Johnnersintheraw's Blog

June 28, 2010

WemittanceMan

A Man at the End of His Tether

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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June 10, 2010

InMyBox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 8, 2010

MySisterEileen

Diary of a Mangy Hare named Pad as Re-Written by Bernard the Goose

Eyev bin axt tae riot hey feeiou tinz aboot meye sister Eileen.  Eye axt Bernard da Guuz tae hep mee bud hee sez fekkov heez god beddur tinz tae du. Leik shitin onder nu carz. Soz hear goze.  I eevun stowlt hey dikchuneiry fae da liberry sowz eye whunut sound leik wonodam fekkin illitruditudes fae da udder seit uf da eylunt ware they fekks dere houn sheeps tae saev munny on da studfleas fae da coopt.  Meye nayme iz Pad ur Paddy iffa ewe leiks, witch iz – az ya  noze but probly  duzn –  wot dey kallz Padraig wen dey’s nowan ya all yer laef or wen dey’s fambly or wen dey’s so dronkt fae drinkn dey can’t be boddered tae call youz wot dey should be callin’ ya only dey cunt meyek demselves to rememblerait id.  Eyem sumteiumz wunderun wye da gut Lort boddered tae gaevt us wot dae callz hay Chrischun nayum t’all.  Itz not aziff noboddy rebembleraytz it, haccep perraps da Blessit Virgin wot prayz fer youz wen no one elze iz after doin’ it.  A bonny lass, dat Blessit Virgin.  I wundur wye shes nevvur god herseff merriet proppurin da Kirk?  Insted of geddin herseff nokkert up da wey shee didn’all. Mein ya, deirz somtin goin’ on dere wot doun smellz tu gud.  Meye sister Eileen god herseff hay bonz in da hovvun an du yu tink dey’d ledder bak intae Kirk?  Noooo.  Ezpeshllee hafter shee wentin god herseff pregnunt five yearz runnin’.  Somtin uvva rekurt eevun heir wares dey ushallee taiks adleest hey fiyeev mont whollydee buttween prigunansiez. Nodda whoor sheez haint, ad leezt nodso yewed nodiss – nod like Hagnuz Macilluddee overn da council hustaitz wot heps oud widda sheepdippin evur sprink an shee charjiz a shag per ewe and a snatch likk fer evertoo lambleez.

Eileen haz wot u callz a wonderin’ twat.  And twaznt by her owun doon.  Shee god wonna dem holez wot wanderz off by idseff wen sheez asleepin innur bed.  An dontell hur nuffin aboudit.  Not leikly. An cuz I seen hur peeza furry bit sneekin down da boreen aftern da gud Lardz all tukt up in bed and Eileen sheez never evvun oudda da house, eye bleevz ‘er. Nooo, meye sister Eileen waz wot yud callz a gud lass an never did tuk off nuffin wen shee wentae da set-dansun ad da Tree Blind Feckerz on da turd Sunndy uf evree mont  – Ride aftur da fella in da black dress wid da wite collar round iz neck gaved hur wot fer fur lettin Jimmy O’Grady pud is sausage roll up er gloreebee tae god tae keepid warm fer im tae eets afturn da udder mens wit di udder black dress sprinklz da peepuls wid wadder an dey all runz fae da Kirk haffor he axt dem fer munny fer da widdy MacFarlin overn da bat sait ov da eyelunt ware nobuddyz god shoos. 

Wot ayem sayin iz dat dey gotz das Kirk all wireed up wid wonna dem electricacal barbt wires sos wen Eileen triez tae sneek in aftur mass tae robbles sum beer munny fae da collecshun plait, shee getzer hare all perummt up in dem little curlz an shee doun even has tae go tae Muddur Sullivanz beeudee den hover beehine da pier wair ya gets da fairee tae go tae da udder side uf da sea onwotz callt da manelan.  Hackexcepp on da Lortz dae, wen da lad wot runz da ferree iz still inna ditch somewherez wiv won uf the choirboyz heez been heppin hisseff tu after da mannin da black dress (da won wot trowz da wadder springkutz on everbodeez heddz aftur trettenin gum wid da Faddur handa sun handa holeee spurt

Maebeez eyel be hafter haskin’ hymn da nex taeum  heye goaz tae Kirk wye dey doun led Eillen in da Kirk wen dey letz da Blessid Virgun laedee hin.  Afur hall, da Blessit Vurjin’s sun waz setch hey sorry sun uv hay bitch dat dey strungut im fae hay tree. Han dey still ledz er in han heevun maekz hey statoo uv hur an puds hey liddel bokkz unner id soz da owld widdeez can givez er munny soz shee wone hafta bee goin whoorin’ at da Tree Blind Feckers ever Sabbidy night. Laeukk meye sister Eileen duz. 

Eyebin tinkin eye shud ax da menz inda Kirk wid da bleck dressus anta wite collers wot dey hez agin Eileen. Bod mebee not.  Nowin howtingz bee workin eyeull only bee amakin tings hay hoel lodworsted fur owld Eileen.  Enwot widher bein’ noctd up agin wid a cupla twins, sheel nodbee wantin da fellas in da blackdressuz tae remembrate er.  Id wudnut did dem twinz o’hurs enny fayvurs iffn dey sendz er straytoffta tae da fiers o’hell, wudit?  Infack, dey juss mite mayk mee taix cair o’da wee fekkers.  Eyekin hartlee kin tice meyun houn shoos, led aloun skrub alodda shite oudda hey pyel o’nappies. 

Ennyweys, heye noze beddern tae ax da fellas in da black dresses fer enny fayvers. I tryut tae gown axt him sometin wun taeum.  Bud honlee whonst.  Heye woz hay wee ting – hardty big enuff fer hey poacher tae bodder wid.  Bud da fella in da black dressus hee tought I waz sunsorta rat an hee beated me wid a broom.  So hiffun mae sister Eileen sheel bee wuntun tae ged bakk intae da Kirk han eetz dem free wayfurz leiuk wot ewe eetz wid eiuz kreem honlee ewe godsta paez fur dem in da co-op shop widder  eyeuz kreem kornutz, sheeul haff tae bee bye herseff.  Sheez hay cheep byatch iz Eileen.  Shee cud saev hall sortza munnys bye byeun wayfurz bye da caisuz bud shee doun wanna be spendin da munny shee gedz fae da soshul.  Sheez allaz hexplaning tae mee dat shee neetz da dosh fur nu close tae ware wen shee seez da mans inda blakk dressus.  Shee doun noz wich wonna dem iz da faddur hov er twinz han shee wonz tae luk bonny fur bod o’dem.  Wich eye kin hunnerstant.  Heveree slag neetz tae no ware tae spredda budder on da bred.  Heevun iffn shee dowen no whoz god da rite bred.  Hor hinnd dis case da rite wotzit.  Eileen sez shee preyz tu da Blesst Vurjin dat da faddur iz da short prees on accowntae him havin hey peenucles da sighez o da Sinnandrewzdae haggus han sheez god too boyz innur bump thad shee once tae givez hem hevury advantayge hin leyeuf.  Meye sister Eileenz after sellin dem offfur rent boyz han shee doun wandem tae taek aftur da udder prees da tallur faddur won on accown tae him hartlee avin nuddin aetall buttween is legs bud hare.  Fur hay hooer meye sister Eileen nose wod iz wot bud shee shuda thunk o’dat particyoularizt sittiashun afore shee wennen hopunt er legz tae da prees wid da wand uvva maoose.  Shudna shee.

Tangz uz happulink allovah da plaice sinz yisturdy.  Meye mam shee wentzun showert da wurl wid anoddur batch uf baybeez.  Han nowe heye godster shaerz mae roomwid anodder twenny fiev nu broddurs en sisters.  Eileenz seyez tae mee da girrelz haintso huggly ez da last lod wot wee soult tu da butcheroveron da manelan fur tree powns nyen pence per pown soz wee cud havvda ekstra munnies tae goes tae da set-dansin dat Sunndy nites ovur ad da nu Sivin Fat Hoorz fae da Bog Gedz tae Heven pob overrun da udder seit uv da heyelunt neer ware da widdy MacFarlin sheel bee kukin up summa dem moweldee tatties ansellz them tu da tooirits as trudichunnel heyelunt grub.  Dem tooirits buleevz henytink day duz.  Mae sister Eileen cellz her wanderink twat too hey busslode odimm evureee Sabbidee nide beehyuint da Tree Blayunt Fekkurs oud ware dey haztae goes tae smoak an emtlieez deyre bleddurs hafter drinkin’ too moch o dat tikk blakk beer wot dey callz Bowel Blaster. Coorz dey cannoo duz motch afturn hey cuppla dem Bowul Blesturz bud Eileen shee gets da munnys oudda dem ennywayz bye tellingum dey fekkt er ubwonseitendoundaudder on da weyz intae da pub onlee wid all da Bowal Blesseder dey cannoo remburait wot dere naimz iz motch less da seiz an smelly uv mae sister’s Eileenz twatole.  Sheed bee geddin richshe wud iffn ownleez she wudna keepz geddin moar baibees ever month or soz.  Ever pennee gouz tae neppies fur dem bratzo hurs.  Owenlee shee doun maikz er beybeez wares nuggun ate all.  Nod heevun wen shee clamez all dat muuny fae da soshul fur babbee fud hand nappeez han fur her nu connterry scepticles wot she fergits tae taik an cells em tae da prees tae pud inniz morning cawfee.  Witch iz wy he growun dem bigg duggz ware ushullee menz owenlee godzt hemply nipplezze en wye hiz wotzit haint hartlee dere adall.  Hee cannud unnerstan id bud meye sister Eileen wot nowz wotz wot tinkz itz funnee.  Han sheel still bee wundurin wye dey duzunt bee leddin herseff intae da Kirk.

Miy sister Eileen shee onest tae gouz tae beeutee skool han work fer owld Muddur Sulleevinz beeutee den ovvur en da udder seid uf da heyelund ware shee tinks noobuudy nowz hoo shee iz.  Wich owenlyn shewz wot a dumfek shee iz, cuz shee halwaiz wares hur nu pinnee da won wot seyz “Eileen Da Hair best blowjaps inda wurlt” ride hup onder bakk hinn neeongalaited leddurs.

Dis mournin me han owld Burnut da Guze haduz a reeal suriuz problumasticle sittooz wen we waz hichun hey rite onda traylur wot dey puts enbakko da cummoonidee buz tae kerry alla de shappin o da owld widdiez wen dey goze across da fairie tae da maneland hon turzdeez tae da supyrmarkut dey klalz Soopur-Seyev ur sommit leik dat.  O coarce de widdies gitz moasta dare fud ovur hat de co-opt wid dare munnie fae da soshul hen cooponz bud day lukz more posher iffn day getz evurtinkat Soupr-Seivorz soas wen dey goze tae da coopt hon da udder seit otoun neer da abber toiletz wae moasta my famblee hentzop wurkin dey leiks tae pot dare choppin in da purmananticle hevvydoodee choopun begs fae da Saloopur-Savior.  Soz dey evurbotee tinx deyz choppun leik da ryatch fokes fae da bikhowz.  Koorce evurbiddee gnowz dey steelz evurtank ennyweyz eevun da sheit dey gidz onndere sochul munny.

Me hen owld Burnurt da Gooce shed hourseffs hey reel circius diskushun hon da wey intae da toun.  Bernart wur allz wurreed bee hon akkownda his mam shee godsta jobb hat da Abbertoilet plaice wot iz abnut da honlee playce ware foaks leil hus wot haint binna skooel kan gits owerseffs a deesunt job wot eevun peiz hey cuppla pence spur pount.  Hey funee wey tae du biddyness bod az day seys munny iz munny nowadeyez.

Furstatall I axt im tae gose ovur da dis hear arkucul haboud Eileen heye bin ritun fur da coopts free weaklee nuslettur wots writ bye dosov us wot wurkz innda frondlion uf farmin.  Owld Burnart he tuk eot eye sed hant hee rerited hit in currek henglush. So naw yew nose whoo tae tank wen yew reedz dis han kin unnerstan hit.  Cuz bernurt hees bin livin hin bekk uv de shooel hen ee larnt reel gud by lissonink troo da windees.  Ennyways tank yew Bernert yooz a gud fren heven do yooz jessa stoopud dumprfekker uv a goose wot heint godda brane hacsepp hin is sfinktur hoel.

Ennyweyes heftur Bernart hee rerites hevurtin eye sais heevun do heye didnu tink heyud dun so bad az ee saiz heye dun, oui started intae talkun aboot his mam han how shee nevvur kompts hoam ennymore han eez afeart cheese runned off wid won odim travvler cokkrils wotz haftur bin gud ad sweetakkin de brichuz offn da laydees.  Han sumteims day cellz da laideez dey gitz incida da britches uv tae won odim ill eegul frintchiez wot duz allsorts odings tae da gooces din knowbuddy hevver ceez dem aggin.  Pursonabuloee heye tinkz deys entsup in dat dare Eegiptshun plaice heye keepz hereun aboot but heye doun reely nose wot it iz.  Doan sown neice tae me but wotdu heye nose.  Soze nodda gid owld Bernurred hall wurriedafiled heye didna sey nuttin aboot eegip oownlee dat hiz mam waz probabbably havin hersell a reel smashin teim.  Warevver sheel bea sentofftae.

Bud tingz doan allayz work oudfur da bessed espeshullee fur gooces han dokks.  Fur hon hour wey tae da aberytoydel da commoonidy buss id stopt infrun tuv da Souperymakut and wot duz yew nose but rite dare in da windy rite ware evurbuddy hincloodin hall de widdies hand me han Bernut han evun da Blesst Vurjin iffn sheed bin widdus honly shee wurnt cuz shee woz hanggin oot inda Kirk cowntin alla da munny sheez bin rraikin in dare woz da pooer owelt widdie Gooce.  Han da pooer owld muddur of Birnrut shee waznt lukin so gud.  Heye dint led owld Burnurd taek a skkond luk han tol im shee woz probiblee havin won ov dem bad deis wimmin gits fae teim tae teim evun gooce-wimmun.  Hen dat sourtae pacifuceitud owld Bernurt hen we deseededt tae luk hup meye sistur Elieen han teik her outta hear an gidz alltree uv us reeelly drunkipaitet hon Boowwul Blastur han sum odat cheeb hoamait wiskee dey cells hon da eyellun.  Honwly oui wonzna hon da eyelun bud onda manlan soze we hadda hole offa da gud stoff fae da shebeen hontil hanuddur teim.

Puer Bernut he tuk tae bein ehextreemnlee dipresscipaud hon haccownda is muddur bein hagun ap indae windee uf da Soupermarcut han ee wannut tae go bekk han rezcew her hans taikz er bekk tae da eyelun inwonna dem gif fud bagz yew steelz fur free in da liddel rakk owtsida da orflicentz.  Ee tunkt prappz hey liddel golt bag widv a ret ribbun wud bee naiz hon haccownda is mam allas lovvt dem colurz da bezt.  Han soz tae hoomur hisseff eye sat im dowun hinseid da Tree Jolly Rentboyz pob jezz him bekk uv da shob wid da durtee viddees hon da tobb shelfsez han eye brunkt imma bikglaz uv choklit han hasperugus wot iz da kynda dring dey leiks tae drinkun inda Tree Chollee Rentaobyz.  Han den heye tuk meseff orf tae da soupermarcud han axt da mannyjer abood a gooz inda windee heye sez id waz da muddur hova fren han ee wannit tae gaves id a proppur funyral ovvur onda heyelun wiv maebee da too menz wid da blekk dressies sayin olive dare gud wurts ovvur hur corpusclez.  Han den aldough heye wudna seiz nuffin tae Burnart onnaccownda da corpusculate bein is muddur han hall bod twean yew han me eyeud tuk owld Burnart intae da bekk rum wyul da menz inda blekk dressus hate owld Missus gooce fer dare tee. Han den dey wud giftus wid da chart remaynez in da golt gifted bag han we wud taik it doun da boreen han trow id inda waddur.  Han den weez cud ged drankz leik yer spozzt too wen yew muddur dyez hand is eeted by a prees.

Burnert han me god so dranked we fergetzt allbowd miy sister Eileen han heye nevvur sawed hur ennymores.

Oar mebee heye did honlee heye dint recogneize hur gud onaccownt uv olive uz harez luk alike eevun moorn gooces han we kunt telluz hupard nod eevun inda daelite.  Soyew cee id wudna dun know gud eevun tryun tae lukz fur hur onaccownda weed nevvur nowed wot we waz lukin fur.

Sum bunny heye waz fukkun hey fiw dais laedur wen heye ad eevun furgotz dat heye ad evur hadda sister namblet Eileen seid sheeud nowd hey hare wot waz a prastitutlee onda manelan wurkun inda hooorhowz jezz dounwinda da arbeetoyur han dat shee waz nod lukin tu gud onaccownda shee kepp onnhavin turdy or fordee babbees evur udder weeks.  Fur hey momuntz eye tought abowd goin tae luk dis hoor inda heyes hand axtin hur iffn shee waz mai sister or anoddur prostituticuleees bud den owld Birnurt ee axt me iffn wee woz goingtae went tae da pikchurz ware dey wiz showun da fillum abowd da were rabbit han wee deesidud dat iffn we wenda cee dis hoooor han shee waz mai sister Eileen weeud heftae taik hur tae da fillum wid oss.  Han Eileen shee allas dit tauk inda middle uv mooveez han ax wot waz goin hon han wot dey woz sayin onaacownd ohur beeun two laezee tae lissun hanso heye seiz tae Birnerd fekk hur wid a tyre eyeron ledda owld bich axt herseff iffn shee woz reeallee da reeul Eileen weez bin taukuin abowd han iffn shee iz shee cuntbye hur owen tikkut han sid way dowen infrond wid all da deff peeplees han me han Bernurt cunt sit indae bakk row han wach da fillum bye owurseffz.

Han so weedid.  Han den wee leff da cinenema urlee han wentz bakk taw da eyelunt hand god drunked at The Three Fekkerz hand avturwurdz wee woz wokun doun da boreen wen wot du yew nose but a grade big sputtz car runt uz overn.

Idz nodso badatall bein in hevvun.  Da fud iz gud anda girlz iz purdy han derez hey neic younk mens wid longhare henda beert wot stopz bye ever nouhanagin han passus da teim. De udder dais ee seiz ee sawd mai sister Eileen wich sirpeizt me a liddel onaccowend uv heye hadna hurt shee woz in heven espeshullee sinze shee woz never allout intae da Kirk.  Da fella wid da beert seyez sheez knot hegactully in heven but shee wurkz upstares fur the top menz han wen sheez wurkun fer dem deyz dae woz in hevvun.  Heye axtud hymn abood da BlessutVurjun hen ee seiz chee cumz evree toozdy fur lonch han chee seyez hallo hand id waz gud youz gotz yurseff intae hevvun allrite onaccownda yooz bein marturificaited han hall bye beeun runned ovvur bye da sportz kar.

Heye gotztae goes noo.  Heye wantae wadch da sunreiz wid Burnert da gooce han den iddel bee tyum tae went tae brekkfust han eye doan wantae bee lait on accownda idz da dae dey survz hare hand eyeum allaz hopin iddel bee hay owld fren or purhepz wonna mai sisterz han broddurs.  Nod my sister Eileen o’curse onaccownda cheese ubstares wid da bikk fokes han iz doin hallride fur herseff.  Wich iz gud han maikz mee feeul dat evertink woz wourt id.

                                             

June 2, 2010

Hogget

The Age between Then and Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2010

FloatYourBoat

My Seaworthless life with Ships and the Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for my history as a yachtsman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 30, 2010

BadSmells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 29, 2010

SmartHouses

What you build when you really like washing windows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Anymore questions?” he asked.

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

“Never use them,” came the reply.

“And a hairdryer?” I smirked.

“Ditto,” he said.

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

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

May 28, 2010

MooCow

My Best Ever Career Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, where are we now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moo!

May 26, 2010

ElChapulin

The Mad and Mean Mexican Green Papagayo Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 25, 2010

SmackThePony

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.

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