Johnnersintheraw's Blog

June 5, 2010


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


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?”


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


“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.


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.



“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.


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

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

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




June 2, 2010


The Age between Then and Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 30, 2010


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


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.


May 25, 2010


Wanking and the Minger’s ‘Sin’ List

I don’t know about ‘me’.  I’ve been around for an awfully long time; I’ve lived in virtually every part of the globe.  I have seen a lot, and have avoided seeing even more – especially when it came to things that I wouldn’t have wanted to see in the first place.  Just call me lucky.  And, yes, I have also done a lot of things – perhaps not very well and perhaps I never tried hard enough.  But I cannot complain, and if I could, what would I complain about?   What would I have to complain about?  I only have myself to blame.  For you see, I have managed to pack an incredible amount into a life in which I have done absolutely nothing.  I kid you not!

The first time I shot a gun; I simply aimed at the target and pulled the trigger.  Bulls-eye! But then, the second time, instead of merely aiming and shooting, I started to think about the mechanics of what I was doing.  Should I aim higher?  Should I aim lower?  How many yards away was the target?  And, of course, I seldom ever hit the target after that – at least not until I’d put in a great many hours of practice. But even then, I the bulls-eye always managed to be in another place from where I’d fired the bullet.

So, too, with my sex life.  Whereas I knew from a very early age that life was a banquet and that every single platter was literally dripping with the choicest morsels, I simply forgot why my first experience had been so simple.  Because I had simply done it.  But do you want to know what I did immediately after I had done it and had enjoyed it and had found that it was very simply indeed?  I forgot how easy it was and started to think about how difficult it was.  Consequently, I missed out on a whole lot of fun when I needn’t have missed out on it.  After all, I lived in the ‘West’.  I had not been indoctrinated by any punitive ideology to speak of.  Yes, I was brought up with a sense of responsibility, but that is how it should be.  Or at least how it ought to be.  As far as I remember there was never any talk of sin.  It was always, “think about the consequences.”   So what went wrong?  Instead of remembering what made me tick (like even the average intelligent mosquito would have done), the only incident I remembered – and which I remember to this very day – was the time my father snapped at me when I was fondling myself.  Now, I don’t think he called it ‘dirty’ as so many parents so, but whatever he did say became the all encompassing cloud which overshadowed my entire childhood.  And from that very moment, I started to cultivate my own ideology – one which was every bit as narrow and punitive as any to be found in any organised religion.  And do you something?  I have never forgiven my father.  And this, of course, means that I have never forgiven myself for granting him so much power in the first place.

When I first started to become sexually active, I instantly cultivated something we never had a home.  A sense of sin.  And why should I have cultivated this?  It wasn’t as if I ever went to church – except occasionally at evensong, for the music.  And it wasn’t as though I knew anybody who actually went to church, or who even went in for that sort of thing.  I don’t think I really even knew what ‘sin’ was.  Perhaps I thought I was missing out on something I didn’t have?  And so I wanted it.  So I immediately set about punishing myself; in other words, I decided to repress myself.  

Like all healthy young men on the cusp of manhood, I was a mass of jangling, postulating hormones. I didn’t need a reason to get erections. They simply happened, and if I didn’t take care of them, they took care of themselves. Riding a horse?  Yes, I think we might say that many a pair of breeches were smuggled in to the washing machine and laundered without the benefit of my mother’s help.  Mucking out stalls?  Yes.  You might say that many a pile of manure got improved by my tiny contributions.  And, for God’s sake, if ever I happened to be grooming one of our stallions and he became aroused, I went through agonies.  Which reminds me that when our stallions were put out to stud, they normally stood at out trainer’s breeding facilities.  Now, I was no stranger to the mating of horses or dogs or pigs or even camels or elephants, and so I took their acrobatics for granted.  Which means that, then as now, my voyeurism was focussed on single individuals (fortunately of the human-kind) –   and when it came to two or more participants, I was not interested in it as a spectator sport. Either I was or am a party to it, or forget it.  

But to get back to our stallions and their lives as rent boys and sperm-donors:  I remember when mares were brought to our stallions and the owners would choose to be present to ‘witness’ the act.  And every so often these owners, if they were new at the game and hadn’t really seen it before, would develop a certain ‘glow’.  Now, I should make it clear that they would have been watching from behind a window in a ‘viewing room’ on the next floor.  Very often, the ‘glow’ that some of these inexperienced new owners were feeling, would grow into a shining beacon. Now there was a large sofa in this room. And more than once, these owners very quickly forgot to observe what they had come to observe.  As our trainer once remarked to me (for I would usually be the one to tell him, and also to describe in grossly unnecessary and vivid detail what the owners had done), “we could’a bred her to the bull, and saved your lad for a more appreciative audience.” For ‘our lad’ wasn’t getting any younger, and couldn’t always get it up when we wanted him to.  And, as for the bull, the trainer had a small dairy herd, and kept a Limousin to keep the cows ‘interested’; he, unlike our stallion, was ready to go anytime, anyplace, and with anything.  And he even drooled.

Sadly for me, when one of our animals was either mounting or being mounted, those were about the only times nothing happened in my nether regions.  In fact, they were, perhaps, the only times – other than when I was doing my naturism thing around the house or at the beach – when I didn’t think about sex.

I remember one time we were cleaning out the septic tank, and our ‘hand’ (one was all we ever had – not counting my father) snuck up behind me and pushed me in.  All very funny.  Everyone laughed.  And then I stripped off my clothing and stormed off to the grooming stall, where there was a shower. On the way to the shower, I got so unaccountable horny – I mean rampantly horny – that I blew my wad before I had walked thirty feet. It was probably the most powerful ejaculation I had ever experienced, and it just kept going on and on and on.  And, because I was covered with shite from head to toe, it wasn’t as though I was touching anything. But never mind.  However I should mention that I had – not one – but two wet-dreams the following night.  So if you are having ‘trouble’, just think about your septic tank.

If only most of my sexual experiences with other people had been as good.       

There was a reason why it was not – and this is really pathetic – because from the moment I proudly grew my first really grownup-looking pubic hair, my newly cultivated sense of ‘sin’ already had a stranglehold on me.  But only when it came to certain things that I decided to classify as ‘sins’.  Namely masturbating on school-nights. And before riding in a point-to-point or race (but not before dressage, before which the more wanking I did, the better). And being caught by my parents.  Especially by my father, for by that time he was deeply worried about me, and by the fact that I didn’t seem to be cultivating any girlfriends.  Never mind that I was going to boarding school, because – to his knowledge – boarding school didn’t seem to prevent any of my friends from rogering each and every girl they encountered.  I simply didn’t seem to care. In any case, why did I want to fuck a girl in a ditch by the road?  Was that supposed to be appealing or something?  But of course, unbeknownst to my father, I had ‘Dickie’ to keep me busy.  And who had time for a girlfriend when I had ‘Dickie’ ready and willing and by my side (and besides, he never asked me to make promises).  And let me tell you this: come hell or high water, ‘Dickie’ never made in on to my  ‘sin’ list.

Now, I haven’t mentioned ‘Dickie’ before.  Dickie was not part of my crowd; he didn’t ride; he wasn’t interesting in racing.  In fact, he was only interested in going into the army, and after the army, in taking over his father’s farm.  I had known him for quite a long time, and we were always good mates. We were also the same age.  Then one day, without any particular preamble, or without even talking about it, we simply started masturbating each other whenever we happened to get together.  When we first started this routine, he had not quite entered puberty, and so when he reached his climax, it almost invariably resulted in urination.  But it didn’t bother either of us – because we both knew that given time, the ‘right stuff’ would – as they say – come out.  Now I want to be clear about this.  There was no love between us.  No crush.  At no time did we want to have sex together. We just liked wanking.  And since we both liked wanking a lot, we did a lot of it. And it wasn’t as though we were even turned on by each other’s penises.  To tell you the truth, I don’t think we ever took any interested in looking each other’s anatomical enhancements.  It was all about the wank.  Every time we saw each other, it was straight out to the barn.  And out they would come. And we would finish up (it was always fast and to the point), and then go our separate ways – ‘Dickie’ back to his father’s cows, and me back to the horses.  And I don’t think either of us gave each other a second thought when we were not together.  I seem to recall he was very good-looking and had everything in the right place, but I certainly never fanaticised about him.  Not like I did about Sheila (but never mind about her – I am saving her for another chapter).

I well remember when our wanking days were over, and it coincided with ‘Dickie’s blossoming into full-fledged puberty. I had been away at school for two terms, after which I had been absent from home for an additional eight months following the death of my brother (the one that had been – when he was alive – ‘the other one’).  His death was a tragedy that seemed to provide as good an excuse as any to scrounge cabins on a distant cousin’s tramp-steamer bound for Hong Kong (a voyage which spawned a second voyage – this one for the return journey – on a second and even more decrepit vessel than the first one).  On neither journey did I find so much as a single wanking-mate.  But, then again, neither of the tubs carried more than six or eight passengers (including the three of us), and all the other passengers seemed to be either antediluvian tea-planters or members of the diplomatic corps on leave.  It was a lonely time.  And I seem to remember filling the empty hours doing lessons (so ‘thoughtfully’ provided by the school, and which I mailed back to the headmaster from various ports of call), as well as playing endless games of cribbage with the chief steward, playing endless games of bridge and mah-jong with our fellow passengers, and in marching round the boat deck with a woman who was employed by one of the Intelligence services, and who had figured out exactly just how many circuits equalled five miles.

Anyway, we finally got back home, and before I had even gone out to the yard to say ‘hello’ to the horses I received a call from ‘Dickie’.  “Meet me at the usual spot in ten minutes!” And so I did.  The ‘Dickie’ whom I had known before was not the ‘Dickie’ who greeted me out back of the barn. Yes, he had the same face and the same goofy smile, and his accent was the same, but other than that, the boy had been supplanted by a man.  He was now close on six foot one (whereas I was  at the time five foot five and determined not to grow another inch); his face, though still lean and boyish – for after all, he was still only sixteen – was leaner around the jaw-line, and on his chin was a fine beginning of a beard.

“I got somat to show you,” he said, and with that he stepped out of his trousers and presented an erection that was nothing like that I had ever seen on him before.  “What d’ya think?”  And I had to admit he had grown into a fine-looking hunk of man.

“And wot about you?” he said with a leer.  “Still the little same-o-same-o?”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “The little same-o-same-o’s the same as ever.”

And that was that.  ‘Dickie’ had grown up and could – as they say – get it up without any help from me.  He had a girlfriend from the next village; he never went into the army, but he did take over the farm.  And after a while – in the way of all things – he and his girlfriend got married, had a son and a daughter, and then a divorce.

And I’m glad it ended there, because it was just a phase, and phases are better outgrown.

No, ‘Dickie’ was never counted as a sin.  But somehow masturbating on school nights still remained a bugbear, and so did looking at porn.  And so did a long list of other things, some of which I have never outgrown.  And so did ‘yes’ when and if I was approached on the street or in a cafe or in a bar by a stranger.  And by a stranger, I mean a stranger of either sex.  Because, to tell the truth, both are the same under their respective skins, and make absolutely no difference to me. Besides, my willy is definitely an equal-opportunity player. But be that as it may, let a stranger come up to me, and he or she are bound to be met by my special ‘frozen’ stare.

I continue to feel annoyed with my poor father, even though he has been dead for over thirty years.  For I can still hear him telling me not to touch myself.  And I also can hear him asking me once when I was twenty-three or four, if I had ever had a girlfriend?  At the time, I was taking a shower and enjoying the pleasures of the warm water as it flowed down my skin, and he had walked in on me – apparently feeling I was going beyond the point of no-return.  He had always tried so hard to be a good father, but he tried so hard he always overstepped the mark.  And my problem was I was so bloody well brought up, it didn’t occur to me to tell him to “fuck off.”  I can’t remember what I said in return.  The word ‘yes’, however, was included, but otherwise it was very, and very distant.  And sometimes I wonder if that is one of the reasons I have never had children?  Would I have made the same mistakes as he?  It was one thing to go through it myself, but quite another to pass it along.  And you see, I have never entirely trusted myself.

In conclusion, what else was on my ‘sin’ list?  And for that matter, what did the ‘sin’ in ‘sin’ list actually mean?  I had made it up, after all; it wasn’t one of those things I had got out of a book, or which I had been threatened with from a pulpit.  If it had been forced upon me from either of those sources, I don’t think it would have been as bad.  However, when I had somehow ‘fixed’ on the word, I had given it a particularly evil connotation.  For you see, in the ‘Church of Me’, a ‘sin’ was something you did before all your luck ran out.  In other words, if I sinned on a school night, I would fail not only the next day’s tutorial but the entire term.  If I sinned the night before a race or a point-to-point, I was guaranteed to break half the bones in my body.  If I sinned before going out on a date, the date would inevitably have the clap or fancy someone else at the next table.  And then, of course, being the idiot that I am, I was compelled to enlarge upon my list of ‘sin’, until it encompassed almost everything, including ‘asking someone home for the night’,  ‘spending the night at someone else’s house’, ‘happiness’, ‘looking forward to anything (good or bad), ‘wanting to earn money’, and – last but not least – ‘actually doing anything that I was good at and doing it well’.  In other words, in my book of ‘sins’ I had all the bases covered.

That being said, the one activity that never made it on to the list was sex with another person.  And I rather imagine the reason I neglected to put it on the list was because I’d always thought of myself as a bit of a minger that nobody could possibly want.  However, I shall let you in on a secret:  in spite of my being a minger, and in spite of my being a hopeless tosser and absolute rubbish at anything and everything I had tried, the very fact that sex with another person never made it on to my  ‘sin’ list, meant that I have done it a great many times – more times, in fact, than most people I’ve known.  But, alas, not as many times as I could have, for although sex with others does not count as a sin, I have these pesky things called ‘hackles’, and the ‘hackles’ are accompanied by ‘alarm bells’.  And just when I find someone really raunchy and downright filthy – with whom sex might even be so good it would count as a ‘sin’ – my ‘hackles’ and my ‘alarm bells’ get all hoity-toity and schoolmarmish.  And they remind me that once I have had sex with another that is so good that it counts as a sin, I couldn’t ever have sex with another ‘another’ again. Or at least not without another seven years of bad luck.  Or something equally as bad.

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.

May 15, 2010

Mrs. Bichan’s Pelvic Floor

What it was, What it was for, and What was Traditional about it.

By now, you all will have heard about Mrs. Bichan, and if you are not familiar with her actual name, you will be aware of existence, either as a compatriot of a certain Miss Frame or as my grandmother’s ‘so-called housekeeper’.  Miss Frame (who as far as I know did not have a first name), was a severe and unsmiling spinster from somewhere in the Inner Hebrides, and she dedicated much of the latter part of her life to bludgeoning our rockery into obeying her will.  A great deal of time and effort was expended in diverting a small but enthusiastically independent-minded stream so that its course might spill down an impressive cascade and into a lovely hidden garden.  And it says a lot about her strength of character that she herself transported the majority of the boulders and trees and plants to the chosen site herself,  either in  an ancient Ford tractor or when that failed her, in an antediluvian barrow.  To my knowledge, Miss Frame had only two sets of clothes.  The first of which – it goes without saying – was comprised of an uncompromising black coat and skirt, stout black shoes worn with dark grey Balbriggan stockings, a dark grey linen blouse and a simple strand of pearls.  This was, of course, what she wore on Sundays, and which she continued to wear when, late in the afternoon, she paid her regular Sunday visit to Mrs. Bichan.  Her other set of clothing consisted of a greenish brown tweed skirt and coat, which she wore with ancient brogues, the inevitable Balbriggan stocks (in a shade of dark brown), a homespun blouse fastened at the throat by a silver-mounted stag-horn broach and a battered felt hat.  Her hair was cut short and was of an indeterminate greyish brown.  As far as I know, I never I saw her in any other outfit.  That being said, I must point out that women of her generation expected to go through life with one good suit for Sundays (and in which they would eventually be buried) and one for every day, as well as, perhaps a summer frock or two (although I don’t think Miss Frame was really the summer frock type).  Stockings were well-cared for and darned; ditto underwear.  They were not of the consumer generation, nor did they have access to cheap clothes churned out in sweatshops in Third World Countries.  Everything they wore spoke of quality, and they made everything last.  And when anything finally fell apart, they would bring in that convenient personage, ‘The Daily Dressmaker’, to salvage the wreckage and refashion it into something absolutely identical.

Now, I may point out that Mrs. Bichan did not attend the same church as Miss Frame.  In fact, Mrs. Bichan was a Fraser and, therefore, a Catholic.   A very devout Catholic.  On the other hand, every drop of Miss Frame’s blood had been squeezed through a staunch Presbyterian ringer. The difference in religion was, by mutual agreement, something they never discussed.  However, as a matter of principle – although their respective churches were but a hundred yards from each other and they both lived side by side in tidy semi-detached houses – they never accompanied each other to church on the Sabbath. And they never partook of Sunday dinner together either.  This meant, that they both ate identical roast dinners prepared by their own hands in their respective kitchens; for when it came to Sunday, Miss Frame resolutely refused to break bread with what she considered the Whore of Babylon, and Mrs. Bichan preferred to share a glass of wine with a statue of the Virgin Mary and half of dozen of her favourite saints, including St. Magnus and King James VI of Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots and William Wallace.

Neither lady officially worked on the Sabbath.  That being said, come Sunday teatime and both of them – along with the ever-present Sophie – were to be found in our kitchen, sitting round the large table and eating a robust tea. Now this was what they had done long before my parents had moved into the house; it was a tradition.  It was also their way of saying, “we are not toiling on the Sabbath, but we are here.  And should we happen to walk upstairs at dinnertime and have a tray of cold food in our hands, we shall leave it on the sideboard.”  Of course, they never did – nor were they asked to do it. That wasn’t part of their jobs. But, then again, it was tradition.

I should point out that be both my parents were extremely good cooks and that Mrs. Bichan was actually a very bad cook; not only that, but she never actually cooked for anybody except for herself, Miss Frame, Sophie (who was nothing if not a menace in the kitchen and who was a wiz at burning pots) and James, Mrs. Bichan’s much older brother.  Now as I remember it, James’ principal function was to sit in the garden, urge Miss Frame to be brave and work harder, comment unfavourably on the weather, and smoke his pipe.  He, like his sister, had been there for years, and I don’t think he had ever done anything else.  It was his life’s work.  Another tradition.

Now, James eventually overstayed his welcome and progressed from being a mere nuisance to being a health hazard.  It happened like this.  When I was of an age when my entire focus was on becoming a jump jockey, any available time I had when I was home from school was spent either in our small yard or on our gallops.  From the start I was always honest about my shortcomings, but one thing I had going for me – and perhaps it was the only thing – was that I was determined and I was extremely disciplined. However, for the most part I chose to ride out at the yard of a nearby trainer who happened to be in the employ of my father.  To be honest, he wasn’t really a very good trainer, and out horses weren’t very good horses (I’m not talking about our show-jumpers or show-horses who were).  But he was very much a gentleman of the old school and, what is more, he liked me. And so, he let me ride out every morning, rain or shine, and in return I willingly mucked out and groomed his charges; the old man also helped me learn the basics and let me know in no uncertain terms how privileged I was to be allowed to work with horses.

Whenever I was riding, whether it was on one of my show jumpers in the ménage or on one of our National Hunt no-hopers on the gallops, James liked to come and watch.  By which I mean he would transfer his bottom from the old bench on which he perched to hector Miss Frame, to another old bench facing the ménage.  Or, conversely, when I was out on the gallops, he would lean against a tree and tap his pipe against his shoe and ask me what time I was going to quit and eat lunch.

James’s most serious problem was his pipe.  The first time it came a cropper was when one day, just as I was approaching a series of hurdles, he did his usual thing and tapped his pipe against his shoes. Only this time, the tobacco in the pipe was still burning.  Therefore, when he tapped it, the burning tobacco jumped out and burnt the back of his hand.   Whereupon he flung away the pipe, started waving his hands around, went into a jig and started wailing. In the meantime, the pipe had flown across the gallops and hit my horse on the nose. The horse in question was a gelding named Hannibal Ben who was a very steady and reliable (if rather not particularly fast) hurdler who had lost many a race and point-to-point in the course of his long and easygoing lifetime.  While he tended to be very blasé when it came to moving fast, he was also a joy to ride; he leapt like a deer and was a perfect school horse.  Be that as it may, when James’ pipe hit him on his nose, Ben reared up and took off in the opposite direction – with me clinging to his neck.  He not only cleared all the hurdles and fences in record time (thus proving that he was not so slow after all) but he eventually tried to jump a very high yew hedge.  After which I flew through the air in one direction and he continued running until he was exhausted.  My father, who had watched the whole thing, marched straight in to Mrs. Bichan, who was as usual sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea.  He warned her that if her brother ever went close to the horses again, he would be thrown off the property.  He also made it clear that as much as he liked James, James was only allowed to stay as a favour – because he realised that James needed looking after; but could he please leave his pipe at home?  My father obviously had no respect for tradition. 

Needless to say, the following week poor James – still carrying his pipe – wandered into the yard and accidentally set fire to a bale of hay.  One horse panicked and was injured as a result.  And James was seen no more; nor did Mrs. Bichan ever mention him again.  Now, one interesting discovery that was made as a result of this mess: it was that James was not her brother after all, but her husband. Mrs. Bichan, however, being extremely old-school, was terrified she would lose her place if we knew she was married.  It was a tradition.

It goes without saying that the revelation came from Miss Frame, herself.  For she had just had ‘words’ with Mrs. Bichan and was in a sulk.

But back to the saga of the two household fixtures (and fittings): Miss Frame and Mrs. Bichan. Miss Frame, it should be remembered, was (as they say) not like other women. She had ‘only one hole – like a chicken’, a fact that my father gleaned whilst eavesdropping in the kitchen one day, and immediately told everyone within hearing.  Now, since this deformity was never discussed in detail – at least not in front of me – I’ve never really grasped the finer points.  Instead, if ever I’ve thought of it at all, it has always been in reference to a fowl.   And to this very day, whenever that poor benighted – and utterly respectable lady – comes to mind, I immediately think of her as some sort of extremely ancient, scraggy hen, dressed in brownish green tweeds.

Shortly after my father stumbled upon the secret of Miss Frame’s never-before-mentioned nether regions, he happened to find himself in the kitchen again (probably again doing something inconspicuous such as making a sandwich or making a pot of coffee) when he once more heard the two woman whispering something in the corner.  Now, if there was anything that set his ears a’flutter, it was the lowered voices of Miss Frame and Mrs. Bichan.  And, once again, he hit the jackpot.  For this time, he heard the memorable phrase (issued with heavy breathing and great sibilance – always a sign that something important was in the offing), ‘pelvic floor’.  Needless to say, he knocked over the coffee pot and fled the room. And in so doing, he missed the rest of the conversation.  However, for the next few nights, ‘pelvic floor’ was the principal topic of conversation at the dinner table.  And it also launched a whole series of stories.  In other words, ‘The Pelvic Floors I Have Known.’

I have to admit that, in common of most members of my sex, a pelvic floor is very much a mystery.  I’m sure that if I should Google it, I would find a perfectly straightforward and boring definition, as well as a probable Wikipedia entry.  However, why ruin a good thing and take the fun out of life?

Let me explain something.  Mrs. Bichan was somewhat broad in the beam; .she had what used to be called ‘good childbearing hips’. In other words, there was plenty of room down ‘there’.  And since she was clearly never going to occupy that particular area with children (or even with a litter of kittens), I found that I could entertain myself for hours at a time simply by coming up with various and sundry practical usages for her pelvic floor, the space of which was obviously being wasted.  And since I know for a fact that Mrs. Bichan hated waste almost as much as she hated Presbyterians (Miss Frame being the only exception), I’m sure that if she were alive now, she would appreciate the time and effort I am putting in.

The most obvious use, it goes without saying, was as a dance floor.  Now, when I was a kid I knew all there was to know about dance floors for the simple reason that there was a ballroom in the house – an incredibly draughty space which was only ever used by my father when he took his morning jog in the nude. And I know he did it every morning – at least as long as we lived in the house – for I used to escort him on my tricycle.  Around and around and around he would go, his bits flapping up and down, and there I would be, peddling away like mad, trying as best I could to match his pace.  Then, of course, during the months when one of our border collies assumed I was just another variety of sheep and was in need of supervision, it would tag along beside me, biting my ankles and trying to herd me into obscure corners.

Be that as it may, having had a personal experience as regards ballrooms, I was perfectly able to translate what I knew into that magnificent space between Mrs. Bichan’s ‘hind legs’.

Now, having established that our so-called housekeeper was none other than a walking ballroom, I quickly set about arranging a few soirees, with musicians, lots of good food, and even a horse or two.  As for music, I decided that – although at the time I wasn’t sure what they were – it might be fun to have some drinking songs.  Miss Frame, of course, all dressed up as a mother hen, would be serving punch, and Mrs. Bichan herself would lead the dancing.  Although how she could dance in her own pelvic ballroom did give me a few minutes’ pause.  After which I thought: it’s my story; I can do anything I want. And if it hadn’t been for me, Mrs. Bichan might have gone to her grave without knowing she had a ballroom of her very own.

Of course, the ballroom scenario didn’t last very long, simply because it was so boring.  So for a time, I held show-jumping competitions in her pelvic floor, with my main competitors being (once again) Miss Frame – this time disguised as a Guinea Fowl who just happened to have won Best Miniature Horse at the Horse of the Year Show in Wembley. Again, Mrs. Bichan put in an appearance – this time as a judge, dressed – of course – in one of those dreadful purple velvet evening gowns they used to wear, and with a potted plant in her cleavage.  Of course, the trainer from next door was there, but only to cheer me on (something he never did in real life). It goes without saying I won all the time, so eventually it got as boring as the ballroom idea.

After the show-jumping came a women’s hockey team, with Miss Frame and Mrs. Bichan as the two opposing captains.  As I remember it, these fixtures were always extremely violent, and they would always end with the captains ganging up on me and smashing me to bits with their hockey sticks.

One thing I should mention:  Sophie was never allowed into to any of my Pelvis Floor Fantasies.  And it also seemed that, although they were always invited, my parents never actually showed.  But my brother – Ol’ Whatisname, always did.  This in spite of the fact that I never once invited him.  But there he would be, lurking behind a pillar, dressed in black bombazine and studying his particle physics.

In the end, I gave up thinking about possible uses for Mrs. Bichan’s pelvic floor, and simple rented it out as a bingo hall.  After all, I knew that Mrs. Bichan enjoyed her Wednesday night flutter at the Church Hall (an activity for which Miss Frame held her in contempt), but at the back of my mind was the realisation that Bingo Halls in fact made a lot of money.  That being the case, simply by renting Mrs. Bichan’s extra-wide abdominal cavity twice each day and with added pensioners’ specials on Monday and Thursday mornings, within a very short time I could afford to retire Hannibal Ben and buy something that might even take me to the winner’s enclosure at our local point-to-point.  And from there, my new mount and I could progress to Ayr, and from Ayr we could go to Perth, and from Perth we could go to Aintree, and from Aintree we could go to the Cheltenham … and it all would take place inside Mrs. Bichan’s Pelvic Floor.

Inevitably, as in the way of all things, the Presbyterians scuppered by plans by buying Mrs. Bichan’s Pelvic Floor and banning bingo.  Therefore, I had to be content to turning it into a student hostel, and installing Miss Frame and Mrs. Bichan as managers.  It was an occupation that suited both of them, for it allowed them free-reign when it came to uncovering the filthy habits of young people.  And well do I remember the day when they emerged triumphant from a young lad’s room, denouncing him as the Devil’s Own Seed.  For even though he had secured his backpack with seventeen padlocks, their sharp noses had sussed out his stash of ‘dirty pictures’!  Not only did they send him away from the hostel with a flea in his ear, but they wrote a severe letter of condemnation to his mother – a letter in which they also managed to cast doubt on her fitness as a mother and upon his supposed legitimacy. Upon casting him out into the cold, Miss Frame and Mrs. Bichan marched straight out into the garden.  They lit a very large bonfire, and – then and there – the ‘burnt his dirty pictures’.

Now, I bet you didn’t even suspect that Mrs. Bichan’s Pelvic Floor had a garden, did you?  That shows what you know.  For it was a tradition.

May 14, 2010

Shitting On The Doctor’s Shoes

The True Story Of My Birth

My life began, as so many lives have begun before mine and as so many lives shall begin after mine, in a hospital delivery room.  Now, typically me, I wasn’t really paying as much attention to my immediate surroundings as I should have done in order to suss things out properly. Because of that, if the physician in charge, who had taken an instant dislike to me, had sometime later in my childhood (when I could hold a pencil and had a less forthright and a more multisyllabic vocabulary) set an exam for me, I doubt whether I would have scored very high.  Mind you, I never did very well on any of my school exams, but that was without his help.  It was, rather, through practice and diligent study.  After all, with enough determination, imagination and ill-will towards men, one can actually learn to fail with such conviction that you can fool everyone. What I mean is, if you can convince enough of the right sort of people that you are a born-again idiot, they will then waste no time in convincing a great many others of the right sort of people that you’ve got the ability of a roll of used toilet paper, and before you know it, they will actually start leaving you alone and to your own devices.  The more hopeless you are, the more likely it is that they will not give you those pesky passing marks that will oblige you to carry on failing for an additional four or eight or twenty-seven years in some institute of higher learning, or alternatively, in a borstal (or perhaps, a combination  of both, for those two opposing types of institutions offer many of the same attractions, such great grub and lots of it, plenty to do to occupy your time, and it goes without saying, great-looking inmates). Having gleefully failed your miserable self and thrown you on to the academic rubbish heap, those in charge will actually discourage you from even mentioning your old school’s name on your Curriculum Vitae (I even know what that means, for I went to a good Catholic Borstal, where we conjugated Latin verbs whilst perfecting our mugging techniques).  And if you have even managed to score lower than anyone else in the history of the school – in other words at the very bottom of the ‘Imbecile Scale’ of ‘minus-one’ to ‘minus-five hundred fifty-seven point five’, the school governors will actually accord you the ultimate honour.  They shall deny having ever set eyes on you, and shall swear on a stack of Bibles that your name (“what did you say it was?”) has ever appeared on their records.  And if challenged by your long-suffering parents who, for some unfathomable reason continue to have a steadfast (though slightly diminished) faith in the unlikely possibility that your obscurely manic personality, coupled with a tendency to indulge in gracious though rabidly antisocial behaviour, might herald a promising future as an unemployable remittance man, the school governors will merely smile and say they are possibly confused.  Now, according to the Head Master (who should know), there had been a young gentleman with a similar surname, but he was obviously not who they were talking about.  In fact, this young gentleman probably wasn’t even related (if only because he knew how to spell his name correctly, whereas the other one – the one the school had not heard of – always tried out a different spelling each time he wrote a paper which he didn’t write, if only because he wasn’t attending the school when he didn’t write it).  At this point, my parents’ eyes would light up and they would say, “That just might be the one; he sounds familiar.” But, of course, by that time the Head Master was intent on concentrating solely on the other boy (you know, my brother, Ol’ Whatisname, the radish), and he would actually encourage my father to acknowledge that he only had the one son.  ‘The keeper’, as the Head Master referred to him, had distinguished himself in particle physics, as well as in good behaviour.  Could my parents be thinking of him?  “No,” my father would answer, “we can account for him; he’s the one who’s let us down dreadfully by having his doctoral thesis accepted before beginning his first year at university. A terrible disappointment, he’s been.  He’s brought shame on to the family.’’  And then he would sigh.

Having put the Head Master in his place for the crime of erasing me from history, my parents took refuge in one of those posh public houses that situate themselves opposite the front of schools such as the one that had written me off as being among the ‘never was borns’. My father, who was by that time in a more reflective frame of mind (helped no doubt, by the half-dozen water glasses of single malt he had downed) moaned and shook his head sadly and squeezed my mother’s hand, and said, “Well at least he’s as bent as a pink bendy straw.  There’s always the hope he’ll never breed.”  Whereupon my mother, who knew I blew whichever way the wind wafted, replied,   “Don’t get your hopes up, dear.  For all we know, there might even be a whole bunch of little ‘hims’ running around, even as we speak.”  That’s when my father had the idea of taking up shooting.  “Do you think we can persuade him to be one of the beaters,” he asked.

But let us return to the circumstance of my birth, and to the unspeakably condescending physician who attended my mother during her confinement. Looking back at it I still consider his attitude toward me to be distinctly ill-mannered, rude in the extreme, and quite inexcusable.  And no matter what he later claimed, his tantrum was certain not provoked by me.  After all, I had just arrived on the scene, having splapped out of my mother’s birth canal not one second before; furthermore, I was blinded by the lights, flash-frozen by the arctic winds blowing through the hospital, and I was deafened by his shouting in my ear.

You now are going to hear my side of the story.  It was in the dead of winter – a not ideal time in which to be born.  But then again, it was not of my own choosing, no matter what the physician said.  I mean, if I had had any say in the matter, I might have selected early autumn, for early autumn is always such a delightful time.  You know, what with grouse shooting giving way to point-to-point and with fox hunting just round the corner, and with  all the leaves painting themselves all shades of fashionable autumnal colours.  But could I force my way then?  No!  My mother resolutely refused to cooperate with me. She clamped her legs together, wrapped her knees with an iron chain, which in turn she fastened with one of those unpickable medieval puzzle-padlocks, and promptly sat down for the next four months. So, to reiterate, it was not my fault I was born in January.  I had tried my best and did what I could. 

The only thing for it was revenge. And, since by now I had an additional four months to plot my course of action, I came up with a cracker.

I staged a blizzard.  I’m sure, if you think hard enough, you will remember the one I’m talking about. It was the one that iced over the entire country for three and a half weeks and made the roads impassable. And this was why I wasn’t whelped at home as was my birthright, but was forced to withstand the indignity of being manhandled by an extremely cold and unsympathetic pair of hands that were more at home with the niceties of proctology than with the baser arts of obstetrics.

In other words, I was forced to be born in a hospital.  A hospital which is, I am sad to say, no longer there.  Something about a fire.  But no matter.

So anyway, the countryside was more or less locked in by the blizzard, and my father decided – because of the complications which accompanied the birth of my brother – (you know: the other one, Ol’ Whatisname – old toad in the hole) – they shouldn’t chance a home birth.  And so, when my mother’s iron chains were about to burst, he set about getting her to hospital.  And no, it wasn’t in a one-horse open sleigh; it wasn’t on a pair of snowshoes, and it wasn’t in my grandmother’s tiny little single-engine plane. It was in one of those strange vehicles called an ambulance.  They had thought about asking the postman – for in those days, the post actually did get through – but he demurred, saying that my mother was so vast what with all the water she had retained, that not only could she not fit through the door, but that she would break the springs.  And since my father held strict views when it came to throwing money away, and since the cost of an ambulance was less than that of a new van for the post office, an ambulance it was.

So anyway, there we were:  My mother on a special bed designed for the birth of Jumbo the elephant; there was I swimming about in inside her womb, happily thrashing my legs, kicking the walls of her uterus because I was outgrowing the space, and singing at the top of my lungs “Free at last, Free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m almost free at last!” And there was this niggardly physician, rolling his eyes and wondering what he had ever done in his past life to deserve this.

Now, lest you get the idea that my mother was normally the size of one of those behemoths that hovers over the pastry cooler in Asda deciding whether she should take it all with her or eat half of it in the checkout line, let me make it clear that – when not pregnant – she was a tiny little thing and that until the day of her death, she had the figure of a flapper.  And if you don’t know what a flapper is, think of Twiggy back when she was the first size zero model and was causing a sensation on the catwalk with the first miniskirts.  And if you don’t know what a Twiggy is (and no, it is not the next version of Twitter), think of a blade of grass with a head on top.  

Interestingly enough, although she beat Twiggy to the punch by a great many years, my mother wore her hair in the same Eton crop, though not because of Twiggy (because Twiggy was not yet called Twiggy and was still a schoolgirl), but because it was the easiest thing to manage with a pair of garden shears.  And on her it was always chic.

Anyway, came the big day.  There we were: my mother, a couple of nurses (this was in the days of full-employment), an anaesthesiologist, his assistant,  a couple or three nursing assistants,  the lady handing out chocolates,  and the physician, who would not have been there at all had his car not skidded into the river, where it was now locked away under twenty feet of ice.  And then, of course, there was me. But not my father.  For a start, even though my father had a medical degree and actually knew what was going on, he was still a father.  And fathers, being fathers, were complete zombies when it came to childbirth.  As far as everyone was concerned, since the fathers had already completed their part of the childbearing contract through the donation of their priceless spermatozoa, as well as through the agony wrought by the relentless pumping of their loins and by the gut-wrenching ejaculation of their precious swimmers into their wife’s vagina (followed by a debilitating nap), it was now considered their duty to pace back and forth in the waiting room, sweating profusely and smoking a dozen packets of cigarettes.  And feeling very thankful that the whole trend towards husbands assisting in the delivery of their son or daughter,  and possibly even pointing a video camera up the downspout while his beloved wife screamed and yelled and hurled curses at him, had not yet been invented.

In any case, my father was at home, looking after their other son (you know, the other one: Ol’ Whatisname – old numb-nuts).  It seems that both my grandmothers were somewhere else, possibly dispensing blankets and hot beef tea to the starving, frozen hoards taking refuge from the storm in the loft above our barn. Consequently, the only two extraneous people in the house were, Number One, Miss Frame, whose only interest was in my grandmother’s cascade and rockery, and who couldn’t even mention childbirth without lowering her voice and blushing, and, Number Two, Sophie, who was very good when it came to polishing the floors but who thought children were the work of the devil.  There was also a housekeeper or sorts, but as I recall she was ‘not to be asked’ to assume any responsibilities not previously agreed upon.

Sophie, by the way, was the one who, before entering a room, would bellow through the door in her foghorn voice – (especially during the summer months when my parents might decide to shed their clothing at the drop of a hat) –“Get your bleedin’ breeks on and clear out; I’ve got the cleaning tae do.”   And she would then give them exactly thirty seconds to comply.  Now I don’t know what other people’s experiences are with ‘the help’, but this is the reality.  The soon as you hire someone, you instantly become an interfering busybody (as well as a hopelessly incompetent know-nothing) who is always in the way and who is always deliberately making a mess right where they have just cleaned, which means that they will be forced to let their tea go cold while they re-clean the place they had just cleaned in the first place.  It’s called a never-ending cycle.  And, yes, they have all observed you on the toilet – or as they say, “We’ve seen better, dear”

Now, just so you get the picture, Sophie entered our lives by simply turning up one day; in a minute and a half she determined that my parents were as helpless as two kittens tied up in a bag, and that the house would fall down without her. In other words, she ‘took pity’ on them and proceeded to adopt them. And then in the fullness of time, she demanded to be paid for the privilege of tormenting them.  Within first day and a half (when she was “et up by the demon curse”), she decided that she would call herself a parlour maid.  Thereafter, whenever she was “et up” by PMS (which eventually became a more or less permanent condition), she    took to surmounting the greasy overall that she called her ‘uniform’ with an old-fashioned  French maid’s bonnet, which she had ‘borrowed’ from her church’s dressing-up box.  Now Sophie smoked like a chimney and swore like a navvy and was not all that fond of washing. She was also a stalwart lass and I pity the soul who came up against her in a dark alley.  Miss Frame, my father’s intrepid termagant in the rockery, was not amused by her antics, and neither was the so-called housekeeper – another frightening spinster who had previously taken my grandparents in under her fearsome Presbyterian wing.  However, my father thought Sophie was the bee’s knees and he was thrilled by her antics. After all, how many other families existing on a professor’s salary can claim to have a parlour maid (let alone a housekeeper and a gardener and a string of horses)?

That being said, my father was a farsighted man who loved his family. He was not about to venture out into a blizzard, leaving his first-born son (the one with the brain:  Ol’ Whatisname, old clam breath) in their care of this coven of witches.  After all, if he didn’t manage to get back for a week, there was always the possibility they would eat him.  So, he decided he would do the sensible thing and stay home (much to the chagrin of the coven, which always looked forward to the many opportunities offered by the absence of my parents.  After all, there were so many secrets they had as yet to uncover.  For example, there were these locked trunks in the box room in the attic, and the housekeeper had unearthed a  mysterious ring of keys…

Now, during all this time, while I have been filling you in on some of our household idiosyncrasies, my mother was still in labour.  And she was not a happy person.  And since she was not a happy person, and insisted on proving to everyone exactly how unhappy she was, no-one else was happy either. In fact, she was doing all she could to make their lives as miserable as possible.  So it was that the full complement of nurses – a good captive audience if ever there was one – plus the anaesthesiologist, his assistant,  a couple or three nursing assistants,  the lady handing out chocolates, all the custodians, the administrator, and, last but not least, the physician, (who, if you recall, would not have been there in the first place had his car not skidded into the river, where it was now locked away under twenty-feet of ice) -were all feeling distinctly sorry themselves.

Finally the moment came. The dam burst. And I arrived in a screeching, squalling gush.

Now you have to remember something.   Nowadays, all medical personnel are togged up in those lovely greeny aquamarine outfits, complete with matching disposable slipper affairs that go on over their shoes.  However, back then in the dark ages, before it had occurred to anybody that doctors and surgeons might be more comfortable and relaxed in aquamarine, they sort of wore white lab coats.  And if they were of an elevated status – in other words, if they were a male doctor or surgeon, they would wear a suit and tie (minus the coat) under their white lab coat.  Nurses, of course, wore starched uniforms and caps very much like those favoured by Sophie (because, don’t forget, nurses had originally been considered servants), except, of course, they were clean. They also had starched collars and cuffs, as well as immaculately whitened shoes.

Now, when it came to doctors and surgeons, they basically wore their street shoes.   After all, they had an image to uphold and were very much at the top of the ladder.

Now this physician, who was possessed of an extremely impatient nature, and who – even before meeting me loathed the sight of me – summarily grabbed me from my poor mother’s crotch and smacked me on the bottom.  Quite naturally, I showed by displeasure by pissing in his face and shitting all over his new handmade Italian leather shoes, and – as a bonus – by ruining the trousers of his Savile Row suit.  He claimed afterwards that I had laughed, and that – had my mother not been present – he might have accidentally tossed me out the window into the snow.

In any case, he stated categorically that he had never before encountered such a vile and ill-considered creature in all his born days, and he predicted then and there that nothing good would ever come of me.

The real reason I am bringing him into the rather sad story (besides my shitting on his shoes) was that he we later discovered that he was the brother-in-law of the Head Master who not only condemned me to a life of penury and loneliness, but who actually erased me from history.

Let this be a lesson.  No matter how you feel, and no matter what your mood is, and no matter how cold his hands are, think twice before you shit on your doctor’s new shoes.

May 13, 2010

More About NOISE: Bonkers Egypt

What is Noise, what causes Noise, and how to lay back and enjoy it!

Last time I wrote about noise and the Egyptians I was in a good mood and the whole thing was rather funny.  Well, it’s still funny, but this time I am not in a good mood.  As far as I am concerned, they can all fuck themselves. With a garden implement.  Or with one of those jagged rocks they are always throwing at each other.

At this moment in time (the afternoon of the twelfth of May, 2010) Agami is gearing up for the summer.  It is, after all, a summer resort; great globs of people will come pouring in from other parts of Egypt to enjoy the milder climate, the beautiful beaches, and the relatively relaxed atmosphere.  And Bitosh – the road in and out – will be transformed into the South Beach of Alexandria.  Without the poofters, of course… unless you count the little boys holding the big boys’ hands, but we won’t go there, will we?   Now last year, due to the monetary crisis, many if not most of the apartment buildings were half-empty, meaning that – although the entire district was still pulsating with enough noise such as would cause the Empire State Building to lose its windows, I was spared the comings and goings and trampings and yellings of other people in my own building.  And what a relief that was.  Because even though on most nights it was still like being trapped inside a jet engine at full-throttle, there was no-one above me or and no-one below to bang on their drums or to have a great fight or to play the Qur’An or to burn the garlic for their koshery during the occasional quiet moments.  

This summer is not going to be good.  First of all, the apartment owners from one end of Agami to the other have recovered the greedy glint that their eyes had lost in 2009.  That means not only are they rushing to build an extra two or three storeys atop each one of their buildings – an easy matter if you have a some concrete and a few bricks, two extra weeks and a large contingent of miracle-working Nubian construction workers working twenty-four hours a day (with no lights provided during the hours of darkness – but, then again, Nubians are miracle workers, and they don’t even stop for lunch).  And it also helps if you don’t care if the building crumbles at the end of September.  You can always rebuild it next spring.  It’s the Egyptian Way.

What has happened – and unfortunately for me, it has happened with a vengeance in my building – is that all the apartments that were empty last year have been taken for this  coming summer (which is very unfair on me, because let’s just say, I liked being spoiled).  This means one thing: NOISE!   To the left of me, the new owners are busily sawing through concrete walls and tearing up the floor.  To the right and below of me, they have been pounding on walls and the ceiling for the last week and a half, probably trying to knock the building down so they can put up another one – with smaller apartments and much higher rents – before the beginning of June.  Now, at a certain time every evening – just after the arrival of the mosquitoes and, coincidentally, after the night prayer – the families who will be soon moving in to their new apartments congregate in their living rooms; they cook dinner, and discuss everything that is going on in their lives. At full volume.  And then, of course, the television is blaring and the inevitable teenager is practicing his talking drum (which he will be later playing at a wedding).  And since no one here ever bothers to close their front doors, and since they bellow at the top of their lungs – and since the grinding and pounding continues regardless – and since they also feel obliged to play the Qur’An at such a deafening level as to be heard above all the other noises, a little (slightly intolerant) Westerner like me starts to feel a little sorry for himself.  Then, of course, this is Wednesday, which means the disco next door will rev up its engines to a ear-shattering roar at about three-thirty in the morning, and will continue on until nine, which is just about the same time as the pounding and the grinding starts all over again. Now, don’t get me wrong, the minute that  any one of these noises pauses for at least a minute, I will instantly feel refreshed and reborn – just as though I had gone on holiday to a remote little isle where there is only an Atlantic gale to disturb the peace and quiet.  It’s pathetic how easy I am to please.

The building across the street was (until they added an additional two stories during the first week and a half of this month) a nice quiet three storey affair, and the apartments in it were – for the most part – occupied by the wives and sisters and mothers and grandmothers of husbands and fathers and brothers and grandfathers who live elsewhere with their side of the family.  This is, of course, not an unusual arrangement and there’s nothing to say about it except that it is the way it is.  The family is Bedouin, and the women are an absolute delight.  It goes without saying that I can’t go over there and drink tea with them, and they obviously cannot come over here. In any case – with the exception of one of the daughters, who is about fifteen and goes to school, the women never leave the apartment.  Instead they phone local merchants – who are probably members of their extended family – and the merchants send round provisions to them.  The women then lower a basket or two from the balcony, and the merchants fill them up, after which the women pull the baskets back up again. A tidy and efficient arrangement if ever there was one.  I wonder how it would work in one of those American Golf Resorts?

Now, in spite of the fact that I cannot have any social interaction with these ladies, I have developed a most wonderful bond.  It is totally stress-free; we never argue; we never quarrel over how she burnt the garlic when she made the koshery or how she hung my washing on the line. In fact we don’t talk at all.    Our relationship can be called a ‘meeting over the laundry lines’ arrangement.  I may well have mentioned this before, but this family (at least the women) are so delightful they deserve to be given another round of applause.  For what happens is this: they spend an inordinate amount of time hanging washing from the balcony and beating carpets, etc.  It’s the women’s fulltime job. I, on the other hand – being a man – only hang a couple of things from my line in the morning and take them in at night (and since what I hang out is invariably underwear, I don’t hang it from the balcony where it can cause a kafuffle, but from a little folding contraption that cannot be seen by other apartments, and from which my knickers cannot offend my neighbours).  Every so often, it happens that I go out onto my balcony to hang my little delicates at the same time they are out on their balcony engaged in one of their many pursuits (hanging out washing, beating carpets, scrubbing the balcony, etc.).  At this point, we either exchange greetings or we don’t.  It all depends upon which other family members are in the apartment at that time.  If one of the fathers or sons or brothers or grandfathers is visiting, the ladies do not acknowledge me and I do not look over at them.  Because it is they who have to make the first move, and if one of their male relatives is present, I am strictly off-limits.  However, if none of the males are there, and the aged grandmother – who is, by the way, completely veiled – happens to be safely tucked away inside – it is safe for them to wave, after which they start jumping up and down in this deliriously wonderful Egyptian shimmy.  I then reciprocate.  And there we are, dancing and shimmying – they on their balcony across the alley and down two floors, and me across the way and up above on my little rooftop.  We only ever do this for a five seconds or less, because basically it’s not a cool thing to do. But they are so sweet. And because they are ‘good’ girls and I wouldn’t hurt them for the world, I am very, very careful.  In other words, if they do not wave first, as far as I’m concerned they do not even exist.

More and more, these ladies are being visited by a nephew – or at least I assume he’s a nephew – and he is clearly there to keep an eye on them.  Last year, when he was only about fourteen he would join in the fun, and occasionally he would even bring out his talking drum. However, he is now fifteen, very much a man, extremely macho –  which means he smokes like a chimney, looks very cool and his phone is never out of his hand;  he is very much their protector.  So when he’s out on their balcony (or even in the apartment), they are strictly off-limits to my eyes.  It is called life.  But in any case, they are a joyful little family, and just knowing they are there adds to my happiness.

Mentioning my neighbours’ method of shopping for food, reminds me of something. When I first arrived here last year, the first thing I did was to shop at all the food stalls and little grocery stores up and down Bitosh in order to make friends and establish myself as someone who was living here and not just another tourist . And believe me I am very glad I did, for I made a lot of friends.  And although on most days now, I run over to the local Fadhalla supermarket in the centre of Bianki just to save time, I do enjoy my neighbourhood shops and try to keep well in with them.  Now, the first lesson I learned was not to shop for food in the local food stalls at mealtimes.  Simply because hospitality demands that you will immediately be given the merchant’s food (which has just been lowered down in a basket from the family apartment above the shop).  Now it goes without saying there is an established etiquette to this.  For, of course, if they had their way they would really like to eat their own meals themselves.  Anyway, it goes something like this: they offer it three times and you refuse it three times, and then you buy whatever it is you wanted, drink the cup of tea you really can’t refuse, and move on.  They really are enchanting people.  If only they didn’t love noise.

Now, as everyone who has lived in a Muslim country knows, the call to prayer is sounded at several appointed times each day, twenty-four hours a day.  Now because theirs is a lunar calendar, the times of the prayers change by several minutes with each passing day.  Also, each prayer time also varies depending upon how far east or west you are.  This means that even in the mosques only a block or so away, the Azans will not be called at exactly the same times as in the mosques immediately adjacent to your building.  Now, in each block there can be more than a dozen or so tiny, storefront mosques.  In fact, within five minutes’ walk from my apartment there are at least twelve.  Now, of course, in the days before amplification, the muezzins would stand on a high place – such as a minaret – to make sure the azan was heard.  Now, let us just say that amplification is God’s gift to the Egyptian. Whereas before, the calls were lovely and mellow and very much like clarions, now – thanks to amplification – they are blasted out with a deafening wail than can sometimes cause you to spill your coffee or fall off your chair. These calls are sounded twice before each of the five daily prayers: the first time about ten minutes before, and the second just as the prayer is about to begin.

Since the azan is called from each and every mosque by its own muezzin, this collection of amplified blasts can be rather impressive – as well as intrusive.  Now I asked a good friend of mine who happens to be an Imam, why it seemed they were each trying to overpower the other. After all, all the mosques are full for every prayer, every person goes to his own mosque, and so it isn’t as though they are trying to poach from each other.  And you want to know what he told me?  He said they are simply competing to see who is the loudest.  In other words, he who has the biggest toys wins.

It goes without saying that this same rule applies to the Friday sermons. Each one is screeched through a sound system which is turned up to the volume of a blast furnace. In fact, the harangue is so loud in each case that even if you wanted to hear what the Imam or Sheikh was actually saying, you’re out of luck. However, let me say this (and I am not fudging here): it is part of the fabric of life; I’m used to it, and if I don’t like it, I can always leave.

That being said (and this I think I did mention it before), when the disco is blaring full-throttle and it’s rattling the window panes (those that are still unbroken) and the guys in the disco are holding conversations and screaming over the music while they are dancing, the mosques – when they are calling the dawn prayer – can overpower them all without any trouble at all.  And I think that is cool!  Imagine it happening in South Beach (plus, here, nobody is drunk).

In January, I spent some time taking a French/Arabic class in the French Cultural Centre (anything to actually avoid coming to grips with my Arabic).  At one point one of the more zealous of the Egyptian students demanded to know why it was against the law to play the Qur’An in one’s apartment in Paris?  And he was very, very serious about this.  Now, ordinarily when this guy got going on one his pet rants, I made it a practice to hold my tongue and to forget about it.  After all, it is none of my business.  But on this occasion, I felt it was time he was corrected on one or two counts.   I told him that anyone can play anything they wanted in their apartment, at any time of the day or night – just so long as the neighbours were not forced to listen to it in the apartment next door.  I pointed out that most countries in the west have such things as noise ordinances, and if you blasted everything out the Egypt way you would end up with a very stiff fine.  The professor, an amazing linguist from Tunisian who had lived much of her life in France and in the United States and who was blessed with a dry sense of humour, laughed and turned to me (me, who always sat up front with the woman and not in back with the men who never stopped talking all the way through any of the classes) and said with a great beaming smile, “But they like it loud!”

But then again – and this I said before – when it comes down to it, anyone’s life can be filled with a wall of sound, and you simply cut it out.  That’s what the Egyptians do.  They simply do not listen to it.  It’s sort of the local version of a noise ordinance.  How spoiled we are in the west.

Now this same guy is also the one who was lambasting the Swiss for banning minarets; he accused them of fomenting anti-Islamic prejudice. To which I pointed out, that – if he cared to look it up – there was no mention whatsoever of a minaret in the Qur’An, and that the whole injunction had to do with noise. I then pointed out (being on a teat by this time) that in most non-Muslim countries of the world the Azan was never proclaimed outside.  And since every single person knows to the minute what time the prayers are held, until recently there had never been any problem. And I did even suggest that if everyone had simply minded their manners and respected others – and had not blasted the Azans so that they caused avalanches as far away as Klosters, perhaps there would have been no ban in the first place. In which, the very lovely unamplified Azan could have blended in with the church bells in a beautiful two-part harmony.  Yes, I know life is not like that, but in my head lives such a simple world…

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