Johnnersintheraw's Blog

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.

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May 28, 2010

MooCow

My Best Ever Career Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, where are we now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moo!

May 25, 2010

SmackThePony

Wanking and the Minger’s ‘Sin’ List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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