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 17, 2010

VegetableMarrows

A Little Man and His Perfect Retirement

There was a little man named Bobby MacFee who lived in a tiny two-room stone cottage on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea.  Bobby MacFee was in many ways a very ordinary little man.  But he was also a very simple man with simple tastes and he only asked out of life what was his by right.  For nigh on forty-five years this little simple man had worked in an ironmongers in a small town with a population of less that two thousand five hundred.  This shop in which he had worked for so many years was an old-fashioned shop and was, in fact, the general store for the village.  In addition to the usual hardware supplies as is to be expected of an ironmongers, it stocked  pots and pans and dishes and appliances big and small, as well as furniture and lumber and gardening supplies and practical items of clothing and every type of feed for every type of domestic animal that was to be found in the area. As its centrepiece it had an ancient pot-bellied turf-burning stove, surrounded by comfortable, sagging bentwood chairs, as well as by low tables on which customers might set their cups of strong inky tea whilst they waited for their orders to be filled.  It was also the preferred place for a poor soul to warm his or her bones and pass the time with friends before boarding the community bus or driving the family car or van back to house and home and hearth and fields of rugged and weather-beaten mountainy sheep.

Next door to the ironmongery there was a small postoffice-cum-habberdashers-cum-stationers.  And next to that was a small but well-stocked green grocers.  A few doors down, next to the veterinary surgery was a butcher’s, and then came the baker’s and then, right at the end of the street, a small all-purpose grocers with a caff in the rear.  Fresh fish was brought in twice a week in a small refrigerated van driven by a local lad named Charlie MacFee (one of many MacFee cousins).  In the town there were two pubs (one with set-dancing on Friday nights) and one off-licence. And also a church of the established religion, but which also served the needs of the opposition at given times on a Sunday afternoon.  Around this small ancient stone building – inside its lynchgate and fanning out in every direction until there was little empty space left within its confines to play hide and seek or to feed the birds – was the graveyard, in which the ancient families whiled away the decades and centuries and served as welcoming committees for newcomers taking their first tentative steps towards eternity.  

The lending library had long-since been forced to close its doors due to lack of funding; however, the librarian – a local woman with a thirst for books and brimming over with community spirit – had used her severence pay to fund a mobile library which was open ten to five four days of the week, plus another five hours on Saturday.  The librarian also gave workshops and classes on local folklore on Saturday afternoons, for which the ironmongery gladly provided its back room.  And on the one workday of the week when the mobile library was officially closed, she and her colleague – a lad named Colum MacFee (another MacFee cousin) drove a book-laden van around to the outlying reaches of the island, delivering books  as well as food ordered from the grocery store over the phone by those more elderly souls who were increasingly housebound and unable even to withstand a journey on the community bus.

And when Marion the Librarian (who was herself a MacFee, but who – for her sins – had been married to a man named MacElvey (another MacFee cousin) until he  had up and left her high and dry after twenty years of marriage) was unable to make all the deliveries herself, Sean Ross the postman (who had moved to the island with his wife and two kids from the mainland and one one of the few residents who was in no shape or form kin to the MacFees) took up the slack and made the deliveries on her behalf.

There was no school in the town, and what children there were were transported across the channel to the mainland.  At one time the librarian and other interested parties had advertised in papers far and wide, hoping to attract new families to the area.  They had been assured – somewhat optimistically – that if they could bring in a least fifteen additional families they could possibly re-open their small primary school. After all, as the librarian had pointed out to the educational authorities, their school had a good record when it came to turning out pupils who were both literate and disciplined.  Needless to say, the success-rate was due in part to the work-ethic of the islanders, for on this tiny plot of land in the north sea, life was hard, the hours were long, but everyone pulled their weight.  Alas, while the locals were successful in opening a creche and a pre-school in an adjacent building, the school had to be placed on a back burner; all the older children continued to be ferried to the mainland.  Those  of secondary school age had to go even further afield to the county town.  And as often as not their families sold their farms or let them to holiday-makers for the summer months and joined their young ones – never to return (except for funerals), never to look back (except at funerals), and leaving one more abandoned croft to furze and weeds and to sink into the damp earth of the island.  Why suffer from chilblains and aches and pains when it was so cheap to relocate to Croatia or one of those other countries. 

The island could boast of one doctor and a part-time locum and a matron and a nurse at a local cottage hospital-cum-nursing home.  The doctor’s surgeries were scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays and on the other days he and/or his locum cheerfully paid housecalls wherever and whenever.  But any cases requiring special care were referred to the mainland.  There was, however, a small and expert residential-cum-outpatient facility for those with special needs, but the only reason it was there at all was that its patron – a rugby player who played for his country – was from a local family.  This local hero had had a younger brother of his own who had ‘lived’ with autism, and who had died in a accident that could have been prevented if only his family had been able to secure the services of a part-time carer to spell them every so often when they were so tired they couldn’t watch his every move.

The island also sported a large circle of women who volunteered to take hot meals to homes three times a week.  And the members of this selfsame circle acted as home help and did the washing and polished the floors and washed the windows for all those who were not always well enough to do it themselves.  They also helped paint the small cottages and farmhouses during the months when the weather was sure to be less (or slightly less) rambunctious.

A number of men – often husbands of those civic-minded women or retirees with a certain amount of time on their hands once their own chores were done – volunteering to mow the lawns and trim the hedges and undertake household repairs for those selfsame pensioners.

On his seventieth birthday the little man retired from the ironmongers.  It was not a voluntary retirement, nor was it a willing retirement.  It was the way of the world.  In other words, progress had caught up with the island and to the town and to every man and woman and child within it.

A year before his seventieth birthday, Bobby MacFee received a letter.  The letter was  to inform him that a certain national farm supply and DIY and supermarket had bought the ironmongery as well as the grocers and the butcher’s and the baker’s and the stationary store and were planning to build a large one-stop mega-emporium a half mile north of town. The post office would also be relocated to a niche in the store, right up front next to the tobacconist’s.  The letter explained in reasonable words that in order to serve the community better and to promote a more competitive retail climate, Bobby  MacFee’s experience and expertise would no longer be needed.  It had been noticed that he was past retirement age; the policy of the corporation was to look to the young in order to revitalise the communities, and although it was unfortunate, the little man did not fit into their demographics.  He was, however, given a generous golden handshake – although it was not nearly as generous or as golden as they made it out to be.  When the time came, the incoming general manager presented him with a parchment scroll, a testimonial run up the night before the presentation on a computer. And that was that.  Bobby MacFee was left – with all the other employees over fifty years of age – with nothing with which to fill the empty hours but a feeling of uselessness and loss. And in the case of most of them, many more hours per day to drink in the pub.  Bobby MacFee, however, did not hold with strong drink unless the occasion warranted it.   His employment was to terminate on the day the new facility opened its doors.

The new SuperCentre was duly built and opened in the presence of all the local dignitaries and members of the business communities and movers and shakers – each and every one a MacFee and no further away than first cousins twice removed from Bobby MacFee and the other enforced retirees. On the day of the grand retirement party, after first depositing into his post office saving account the generous bonus given him personally by the – also – forcibly retired former owner/manager of the ironmongery, Bobby MacGee wandered back through the gardening section at the rear of the store and out into the greenhouses.  Although he was by custom a cautious drinker who never liked to progress beyond the stage where he was warmed by the flames of gentle mellowness, this day – of all days – was a day when it was permissible to progress to the realm of merriment normally reserved for Christmas and weddings and for funerals of his old friends and of members of the clan MacFee.

Whilst meandering through the greenhouse and with his mind occupied with thoughts of the gaping hole in his life now that he no longer had to spend his waking hours serving customers and passing the time of day over cups of tea with neighbours who had dropped into the ironmongery for a chat and to pretend they had something urgent to buy if only they could remember what it was, the fingers of Bobby MacGee took it upon themselves to make a certain purchase.

Unusually for that time of year, the morning had begun with an inpenetrable fog which enshrouded the land and squatted like a toad on every inch of the island.  It was not the sort of mist that heralded a rare day of brilliant sunshine. It was black and oppressive and stank of the bottom of the sea, forty fathoms down where all the dead things rotted and where phantom galley slaves were said to be shackled to their ancient oars of ships that had sunk before the dawn of memory.  It was, in short, not a fit day for man nor beast.  A day when the mountainy sheep crouched low under the protective dry stone walls of their fields until such time as they could be herded into the sheltered paddock between the barn and the door leading to the mudroom of the house.  It was the sort of evil day when even the most diligent of housewives drank tea in the warmth of a turf fire and forewent the pleasures of washing windows or even hanging out the wash.  For on a day such as this, the unhappy unclaimed souls of those buried unbaptised at midnight on the hill were sure to be wondering about and looking for warmth and light and a place to remind themselves of what could have been but which never was and never would be. On such a day one did not leave the kitchen door ajar, neither did a right-thinking person venture outside without a reason. Not on a day like this.

The mother of Bobby MacFee had been swept away giving birth to her thirteenth child, a boy who had been officially been laid to rest in the graveyard under a slate stone bearing the legend ‘Cathleen MacFee MacFee, beloved daughter of Bertie MacFee and Annie MacFee née MacFee’, but whose tiny corpse had been mysteriouly ‘took’ from its mother’s bed and interred with those of its kind under the soft grass of the hill overlooking the sea on the farside of the shrine to St. Bridget the Wayfarer.  Sometime later in the same year, Bobby MacFee’s father, who’d taken to drink something fierce following the death of his beloved  wife and helpmate, was drowned not far out to sea in his tiny shrimping boat, and his body – or what was left of it – was washed up a year and a day following the death of his wife.  Bobby MacFee, who was the youngest child save the one who had been taken with his mother, was less than two years old at the time.

The many brothers and sisters of Bobby MacFee were either farmed out to the many MacFee cousins or – in the case of two, who were ‘not all there in the head’ and were taken to the mainland and put into care and were never heard of again.  Bobby MacFee himself was reared by his oldest sister Irene, and the two of them remained in the same tiny two-room stone cottage in which he was born.  The little boy grew up strong and dour and his muscles were hardened to stone herding the sheep and in the tiny shrimp boat that had been bought with the insurance money to replace the one that had been lost the day his father had been drowned.

Very few trees – if any at all – grew on the western part of the island, neither was it a place where any ‘crop’ save the verdant grass could withstand the constant battering of the Atlantic gales.  But the grass was such grass as was rarely seen any other place on the planet.  For it was fertilised by seaweed hauled ashore by the muscles and will of young Bobby MacFee and those of this father and grandfather before him.  And after each one of its five annual cuttings, the fields were spread with a thick layer of the finest richest slurry from the dairy farm over on the other side of the hill.

Except for the wild flowers that grew in abundance on the ancient, dry stone walls and the mustand-yellow blossoms of the furze that inhabited every inch of fallow land, it was not a place where flowering plants decorated the front gardens of borders of houses.  The wind would simply carry them away, just as they had carried away the mother of Bobby MacFee and his tiny brother.

However, his oldest sister Irene was a redoubtable soul, who – as she was fond of saying – was ‘partial to her patch of garden’.  Enlisting the help of her little brother she built up a tall stone wall around a sheltered glen behind the house and for as long as she lived in the house she grew every type of rose and sweetpea and flowering shrub and herb imaginable.  And in the centre of this miniature paradise she placed a bench. And on afternoons when the sun deigned to shine and the gales withheld their tantrums, Irene would sit on her bench and read one of her books of poetry, and all the wrongs in the world would disappear. 

A few days prior to Bobby MacFee’s fifty-second birthday, Irene marched into the ironmongery one rainy afternoon, just before teatime and while her brother was selling a rotary tiller to a mainlander who had built a small holiday home in the glen behind the church.

“Ted MacGrath, our second cousin once removed, has asked me to marry him and move to the mainland to take care of his seven children – left motherless when his own wife was took giving birth to her eighth child.”

Bobby MacFee looked up at her face and he reached up and kissed her on her forehead.

“You have given me a home for nigh on fifty years.  It is time you had your own life.” With that he gave her his blessing and exactly one month minus two days hence, Irene MacFee was joined in wedlock to Edward Angus MacGrath and moved to the mainland to care for him and his children with the same tough loving grace that she had previously shone on to her brother Bobby and to their tiny two-room stone farmhouse on the cliff overlooking the sea.

Life continued for Bobby MacFee.  He cared for his fields and his sheep and when the weather permitted we went out at dawn in his tiny shrimp boat.  Then, at half-past eleven – exactly on time – he would arrive at the ironmongery and put in a full day’s work and not return home until the clock on the church tower had struck half past six.

Bobby MacFee was not one who cared much for flowers.  “Give me a fine kitchen garden with potatoes and cabbage and turnips and that’s all a man every needs,” is what he would say to himself whenever Irene had spoken of a precious new hybrid tea she had ordered specially for that new arbour she was building next to the greenhouse inside the western wall of her garden.  But now that she was gone, he couldn’t bring himself to tear out even a single rose bush to give him the room he needed for even a sprout or two.  It was as though he was waiting in the off chance that his sister might change her mind and decide that the married state was not for her.  It was an unspoke thought.  Not even a conscious thought.  But, nonetheless it was there at the back of his head.

Thirteen months before his seventieth birthday, Ted MacGrath rang him with the news.  Irene had been ‘took’ with a heart attack.  So sudden it was that she had not had a chance to bid him  send for Father Sweeney to ease her on her way to the gates of heaven.

“The rosary’s tonight and we’ll be waking her the proper way in your front parlour,” said the widower in a still quiet voice. “She will be wanting me to say she’s sorry for not giving you time to paint the house proper.”

 

“Where’s the funeral going to be,” asked Bobby MacFee unnecessarily. “I’ll have to be letting everybody know.”

“You just set a spell and have a cup of tea,” said Ted MacGrath.  “It’s already posted.  St. Brendan’s has already seen to that.  And the women are already over at your house getting it ready for her arrival at five this afternoon.”

Bobby MacFee hund up the phone and sat down on one of the bentwood chairs to try to collect his thoughts.  A wave of panic cracked though his heart and for just a second he was transported back to that day – so many years before – when he had been left an orphan and Irene had become the only mother he would ever really know.  And after the panic had settled the tears started to flow.  Even though he hadn’t seen her for many a year – accept for Christmases and birthdays – he could not think of life without her tough stalwart presence in his life.

And then he thought of her precious rose garden, and he wept some more.

The body was brought home, the rosary was said, and Irene was waked with the proper music and with the proper amount of strong drink from the one remaining shebeen on the island, and with the proper rough and stalwart food that Irene liked to cook for herself and for her family.  The wake lasted until dawn, at which time Bobby  MacFee washed himself in the usual way and dressed in the black suit he was keeping for his own funeral.  He then brewed a pot of strong inky black tea and poured out two cups.  One for himself and one which he placed on a lace doily on a table near the coffin for his sister – along with a fresh-baked scone brought by Mary MacInnerney his neighbour.  Something special to fortify Irene for her forthcoming journey.

The funeral mass at St. Brendan’s in the village was read by Father Donald Fraser. A young newcomer to the parish who had a twinkling eye and a nice manner with the ladies, young and old alike.  Father Donald had a very lovely clear tenor voice, and all in all it was the most beautiful and well-attended funeral seen for many a year.  And in a parish such as St. Brendan’s where everyone is kin, that is saying a lot.

The funeral dinner stretched out over the following three days. And when everything was finally over and Irene had been buried in her parents’ grave and had been reunited with her loved ones – including all her bothers and sisters save the one that still lived – Bobby MacFee returned to the small, two room stone cottage and sat in the rose garden and stared at the sky.

For the next year or so, the rose garden stayed as it had been when Irene had gone off to marry Ted MacGrath and live on the mainland.  Bobby MacFee continued to live his life as he had always lived it –  tending his sheep, caring for the land, taking out his shrimp boat when the weather permitted, and working at the ironmongery.

But then came a day shortly before his seventieth birthday and his subsequent redundancy.   Booby MacFee felt a certain restlessness he nad never felt before.  After living the same life for close on seventy years, he suddenly was overwhelmed by the desire to do something special for himself.  For days and weeks and months he had been mulling this over, but now it was time to ask himself what exactly he wanted to do. It was not travelling he craved.  He did not want to unroot and move to an untried country such as Croatia or Albania or Serbia or Poland or Lithuania as so many cousins and nephews and nieces had done.  He wanted to stay in his own tiny two-room cottage.  He wanted to live near the only family and friends he had ever known.

And then the answer came to him.  One afternoon while he stood in the rose garden a gentle breeze wafted over the wall and carressed his cheek.  “Thank you, Irene,” he said. And then one by one he carefully uprooted all twelve rose trees from the centre of the patch.  And lovingly, gently, he took them into the village and, with the help of Father Donald Fraser he created a rose garden in the centre of the graveyard, just beside the graves of Irene and his sisters and brother and his mother and father.  And when he had finished, he said goodbye to his sister, after which he started to plan the special new thing he wanted to do all for himself.

It was on the day of his retirement when Bobby MacFee wandered back through the gardening supplies of the ironmongery that would – at the end of the day – be closing its doors.  He bought three packets of seeds, and also two or three frames which he could place in the sheltered ground next to Irene’s old greenhouse.

Came the day when it was the right time to sow his new life, Bobby MacFee prepared the ground as carefully as if he was preparing his own grave.  He planted the seeds, and watered them and over the next few weeks and months he watched his new ‘life’ come alive.

Bobby MacFee had no plans for his new family.  Although they were by far the biggest and best on the island – and perhaps in even the county – he had no desire to cause them distress or discomfort.   Or to uproot them or show them off to strangers or to subject them to ridicule or jealousy.

And at the end of the season, Bobby MacFee quiety buried his children in the compost pile he and Irene had nurtured for more than fifty years.  He said a prayer over their remains, and his heart sang in a way it had never before been able to sing.

And come the spring and the time for sowing new seeds in his tiny garden, Bobby MacFee planted a brand new crop of vegetable marrows and lived to see them grow to splendid maturity and then to bury them in the dank, moist compost just as he had done their predecessors.  It may have been the last year of Bobby MacFee’s life on earth, but as far as he was concerned, it was the best year he had ever known.  It was, quite simply, the best time of his life.

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 5, 2010

TheBritneys

Spastic Colons and Dickheads and Random Subliminal Sightings of Britney.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 4, 2010

MrPhlegm

The House on Wold Fen

Cyril Tode-Pipkin lived with his mummy but not with his daddy in a decaying house in the middle of a mist-enshrouded fen into which no sun, no happiness or even moonbeams ever shone.  His mummy was a very, very nice mummy as far as it went.  She had a faded peaches and cream complexion and no wart on the end of her nose.  She had gently waving auburn hair that sprung back exuberantly from a massively aristocratic and world-wear brow.  On the sides of her face were two shell-like ears, one the size of a rosebud in spring and the other the size of a clam.

His mummy wore silk tea gowns in shades of deepest purple when she wore clothes at all, except in the evenings when she would dress all in lace that was of a deeper black than black.  And when she wore this lace, as she always did when she dressed for dinner, she would over-layer it with shawls and capes and fur-lined rugs against the cold and damp, and against the howling winds that blasted through the ancient stone walls as if there were no walls at all. And on her hands would be black silk gloves.  Mummy had never been known to eat with her fingers.  She was a Wold, and eating with fingers was not very nice, or so she had been told.    

Cyril Tode-Pipkin thought the world of his mummy, for she was the only mummy he had ever known. But his mummy thought very little of him; in fact she would have been happier had he been born a baboon. And because of this she mourned day and night, and it was because of this she wore only lace and silk in the colours of death.  For from the moment of his birth, Cyril Tode-Pipkin’s mummy had been enshrouded in deepest mourning.  There was but  one piece of jewellery on her translucent white throat, and that was a locket of blackest black jet, a locket in which there was entombed a single strand of hair, a mysterious hair strangely like that of a baboon.

The mummy of little Cyril Tode-Pipkin had been brought up in a private zoo on the upside of Epsom Dows, a zoo in which lived the savage beasts her great-uncle had brought back from Dieppe.  Beasts that had gone down in a storm at sea in the Bay of Biscay, and which had been plucked from the depths more dead than alive.  And since these beasts had known death and yet were still alive, their souls were warped with the foul stench of hopelessness that made them more savage than usual.  They would stalk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and their eyes they were empty and their fangs they always dripped blood.   

The thought that little Cyril Tode-Pipkin was her own tiny son and yet interested her less than even the fainted images of baboons in the Sunday Pictorials, filled his mummy’s throat with bile and her heart with an accountable feeling of noblesse oblige“If only,” she would snort, as he strode in his manful strides through the shadowy, dust-draped salons, “Cyril wasn’t so tall. For I could then bend him in two and paint his bottom bright blue, and stick him up on the wall between the lion and the Tanganikan kazoo.” But when she said this she did not smile; she merely shed a tear – a tear that mingled with the tears she had shed the moment before, and which trickled down her ravaged, mournful cheeks and then dropped from her chin on to the refuse-choked floor.  For the foul-smelling house on the Fen called Wode was never swept, nor were the brasses polished, nor was the piano tuned.  This was more suitable for a rotting house that was in mourning.

Cyril’s mummy, like all mummies whose sons disappoint, was unbearably weary.   Her favourite sport was to recline on her chaise and look out her window and sigh.  “Oh, Cyril,” she’d whine as she lay faintly supine, when he came to the table  to dine, “would you be a good sport and pass me the Port and then jump out your window at nine?” And then she would touch her eyes with her black-edged cambric lace handkerchief and wipe away yet another tear.

Every night, Cyril Tode-Pipkin, who loved his mummy more than he loved even the smell of salted sprats and of the beef kidney tea he so loved to drink, would hop out his window with glee. For he knew it was the only thing that would fill his mummy’s heart with happiness.  But what mummy had forgot (for the house it had damp rot) was that the third-floor nursery had now sunk was now almost level with the sea.

It was therefore with deepest disappointment and sorrow that she’d bid him, “Good Morn,” when she next saw his face the following afternoon just after three, for the fact he had survived and was still even slightly alive filled her heart with chagrin. And after he had finished his tea and had departed the room, she would pour herself ten fingers of gin, with just a soupçon of tonic. She would nibble abstractly a sliver of stilton and a chilled terrine of escargot and pickled pig’s trotter and flies. And as she supped, the mummy of young Cyril Tode-Pipkin would listen to the score of Medea whilst simultaneously reading the play by Shakespeare in which the queen is forced to eat her slain children. Mummy took great comfort in such consoling works, and she wondered why she had been born neither as Medea nor as the queen in Cymbeline.   

Cyril Tode-Pipkin’s daddy – who was a commodore and sailed the seven seas in his ketch – never ever came home, for he preferred just to roam from Brindisi to Johnny O’Groats and revelled in the company of whales and the ghosts of drowned seamen ensnared in their own web-like nets.  The name of his ketch was Suzella-The-Kvetch, and she was his favourite mistress by far – even though he had seven Virginias and one Flora Bird, and even one lad named The Gherkin.  Young Cyril Tode-Pipkin he did honour as his own and bestowed upon him his good name, but that was as far as it went.  For the night young Cyril had been conceived his daddy had been in Rio and his mummy with her lover in Ghent.  And Cyril Tode-Pipkin’s daddy had at least one good eye from which he could see, and he was no fool.  No, not he.

Wold Fen it was old, so very old indeed, that it was made almost entirely of bog, and when strangers did wander out into its wasteland – and if they did not at the time have a cold – as they sank without trace and without time to say grace, they would cry, “But this swamp it smells of nothing of mould!”

The storms what blew through Wold Fen had risen with the crucifixion of Christ and had never relented since then.  The fog it lay thick and on top of it a mist that was so impenetrable that no light had ever shone on the black foetid decay that was all there was to the land.  And it was in this bog, within the bleakest, most sullen trench in the centre, that rotting and foul Wode House had been built.  A house that was swathed in misery and guilt and despair and which had spawned seven Tode sons in seven generations.  Until now, that is.  Until the coming of little Cyril Tode-Pipkin, the spreckled ginger only misbegotten son of the last of the seven sons of the seven sons.  With little Cyril Tode-Pipkin the dynasty would end, and then at last Wold House could fall.

Eventually, as was only to be expected, so inconsolable had her mourning become that the weary sorrow-clenched mummy of Cyril Tode-Pipkin ceased coming down for breakfast entirely. And since Annie MacCree – her maid – had two bandy knees, and only one arm and one leg and a stump, she would carry the tray only as far as the trash (for she was unable to manage the stairs).  She would then return to the kitchen and lie to the cook – Ol’ Mrs Murgatroyd-the-Schnook – “I’ve come back with great sadness because my mistress did take my tray in a fury and did hurl it forthwith though the window and into the slime!”  

“Never you mind,” said the cook, “madam’s not feeling herself these days. But she’ll come round in time and will eat Bengers’ and lime, and will be back to her old self afore you know it! Now you forget about her – she’ll die if she chooses. But we are alive and we’ll serve steak pudding at five. And we shall be safe in our beds with the doors firmly locked, an hour and a half before nine.  

And so it went on.   Every morning, Gwladys Tode-Pipkin née Wold would ring her little bell and every morning she would wait, ‘till her mind got confused and she thought she had dined with the vicar and had supped on the feet of the Emir of Kuwait.  Until, at last – after twenty-seven weeks or so of waiting for food that never arrived – she faded away like a will o’the wisp, and her body it hovered and then was caught up in a breeze and glided out window and was never more seen – until the old Poacher O’Dell, who lived under the well, shot her down in mistake for a grouse. And then took for back to his shack for a tasty wee snack for himself and his mistress, hinky Bertha The Souse.

During this selfsame time of evil and dread, one name was carried by the vapours and did waft through the fen and through the house and through the hearts of all who were in it. “Beware Young Mr. Phlegm… for he will send you to hell… for the house, it is all but his… watch out for his smell and his white spreckled skin….and there’s no beard on the tip of his chin… beware his smile… beware his voice… beware his eyes, they are colder than ice … beware… beware… beware…”

Little Cyril Tode-Pipkin was bereft, and although he had not actually seen his mummy for two years and a day, he felt her absence quite sorely. “Oh, what should I do?” he said to his pet mouse, Lottie-Sue, who was actually less a rodent and more like a louse, “I’ve got no one to talk to but you!”

As if young Cyril Tode-Pipkin did not have enough troubles of his own, by now his dear daddy, Commodore Phipkin Tode-Pipkin (younger son of the Earl of Norsatch) had sent his regrets and a bill for the rent of Wode Fen and the house and the barn and the granary. For he was now on his uppers and so deeply in debt that in prison he would end all his days – simply because – in his ecstasy – he had forgotten to pay for his time night and day with a certain infamous Whore, Miss Fianulla O’Flannery.

And so it came to pass that little Cyril Tode-Pipkin lived with neither his mummy nor even his daddy in the slow-sinking manse in Wode Fen.  He was now completely alone, for even the cook – Ol’ Mrs Murgatroyd-the-Snook – had locked herself up in the  larder.  And as for the maid – young Miss Annie MacCree – she got married to a milk horse named MacFinkle.  And she went far away and was heard only to say, “Young Cyril’s got a glint in his eye that does not bode well for me.” And for that, ‘twas said she was not only fey but was almost impossibly psychical. But as it was, she quite liked dining on hay and sharing with her new spouse a Sunday dinner of bran mash and turnips and apples, as well as other delicacies much  more obscurely equinical.

One day, as Cyril – who by this time was much taller though not that much older in his head – was staring out the window at a passing gale – one that was threatening to take him and his clothes and even the old house clean away – when out of the corner of his eye he spied a mysterious and quite murksome form coming his way.  The form it did stagger and sway through the marshes, and it seemed – although in the murk it was not plain to see – that it was dressed up in a hat and a cape and in a duster from way down in the Antipodes.

And since young Cyril had never seen in his life a person who was neither mummy nor cook nor ill-tempered maid who had two bandy knees and one fewer legs than was normal, he went upstairs to the tower and his hid in a bower and prepared to bombard this strange man with flaming strawberry jam and toast burnt hard as a rock in a toaster.  From the battlements he looked down and then he did frown, for the stranger looked up and he waved.  “Hello, my good sir!” this stranger declaimed with a mischievous and mysterious grin.  And with that he did sweep off his hat and bow all the way to the ground.  “Oh, please, kind sir, I am cold and I’m damp.  All I ask is that you let me come in.”

“Be gone, my good man,” roared young Cyril, and he picked up the jam and he threw. “Next time I won’t miss, and you’ll burn up in a hiss, and I’ll roast you all up on a spit.”

“But my very good sir, what an excellent plan, may I come up and help you to carry it out?”

And young Cyril he thought and then he thought a while more, and then he called down to the man in a welcoming treble, “On, why the hell not,” after which he threw down the key to the stranger – the stranger who was all wrapped up in a Antipodean duster.

And the stranger came up, bringing his own tea and a cup, and the two chaps they sat down and waited.   And when the clock it stuck five, Cyril said, “What ho! Man alive!” my dinner’s at six and you’re still not on the spit, get down on your knees and repent.  But the stranger demurred, and in a nonce, he took out his sabre, and with this sabre he slew the young heir of both the Tode-Pipkins and of the Wolds.

In the winkling of an eye and in a flash as well, the stranger’s work was finished and done.  He said to the corpse, “Hip Hip Hurrah! At last that I am avenged!”  He boiled up some brine and some quite decent wine and threw young Cyril into the broth. And he boiled him away for two nights and a day, and sang to himself a sweet dirge, “My young man,” he did smirk, “you are such a foul jerk, and now at last you are slain!”

And the stranger took off his cape and his duster from the Antipodes and his gloves and his hat, and his nose and his ears and eyebrows, and what then remained was a pinkish white skin all over freckles and bits of red hair.  “You thought yourself clever, much smarter than I, but I have planned this revenge since my birth.”

And with that he danced and sang and his neck he did crane, ‘till his head did fall off with a snap.  And from out of his spine, all shiny with slime, grew a new head right up in its place.

This stranger now stood very still, and then his voice it did trill, and the stew he did eat all at once.

My name it is Cyril, young Cyril the Ginger, and I am the heir to his house.  You tried to kill me all off on the night of my birth, but my mummy she did hide me away.  I was raised up by my dad – and called simply ‘The Lad’ – and fought brave battles as Lieutenant Willy-The-Gherkin.”

And he picked from the broth the head of the imposter, and with his finger he dug out its brain and its heart and he said, “And you, my foul and now-vanquished enemy, were called by Old Scratch ‘the vile and evil Mr. Phlegm’, and you came up from regions of which only you know.  But now, my dear dead Mr. Phlegm, I shall eat up your all your last morsels. And then I shall open my bowels and send you back whence you came.  And that – as they say will be that, my dear dead departed and vanquished Mr. Phlegm.”

And after he had done and had washed out his plate, for his daddy had taught him so well, he roared, “My man, you old cur, to hell with you sir,” and with that he shat into the pot and then  cast the pot right out through the window and down into a bottomless pit between the butchery and the abattoir. And then he washed his hands and his face and he smiled at his image in the mirror.

And with that the sun shone and the old house was once again bathed in white light.  And in the garden there grew rare flowers red, yellow, gold, purple and blue, as well as roses the colour of rebirth. And all through Wold Fen, the songbirds did sing, and the deer they did cavort with the lions.  As they say – and yes, many things they do indeed say – that peace had finally been brought to this once ill-begotten land.

And then true Cyril came down from the bower in the tower, and softly knocked on his mummy’s door and he whispered.  “Sweet mummy it is I whom you loved, for I have finally come home and shall never desert  you again.”

And the door it swung open, and in the room did appear, a woman not nearly so weary.  “I thought you were lost and I would never set eyes on you again.”

As this true first-born son swept his mummy into his arms and embraced her as only a true son should embrace his mummy, she thought to herself that this true son did smell just like a true son should smell, and in her heart she rejoiced in the knowledge that, under his duster from the Antipodes, his bottom was as blue as the sky.  For, here at last, was her much-loved son, her brave and stalwart Cyril Tode-Pipkin.  She looked in his face, and with a smile filled with grace, she murmured, “Oh, how I have missed you, my sweet and my proud, oh, how I have missed you my son, by most beloved my most darling little baboon.”   

June 3, 2010

TheEthers

Listening to the beat of my own drum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“OI!  MOTHERFUCKER!” I screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

   

 

June 2, 2010

Hogget

The Age between Then and Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2010

FloatYourBoat

My Seaworthless life with Ships and the Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for my history as a yachtsman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 31, 2010

Armpits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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