I’m suffering at the moment. First an identity crisis, and secondy a cold. So I grew a beard. I went to do a gig in Edinburgh in July, and the guy at the stage door told me to report to the Stage Manager. I was the only poet doing stuff as part of a burlesque variety show.
So I got to the SM, and she said; “You must be the comedian…” so I replied – in as poetly a fashion as I could muster – “How so?” and she; “Because you look funny.”
It’s not looking funny that it’s about though, is it? Unless you’re Lee Evans or Jim Carrey. It’s about words. Getting people’s bodies to respond without even touching them – the involuntary breathing spasms and convulsions of laughter – nice trick, if you can do it.
The gasps, the groans, the moans, the writhing and wriggling.
Like Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry met Sally’. Or Gurdjieff, who, allegedly, could make women orgasm merely by looking at them.
So, to get recognised as a ‘poet’, I grew a beard. But my wife insists I shave it off. She says it tickles her inner thighs.
I’ve got this thing about fur anyway. Wherever it grows naturally, I reckon we should leave it there. Anything else is both unhealthy and dishonest. So it’s probably a good hedge against getting a cold. And a good bush could protect you from a whole bunch of other transmissible infections.
But to get back to the words. They can get you into a lot of trouble. Especially if you’re called Pussy Riot. I know it’s possible to make loadsamoney out of words. I heard EL James became a multi-millionaire almost overnight through BDSM.
I thought BDSM stood for ‘Bloody Digital Social Media’, so, of course, I signed up for Twitter straight away, and I’m now on my way to becoming a fully qualified twat.
It’s how I’m going to reach the Global Village and make the sort of cash I can spend in the Universal City. But there’s a problem right away. Like our lovely Mr Cameron; thinking LOL stands for Lots of Love. You’ve got to learn the argot. The jargon.
Everywhere you go there are language barriers. Don’t get me wrong: there are no more fascinating people than nerds and geeks. I used to spend my life travelling from country to country four weeks out of five, going to exotic foreign places and staying in mostly identical hotel rooms, eating mostly identical food and getting monotonous constipation and dehydration from all the airmiles I was collecting. Business class is full of people with piles. Of Haemorrhoids. Policy wonks.
And nobody can fill the time better than an obsessive enthusiast, who knows far more than you’d ever want to know about something you could never be interested in, even if you had all your limbs amputated after a plane crash.
There you can get real word problems. Between Italy and Spain, I travelled Iberia instead of Alitalia, and was asked about my breakfast preferences. Still thinking Italian, I asked for ‘pane e burro’, which is fine in Italy, if you’re into bread and butter, but a burro in Spanish is entirely different from mantequilla, which so far as I remember, is the Spanish word for butter. Unless it’s one of those combs you put in your hair. The stewardess was apologetic;
“I’m thorry, thir, but we don’t carry donkeys on short-haul flights.”
Nerds and geeks have their own specialised language relating to their specialty (we used to say ‘speciality’ but Yankee is taking over the global lingo, Gringo!) which is partly why, if you are a global jet-setter, travelling the world alone, you end up listening to them in bars talking about the terminology of planespotting or whatever floats their boat. If that’s not a mixed metaphor. Flies their plane? Whatever! And, up to a point, it can be quite educational. (Note to self: write piece about planing flies.)
Then, when you get bored, talking to ex-pats, you decide to stop shouting in English and try to learn a little of the local language.
They often protest that English is hard to learn, with the way we can pronounce the letters ‘ough’ as in cough; through; slough; slough; ought and so on. OK, so, I admit English is a bit of a mouthful, which brings me to the French for vagina, which is ‘le vagin’.
The French have something of a reputation for being good at sex, unlike the Brits, who are supposed to enjoy spanking – a reputation not enhanced by 50 Shades of Grey being by a British woman – but ‘le vagin’ is a masculine word. What’s all this with words having a gender? Don’t the French care whose vagin it is?
And the French even express national prejudices through their words, never mind gender confusion. What we call a ‘French letter’, they call a ‘Capot Anglais’ which translates as an English hood. They get everything backwards. What we call the EC, they call the CE. And just be very careful if somebody in Normandy offers you CIDA. They haven’t forgotten Waterloo. And it’s not made from apples.
Acronyms are such a problem. Remember the Bloody Digital Social Media? Well I decided to join our local BDSM group, and went along to a ‘Munch’, which is a sort of social gathering in which they talk about BDSM, but don’t actually do any. A bit like going to writing workshops. I was talking to this woman about the whole thing, (you know), and she told me that what I needed was CBT. Being well-educated, as – doubtless – you can tell, I asked; “Why do you think I need Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?” and it turned out that she was propositioning me for a session of Cock and Ball Torture.
When I’d managed to extinguish the soles of my shoes, I had the opportunity for what Wordsworth so aptly dubbed; ‘emotion recollected in tranquility’ and reflected on what I’d learned at the Munch. Apart from whom to avoid on future occasions. In written communications, subs (no, not an advance on salary, nor an underwater boat) are required to address their Doms as Sir, with a capital ‘S’ or ‘Master’, also with the upper case letter, which should be applied to all personal pronouns, appurtenances and characteristics – like in the King James version of the Bible, and they should always use lower case in alluding to their ‘subby’ selves, which, previously I’d thought was a device used only by ee cummings, whose excuse was a stuck shift key on his typewriter. That was a machine used for imitating the printed word before the PC and Laptop and… well you know the rest.
Funnily enough, the conventions of BDSM require that dominant people of the male gender use the title Dom, spelled; ‘D-O-M’ in common with Dominican Monks. Possibly the only thing they do have in common with Dominican Monks. And female dominant persons use the orthography; ‘D-O-M-M-E’ after the French.
Which is ironic, since the image of the French is that – along with the Belgians – they are the traditional victims of cruelty in Europe, and the Germans are their foil as the wicked oppressors. Which can’t be right, since the Marquis de Sade was French, whereas Leopold Von Sacher Masoch was Kraut… sorry – Boche… erm… German.
I just hope there are no Nazis reading this.
Back to the French. And the Capot. And my cold.
Having a cold screws up your singing voice. Even the Bee-gees would have to cancel out. Which is what a guitar capo is for.
It’s not a hood, nor a contraceptive device. You put it on to make it possible to reach higher notes. On the guitar. It comes from the Italian. It means ‘Top’. Not in the BDSM sense. Remember the ‘Godfather’? Yeah… top!
The full name is ‘Capo d’Astra’ which means ‘Top to the Stars’ which would be a rather extreme instruction in BDSM, and certainly wouldn’t include a ‘safe-word’.
Any non-guitarists who’ve ever picked up a bit of sheet music (Debussy and Bizet used to sheet music) will have seen the instruction; ‘Da Capo’ occasionally. It doesn’t mean reach for the capo, but simply ‘back to da top’, or, in Hollywood terms, ‘Play it again Sam’.
Being a dilettante, which means I can’t stick to one thing and be good at it, I do ‘mediocre’ in writing, sculpture and music. So whilst (infra-did word, I’m told) I’ve got a cold, I’ll stick to doing Tom Waits covers.
And writing mediocre blog entries.