Posted @ 14:35Some observations
You couldn't make it up
I am averse to using this blog to comment on the "News of the Day": the timorous, tortuous ramblings of politicians, celebrities and other aliens. There are plenty of other places you can find that sort of thing (I don't mind what you do in private - I'm with Mrs Patrick Campbell - "so long as it doesn't frighten the horses"). But aversions can be overcome, especially when there is a smile to be had (or there is the chance of a bad pun).
In last Sunday's Observer [Note to Sainsbury's: it's not the Sunday Observer, it's only published on a Sunday] there was a deliciously amusing article, "This green and pleasant land" [by Tim Adams; with photographs by David Modell] about the search for so-called Middle England, the holy grail of modern political ambition. The juciest plum in this rich confection (that metaphor took two cups of coffee and three cigarettes) concerned a visit to Maidenhead:
"...we phone ahead to the Conservative Club in Maidenhead to see if we might talk about Middle England with a few of its regulars... Come on over, we are told. When we arrive, however, this open door policy has been revised, somewhat.
A steward puts his nose around the door.
'There are only three people in here,' he explains, 'and one disabled person, and it is against our policy to talk politics.'
But it's the Conservative Club ...
'It's one of our rules.'
How about if he just mentions to the people inside that we are here, and asks if they might step outside to chat to us.
That apparently is in contravention of rules, too: no mentioning.
'Don't get me wrong,' he says, 'but we have had journalists here before.'
'They got quotations from the people, and then used them in the newspaper.'"
As I said, you couldn't make it up.
The Further Adventures of Keats & Chapman I
[The Keats & Chapman oeuvre owes its existence to Brian O'Nolan, a.k.a. Miles naGopaleen, a.k.a. Flann O'Brien. I make no apology for stealing his characters for the following; and I make no apology for the following, either.]
Keats and Chapman, finding themselves unusually in funds (Keats' balaclava business having been a runaway success despite the manufacturing fault which omitted the eye-holes from the finished product: Chapman merely commented to the effect that it just proved how easy it was to pull the wool over the public's eyes), began to frequent certain gentlemen's private members clubs in London, in particular those populated by the captains of the nascent industrial revolution. Chapman, ever easily impressed by the trappings of fame and fortune, was attracted to one magnate after another despite their frequent boorishness and lack of imagination, wit or social grace. Keats, tolerant to a degree of his friend's foibles, usually bore the situation with equanimity and a wry smile accompanied by many large drinks and fat cigars.
One Wednesday après midi, Keats entered their club in the hope of a quiet afternoon reading The Times and The Sporting Life in order to make sense both the stock market and the race course. His plan was thwarted, however, by Chpaman who collared him at the door and demanded that Keats meet his latest "friend". This "friend" manifested himself as a large, lardy gentleman of the northern persuasion who not so much occupied a chair as annexed it with extreme prejudice. This apparition was introduced as Joshua Nathaniel Thyme, the owner of a large industrial business which - unlike Mr Thyme - had the decency to stay in the northern climes of the country where it wouldn't offend anyone; anyone important, that is.
Keats endured a mind-numbing afternoon of banal homilies to the earthy philosophy of his northern cousins which appeared to be Joshua Thyme's substitute for real conversation. While Chapman hung upon the bore's every word, Keats drank whisky as an anaesthetic. Around five o'clock, as the businessman regaled the two friends with yet another tale of northern grit and determination in the face of adversity, a messenger arrived bearing a note for Thyme summoning him to a meeting with his bankers.
After the gentleman left, Keats turned on Chapman:
"Don't you ever notice the mindlessness of most of these people? How can you find any pleasure in such conversation?" he demanded, tipping more whisky down his throat and, with a wave of this hand, demanding more from a hovering flunky.
"But, Keats," explained Chapman with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy, "the man's an out-and-out genius."
"The man's an out-and-out bore," said Keats sourly.
"But, Keats," continued Chapman, "haven't you heard of Thyme's Patent Fire Mufflers?"
"I appear to have been spared that pleasure," snarled Keats.
"Joshua invented them himself. When he was a child..."
"...his family was so poor they could only afford one brain between them..." interrupted Keats unnecessarily.
"...he had very sensitive hearing," continued Chapman, ignoring his friends bad grace, "and was disturbed by any high-pitched noise. In particular he was often driven to his mean bed - an empty sack in the corner of the kitchen near the broken back door of his parents' hovel - by the noise made by his mother as she dragged the grate from the fire to clean the ashes. Being of an inventive turn of mind, he resolved to do something about it. Eventually he hit upon the idea of affixing small rubber pads to the legs of the grate in order to eliminate the unbearable screeching they made when scraped across the hearth. When neighbours saw them they were greatly impressed and, after a time, he was able to start the business which is the foundation of his empire."
"What you're trying to tell me," observed Keats, lighting his tenth cigar of the day and draining his whisky glass again, "is that Thyme's a grate heeler."