those ‘upstairs’ who supposedly ‘ruled’, it was the butler who was the prime minister and who kept the ship of state’s many departments running as smooth as silk. Next to the butler’s pantry, was the office and sitting room of the deputy leader:  the house-keeper.  These latter two rooms had proper fireplaces of their own, as well as small cloakrooms. However, once again, these fireplaces did not count in the inventory as being among the forty-nine proper fireplaces, for these rooms – although the nerve centres of the house – were not really rooms at all.  They were, after all, below stairs. – and although their fireplaces were in every sense proper fireplaces, they did not count among the forty-nine, having been more recent additions.  Besides which, since they had been among the first to have been converted to gas no one ever thought of them as fireplaces, but as gas fires.

On the opposite side of the kitchen from the nerve-centres, was a very long, wide and gloomy corridor which lead to such offices as the scullery and laundry and buttery, and from there to the time capsules of a long-forgotten world: to the butchery and the dairy and to a door leading to the kitchen gardens and greenhouses.  And to the all-important flower-room.

Along this wide, gloomy, ill-lit corridor were sixteen bathrooms, and since all sixteen had been built according to specifications provided by the United States government during the Second World War – when the house had been requisitioned as a rehabilitation centre for wounded American pilots – each of these sixteen bathrooms had a toilet. To the ancient retainers who were still living on the property during the war and who had been re-housed in the tiny labourers’ cottages down by the farm – these bathrooms were both a scandal and an abomination, and they caused them much distress.  As far as they were concerned, these American-style bathrooms reeked of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon – for their architect was a Catholic of Italian descent – and foretold the beginning of end of the world “as we know it.” In short, they were the thin edge of the wedge.

After the war when the family was allowed to reclaim their property, they had asked that these additional bathrooms be removed.  However, somehow – what with one thing and another and the squabbling between the two governments over who would foot the bill – they remained where they stood.  And became repositories for dust and grime and such junk as abandoned rooms are known to attract.  But fortunately, by that time, the ancient retainers were all long-term residents of the churchyard; they didn’t have to suffer this additional humiliation – at least not on this side of the grave.

Such modernisations that had been carried out after the war mainly centred on the replacement of the lead which had for centuries kept the rain from getting in and ruining the fabric of the ancient house. Again there was squabbling amongst the various government ministries, and between the two countries.  More and more squabbling.  More and more bickering.  Seemingly endless squabbling and bickering. For the Americans – who had stripped the roof in order to sell the lead to buy fuel to burn in the fireplaces – vehemently denied any knowledge of the vandalism.  “We will, of course, look into the matter. But according to our records, it never happened.” But when it was pointed out that they had also burned a considerable portion of the panelling, as well as most of the first-editions in the library – a claim that was verified by several of the soldiers who had been a party to the whole affair, the US Government agreed to cover the damages.  However, since the money was eventually re-directed to help pay the interest on the US war loans, not a farthing ever made it to the house.

Not that had mattered much.  For the family was simply happy to have their home back and more or less in one piece. They sold part of the land to pay for the re-sealing of the roof, and still another parcel or two for such modernisations as would make the old building feasible.  They laid on gas fires in the four or five rooms in which they lived, added two extra bathrooms and toilets for such staff as they could afford, and two bathrooms (with adjacent toilets) for themselves.  They also built a small kitchen for everyday use in an old storage room off the scullery, again laying on gas and electricity and all the mod-cons. 

The four or five rooms in which the family now lived were in a small wing on the ground floor to the rear of the house, facing the rose garden.  Or what had been the rose garden before it had been given over to the planting of root vegetables.  The rooms on the first and second floors were kept in good repair for they were graceful and well-proportioned and might one day – or so the family hoped – prove to be useful.   

The third floor and the attics were not used at all, and because of the damages inflicted on the roofs far above, they quickly fell into disrepair. And it was in these dark and abandoned parts of the house that the rooms and passageway offered shelter to such displaced ghosts and spirits as were seeking a place to lay their weary heads.  If only because in such an ancient and crumbling ruin, no one would think to bother them.  

Some years after the war, the main stair case leading to the third floor fell into disrepair and eventually collapsed, leaving only the small back service stairs for access. This back stairwell could be reached through a back hall on the ground floor – the utility passageway that led to the stable yard and smithy and to the maintenance sheds, and from there down the lane to the farm itself.  The one door that led from this hallway out into the stable yard had – for reasons it kept to itself – jammed itself shut and no force on earth could open it.  The principal reason for its behaviour was that it was a selfish and crabbed old door that did not like to be disturbed – besides which, it suffered much from rising damp and the rheumatics, causing its hinges to swell up ‘something awful’.  For more than twenty-five years (not counting the time some village rowdies broke it down for a lark and spray-painted slogans on the William Morris wallpaper in the old morning room) this temperamental oak door had kept itself locked and barred against all intruders.  The family, who were sympathetic to the door, had long-since given up on it; they simply used the French doors in the room that was now serving as their drawing room.

Perhaps they knew – or suspected – that the door had a secret.  Perhaps they knew that its hinges only appeared to be swollen and locked in place.  And perhaps its condition was a message to the family and others of the human race.  After all, hadn’t humans always abused the door – kicking it open and slamming it shut and knocking things against its panels?  Such treatment was all very well when a door was younger and when its paint was fresh, but quite another after so many centuries had passed.  For nobody – not even the most sympathetic member of the family – seemed to care how an old door looked or how it felt.  And since it was far older than they – by at least four hundred years – it felt it had a right to be treated with a certain amount of respect.  And when no one obliged it, it simply shut itself up tight, swelled its ancient timbers, and became immovable.  “Let them that wants to go in and out, find another way. I’ve retired!”  But this was only where human beings were concerned.  For the ghosts of the house it was another matter – for they were the ones who waxed its oak panels and polished its brass knocker and kept its hinges oiled ‘a treat’.

But who were these ghosts that haunted the upper corridors and who scampered and danced whenever the chill winter winds swept through the crumbling rooms up next to the roof?  And where did they come from?

Their names – for, indeed, names they had – were Misther and Missus Knacker.  Now, to the world outside their appearance might have been surprising, for they were small and round, and each of them had two little tiny feet at his and her narrow, tapering bottom end – the end that would have reached the floor had not their tiny feet been encased in stout wooden clogs.  On the under-sole of each clog was a little silver bell – and it was these bells that could be heard twinkling and clicking as the two little Knackers scampered back and forth along the principal passageway of the top-most floor.

But who was the other personage that lived under the rooftop and who clomped and strutted and pranced each day when he took his exercise?

His name was Summer Lightning (otherwise known as ‘Slow’) and he was a horse.  Perhaps the best forgotten chaser in the history of chasers.

Old ‘Slow’ (back before he had acquired his nickname, when both his owners and his trainer called him ‘Fast’) had in his time won no fewer than six Gold Cups (in England and Ireland and France and Scotland) and one Grand National Chase in each of those nations.  He was feted and celebrated from one end of the racing world to the other, and had even had a chocolate bar named in his honour (the ‘Fast Bar’, because it went down so fast that one had to buy a second one just to prove to oneself that one had eaten one).

Then one day, whilst grazing in his paddock and talking things over with his companion donkey (‘named ‘Old Ass-‘ole’), ‘Fast’ felt a disturbance in his intestine.  And not wanting to trouble his lad or the trainer, he said nothing.  For the lad was having troubles of his own, having been jilted by his girlfriend, and the owner had awoken one morning with a phobia of horses.  The upshot was that ‘Fast’ was left alone with his twisted intestines, and nearly died.  It was also the end of his illustrious career, for on every one of his subsequent races he could barely make it over the first fence, and always came in a half-hour after the race itself had finish.  Old ‘Fast’ became a laughing-stock.  His ‘trainer’ – who took to breeding Chihuahuas, because – although fierce – they were smaller and could be stepped on in a pinch – started making fun of the horse and calling him ‘Slow’ to his face.  The lad – who was ultimately blamed for the horse’s new-found lethargy – quite racing and joined his father’s investment bank.  And as for the owner (who was the father of the lad), he lost interest, and ordered the trainer to send the former Gold-Cup winner to ‘the knackers’.

For the two days that followed, all the other horses in the yard, as well as the companion donkeys (who, after all, could always get a good job pulling carts for fat men in Egypt) called the newly rechristened ‘Slow’ every name under the, sun, and from dawn ‘til dusk they jeered at him and abused him with the following chant, “To the knackers, to the knackers, to the knackers for you”.  And the owner, who was a greedy ill-spirited brute with two left feet and a snake for a tongue, searched all round the countryside checking out the best per-pound price for a used-up race horse with no bottle and with not an ounce of fat on his bones.  In the end, all he was offered was one pound three shillings and five-pence three farthings, and that from a knackers somewhere near far-distant York.  But it was too little, too late, and so he ordered the trainer (who in the mean time had taken to swilling gin and wormwood-infused tonic water) to do the knackering himself, and to sell the meat to the Doggie Deluxe Dog Food Company, the hide to the Fashion Deluxe Horse Skin Jacket Company, and the bones to the Bony Deluxe Bone Meal Company.

And all the while, over in the yard, the whole world seemed to be chanting “To the knackers, to the knackers, to the knackers for you.”

Needless to say, there were two tiny individuals who did not appreciate the attention.  It was bad enough that they had been born turnips and had been forced to flee for their lives to avoid being added to a cauldron of soup, but now it appeared that the whole world knew where they were!  But, as old Misther Knacker said to old Missus Knacker on more than one occasion, “If they be wantin’ us so bad, why don’t they come up and get us?” To which Missus Turnip replied, “beats me, Elmer.”

It was about then that the youngest of the Knackers’ fifty-seven children, took it upon himself to investigate the situation.  After all, he was very small – practically the size of a walnut – and he was not afraid of anyone. “Let ‘em just try puttin’ ME in a stew,” he liked to say.  And so he waited until long after dark and snuck down the back stairs and out through a crack in the old door.

Within less than fifteen minutes (for even the fastest of turnips cannot run very fast) he had reached the stable yard.  And there – sure enough – were all the foul-smelling villagers of the county, dancing round a campfire and waving their pitchfork in the air.  And on a high platform over the flames, was ‘Slow’, trembling and shaking and sweating and wondering what on earth he had done to deserve such a fate.

The tiny turnip, who was curious about what was going one (for he had never attended a barbeque before) asked one of the revellers (a baby poisonous mushroom that was hoping to volunteer to poison the noisy throng – for they had kept his mam from sleeping), “What’s Up, Ol’ Toadstool, my friend?”

And the toadstool said, in a voice both cruel and loud, “They’re gonna send him to the knackers!”

To which the turnip replied, point up at the house, “But the Knackers aren’t over here!  They’re up there!”

“You sure?” cried the revellers upon hearing the news.

“Yeah, I’m sure!” trumpeted the baby turnip, “and I’ve got my driver’s licence to prove who I am.”  And he showed it to them. 

“His name is Knacker!” yelled the crowd.

And so it was that the chief among the revellers (a potato named ‘Bismuth’) heard about their mistake.  And not wanting to get in any trouble, he ordered the crowd to extinguish the fire and return to their homes.

Within twelve and half minutes, the yard was deserted, leaving only the baby turnip and the horse who had once been known as Summer Lightning.  And the horse told the tiny Knacker his sad story, and asked, “What is to become of me?”

You see,” he said, “I don’t really want to go to the knacker’s yard.  I don’t want to end up as dog meat or a leather jacket or in a bucket of bone meal.  Please don’t make me go!  If you save me I shall be your friend for life – for unless I’m mistaken – a turnip does not have many friends to call his own.  And I promise you this: even though I am partial to turnips myself, I shall never eat you.”

And with that, the baby turnip jumped up on the horse’s back and gave him the biggest hug in the world.  And he said, “But you misunderstand, my sweet friend!”  We are not the knackers; out name is Knacker, and we live peacefully on top of that big house,”

Needless to say, without even being asked, the old door opened wide and let the horse and the turnip enter the house.  And because in his heart Summer Lightning was still the same athlete he had always been, he leaped up the stairs (taking twelve steps at a time) all the way to the attic.  He found there a home, and in all the years since he has remained in those rooms up under the roof.  Just himself and the Knackers and all of the ghosts.  And because it is such an old house and is falling to bits, no one ever goes up to see how they are.  And because they have the wind and the rain and the winter storms to keep them from getting restive, that suits them just fine.

The little boy lay asleep in his father’s lap, his six-year-old head cradled in the crook of his arm.  He had slept through every word of the story his father had told him, but there was no harm in that.  For deep down inside he had heard every word, and for the rest of his life, whenever the wind did blow through the rafters and shake the old windows, and whenever there was heard a mad scuffling of little feet dancing, and the drumbeat of hooves prancing high above his head, the boy always said to himself – and later to his children and to the children they themselves spawned.  “Up there is where the Knackers live, and the drummer who is drumming is the old Gold Cup winner, himself – none other than brave Summer Lightning – he who’d been lost before he was found.  And saved by the love of a turnip.”   

May 22, 2010

Pissing Into The Wind

The Only True Thing a Man was Born to Do.

If there is one thing a man loves doing above all the other things a man is supposed to love doing above everything else, it is pissing out of doors.  It is the one activity that a male was built to do, it is the one activity that a male is really good at doing, and it goes without saying, it is the one activity that a male really likes to do.  And this means, of course, that it is the one activity that man is prevented from doing by every single one of those so-called moral guardians who have never done it! And having never done it, and most likely having been punished even for thinking about doing it back when they still could have done it, they therefore feel it is their moral obligation to punish everyone else – by running for political office.  And once they have run for political office and have officially become politicians, they can then make it their business to prevent those who have defied the so-called moral guardians and have gone ahead and done it anyway, from ever doing it again. That is why the words and phrases, “pervert” and “wait ‘til your father gets home” and “you are under arrest” and “indecent exposure” were invented.  As well as stiff fines and lengthy prison sentences.

And all because it is the male animal’s one true talent!          

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not talking about sexual predation.  I’m not talking about flashing in front of the church’s stain glass window on Sunday the minute the choir launches into the abridged version of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’, and I’m not talking about whipping it out in the Mall and watering the begonias in the food court.  And, believe me, the last thing I am advocating is to water your grass in the back garden when your neighbours are holding a barbeque for the vicar (even though, unbeknownst to the neighbours, the vicar does it regularly in the graveyard, right on his late mother-in-law’s headstone.

What I am talking about is the joy of pissing out of doors for the sheer joy of pissing out of doors.  It is as simple as that.

I realise women might have a problem with this, and I can understand their point of view.  After all, pissing out of doors is something they are not designed for.  It is something they do not do very well.  It is something that, when they do do it, they often regret doing.  For very often, when they do do it, they fall over into the puddle they have just made.  But of course, that is when they cannot find a convenient log to squat on, and so they try to squat by simply squatting.  And even when they do find something to support them while they squat, they frequently spray urine all over themselves like a garden hose when you’ve put your finger against the nozzle into order to increase the strength of the spray.  And then they are known to say a bad word.  And forget it when they try to do it standing up, especially if they are wearing their shoes.  Because then, of course, having sprayed all over their shoes, they need about a roll and a half of loo paper, not only to dab themselves and their short and curlies, but also to wipe down their legs.  And then – it goes without saying – they feel they have to curtail the picnic – right at the moment the steaks are perfectly barbequed – in order to run to the mall in the next town to buy a new pair of shoes.  Never mind that they should have thought of going there in the first place – before the picnic even got under way – in order to pee.

In spite of the fact that women are thoroughly incompetent when it comes to pissing out of doors without making a mess, they still managed to get a law passed that permits them to do it.  And in the middle of town.  And in full view of passersby. Of course, according to this law they have to be pregnant, and they can only pee against the rear off-side wheel.  But I ask you, what is there to prevent an otherwise unpregnant woman from merely stuffing an old cushion up her jumper and pissing against any wheel she feels like?  After all, it is not as though a policeman is going to ask her to prove she is pregnant, and it is not as though most women carry around a spare pregnancy test just to prove they really are as pregnant as they say they are.   At least, not without a court order, but by the time one of those is obtained, it will be too late for the woman to funnel the pee she has splashed on to the street back into her bladder.   And as for the off-side business, they only snuck that into the law because there is no woman on earth who can understand the male-invented off-side rule.  And therefore they can plead ignorance.  But just let a man try that!  The whole thing smacks of one of the early suffragettes, who obviously forgot to go to the loo before she chained herself to the railings of the Houses of Parliament.

Which reminds me, what did happen when one of those suffragettes had to go to the toilet?  Did one of the friendly policemen – the one who had been beating her with his night-stick – simply halt his beating, say an apologetic, “Sorry, Madam, will you come this way, Madam,” and escort her into the building and out into the garden where – because of the fact there were no inside lady’s toilets at the time – she peed against the rear off-side wheel of the Prime Minister’s landau?  And afterwards, after she had sullied the upholstery of the landau, as well as her new black dress – for according to the photographs, they all seemed to favour mourning – did she demand to be escorted to the Army & Navy Stores to replace the dress and stockings and shoes she had ruined when she had sullied the upholstery of the landau when she had inadvertently missed the rear off-side wheel?  And after she had been duly escorted to The Army & Navy Stores, was she then returned to the Houses of Parliament, where – after re-chaining herself to the railings and hurling insults at the policeman – the same policeman duly picked up beating her where he’d left off?

But what about those women who snuck off while the policeman was waiting outside the ladies’ changing room in The Army & Navy Stores?  Even though every man on earth knows how long it takes a woman to change her clothes, didn’t it bother him when – after three hours had passed – she still hadn’t returned?  Even if he had been married to the slowest woman on earth – one of those who insisted on having ten dozen microscopic buttons on her bodice and who was obsessed with getting each and every button into its corresponding button hole (even if she had to undo each and every one of them a hundred times and start from the beginning) – wouldn’t he have grown suspicious after a while?  And, if so, wouldn’t he have gone to look in the restaurant, because that is undoubtedly where the woman would have been spending the last three hours – sitting with all the other women who had evaded their friendly policemen, and who had just finished a delightful three course afternoon tea – prior to slipping out the back door?

I once rode across country with a couple acquaintances of the female persuasion, and all it all it was a most enlightening experience.  Whereas usually women don’t talk a lot about their toileting habits, at least not in the presence of men who are not their husbands, these two talked about nothing else.  It seemed that the summer before they had driven across Canada, from the West Coast to the East, and being the rugged, non-nonsense types, they had slept rough during the entire journey – wherever possible avoiding the official campgrounds. It goes without saying that this is not an unusual thing for nature-lovers to do, for as anyone who has ever stayed in official campgrounds at the height of the season can tell you, they can be less peaceful than a pub on one of its monthly ‘Uptown Saturday Night ‘Free Beer’ Striptease Pub Quizzes’.  

Up to a point I enjoyed hearing about the women’s experiences.  But then they got on to the subject of relieving themselves. And after they had thoroughly rehashed every single ‘amusing incident’ that had befallen them on each single occasion when they had stopped to spend a penny, they got on to the subject of toilet paper.  Now, like many campers who are fastidious when it comes to the environment, they had originally discussed the logistics of ‘packing it out’ and carrying the soiled paper to one of the approved ‘dump stations. That plan – in the way of all such plans – went awry the first day.  So after that, they decided to do without toilet paper altogether and (as they put it) employ the good, old-fashioned ‘drip dry’ method.  Then, for the next two hours, I was forced to endure the ‘hilarity’ of their ‘summer of the urine-stained knickers’. 

Personally, I don’t like it when males – who tend to be much more scatological than females – get carried away with this sort of idiocy.  And I don’t like it any better when females resort to it either. After all, was that all there was to the holiday?  Hadn’t they passed through some sort of scenery? Hadn’t they seen any wildlife?  Hadn’t they met any interesting people?  Or was all that merely incidental to the main purpose, which was to experience “Shitting In The Woods Like Bears?”  Anyway, after about two hours of becoming increasingly pissed off, I spoiled their good time by finally opening my mouth.  First of all, I made it clear that I was speaking as a man and, therefore, was not exactly conversant with their problems when it came to peeing in the woods, to which they immediately got huffy and replied that – such being the case – I should shut up and mind my own business.  Well, I ignored that remark, and carried on.  I said that even though I was a miserable man and – therefore – a boor when it came to women in general, I happened to be a fairly experienced camper. I also pointed out that – since men were known to shit at least as often as women (and sometimes more often seeing as how they were gross and depraved) – men also had to deal with defecating in the woods.  And furthermore, when it came to clean ing up, we faced the same problems – except perhaps more so because we had hairier arses.  And without pausing for a breath – because I knew if I let them get a word in edgeways, I would never hear the end of it – I asked why, since they happened to have a car with them, they hadn’t just brought along a bucket?  And also a small shovel or some sort?  And also a few containers of water?  At this point, the driver said something not needing my input. But of course, being in full rant, I ignored her – simply to drive my message home. I suggested – for future reference – that a bucket was a handy place to squat when they had a pee.  And since they were already going to sully the forest floor with their urine, it was an easy matter simply to empty the bucket.  Then, I suggested that they could take the water they had been carrying in their car, and with that water they could wash themselves off.  And after washing themselves off, they could rinse out the bucket.  One of them tried to interrupt me by asking about the times they didn’t happen to have a car with them, to which I replied, “That’s bullshit and you know it! You never go anywhere without your bloody car. You even drive your car into your garage to pick up your other car!” And then they got all stroppy about using leaves to dry themselves off, and about how they always ended up using the wrong leaves – the ones that gave them rashes.  And that was when I opened my mouth one too many times and mentioned buying a guide book for local flora.  At which they said yelled, “All men were alike,” to which I retaliated, “At least a man pisses; we wouldn’t be caught dead wee-ing or tinkling.”

Interestingly enough, I never saw them after that, and they even stopped sending me their tie-dye greeting cards for Christmas.   

But back to the unbridled joy of men pissing in the great outdoors.  Unlike women, who seem to like to urinate in packs, men – at least when indoors – tend to treat it as a solitary exercise.  For example, when standing at a urinal when there is another man standing beside them, they cover themselves and look straight ahead.  Setting aside accepted etiquette, it is a territorial thing. A man urinating is a vulnerable man.

However, get a man outdoors, and man reverts to a more primitive state.  Whereas in a restaurant, two or three men sitting at the same table would never even think about going to the toilet at the same time – which is what women seem to do.  However, get them outside and at the edge of the car park, and they will have a grand old group piss-out.  And (excepting in certain cultures where it is taboo for a man to look at another man’s private parts) it is pretty much universal.  In fact, pissing in the great outdoors seemed to be one of the few activities during which even sworn enemies can call a truce.

In every single country in which I have lived (except for those dominated by Islam) I have seen men – young and old and in between – celebrating this one particular moment together.  No matter whether it’s on the side of a road or on a mountain top or on the edge of a cliff, the scenery is always better if it’s enjoyed while in the company of fellow pissers.

It goes without saying that pissing out of doors can be a risky business.  First of all, right at the point of no-return, when there is no chance of turning it off, the wind is bound to change.  And if you are in a group – all standing in a line in the usual way for you never piss in a circle, all facing inwards – and the wind resorts to the sort cheap whiplash joke it saves for such occasions, you’ll find that all men who have always pissed like men in the great outdoors, can all turn together, as if by some secret signal.  So clever are they that it’s only when the wind double-crosses them that they end up pissing on their neighbour’s breeks.

I know quite a few men who – given the choice – will always piss outdoors.  Even when they are at their own house. Perhaps it’s a throwback to bygone days when we used to mark our territory.  Who knows?  It makes sense to me.

Several years ago, I found myself staying at a small, disused hill farm in the mountains. Close to the shack in which I lived there was a family of foxes.  At the time, I was reading a book by Farley Mowat – Never Cry Wolf – in which the protagonist (I believe based on Mowat himself), decided to see how well the wolves would respect the territory he himself would establish by using his own urine trail.  And so, I decided, why not try it myself.  And so I did.  With the same results.  After encircling my little home with a trail of piss, I went inside and waited and watched.  Sure enough, the next morning, I found that the male fox had marked his territory just outside mine. I was ecstatic!  And I felt that, for once in my life, I had actually done something that mattered, and which was in tune with what nature had intended.

But back to pissing outdoors in more mundane surroundings.  It goes without saying, the minute you get caught out when you are walking alone along a completely deserted road – without a vehicle in sight – the second you open your flies and start to spray the countryside, there will be, not only one car coming from one direction, but ten cars coming from both directions.  And they will all pass each other right at the point at which you’re standing.  It never fails.  Of course, you could always turn around and salute the passengers, but I really would not recommend it.  Because at least four of the cars are bound to have little children riding in the back, the parents of which will inevitably be city dwellers that will look upon any man with open flies as a sex offender – no matter that he happens to be innocently pissing at the time his flies were open.  In this day and age, it is better to play it safe than to see your name placed on the sex-offenders list for pissing in front of a child.

Ah… but pissing into the wind and in the middle of a gale: that is when a clown like me feels most alive. And when I also happen to be standing on a cliff facing out to a north Atlantic sea, I am as close to heaven as I am ever likely to be.  And what about splashing?  What about splashing?  I am standing in a bloody gale, aren’t I!  Or as they say, “Innit!”

May 17, 2010

Nobody Understands Us Crabby People!

Never, never look at us and cross your eyes.

“Nobody Understands Us Crabby People!” This glorious lament was wailed by none other than that indefatigable warrior heroine of the mid- to late- twentieth century, Charles M. Schulz’ redoubtable creation, ‘Lucy Van Pelt’, in his ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. To her war-cry and her memory, let me respond with a rousing, “Hear! Hear!” 

In certain respects ‘Lucy’ was very much like an American version of Sophie, the evil floor-scrubber and incubus in my family’s life during my childhood and adolescence.  The two of them certainly looked alike; they obviously had the same foghorn voices (which the ‘Peanuts’ films never endeavoured to captured), identical scowls, and identical figures.  In other words, both were round and had little definition to their bodies.  Now, of course, ‘Lucy’ was a little girl – albeit a little girl who lived in suspended animation whilst her little brothers eventually caught up with her.  Sophie, on the other hand, was permanently aged somewhere between thirty and forty; by the time I went away to school, she was closer to fifty.  But I’m sure, had ‘Lucy’ not been a little American girl with a poufy little American dress (eventually replaced by trousers), she might very well have found herself – upon entering adulthood – in one of Sophie’s shirt-waist dresses.  For Lucy was nothing if not a practical person; and Sophie was a practical, no-nonsense woman.  Both of them were fond of doling out advice – ‘Lucy’ from behind her ‘The Doctor Is In’ sign, and Sophie whenever her mouth was open (never mind if there was no one present to benefit from her wisdom).  In fact, I think the only time Sophie was not telling others what she thought, was when her mouth was engaged in chewing one of the ever-present bacon sandwiches that she carried in the pocket of her overall.

Sophie’s customary mode of dress was one of several identical grey shirtwaist frocks with horizontal brown stripes. I am only assuming that she had several (for one of her aunts was a seamstress who hired herself out as the region’s ‘daily dressmaker’ [truly a blast from the past]).  However, it is equally possible that it was actually the same (much-laundered) frock; at least it always bore the same identical tears and repairs.  And underneath, on her sturdy but surprisingly shapely legs, were the indestructible grey Balbriggan stockings (which she changed to a lighter shade when walking out with Bert from down at the local garage, and to black when she accompanied Miss Frame to church on Sundays).  It was also her custom to cloak herself in a pinkish-grey overall – of the type favoured by proprietresses of dainty seaside tea shoppes, and which were endowed with voluminous pockets – all the better for carrying around Sophie’s myriad snacks.   And at those times when she was a raving lunatic due to ‘the bleedin’ curse’, she would, of course, replace her regular hairnet with the infamous French maid’s cap.    But that is neither here nor there.  It was Sophie; she wore what she had always worn, what her mother had worn before her, and what she was comfortable in; it suited her down to the ground.  You see, Sophie was what you might call a ‘big girl’.  She was five foot ten in her stocking feet, and built like a Mack truck. And it is worth noting that none of her personal acreage ran to fat. In other words, she was fully packed and as solid as a rock. And since she had no bosom to speak of, as well as no hips, I would guess that her measurements (not that she would ever let anyone get near enough to take them) were at least a sturdy 45” – 45” – 45”.  She was incredibly strong.   

Sophie had always been a workhorse, and that was the role that best suited her.  But she was also the world’s most fabulously crabby of all of the world’s most naturally gifted crabby people.  And very, very cheerful about it.  And that is why she and ‘Lucy Van Pelt’ are more or less interchangeable in my memory’s picture album.  For you see, neither of these monuments to crabbiness had to fall back on any outside stimuli – or PMS – to come to their rescue and re-crabbify them.  They simply were glorious, natural-born, crabby bitches of the first water.  And to quote Sophie (upon entering my father’s study when he was bending over his desk and writing some research proposal or other), “Why are you always in my way when I’m after cleaning your piggery?  Haven’t you got anything better tae do?”

Now, as everyone knows, there are two kinds of crabby people.  The first kind – and the kind that is particularly tedious, is imbued with the male kind of crabbiness.  And any man cursed with this affliction is usually referred to as “that bloody old bore,” or “why can’t he give it rest?” 

Now the problem with this male gender crabbiness (otherwise known as MGC) is that it is invariably directed outwards towards external circumstances – which, when it comes down to it, have very little, if anything, to do with the old crab himself.  This means, of course, that in male gender crabbiness, politics is always a popular subject.  Especially when it involves that evil devil ‘progress’.  For crabby men tend to be conservative men, and if they could bring back the old days (inevitably back in the mists of time before recorded history) they would.  Flogging is almost always mentioned – as a very popular solution to many of society’s ills (irrespective of the fact that it had been done away with in their own father’s time). But fortunately for the average MGC, who is often behind the times, there is always a steady stream of costume dramas to yank his favourite solutions back into the present).  

Although most of those afflicted with male gender crabbiness tend to lean towards the right (possible as a result of their right testicle being heavier and more substantial than the more lightweight and suspiciously airy-fairy left one), there are also those congenital crabs blessed with a righteous leftish seething towards anyone who did not grow up in a halting site underneath a by-pass on the M1 – irrespective of the fact that they themselves grew up on the Isle of Wight and their mother was the president of the Women’s Institute.  In fact, speaking of this strange hybrid, who often devolves into the righteously leftist-though-sometimes-rightist seething variety of crabby person, I often feel that most of the ol’ crabster Rupert Murdoch’s reporters and columnists are gleaned from his own private crabby boot-camp, a hothouse founded to make already crabby people even crabbier, before he hires them.  Now, those who are fortunate enough to have graduated from the Murdoch private crabby boot-camp (whose one necessary qualification seems to be that they suffer from a severe case of penis envy), can be assured of a handsome salary providing they devote their entire career to whinging about any school or university that actually produces success stories – Eton being one of their favourite whipping-boys, Oxbridge being the another example.  What these Über-Crabby-Murdockians seem to have learned in the boot-camp is a certain sense of obligation, whereby they are obliged to drag those very twenty-first century institutions back into the dark old swamps of ‘Tom Brown’s School-Days’.  And they even manage to do it when they are dealing with such a seemingly innocuous (though possibly intolerable) subject as Nigella Lawson’s new cookery program.  

Anyway,  if you want to see what a successful male gender crabby person who has no reason to be crabby looks like, please Google ‘Rupert Murdoch’, and then look at every single back- issue of the Times published  since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister (after The Poodle finally resigned).  Let’s us just call it food for the truly crabby person’s cantankerous soul.

And then, of course, we must give a disgruntled round of cranky applause to every successful male crabby person’s role model:  The Truly Magnificently Crabby Dick Cheney.  Now he is what we might call a true crabby heavy-weight among the upper echelons of the recently unemployed crabby personalities.  And even if the mere sight of him makes you want to bomb the entire length of Chelsea’s Cheney Walk, you really must salute him.  For remember this, this crabby little street built too close to that crabby and unpredictable river, The Crabbe (the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘The Thames) was obviously named in Dick Cheney’s crabby honour long before his own hyper-crabby sub-species was even invented.  It was what they call a christening in anticipation of the blessed event. For even way back then, in commemoration of the eventual inclusion of the sport of water-boarding in the Olympics, the truly crabby Neo-Crabbyites were looking for a way immortalise one of the greatest crabby people of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Truly, Mr. Cheney’s level of crabbiness should be an inspiration to all of those who aspire to join the crank-filled ranks of the truly crabby.  For he could actually look at you and cause the skin to peel off your face.  And that, my friends, is what crabbiness is all about!

Now, having dealt with la crème de la crème of  contemporary male gender crabbiness, I am not going to get into those by-gone titans of male gender crabbiness to whom all crabby men must owe a debt of gratitude – such demi-gods of rampage such as Hitler and Stalin and Saddam Hussein and Ceausescu and Pinochet and Robespierre – for I don’t want to get you all hot and bothered before you have even read the morning paper; in other words, before you discover that your that your team has just been demoted to the Coca-Cola Division and that David Cameron – who already had had to be smuggled ignominiously into the Scottish parliament through the basement car park (during his first visit as Prime Minister) for daring to overthrow the Scottish government with his one single Tory MP – has decided to collectivised the whole of British farming and has already published his first White Paper. It is, of course, guaranteed to outrage even the uncrabbiest of crabby people, for in it this newly ordained dictator for life (and despot of Albion) has outlined the details of his first Five Year Plan.  Why, even the normally placidly uncrabby Lib Dems are seething with crabbiness and shouting “Off with his head!” And all this in his very first week in office!  How proud he must be!

So, in summing up the whole matter of male gender crabbiness, in order to raise the hackles of the crabbiness hoards, we simply shout the following two sets of three words each in the direction on a crabby person’s ears:  ‘lefty, commie, pinko’ – which is a perfect slogan, because it can be applied to anyone out of favour with the male gender crabby lobby, followed by ‘bring back hanging.’  And then, if you’re are a prematurely crabby young and  up and coming male gender crabby person, especially one who wants to see all old people banned from driving and the motorways reserved for drivers of super cars, there is always the slogan, ‘Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister’.  And, I must say, that campaign might actually even attract me, especially if he bans Donald Trump’s comb-over from all of Scotland’s shifting dunes.  And buys me a Morgan roadster.  Because at least he would give us five gloriously disgruntled years of crabby wit and laughter – something that David Cameron has already banned in No. 10.

So we have all agreed that most male gender crabbiness is about externals, and especially those externals that have little bearing with his life. So let us segue to Female Gender Crabbiness (FGC for short).  As Bette Davis’ character once said in ‘All About Eve’, “Fasten your seat belts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

However, before we proceed to the second major type of crabbiness, i.e. the female crabbiness syndrome, let me assure you that I shall not neglect the weighty and crab-making issues of adolescent crabbiness or of the equally insufferable midlife crisis crabbiness.  For they are both equal among the elite of the crabbiest of crabby crankcases, and to wallow in their abysmal slime at this time of the day, when many of you have not yet drunk your coffee or taken your Paxil – would only inspire you to enrol in that Jar-Head Para-Military Assassins’ Boot-Camp in order that you might join your first born – now re-christened ‘Plank’ – in his plans to overthrow that bunch of left-wing commie pinko unamurkins who have seized control of God’s Own good Amurkin gummit. So, relax.  You do not have to worry about that, or even about killing your neighbours for looking at you cross-eyed. At least not today.

So now, to the female woman’s crabbiness syndrome.

It goes without saying that every man of woman born blames everything that ever happened on his mother’s (and then his partner’s) menstrual cycle.  First of all, there is what he calls ‘that fucking smell’, regardless of the fact that the particular aroma he is talking about originated under his own armpit.  Secondly, there is the fact that, what with all her raving and ranting and carrying on, he is not being allowed to exercise the full breadth of his own male gender raving and ranting and carrying on without getting into trouble, and without her bursting into tears.  And then, of course, there is the matter of her locking the bedroom in his face, simply because he’s come home drunk from a night on the town with his mates while she has been sitting alone with her book and her cramps.  And all he said to her when he got home from his drunken reverie at Strip-o-Rama was that he needed a ‘bloody good shag’.  Even some of the ‘rough’.  Because, after all, the usual channel is none too clean, if you know what I mean.

Now, the reason it looks like I am not giving equal space to the matter of female crabbiness, does not mean I am belittling it.  On the contrary.  Whereas most male gender crabbiness is caused by an inexhaustible number of external forces which he in not able to control – such as the fucking ash cloud that has grounded his flight; the rugby team that never seems to win – even thought he has forked out his own hard-earned money for season tickets; that fucking Scottish plonker Andy Murray who has crashed out of yet another tournament, even though he is earning God-only-knows how many millions a year and, in any case – in the crab’s humble opinion –  the fucking BBC shouldn’t even be showing tennis.  For, after all, Tennis is only for rich people and wankers and is not even a real sport, such as hurling (and which the BBC has never even heard of). And then there’s fucking Kauto Star – who, in spite of this crabby punter having placed a bet the size of his annual salary on him winning the Gold Cup (a dead cert which would have paid for that special holiday in Dubai with his mates) – couldn’t even come in last.  And then, it goes without say, there’s Snooker.  In the crabby person’s opinion, it had always been broadcast in gold old black and white.  And now they have fucking well changed it to colour.  And the players are now wearing fucking makeup and hair gel.  And all of this just to spite him.

Yes, granted that some women are sport’s fanatics.  And granted that they can easily out-rant even the rantiest man. And yes, some of them are even bad drivers, and not very nice people.  However, a lot of their innate crabbiness (the crabbiness that isn’t caused by their crabby husbands and a surfeit of donuts), does stem from internal sources.  Every woman in the world knows what these are. And no man does. To him a woman’s hormones are even more of a mystery than her anatomy.  And as a man, I can say that I don’t really want to know… unless a particular woman wants to tell me (and even then I might stopper my ears).  Otherwise, as a man, it is my job to be sensitive to her needs, especially at that certain time of the month.   And if she wants me out of the way, I should to keep out of her way; and if she wants me around for support, then it’s up to me to forego one or two evenings with my mates down at the pub. And that, my friends, is why I am not saying much more about the mysterious world of the female crabbiness syndrome.  Except to say, if Dick Cheney had been a woman, probably all of us would have been bombed.

A quick final note about Sophie. Now her periods – which never seemed to end – and her PMS – which dragged her backwards through the brambles every month from the onset of puberty at the age of ten – eventually got so bad that she finally asked my mother for help.  For my mother had always had a very bad time of it, and she herself had had her first period at a very young age.  However, my mother was also a very well-educated woman and she had sought help.  Sophie, on the other hand, could barely read anything more sophisticated than the movie fan magazines she loved.  But she was terrified that, “one of these days it’s going to carry me away!”

Now Sophie was just my mother’s age.  At the time Sophie finally asked her to help, both women were in their latest forties or early fifties.  My mother’s physician had just recently prescribed a certain course of treatment for her, and it had turned her life around.

And so, she quietly told Sophie to put on her coat, and she took her to the doctor.  It took some convincing, after all, as Sophie herself said, all the women in her family “had had the devil’s own time, but they’d gritted their teeth and carried on.”

Fortunately, Sophie chose to follow my mother’s example and not that of her mother, and the result was nothing short of a miracle. In fact, it was so much of a miracle that the Sophie we had always known, was not ‘our Sophie’ anymore.  Yes, she continued to work in my grandmother’s house for a time, but gone was the French Lady’s maid’s cap, and gone was that single shirt-waist dress that had served her for so long.  And gone was her crabbiness.  Yes, she was still outspoken; she was still high-spirited; yes, she did have a temper, because after all, Sophie (and not Bonnie Langford) was still living in that sausage body.

Now, I don’t know what became of her; I don’t know whether she had a happy ending. Because by that time I was away at school and had other things on my mind. Still and all, I think it’s rather grand that she finally got some her crabbiness taken away.  And I’d like to think she had had a few years left to enjoy her freedom.             

Now, where was Mrs. Bichan in all this?  Very much out of the loop.  You have to understand that – although we are talking about the twentieth century, Mrs. Bichan and Sophie lived in a different era.   Both had been born to parents that worked for my grandmother’s family; they were deeply feudal.  Now, even though our arrangement was hardly orthodox, as far as Mrs. Bichan and Sophie were concerned everything had to be done  according to the dictates of tradition.  In other words, under normal circumstances, if Sophie had a medical problem, she would never go straight to my mother.  She would go to the person in charge of her life.  In this case, Mrs. Bichan.

But here’s the rub.  Mrs. Bichan disliked Sophie and thought she was an idiot.  And in turn, Sophie considered Mrs. Bichan to be beneath her.  Then there was the fact that Mrs. Bichan had never had a period in her life; in fact, she had had a hysterectomy at age thirteen, when she had been diagnosed with a tumour.  Consequently, she was as clueless as she was intolerant when it came to ‘female troubles’. As far as she was concerned, such things were ‘dirty’ and one never talked about dirty things.  And it seemed that for at least fifteen years Sophie had been begging her for advice, and all the ‘so-called housekeeper’ would say is, “If you spent more time on your knees praying’ and scrubbing the floors, and less time eatin’ bacon sandwiches and thinkin’ of your pain, perhaps the good Lord would help you.”

It took a good many years before Sophie awoke to the fact that, no matter how many floors she scrubbed and how many bacon sandwiches she didn’t eat in front of Mrs. Bichan, things were only getting worse.  That was when she went to my mother; my mother then put her in the car and took her to the doctor, who was, by the way, a good Presbyterian – just like Sophie.  It goes without saying that, upon being treated by this good Presbyterian doctor, Sophie was miraculously cured.  And that is when the penny dropped.  The reason for her troubles all those many years was not so much the sneaking of bacon sandwiches, but that she had been following the advice of The Scarlet Whore of Babylon.

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